FALL 2006 UPDATE - Mary has finished her third recording, a tribute to the pianist/singer/songwriter Matt Dennis. The working title: "Blues For Breakfast". Release will be in October 2006. Go to her website at www.maryfosterconklin.com for details.
Praised by THE NEW YORK TIMES as "a highly creative singer whose style blends cabaret and jazz so thoroughly as to defy any easy categorization." (Terry Teachout)
A New Jersey native, she received the 1999 MAC Award for Jazz Vocalist.
Her debut recording 'Crazy Eyes' was listed as one of the ten best CDs of 1998 by IN THEATRE Magazine and won the 1999 Bistro Award presented by BACKSTAGE for Outstanding Recording.
Her second CD 'You'd Be Paradise' is backed by the quartet of Frank Vignola on guitar, Jon Burr on bass, Bill Mays on piano and Joe Ascione on drums and includes material by such diverse composers as Cole Porter, Tom Waits, Matt Dennis, Stan Getz, Michel Legrand, Bob Dorough and David Cantor.
"Mary Foster Conklin shows with her second album that she is one of the most underrated jazz singers working today. Her wonderful unique voice grabs you immediately and doesn't let go. She finds songs from songwriters like Bob Dorough and the amazing David Cantor and infuses them with an amazing amount of musical personality. Highly recommended to all lovers of vocal jazz."
(Steve Rubin "Stolen Moments", KZYX & Z, Mendocino County Public Broadcasting)
"With this album, Mary Foster Conklin continues her shift from cabaret to jazz singer without losing the better qualities of the former. She retains her excellent diction, showing proper respect for lyrics. But she also uses vocal maneuvers unique to jazz: clever phrasing, pausing for effect, and working to make her voice become one of the instruments... This session is a fortuitous coming together of the vocal art, outstanding instrumental playing, and a play list of notable songs to perform. Highly recommended." - (Dave Nathan - All Music Guide)
"Mary takes risks, using various jazz and blues vocal techniques on eleven popular jazz standards. The approach freshens the music. The musicians keep the spirit bouncy, bluesy and swinging, providing solid jazzy base for Mary to traverse." - (Oscar D. Groomes - "O's Place" Jazz Newsletter)
"Hip singer, splendid album. To elaborate - New York-based songstress Mary Foster Conklin, who obviously loves what she does, goes around the block and back to avoid the obvious on YOU'D BE PARADISE. Conklin has a clear and charming mid-range voice, knows how to sell a lyric, and is reinforced by the presence of a world-class rhythm section that knows when to press and when to ease up. She has chosen some lovely melodies, none of which has been restated enough to grow stale, even Porter's classics from the first half of the twentieth century. Dorough's insouciant 'Devil May Care' is a tantalizing curtain-raiser, and his lovely ballad 'But for Now' is no less agreeable, nor are Waits' perceptive 'Broken Bicycles,' Cantor's touching 'Nirvana' or the better-known 'Windmills of Your Mind,' which Conklin says she heard Legrand sing in French on a July 4 evening in the Big Apple. Conklin wraps the package neatly with Dorough / Lynn Gibson's witty 'Right on My Way Home,' ably abetted, as she is on every number, by the impressively compatible foursome of Mays, Vignola, Burr and Ascione who commit themselves uncompromisingly to the task at hand."
(Jack Bowers - www.allaboutjazz.com)
"Mary Foster Conklin is perhaps an archetypal Jazz/cabaret singer in that she gravitates to material that allows her to strike a comfortable balance between intimacy of delivery and playfully droll interpretation of lyrics...Her voice is one of those soprano instruments with contralto nuances out of which the flow of music never sounds false or forced. Her supporting quartet is always pliant and subtle, responsive to the Jazzical traffic signals, be they red, green or amber. The back of the jewel box informs that Jeffrey Klitz arranged the music. He must join the others in reaping credit for an exquisitely conceived and flawlessly executed song recital."
(Alan Bargebuhr - Cadence)
"All of the elements that made Conklin's first effort so special are back. This includes her uncanny knack for selecting songs that are smart, hip and ideally suited to her artistry. Once again she employs the terrific arranging skills of Jeffrey Klitz, and two of the players who provided such excellent backing are back-Bill Mays on piano and Jon Burr on bass. Joe Ascione sits behind the drums this time and the ensemble is increased by one with the addition of Frank Vignola on guitar.
'You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To' is taken at a good clip; the guys get to stretch out in the middle and MFC plays with the melody in a way that references the improvisations of Anita O'Day. Tom Wait's 'Broken Bicycles,' is given a reading which is poignant without being cloying. 'Don't Get Scared' is a vocalese of the Stan Getz tune with King Pleasure's lyrics. Although the lyrics fly by, MFC gets them out with aplomb, while demonstrating considerable vocal technique in navigating the very tricky melodic line. She really proves her jazz chops on this tune. But possibly my favorite selection (it's difficult to make a choice with so many gems offered) is 'Everything Happens to Me,' which manages to display a lot of what makes Mary Foster Conklin so special. It's a great song, which isn't overdone, it features an excellent arrangement containing a few surprises and it's sung from both the heart and the head. The singer sounds like someone who has taken a few knocks in life ("I've mortgaged all my castles in the air"), but has the wits to survive, who can find beauty in unexpected places, who never settles for the cheap, easy and common and uses all of that to make music."
(Michael Colby - www.52ndstreet.com)
"She's taken the best of two worlds, cabaret and
jazz, and fused them into something new and rare:
It's a sultry down-homeyness, or maybe it's a
down-home sultriness. Go figure, but go. "
(David Finkle - The Village Voice)
"A sultry Mary Foster Conklin offered two different sides of the same coin -- unrequited love -- with 'The Gentleman Is a Dope' and 'Glad to Be Unhappy.' This lady is pure velvet." (Robert L. Daniels - Variety)
"You might call what Mary Foster Conklin does 'Blue Collar Jazz,' because when she sings, she really goes to work. Stylish without pretension, sexy without posturing, and tasteful without strict boundaries, Conklin is a jazz artist with that always-hoped-for combination of musical chops and sensitivity to lyrics...Conklin has a deep, smoky voice that doesn't wrap itself around a note so much as it taps the note on the noggin and says, 'Be cool!' Her stock in trade is phrasing; she employs deft syncopation to reveal fresh insights in melody and meaning. That method is most apparent in her signature song, "Crazy Eyes" (also the title tune of her CD). Other songs may be arranged more subtly, but phrasing of that nature is always at the center of Conklin's art. Whether delivering a bouncy, uptempo song called "El Cajon" or settling into a piercing, slow ballad like "Small Day Tomorrow," she finds the jazz rhythms that highlight the words rather than using the words to highlight the music."
(Barbara & Scott Siegel - TheaterMania.com)