About Katherine Davis
Her Mother was from a family of jazz performers and opera singers! She loved to sing, and wanted to be a professional vocalist, but she dedicated her life to her family. Katherine remembers hearing her Moms side of the family talking about her Grandfather, Earl Campbell, performing with Louis Armstrong and Count Basie.
Katherines fathers side of the family gave house parties all the time. The only live entertainment would be the children. If a child sang or danced, family and friends would throw money at her or his feet.
She was raised on the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington, Brook Benton, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, Etta James, and Aretha Franklin. The music was enticing, and the glamour of the female performers was fascinating to Katherine. She decided at a young age that she wanted to combine her talent for singing, with the glittering world of show business. Although she could get "down and dirty" with the best of them (at age 13, she was chastised by her church choir director for sounding too "bluesy", and asked to lower her voice) Katherine was also inspired by her exposure to the opera singers in her family.
She studied opera at the Sherwood Conservatory of Music, under the direction of Maria D Albert. In studying opera, Katherine was laying the groundwork for the diversity that would come to make up her all-encompassing musical style. Raised in Chicagos infamous Cabrini-Green housing project on Chicagos north side, Katherine and her family moved to the south side in 1967. The move proved a good one for Katherine, as it provided exposure to the jazz and blues clubs. Within the jazz scene, there was a subscene, where singers and musicians would perform for stage productions. A friend suggested that she audition for an acting part in a play produced by Kuumba Theatre, and Katherine got the part. She went on to play Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith to critical acclaim, in Kuumba Theatres production of "In the Heart of the Blues". Acting at Kuumba helped launch Katherines professional career. She made a number of valuable contacts and was soon singing in both jazz and blues clubs, festivals and concerts throughout the U.S., Canada, Japan, Europe, the Caribbean and Venezuela. Her appearance with the Blues in the Schools children at the 1997 Chicago Blues Festival, led to an ongoing involvement as an instructor in the valuable "Blues in the Schools" program, alongside harmonica man Billy Branch.
Katherines voice is a remarkable instrument! She can go from sweet and sultry to lowdown and dirty within the course of an evening. She can phrase like Billie Holiday, scat like Ella, and growl like Howlin Wolf. Her tone can be as rough as Ma Rainey, or as sweet as Dinah Washington. Underlying it all, is her genuine feeling behind every song, that is the corner-stone of the blues. It is no wonder that her first CD, Dream Shoes, on Chicagos Southport Records and her own label Katy D Records, has met with rave reviews, helping Katherine to carve out a niche for herself in the competitive musical scene.
The title Dream Shoes was inspired by Katherines Mother and the CD is dedicated to her. Katherine "walks in her Mothers dream shoes". Ethel, her Mother, always talked about being a travelling professional singer. She didnt realize that her daughter was dreaming just like mama. Much like her live shows, the CD evokes a collection of moods, as Katherine takes us on an historical tour of African American musical forms. She can be saucy one minute, as in "Press My Button", and wistful the next, with "Try a Little Tenderness". Her rendition of Duke Ellingtons "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart", is reminiscent of the best of Billie Holiday inspired vocals. Katherine is accompanied throughout Dream Shoes by some of Chicagos top jazz and blues musicians, such as piano players Erwin HeIfer and Joe Johnson, bassists Nate Stuart, Tatsu Aoki, John Whitfield and Cecile Savage, saxophonist Will Sims, and Isaac Redd Holt, Phil Thomas and Casey Jones on drums. John Barrett of Jazz USA wrote of the CD: "While apparently simple, this album speaks volumes - thats true of the best music, and the best dreams." Noted Chicago Tribune critic Dan Kening, also had good things to say. "If theres any justice in this world, the delicious melange of vintage blues and jazz on Dream Shoes will raise the profile of veteran Chicago singer Katherine Davis as a recording artist."
Midway through the millennium, Katherine continues to perform at clubs and concert venues at home in Chicago, and around the world. In January 2000, she was chosen to accompany Mayor Richard J. Daley to help represent the city of Chicago at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She performed there at the diplomatic reception. In the late 1980s her visage was immortalized on a 16-foot tall billboard, that adorned the corner of Ohio and Orleans, advertising the renowned nightclub Blue Chicago.
Defying musical stereotypes, Katherine Davis has, with talent, enthusiasm and quiet intensity, reinvented an important era in American music, with grace and style that is uniquely her own.