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Samara Joy ’21

Through her second album Linger Awhile, Samara Joy ’17 makes her case to join the likes of Sarah, Ella, and Billie as the next mononymous jazz singing sensation recorded by the venerable label Verve Records.

Grammy Wins

2024 Grammy Awards

Joy won the category Best Jazz Performance for her single “Tight.” The recording is a studio version of a fan favorite she often performs live. Joy self-produced and recorded the song at New York’s legendary Electric Lady Studios.

2023 Grammy Awards

She won her first two Grammy Awards the year before, earning Best New Artist and Best New Jazz Vocal Album for Linger Awhile in 2023.

Her voice, rich and velvety yet precociously refined, has already earned her fans like Anita Baker and Regina King, appearances on the TODAY Show, and millions of likes on TikTok—cementing her status as perhaps the first Gen Z jazz singing star.

Musical Background

Joy is still relatively new to jazz. Growing up in the Bronx, it was the music of the past—the music of her parent’s childhoods, as she put it—that she listened to most. She treasures her musical lineage, which stretches back to her grandparents Elder Goldwire and Ruth McLendon, both of whom performed with Philadelphia gospel group the Savettes, and runs through her father, who is a singer, songwriter, and producer who toured with gospel artist Andraé Crouch.

“Sometimes I catch myself when I’m singing—I’m like, ‘Whoa, that was a dad moment,’” she quips. Eventually, she did follow in the family tradition, singing in church and then with the jazz band at Fordham High School for the Arts, with whom she won Best Vocalist at JALC’s Essentially Ellington competition.

The Love Of Jazz

It wasn’t until Joy enrolled in the jazz studies program that she fell deeply in love with the music. She only began to sing Jazz at age 18. She had her first-ever music lesson at Purchase with Alexis Cole.

In 2019, Joy won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, and she’s since performed with legends like Christian McBride and Bill Charlap. Legendary late pianist Barry Harris was a particularly important influence and mentor. 

Since then, she’s performed at renowned venues and festivals around the world.

Purchase Ties

Joy is accompanied by esteemed veterans on Linger Awhile, including former professors, guitarist Pasquale Grasso and drummer Kenny Washington, who form the core of the band, and also includes bassist David Wong and pianist Ben Paterson. With ease and a preternatural assurance, Joy swings right alongside them through understated yet powerful renditions of this creative collection of standards.

Joy employed vocalese across Linger Awhile, a Jazz technique she explored at Purchase.

“Nostalgia (The Day I Knew)” was the product of a jazz transcription class she took with trumpet master Jon Faddis at Purchase, in which she took down Fats Navarro’s solo from the original 1947 recording and wrote her own lyrics to that melody—inspired by the teen romance novels she was reading at the time.

Her Joy speak to Ari Shapiro recently about this and more on NPR

She went through the same process with “I’m Confessin’,” combining that song’s original lyrics with her own, set to Lester Young’s 1952 solo. Especially for a contemporary listener, hearing how seamlessly she transforms these instrumental lines into breezy lyrics is astounding.

—Excerpted from