Featured Gig: Angie Wells sings the music of Sarah Vaughan

Flying in from Los Angeles for the much-awaited start of her fourth European tour, Angie Wells, the American jazz and blues singer, is performing at Crazy Coqs, London on Thursday June 13th performing the music of one of the world’s greatest singers – Sarah Vaughan.

Angie Wells, with a voice reminiscent of the great Betty Carter, grew up in a home filled with inspirational music. Her mother sang and played gospel piano and her father’s – a jazz lover – records were heard on any day in her childhood home. The music of Sarah Vaughan was a regular feature. Angie began her singing career in St. Germain des Pres, Paris when she joined the trio playing that night for a few tunes. The audience’s explosive applause encouraged her to begin training to sing professionally. She won the New Talent Competition at the final Sweet n’ Hot Jazz Festival in Los Angeles and qualified as a semifinalist for the 1st Annual Indaba Music Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.

We thought we would have a quick chat with Angie before her show!

You are from Philadelphia but your singing career started in Paris and you have often performed in France. Can you tell us about that night in Paris?

I had gone to Paris to visit a friend. We went to a small supper club in St. Germain for dinner. There was a trio playing that night and I was really enjoying the music. I had always wanted to sing jazz and had attended a few workshops and jam sessions. My friend knew this and unbeknownst to me she told the band leader that her friend was an American jazz singer visiting Paris. 

So in the middle of a fork full of of food my friend said “So I told the band you are an American jazz singer and they want you to do a couple numbers with them.” My jaw dropped. I was terrified as I had not considered myself a professional at that point. However, I did get up and sing and I was stunned at the reaction. Some people wanted to take photos with me, someone even bought me champagne(my favorite drink, LOL) The seed was planted and I came back home to nurture it with mentors, workshops, books and whatever else I could do to pursue singing seriously. 

Where is your tour going to take you after London?

I’ll be heading to France for the rest of the tour. Dates and tickets are all here

Sarah Vaughan by Willy Rizzo, New York, 1959

Your bio states that ‘Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McCrae, and B.B. King were just a few of the artists that inspired her’. You will be performing the music of the mighty Sarah Vaughan. Can you tell us a bit about your musical relationship with Sassy and what brought you to developing this show?

I’ve always loved Sarah’s voice. She had such a range. I particularly enjoyed her voice as she got older. She really embraced the lower end of her register and I loved hearing her move effortlessly through three octaves. I enjoyed the way she kept her sense of playfulness through it all. I listened to her recordings almost daily in the beginning of pursuit of singing jazz.  When I started performing professionally sometimes audience members would approach me after the show to tell me that my “deep” voice reminded them of Sarah Vaughan. That was such a compliment. She was one of the greatest vocalist in history.

I got an email about the First Annual International Sarah Vaughan Vocal Competition and I decided to enter. There were hundreds of entries and I was honored to be included in the group of 15 semi-finalists. I have always sung many of the same tunes Sassy did as they were standards. So when I was thinking of what I wanted to perform in London Sarah came to mind and I decided to make the show revolve around some of her greatest hits. However this is not a show where I am impersonating her. It is me singing those hits in my voice. 

Photo by Jarrelle Lee Studios

What can the audience expect from your Sarah show and who is playing with you?

They can expect to hear some of their favorite tunes including some beautiful ballads and some toe tapping swinging numbers. I’ll share a bit about her as well. But the night will really be about the music. I’ll be joined by an incredible group of musicians. Rob Barron on piano, Jeremy Brown on bass and Josh Morrison on drums.  I am looking forward to another chance to connect with the audience and musicians to bring joy through music. Such a gift and as always I am grateful and excited to be in this space.

June 13th at Crazy Coqs, tickets available here

Angie Wells website and tour tickets links here

You can read an in depth interview with Angie conducted by Sandra Booker in the July 2023 Women in Jazz Media Magazine here

Last modified: June 10, 2024