Singer Samara Joy, the first to be featured in Jazz Night's new series Youngbloods, focusing in on five particularly promising young jazz artists. Photo by Meredith Truax.

NPR’s Youngbloods: Vocalist Samara Joy

By Donelle Wedderburn for NPR 


Jazz Night In America kicks off a new mini-series called Youngbloods, which will put the spotlight on five emerging artists who are carving new paths with their distinct points of view.

Our first Youngblood is the vocalist and songwriter Samara Joy, an artist now in full bloom who was nurtured as a seedling by her tight-knit family and community in the Bronx. Car rides to school were filled with the sounds and stories of her parents’ childhoods — musicians like Heat Wave, The Sylvers, and Aretha Franklin narrated a countless number of them. Joy’s parents recognized her gift at a young age, supporting her childhood dream of becoming an actress. Stepping into different characters pushed her outside of her comfort zone and challenged her creatively; it was an early lesson on how to embody another and how to add color and complexity to a story that may not be your own.

Joy blurred the boundaries between theater and jazz as she took on the challenge of embodying vocalists like Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae while creating a distinct style of her own. Her former professor, Jon Faddis, feels similarly. “If you can trade with an Ella Fitzgerald, you’re fine. You’re on your way. She took the baton and ran with it, she’s like the Flo Jo of jazz.”

In this episode we’ll hear highlights of a live set at Dizzy’s Club, an unreleased track from her forthcoming record, Linger Awhile, and Joy’s perspective on how her musicianship has developed after releasing her debut album, Samara Joy.

“​​I’m looking forward to singing standards of a different era, but hopefully finding the work that will become standards. There are wonderful songwriters out there still doing it, and I hope to do that as well.”