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Samara Joy McLendon, known professionally as Samara Joy, is an American jazz singer. She won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019 and was named Best New Artist by Jazz Times for 2021.
A native of the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, Joy was born in 1999 into a musical family. Her paternal grandparents, Elder Goldwire and Ruth McLendon, were founders of Philadelphia gospel group The Savettes. Her father, a bass player who has toured with gospel singer/songwriter/producer Andraé Crouch, introduced her to gospel greats like The Clark Sisters, and soul and Motown were also a big presence in her home.
At Fordham High School for the Arts she performed with the jazz band, and won Best Vocalist at Fordham University's "Essentially Ellington" competition at Lincoln Center. But she first encountered jazz in a meaningful way when she enrolled in the jazz program at SUNY's Purchase College as a voice major, and was named an Ella Fitzgerald Scholar. Friends there introduced her to the great jazz vocalists like Sarah Vaughan and Fitzgerald and instrumentalists like Kenny Washington, Jon Faddis (with whom she studied) and Ingrid Jensen. While she was still in college, before the release of her first album, film director Regina King called her "a young woman who seems like Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald are both living in her body."
In 2019, as Samara McLendon, she won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.
Working with producer and eventual manager Matt Pierson, she recorded her self-titled debut album while still in college, graduating magna cum laude in 2021. Samara Joy was released on 9 July 2021 with Whirlwind Records.
On 15 February 2022 she performed on Today with guitarist Pasquale Grasso and performed again on Today in September 2022.
She released a number of viral video performances, including one that had been viewed over 1.5 million times as of October 2020. These videos had as of November 2022 gained her 200,000 followers on TikTok. Partly on the strength of this success, she toured Europe, including a series of sold-out concerts in Italy and Austria. In 2021 and continuing into 2022 she toured the U.S., including bookings at the 2022 Monterey Jazz Festival, Lincoln Center Summer For The City's Jazz Underground series, Winter Jazzfest and other festivals, as well as in Europe.
In February 2021 she was featured in Women of Color on Broadway, Inc.'s music video of "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess and on jazz pianist Julius Rodriguez's album Let Sound Tell All.
Jazz Times named her Best New Artist for 2021.
On 15 June 2022 she was featured at Carnegie Hall's 16th Annual Notable Occasion. and appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. On 16 September 2022 she released her second album, Linger Awhile, on Verve Records. The album features drummer Kenny Washington, guitarist Pasquale Grasso, pianist Ben Paterson, and bassist David Wong.
She earned two Grammy Award nominations in 2022, for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album for Linger Awhile. Her bookings for winter 2022 include singing with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on its winter 2022 Big Band Holidays tour.Wide ThumbClearartFanartBanner User Comments