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Six-time Grammy nominee NNENNA FREELON has earned a well-deserved reputation as a compelling and captivating live performer, exemplified in 2007 on In Performance At The White House. At the 43rd annual Grammy Awards telecast from Los Angeles, she inspired an enthusiastic standing ovation from 20,000 music-industry insiders and celebrities. Prior to that stirring appearance, Freelon’s performances for Julie Andrews at the Society of Singers’ Ella Awards, Variety’s The Children’s Charity (as a featured vocalist at the Stephen Sondheim Tribute at Carnegie Hall), Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, and at the most famous jazz festivals around the globe have all been rousing successes. No wonder –anyone who has heard and seen Freelon sing knows she is a skillful interpreter of even the most familiar chestnuts.
Concord Records released two Freelon-centered recordings in January 2008, Better Than Anything: The Quintessential Nnenna Freelon to celebrate her ever-expanding appeal and artistry, and The Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary, featuring Freelon in spectacular duets and group performances with Terence Blanchard and James Moody.
On her Grammy-nominated (for Best Jazz Vocal Performance) release, Blueprint Of A Lady: Sketches of Billie Holiday, Freelon pays tribute to the quintessential jazz vocalist Billie Holiday. Freelon is a winner of the Billie Holiday Award from the Académie du Jazz. On her fifth Concord Records release, Nnenna Freelon: Live, Freelon brings all of her alluring talents to bear.
It has certainly been a heady decade for Freelon. In addition to five Grammy nominations while on the Concord label, Freelon also made her feature-film debut in the Mel Gibson hit, What Women Want, and sang a remake of Sinatra’s classic, “Fly Me To The Moon” for The Visit, starring Billy Dee Williams. She is also a winner of the Eubie Blake Award, and has twice been nominated for the “Lady of Soul” Soul Train Award. What’s more, Freelon has performed and toured with a veritable who’s who in jazz, from Ray Charles and Ellis Marsalis to Al Jarreau and George Benson, among many others.
Born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Freelon received her undergraduate degree from Simmons College in Boston. Her parents, along with singing in the church, gave the singer her first exposure to the arts – especially to the art of jazz. Her father’s playing of Count Basie recordings and her mother’s active involvement in their church led Freelon to an appreciation of all music, and she eventually pursued a career in jazz.
All the while, Freelon has cherished and held dear her two most important lifetime roles – wife and mother. Her husband, Phil Freelon, is an award-winning architect with his North Carolina-based firm The Freelon Group. As a mother of three, Freelon has led by example – follow your dreams, dedicate yourself, and work hard in all you do.
An accomplished singer, composer, producer, and arranger (as well as budding actress), Freelon has dedicated herself to educating young people, both musicians and non-musicians. She toured the United States for four years as the National Spokesperson for Partners In Education. Her master classes and workshops, from “Sound Sculpture” to the groundbreaking “Babysong,” teach adults and children that they too can change the world – even one person at a time – but it takes dedication and perseverance, the substance of Nnenna’s educational activities.
With her anthem “One Child At A Time,” found on her Soulcall recording, Freelon took on the task of fund-raising and bringing greater attention to the needs of children in education through mentoring and the arts. It has been used by countless organizations, including local, regional, and national groups such as the United Way.