Jazz singer Michelle Samuels is a resident of the place that has more jazz singers per square block than any other place in the United States: New York City. The native New Yorker isn't necessarily a jazz purist; actually, she is best described as a jazz vocalist with cabaret, Broadway and traditional pop influences. Nonetheless, jazz is her orientation, and she brings to jazz singing a very clean, lucid, accessible, straightforward approach. Samuels is not the sort of jazz improviser who goes out of her way to be complex, cerebral, or abstract; accessibility is the norm for Samuels, who is basically a torch singer at heart and has drawn on direct or indirect influences that range from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan to Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson (that is, the Nancy Wilson who launched her career in the '50s -- not the Nancy Wilson who is famous for her many years with the Seattle-based hard rock/arena rock supergroup Heart).
Samuels first studied voice during her teenage years, when she was a student of veteran Broadway/theatrical vocalist Marni Nixon. It wasn't until she reached adulthood and attended New York University (NYU) that Samuels became seriously interested in jazz singing; at NYU, she enrolled in a jazz vocal workshop and studied with Anne Phillips (a composer, producer, performer and vocal coach who is well respected in Big Apple jazz circles). After graduating from NYU, Samuels became increasingly active on the Manhattan club scene, where she has often shown a fondness for guitarists and has been heard in intimate vocal/guitar duets with well-known players like Gene Bertoncini and Howard Alden. In 2004, Phillips produced Samuels' debut album, Across a Crowded Room, which pays a lot of attention to Tin Pan Alley standards and finds Samuels being backed by Adam Asarnow on acoustic piano, Paul Meyers on guitar, Steve LaSpina on upright bass and Richard de Rosa on drums.