In 2012, Seattle jazz vocalist Nancy Erickson took to the prestigious, storied Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley stage, sang her heart out, did a little scatting and pronounced riffs on some memorable standards — and won the title of Seattle-Kobe Jazz Vocalist of the year. The win enabled her to perform in Japan for the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association’s cultural exchange for valuable, international exposure. The win also validated what her fans always knew: she’s a special singer who exudes warmth in any song she chooses to sing.
An accomplished student of many musical genres, having studied under Frank DeMiero, Rick Asher, and Al Galante at Edmonds Community College, as well as a vocal teacher, Erickson is a prime candidate to conquer any stage and any material. Originally from Salem, OR, Erickson learned piano as a six-year-old, then jazz vocals at 13, before moving on to classical voice.
She broadened her musical horizons with an impressionable European tour as a part of a jazz group next. There, she got to perform in the Netherlands for the North Sea Jazz Festival and Switzerland, for Montreux. She met and swung with many internationally renowned artists who would join her ever-increasing list of jazz heroes: Ernestine Anderson, Mark Murphy, the Hi-Lo’s, The Four Freshmen, Matt Catingub, and Bill Ramsey.
After dipping her foot in a regular Thursday night gig at Woodinville, WA’s Willows Lodge — and bringing in a packed crowd each time — Erickson released her first solo debut of jazz standards in Prelude. The 2011 release showcased Erickson’s affinity for the melody in the jazz, often forgotten amidst the harmonically-overladen instrumentals, and balancing feel with technique.
This would serve her well when she surprised everyone, including herself, by beating out some well-known, established Northwest artists to take the 2012 Seattle-Kobe Vocalist competition. Her superior rendition of “Nature Boy” and “Prelude To A Kiss,” warm interplay with the piano accompanist, and understated, emotional strength of lyrical phrasing clinched the deal.
Nancy Erickson’s been quietly performing a few intimate jazz gigs around town, Tula’s, Lakeside Bistro, Third Place Books, Grazie’s, and more regularly at Alexa’s Café — always with an appreciative, diverse crowd waiting on her next number. Among the jazz standards, Erickson’s liable to slip in a few surprises from her vast, mixed-genre repertoire.
Growing up, her musical world wasn’t limited to any one genre, but wide open to anything that sounded good and stood out. “When I was growing up, all types of music were ever-present in my home. We listened to everything from Frank Sinatra, Don Ellis, Peggy Lee, and Louis Armstrong to the Beatles, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Frank Zappa, the Band, and even the Zorba, the Greek soundtrack!”
Don’t forget the Carpenters. She loved to hear Karen Carpenter sing. During those Thursday night gigs at Willows with her husband Ej’s band a few years ago, Erickson would slip in a few Carpenters hits and found them to be instant crowd pleasers. People would clamor for more, necessitating a spin-off of just Carpenters stuff.
Erickson brings back “Yesterday Once More” tomorrow, 7:30 p.m., at Snohomish, WA’s Thumbnail Theater. It’s the first of only two shows she plans to do on one of the 20th century’s most influential bands, and she promises to sing all the Carpenters’ hits note-for-note. Nancy Erickson Sings The Carpenters’ most memorable hits, all 23 of them, including “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Yesterday Once More,” “Superstar,” “Sing,” “Rainy Days And Mondays,” “Close To You,” and lots more. Expect the melody to be queen, and the jazz arrangements to be killer.
Sing along with her. You know you want to. Everyone else will.
Admission is $20 at the door. Come early. This is Nancy Erickson and the Carpenters we’re talking about.