Kim Nalley

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Kim Nalley
Birth name Kim Rene Nalley
Origin San Francisco, California, United States
Genres Jazz, vocal jazz, blues, folk, swing
Occupations Singer-songwriter, actress, club owner, writer, dancer
Years active 1987–present
Labels Rounder
City Hall Records
CE Jazz & Blues(indie)

Kim Nalley is an American jazz and blues singer known for her powerful, 3½ octave range[1] that can fill a room with no amplification,[2] melodious scat,[3] and striking stage presence.[4] Nalley is "like Jessica Rabbit and Louis Armstrong at the same time," writer Giorgio Santeria said of her performance at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy.[5] Although she is known for jazz & blues, Kim Nalley has been seen playing folk guitar,[6] singing R&B and spirituals, Yoshi Kato writes for the Metro that "with a flowing tone, an articulate delivery and a formidable understanding of musical principles and history, Nalley is comfortable in many a vocal setting."[7] Kim Nalley is also an actress, a historian, the former owner of the San Francisco jazz club Jazz at Pearl's and recently awarded as one of the "Ten Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area.[8]

Early career[edit]

A born singer from a musical family that includes jazz drummer and photographer Reggie Jackson and R&B guitarist-vocalist Earl Whitaker, Kim Nalley received piano lessons from her great-grandmother.[9] Originally pursuing classical voice she studied Drama and Opera at the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, CT and Classical Music at Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. At Holy Cross, Kim Nalley showcased her musical range by singing with the power rock combo The Limit, which featured Crusader musicians Garrett Scott Flynn (bass and piccolo), Steve Guerette (guitar, dobro and vocals), Jim Januzzi (guitar, keyboards and ukelele), Allan Harper (guitar, accordion, and bagpipes) and Anthony O’Donnell (trap drums, cowbell, djembe, and triangle).

She switched to jazz shortly after moving to San Francisco, CA where she attended UC Berkeley receiving a B.A. in History and singing in the Cal Big Band receiving a See's Candy' Scholarship for Outstanding Musicianship.[10]

While performing weekly with no amplification at a bar/restaurant called the Alta Plaza, director Michael Tilson Thomas discovered Kim Nalley recorded her live and hired her to sing a program of Gershwin tunes with the San Francisco Symphony. She also began performing with the Johnny Nocturne Band for the Rounder/ Bullseye label charting #12 on the Gavin list and embarking on a national and international touring schedule that included the Mountain Stage. She also performed at the long running Teatro Zinzanni as Madame Zinzanni a role also played by Ann Wilson, Joan Baez and Sandra Reeves-Phillips.[10]

In 2001, she made local headlines when she left San Francisco to relocate to Switzerland and made local headlines in 2003 when she returned to save the jazz club Jazz at Pearl's from going out of business.[11]

Kim Nalley often cites the Little Rascals and Bug Bunny cartoons as her seminal jazz influences.[12] Kim Nalley often blends history into her concerts to create a historiographical musical. One such concert was recorded on the CD She Put a Spell on Me: Kim Nalley Sings Nina Simone, and was shortlisted for a Grammy Award.


  • Christmas Time Is Here 2010
  • Cafe Americain Social Club with special guest Kim Nalley (Boynton Music) 2008
  • Ballads for Billie (CE Jazz & Blues) 2006
  • She Put a Spell on Me: Kim Nalley Sings Nina Simone (CE Jazz & Blues/City Hall) 2006
  • Jumpin’ at the Border (Tetrachord Music) 2004
  • Jazz Dialogues (Finas Music) with James Williams, Etta Jones, Nneena Freelon, Dianne Reeves & more 2003
  • Need My Sugar (CE Jazz & Blues/City Hall) 2002
  • Any Woman's Blues (Rounder/Bullseye) 2001
  • It’s Bo Grumpus Christmas (Bogrump Music) 2001
  • Million Dollar Secret (Rounder/Bullseye) 1999
  • Tuesday Live at the Alta Plaza (MTT) 1996
  • Kim Nalley & Johnny Nocturne (out of print) 1996


  • “Most Influential African-American in the Bay Area” Award 2005 City Flight Magazine
  • "Best Jazz Diva" 7x7 Magazine Entertainment Award 2004
    • “Best of the Bay Area” 2000 San Francisco Magazine’s
  • “Best Concert of Year” for “Ladies Sing the Blues” San Jose Mercury News 2004 and others
  • “Best Cabaret Performers of the Year” 2003 International Poll World Celebrity Magazine


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "Kim Nalley's tribute to Billie Holliday in Santa Cruz, 11/30/09". Jazz Police. 2009-11-22. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  3. ^ Andrew Gilbert "Kim Nalley Sings the Blues" San Jose Mercury News 15 Jan 2009 Article ID: 1065663
  4. ^ [2][dead link]
  5. ^ Il Corriere Dell’ Umbria, Italy
  6. ^ Chris Caen SF Examiner
  7. ^ "Music & Nightlife in Napa, CA | Music Review | Kim Nalley". Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  8. ^ [3][dead link]
  9. ^ "San Francisco Magazine | Modern Luxury". Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  10. ^ a b Andrew Gilbert liner notes, Need My Sugar
  11. ^ Andrew Gilbert for San Jose Merc and SF Chronicle
  12. ^ programme from Stanford Jazz Festival

External links[edit]