A Musical Biography.
By Arne Fogel
In a relatively short time, Nancy Harms has distinguished herself as one of the most uniquely gifted young jazz vocalists on the East Coast. Born and raised in the tiny Midwestern town of Clara City, Minnesota, Nancy had no exposure to jazz as a child, no connections to the music via family or education. Though she was singing for small public gatherings by the age of four, it wasn’t until attending Concordia College in Moorhead, MN that Harms discovered jazz.
Though this discovery would change her life, Nancy made no immediate decision to pursue a jazz-performing career after college. Instead, she taught elementary music in another small Minnesota town for a few years; a move that was more along the lines of what was expected of a girl from Clara City. Nancy ultimately became disillusioned and discontented, however, and within her grew the conviction that another kind of musical life was awaiting her. She followed her instinct and her passion, left her teaching career, and moved to Minneapolis in 2006.
Nancy immersed herself in Minneapolis-St. Paul’s local jazz scene, and by early 2007, people in the community were taking notice. In the most positive sense, no one had ever seen or heard anyone quite like Nancy before: She possessed a stateliness that was unmistakable, yet she was totally unpretentious in manner. She sang ballads with a folk-like, delicate, ethereal quality and a marvelous way of digging deep into the layers of lyrical meaning. Initially, her most noteworthy attribute from a jazz perspective was her sense of time: She clearly possessed a natural gift for phrasing and an innate sense of swing. Of no small importance to her growing popularity as well was the fact that she was uniquely beautiful, in both sound and appearance.
Nancy learned fast over the next three and a half years, honing her style and developing her chops. Before long, she was a major Twin Cities jazz attraction, regularly working in major jazz clubs and concerts, earning terrific reviews and critic’s accolades. In 2009 she released “IN THE INDIGO”, her first CD, and Minnesota’s most popular and highly acclaimed jazz vocal release of that year.
Nancy’s career in NYC began with a sold-out appearance in the summer of 2010 at the “Bar Next Door” on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. Observable at this or any other engagement since is Harms’ highly original physical presence; always in motion, yet always in service of the music and telling the story. The beautiful face is animated, but not overly so. There is mystery there, with abundant smiles and good humor, but the occasional flash of something untold; a sudden downward tightening of the mouth and far-away focus of the eyes… She seems to draw upon a passing sense-memory to more effectively convey the feeling of the lyric. Often, it’s a sense of hurt, or the pain of long ago; artfully intermingling with the good humor and inviting warmth of Nancy’s overall persona.
Nancy’s dedication to jazz is complete. She is abundantly gifted, and her interpretations reveal her to be a fine actor as well, as she possesses a natural ability to movingly express the meaning of any song. A gifted jazz specialist and an intuitively brilliant interpretive artist.
Her first CD “In The Indigo” put her on 140 radio and cable outlets in dozens of markets, and top sales on the CDBaby Jazz vocal chart. The CD received national airplay on “PRI’s “JAZZ AFTER HOURS”, NPR, THE PENTHOUSE RADIO NETWORK, and MUSIC CHOICE via satellite, cable and internet. Nancy’s follow-up disc, “Dreams In Apartments”, was even more successful, airing on the above (and other) sources, including Jonathan Schwartz’s broadcasts, and on the international PopJazzRadio.com channel which placed one of Nancy’s original songs, “Weight Of The World”, in the #1 position on two separate occasions with over 44,000 votes from fans. Nancy went on to celebrate the release of “Dreams In Apartments” at New York City’s venerable BIRDLAND, as well as to share the album’s success with audiences in Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Paris.
Nancy’s latest recording, “Ellington At Night”, has been her most successful album yet, surpassing her earlier recorded efforts in sales and airplay, breaking into the American radio Jazz Weekly charts, and ultimately earning a special distribution deal with Gaya Productions in France for nation-wide promotion and distribution. The album, as well as her accompanying “Ellington at Night” concert performances, have earned her excellent reviews including those from the NY Times, Downbeat, New York Jazz Record, and others. Nancy has now presented her “Ellington at Night” concert appearances in such prestigious venues as “Dizzy’s” at New York’s legendary Lincoln Center, Hollywood’s “E-Spot Lounge”, the “Elgar Room” in England’s famous Royal Albert Hall, and top Paris jazz venue “New Morning”.
Nancy Harms: Beautiful, unique, and exquisitely talented. A truly charismatic, one-of-a-kind performer.