Just As I Am
With a vocal repertoire that spans from Bernstein to Stevie Wonder, and from Gershwin to gospel, Nat Charles is an artist that cannot easily be 'typed.' Called 'an engaging newcomer' by Time Out New York magazine, yet already known for his passionate and affecting singing, Nat Charles's performances in jazz clubs, cabarets and cathedrals have featured collaborations with notables as diverse as jazz pianists Geri Allen and Amina Claudine Myers, 'third stream' vocalist Jeanne Lee, internationally known dance and theater ensemble Urban Bush Women, and New York's Opera Ebony. Spicing up servings of jazz standards with eclectic pop, classic folk, and contemporary world music flavors, his performances and recordings in turn delight and surprise listeners. His debut recording, Move On, is a case in point. Deftly blending and bending genres, Charles's choices for this disc include familiar pop standards, a folk ballad, Stephen Sondheim and Stevie Wonder. Yet his reach is as broad emotionally as it is musically. 'I don't only want audiences to hear my music,' Charles insists, 'I want them to feel it as well.' An uncommon and intriguing background has yielded the deliciously rich repertoire that characterizes Nat Charles's concerts and recordings. Born in Arkansas and raised a preacher's son in Memphis, Charles's early years were steeped in the fundamentals of Southern 'roots' music: gospel, blues, and country. His disc of sacred hymns, Just As I Am, celebrates this heritage, featuring songs he grew up singing in church. Musically, Charles blossomed during his undergraduate years at Yale University, where he sang in theater, concert, and opera settings, and in jazz vocal groups, including national and international tours with the renowned Whiffenpoofs of Yale. After graduation, he honed his jazz chops in French nightclubs while living in Paris, and later toured with a European opera company performing Gershwin's masterpiece Porgy and Bess. Charles returned to the United States for professional training, earning a graduate degree in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory of Music. A rigorous immersion in both the jazz and classical divisions of the Conservatory combined classical studies with apprenticeships under Four Brothers composer and Woody Herman alumnus Jimmy Giuffre, veteran jazz bassist Cecil McBee, and vocalist Dominique Eade. Charles complemented his Conservatory studies professionally, singing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood Festival Chorus and crooning late-night at jazz clubs and coffee houses. After Memphis, New Haven, Paris and Boston, Nat Charles's travels finally led him to New York, where Blue Note recording artist Geri Allen immediately engaged him to create a leading role in her theatrical jazz opera Fur on the Belly. He went on to create roles at Harlem's Aaron Davis Hall with the storied Music-Theatre Group, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Opera Ebony. All the while, in the town that specializes in the art of cabaret, Charles has nurtured a unique style of presentation in his solo performances that brings to bear all that he has lived and learned, from South to North, from classical to jazz, and from root to full flower. Currently based in New York, yet at home abroad, Nat Charles is an avid lover of the French language and returns regularly to Paris, performing in both English and French. It is no wonder that his shows translate perfectly to audiences internationally: it's music they can feel.