Kim Nalley

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Kim Nalley
Birth name Kim Rene Nalley
Born 1969 (age 47–48)
Origin San Francisco, California, United States
Genres Jazz, vocal jazz, blues, folk, swing
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, actress, club owner, writer, dancer
Years active 1987–present
Labels Rounder
City Hall Records
CE Jazz & Blues(indie)

Kim Rene Nalley (born 1969)[1] is an American jazz and blues singer known for her powerful, 3½ octave range[2] and scatting.[3]

Nalley has also played folk guitar,[4] and sung R&B and spirituals. She is also an actress, a historian, and the former owner of the San Francisco jazz club Jazz at Pearl's.

Early life[edit]

Raised in New Haven, Connecticut,[1][5] Nalley is from a musical family that includes jazz drummer and photographer Reggie Jackson and R&B guitarist-vocalist Earl Whitaker; she received piano lessons from her great-grandmother.[2] 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, Nalley sang 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 ukulele), Allan Harper (guitar, accordion, and bagpipes) and Anthony O'Donnell (trap drums, cowbell, djembe, and triangle).


Nalley switched to jazz shortly after moving to San Francisco, where she attended UC Berkeley, receiving a B.A. in History and singing in the Cal Big Band, as well as receiving a See's Candy' Scholarship for Outstanding Musicianship.[6]

While performing weekly at a bar/restaurant called the Alta Plaza, director Michael Tilson Thomas discovered Nalley, recorded her in concert 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 at No. 12 on the Gavin list and embarking on a national and international touring schedule that included the Mountain Stage. She also performed at the Teatro Zinzanni as Madame Zinzanni.[6]

In 2001, Nalley left San Francisco to relocate to Switzerland, but returned to save the jazz club Jazz at Pearl's from going out of business.[7]

Nalley often cites the Little Rascals and Bug Bunny cartoons as her seminal jazz influences.[8] Her CD She Put a Spell on Me: Kim Nalley Sings Nina Simone 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. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 258. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  2. ^ a b "Kim Nalley's tribute to Billie Holliday in Santa Cruz, 11/30/09". Jazz Police. 2009-11-22. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  3. ^ Andrew Gilbert "Kim Nalley Sings the Blues" San Jose Mercury News 15 Jan 2009 Article ID: 1065663
  4. ^ Chris Caen SF Examiner
  5. ^ Deb Gillespie, "Kim Nalley, She Put A Spell On Me!", at Retrieved 20 January 2017
  6. ^ a b Andrew Gilbert liner notes, Need My Sugar
  7. ^ Andrew Gilbert for San Jose Merc and SF Chronicle
  8. ^ programme from Stanford Jazz Festival

External links[edit]