Barbara Lashley

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b. c.1938, New York City, New York, USA, d. 90s, San Francisco, California, USA. Lashley grew up in a musical family (in their youth her parents danced at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem) and was constantly…
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Artist Biography by

b. c.1938, New York City, New York, USA, d. 90s, San Francisco, California, USA. Lashley grew up in a musical family (in their youth her parents danced at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem) and was constantly hearing singers on record. While still a child, she moved to Washington, DC, and with her brother and parents she sang to records, often R&B hits of the day. Although her brother began singing semi-professionally with a group, Lashley did not and eventually married, had four children, was divorced; which made a career in music out of the question. It was not until 1974, when she moved to San Francisco, that she began to consider the possibility. She was working as a freelance film editor and decided to study part-time at the University of California, Berkeley, reading for a degree in Afro-American Studies.

This focused her interest in black music and eventually she began visiting local jazz clubs, encouraged in this by the director of the chorus of the Berkeley Community Chorus and orchestra of which she was a member. She began singing with local jazz groups, sitting in at jam sessions and the like, and was coached in this by bass player Billy Cayou. Gradually, her confidence grew and her reputation spread as her talent blossomed. She sang with several bands including those led by Manny Funk, Rex Allen and a big band she helped organize for Earl Hines in 1981, during a lecturing engagement the veteran pianist had undertaken at Berkeley. Later in the 80s, Lashley moved further afield, singing at international festivals, including those at Rimini, where she worked with Merrill Hoover, and Breda, where she sang with Dick Hyman and also met and was encouraged by Maxine Sullivan.

She also visited Japan with the Royal Street Jazz Members Band. In the USA, she has worked at the Walnut Creek Jazz Festival both singing and organizing concerts. Much influenced by singers of the 30s and 40s, such as Ivie Anderson, Billie Holiday, Lee Wiley, Mildred Bailey and, especially, Ethel Waters, Lashley has developed a wide-ranging repertoire and a good, if so far limited, following. Considering that she began singing professionally at the age of 40, her ability and reputation are remarkable. Her voice and style are finely crafted and her love for the music she performs gleams through every song.