On her stunning sophomore album, Tracey Whitney pays joyful homage to a diverse mix of musicians who have inspired her own singing and songwriting. Rounded out by three original tracks, I Am Singing…Songs I Love features the Los Angeles / Albuquerque-based singer’s stirring renditions of classic yet lesser-covered songs by artists like Stevie Wonder, Michael Franks, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. At turns breezy and beautifully moving, the follow-up to 2007’s much-acclaimed Love…A Fable in 9 Acts serves up more of the silky Jazz-Soul fusion that’s become the trademark for this former child singing sensation and backup vocalist for the legendary Ray Charles.
The latest release from Tracey's own BabyDoll Entertainment label, I Am Singing…Songs I Love first began taking shape in the midst of a reignited infatuation with Eli’s Coming (the Three Dog Night hit authored by Laura Nyro). “I couldn’t get Eli’s Coming out of my head, so I ended up heading into the studio and recording my own version to get it out of my system—but then we just kept going,” recalls Whitney. Working with co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Herman “Hollywood” Dawkins, Tracey went on to lay down seven more covers and several original songs that elegantly flaunt her tightly honed harmonic sense.
Though I Am Singing…Songs I Love marks only her second solo album, Whitney’s musical history stretches all the way back to age 11. At the famed Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, Tracey made her debut as part of The Whitney Family (a singing ensemble that included her mother and seven brothers and sisters). Over the next 15 years, The Whitney Family toured the world and recorded two albums (including Let Me Be Your Woman, a Billboard magazine top singles pick). Tracey struck out on her own at age 22, becoming a hit nightclub act in Los Angeles before landing her role as a Raelette in Charles’ 1991 tour of the United States. “My mother Louise was an amazing vocal arranger – and she really took advantage of having 8 of us to work with. Combine that with singing in Ray Charles’ four-part-harmony structure, and the end result is that when I arrange my own music, my brain doesn’t hear anything in fewer than five parts,” she notes, adding that Charles greatly deepened her understanding of melody. In 1995, she won a featured spot on Barrymore in Hollywood, British TV show host Michael Barrymore’s American special. She also did session work for various bands (most notably the Heavy Metal super-group, W.A.S.P. featuring Blackie Lawless). From late 1995-2000 she lived in Japan, a highly sought-after solo performer in various nightclubs and hotels in Tokyo, Yokohama and Tokushima. During this period, she also did session work or performed in concert with Japanese superstars Sing Like Talking, Namie Amuro and Tokiko Kato.
But while Whitney’s extraordinary career has played a key role in shaping the smooth sound heard throughout I Am Singing…Songs I Love, her pop instincts, soulful sensibility, and irresistibly natural ease behind the microphone are all essential to the album. Whether reimagining Garth Brooks’ Beatles-esque country pastiche Wrapped Up In You as a soaring, scat-laced celebration of love or giving a sweet nod to The Jackson 5 by joining her brother (and fellow former Whitney Family singer) Glynn Whitney on an update of Michael Jackson’s jazzy I Can’t Help It, Tracey pairs her dynamic vocals with refined arrangements to glorious effect. On her original numbers, meanwhile, Whitney introduces innovative elements that let her own singular style shine through: Heartbreak 2011, for instance, combines a quietly powerful beat and aching lyrics (“I lost my chance at heaven”) with a heart rending spoken-word intro and outro... No matter if she’s delivering an original song or a cover, Tracey infuses her songs with a slick sophistication that’s uncommon in today’s musical landscape. “It’s lovely if younger people enjoy my music, but I’m really singing for adults, and telling real stories about real situations,” says Whitney. “What I hope is for people to hear my songs and connect with them on a very emotional level - and ultimately get a sense of calm and joy from that.” ~ Elizabeth Barker
Tracey Whitney relocated to Albuquerque, NM in 2012 to pursue a lifelong dream of opening her own club, BabyDoll’s House of Jazz & Blues, and (much to her delight) found the Land of Enchantment to be a jazz haven, where she remains in constant demand. A certified vocal instructor (children and adolescents), she’ll begin holding jazz and blues appreciation and performance workshops for gifted teens the summer of 2014. And, as if that weren’t enough, Tracey is a contributing writer/music critic for Smooth Jazz magazine, reviewing concerts and interviewing jazz superstars that tour the greater Albuquerque/Santa Fe regions. She was also recently elected secretary/treasurer for Local 618 of the American Federation of Musicians. As her former boss Ray Charles put it, “I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me-like food or water.” Indeed…