Denise King began her singing career quite by accident. One day while doing Spring cleaning and sweeping outside of her house, she sang the Gershwin classic Summertime. A long time friend and guitarist Rahmann Rashid aka Raymond Welsh walked by. When he heard her sing, he was so struck by her talent that he offered to audition her for an upcoming performance. After auditioning, the rest as they say is history. That engagement was the beginning of a wonderful musical journey.
Influenced by Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin, Denise King is an expressive, big-voiced singer who combines jazz with elements of R&B, Blues and Gospel. King was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she was exposed to R&B as a child and discovered jazz at twelve years old thanks to an uncle who was an avid Jazz fan and record collector. Denise spent many hours listening to her favorite Jazz musicians and singers. Learn lyrics and phrasing. Little did she know those listening sessions would be very important years later.
After graduating from high school, and a brief marriage, she entered the medical field and earned her living as a medical assistant and a family-planning counselor. With no formal training and hours of listening to Jazz recordings King started doing club gigs around Philly, and eventually, she became a full-time singer.
Though she's no stranger to standards, one of King's strong points has been her ability to provide jazz interpretations of rock and soul hits -- in fact, she has turned everything from Santana's "Evil Ways" to Ruby & the Romantics' "Our Day Will Come" into swinging acoustic jazz. King started recording in the 1990s, offering Live In Japan: I Remember You in 1993, Now Ain't That Love in 1996 and Simply Mellow in 1997.
Her early years in Jazz found her performing with or sharing the stage with such legends as Lex Humphries, Ted Curson, Arthur Harper, Brecker Brothers, Cecil Payne, Cecil McBee, Sid Simmons Christian McBride, Jerry Weldon, Bootsie Barnes and many more. It is with these musicians that she learned the art of Jazz singing.
A strong exposure to and love of R&B and Soul music, after an introduction by Rahmann, she worked and recorded with Dexter Wansel, composer/arranger and A and R director at Philadelphia International Records. She performed with Billy Paul of Me and Mrs Jones fame and performed background vocals on recordings by Phyllis Hyman and Lou Rawls. She also performed background vocals with Celine Dion at Madison Square Garden as part of a mass choir.
In the early 90's, King had a very successful engagement at the prestigious La Villa Jazz Club in Paris. After sold out and standing room only shows, the manager of the club assured King that he would have her return. Unfortunately, that was not to be as the venue shuttered two weeks after her performance. Much to her surprise in 2008, the pianist she worked with found her and reached out to her on Facebook. He told her if she could get to Paris he would help her find performance opportunities. It was an offer that she couldn't resist.
After selling, pawning and liquidating her assets she purchased a round trip ticket, secured an apartment and moved to Paris. The move lead to touring extensively in Europe, signing with Cristal Records and a nomination for best Jazz vocals in France by Academie du Jazz.
In October of 2017, for her birthday, she signed a four CD contract with Azzurra Records.
Denise King has delighted audiences in the USA, France, Italy, Belgium, Cyprus, Serbia, Belarus, Poland, Japan, Kazakstan, Spain, Greece, UK, Turkey, Luxembourg and beyond.
She is currently enjoying a very successful three month engagement at Jazz on 4 on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of The Seas, working on a new recording for Azzurra Music, and a play written by award winning author Alecia McKenzie. She has upcoming performances in Tunisia, Italy, Poland and France.
A name to be remembered...Denise King "The King of Sing"!
Artists aren’t made, they are born; born with an innate sense of wonder and a unique perspective of the world. Denise King is no exception. Always having a love of music, it wasn’t until the age of thirteen that she was introduced to Jazz by an uncle, Herbert Tatum, who had an extensive collection of Jazz LPs. This love was further cultivated by family, when a cousin Cynthia, shared her passion for the stylings and energy of Nina Simone. Her "studies" involved hours of listening to the Jazz greats, both vocalists and instrumentalists. Denise borrowed phrasing styles from Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat "King" Cole and Frank Sinatra. She gained an appreciation for lyrics from Lil Jimmy Scott, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McCrae and Nina Simone. Listening as intensely to Jazz as she did R&B or music of her era, she had no idea that her listening sessions were preparing her for a career in music.
She was "discovered" by a friend who heard her singing outside of her home in Philadelphia and introduced her to the world of Jazz performance. The early gigs were difficult in that she was painfully stage shy. But with the help of Sam Reed, sax man and leader of the legendary Uptown Theater Orchestra she overcame her stage fright. Her early performance experiences involved sharing the stage with many legends, Butch Ballard, Arthur Harper, Sam Dougherty, Cecil Payne, Jymie Merritt, Bootsie Barnes, Lex Humphries,Phil Wright, Christian McBride, Dexter Wansel, Duane Eubanks, Lonnie Plaxico, Sid Simmons, Dr. Guy Ramsey, Derrick Hodge, Chris Beck, Billy Paul, and many, many more. They taught her the importance of having something to say every time she stepped up to the microphone and also stressed the importance of telling a story through the words and music and not just singing the song. Their instruction paid off. One night while performing at Zanzibar Blue in Philadelphia, Denise met Dexter Wansel, writer,arranger, producer, and A&R director at Philadelphia International Records. That meeting would forge a work relationship that has spanned twenty years.
Denise King has sung at almost all of the top venues in Philadelphia, several in New York, Paris, Turkey, Brazil, Africa, Germany and Japan during the past 25 years. She started her musical career in her thirties and has proclaimed herself a torch bearer. A keeper of the flame. She holds the preservation and presentation of the traditional style of Jazz singing close to her heart. No gimmicks, no pyrotechnics, just an intense focus on the melody and the lyrical content.
It is this philosophy that finds her in Paris, Milan, Israel and all points in between acting as the Ambassador-ess for the nostalgic sounds of Jazz. From her warm and welcoming presence on stage, the subtle nuance of a bygone days, and the recordings that speak to the natural elegance of an era that greatly influenced her life, Denise King is keeping the romance and nostalgia of all the great ladies of Jazz alive and well.