August 16, 1939|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Labels||Clarity, Concord Jazz, Maxjazz, Half Note, HighNote|
Mary Stallings was born in San Francisco, California, one of eleven children. She grew up in the neighborhood of Laurel Heights, singing in the black gospel choir of the First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. By her teens, Stallings began singing in San Francisco-area night clubs such as the Hungry i, The Purple Onion, and El Matador. She performed with such artists as Ben Webster, Cal Tjader, Earl Hines, Red Mitchell, Teddy Edwards, and the Montgomery brothers (Wes, Monk, and Buddy).
Before graduating from high school, she joined R&B pioneer Louis Jordan's Tympani Five. In the early 1960s, she performed with Dizzy Gillespie at San Francisco's Black Hawk nightclub and eventually with Gillespie at the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival.
She is perhaps best known for her 1961 collaboration with vibraphonist Cal Tjader on the album Cal Tjader Plays, Mary Stallings Sings on Fantasy Records. Engagements in Tokyo, Manila and Bangkok ensued, along with work up and down the West Coast. She spent a year in the late 1960s performing in Nevada with Billy Eckstine, and toured South America with Gillespie's band in 1965 and 1966. She has shared the bill with singers such as Joe Williams, Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald. From 1969–1972, she had a three-year residency as the Count Basie Orchestra "girl singer." In 1972, in semi-retirement, she gave birth to her only child, R&B singer Adriana Evans.
Stallings returned to full-time singing at the end of the 1980s and came to the attention of the national jazz audience with the 1994 release of I Waited for You on Concord Jazz, with pianist Gene Harris's quartet, featuring Ron Escheté (guitar), Luther Hughes (bass), and Paul Humphrey (drums). Highlights include two Benny Carter tunes, "Only Trust Your Heart," and the opener "Where or When."
In Manhattan Moods (1997), Stallings is backed by pianist Monty Alexander, bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Clyd Lucas, while Hendrik Meukens adds harmonica work on two tracks and plays vibes on "He Was Too Good to Me." Dick Oatts plays flute on "How High the Moon" and "He Was." Though often thought as a Dinah Washington disciple, Stallings's emulation of Billie Holiday shows up on "Ghost of a Chance" and "You Go to My Head."
Mary Stallings has played at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1965, 1995, 2003 and 2013. The San Francisco Jazz Festival 2001, 2004, and 2006 was backed by the powerful 15-piece Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, with pianist Geri Allen She performed in 2005 with Clark Terry at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York. The 2007 Georgia's Savannah Music Festival accompanied by the Eric Reed Trio with Wycliffe Gordon. Jazz at Lincoln Center (2007), The Birth of Cool, highlighted Ms. Stalling's interpretation of the Billie Holiday standards "Pennies From Heaven" and "Laughing at Life."
- 2006 San Francisco's SFJAZZ Beacon Award recipient.
- 1961 Cal Tjader Plays, Mary Stallings Sings (Fantasy)
- 1990 Fine and Mellow (Clarity)
- 1994 I Waited For You (Concord Jazz)
- 1995 Spectrum (Concord Jazz)
- 1996 Yesterday, Today and Forever (Concord Jazz)
- 1997 Manhattan Moods (Concord Jazz)
- 1998 Trust Your Heart (Clarity [rec. 1990])
- 2000 Live At The Village Vanguard (MAXJAZZ)
- 2005 Remember Love (Half Note)
- 2010 Dream (HighNote)
- 2012 Don't Look Back (HighNote)
- 2013 But Beautiful (HighNote)
- 2015 Feelin' Good (HighNote)
- Bay Area jazz veteran Mary Stallings to headline S.F. festival
- San Francisco Chronicle (January 29, 1995)
- "Adriana Evans". Archived from the original on June 29, 2001. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
- Musichound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide, Schirmer Trade Books, page 1062, ISBN 0-8256-7253-8
- Billboard: Remember Love
- Mary Stallings with the Marcus Shelby Orchestra featuring Geri Allen Archived 2007-10-28 at the Wayback Machine.
- Doing it her way (January 14, 2007)
- Jazz at Lincoln Center 2007
- SFJAZZ Beacon Award
- "Mary Stallings | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 August 2016.