May 25, 2024

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Samara Joy brings it home for the holidays: Video, Photos

Heading into this holiday season, there doesn’t seem to be much more that Samara Joy could ask for. The 23-year-old singer has been nominated for two Grammy Awards, in the categories of Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Samara Joy: Linger Awhile

Those nominations add to the well-deserved acclaim that greeted Linger Awhile, Joy’s major-label debut on Verve Records, which has also landed on “best of the year” lists at the New York Times and Slate (so far). This summer she won accolades for her first appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, in the midst of an exhausting tour schedule that took her across Europe and the U.S.

Linger Awhile is the album that cements Joy’s place as a new generation’s torchbearer for the jazz vocal tradition, a banner pinned on her as soon as she won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019. It’s a standards date that showcases the young vocalist’s take on familiar material, and while her influences are readily evident –Vaughan chief among them, with Carmen McRae not far behind – she’s not beholden to them. Joy’s voice is rich and molasses-smooth, her phrasing intriguing enough to discover fresh ideas in well-worn material and reveal glimpses of her obvious virtuosity without ever falling into empty pyrotechnics.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Joy says, speaking of her stellar year. “When you’re so passionate about something like singing, you want people to love it but you’re unsure. Putting it out there was a risk, and I’m grateful that it paid off. It encourages me to do more.”

Samara Joy performs at the 2022 Newport Jazz Festival, which spanned from July 29 to July 31, in Newport, R.I.
Samara Joy performs at the 2022 Newport Jazz Festival, which spanned from July 29 to July 31, in Newport, R.I.

Speaking recently by phone from North Carolina, where she was about to join the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Holiday Tour alongside Dianne Reeves, Joy said she looked forward to spending some time with her family for the holidays. In her case, that doesn’t mean a respite from performing just yet: as the youngest member of the musical McLendon family, she’ll share the stage with several relatives for “A Joyful Holiday!” tour, which brings her to the Ardmore Music Hall on Dec. 21.

The show will be something of a homecoming for the McLendons. While Joy grew up in the Bronx, N.Y., her grandparents, Elder Goldwire and Ruth McLendon, raised their family in Philadelphia. They led the gospel ensemble The Savettes, while Joy’s father, Antonio McLendon, was a producer for artists including Gladys Knight and Donna Summer, and toured with gospel singer Andraé Crouch.

Joy’s father and grandfather, along with uncle Laurone McLendon and cousins Tiera Lovell Rowe and Alana Alexander all came together to record “O Holy Night” as a single, released earlier this month. It arrived on the heels of Joy’s previous holiday single, a version of “Warm in December” as inviting as a crackling fire.

The Ardmore Music Hall show will feature Joy with her father and cousins, and a special appearance by her 92 year-old grandfather, who still resides in West Philly. They’ll be backed by a fine band including pianist Shedrick Mitchell, bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Charles Haynes.

Samara Joy

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