HARROW Nancy 1960

Nancy Harrow tells herself. What can be best ?
I was born in New York City, the youngest of three children, and educated in N.Y.C. and at Bennington (Vermont) where I studied literature and dance and graduated with a B.A. My father was a lawyer, but he loved to sing and had a beautiful tenor voice that could move me with his storytelling. My musical education began with the study of classical piano at the age of seven (with my aunt, May Harrow), continued through college years (with pianist Claude Frank) but was abandoned shortly after that. Many years later when I wanted to learn how to accompany myself, I studied harmony and improvisation.
While I was at college I thought I would be a dancer. I toured with the Bennington Dance Group, choreographed dances to jazz scores, and was bitten by the performing bug. I majored in literature and at graduation was encouraged to accept a fellowship at Harvard and become an academic. But instead I worked as an editor in a publishing house until I left to become a singer.

I learned to sing jazz from records and later from sitting in at clubs where musicians I knew were playing. During those years, I was editing by day, and at night I sat in with Kenny Burrell, Bob Brookmeyer, Clark Terry, and Bill Triglia at clubs in and around New York. I also got a job touring (briefly) with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, at that time under the direction of Warren Covington.
Nat Hentoff heard me in a club one night and ended up producing my first album, "WILD WOMEN DON'T HAVE THE BLUES". It was released in 1961 on the Candid label and featured Buck Clayton, Dick Wellstood, Buddy Tate and Dickie Wells, among others. For my second album (Atlantic/1963) "You Never Know", John Lewis served as A&R man, arranger, and pianist. That album also featured Dick Katz, Phil Woods, Jim Hall, Richard Davis and Connie Kay.
I married young and had two sons in the 60's. I performed at clubs in New York and Paris, but when rock came in and jazz jobs were scarce, I went back to editing, working as the editor of a literary magazine, American Journal. The magazine had a brief life.

I returned to singing in 1975 with an engagement at the Cookery with Richard Wyands and Richard Davis. Since then I've made thirteen more albums. Several of these I produced and then leased or sold to record companies. This has given me control and the opportunity to direct myself. I have found this helps to generate creative energy, while just going along with someone else's directives does not.
 Some twelve years ago I began writing songs, words and music, and a few of these appeared on my "Secrets" CD for Soul Note. The "Lost Lady" CD, inspired by a 1923 Willa Cather novel, represented a departure for me -the music and lyrics were all mine, and all the songs were connected. I have also written 21 songs for a children's jazz puppet show based on a story that was meaningful to me in my own childhood, "The Adventures of Maya the Bee", by Waldemar Bonsels, and another 13 songs based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Marble Faun". These projects were recorded with Roland Hanna's arrangements and released by Harbinger Records. John Snyder produced The Marble Faun; Maya the Bee we produced ourselves. A concert workshop of The Marble Faun was performed in May 1999, at the Salon in NYC. Maya the Bee opened at the 45 Bleecker Theater on April 15, 2000, and has now been running there every Saturday morning for five years. The last released album was "Winter Dreams: The Life and Passions of F. Scott Fitzgerald", for which I wrote 11 songs and completed the work with the help of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. This recording was made in September 2001, with Roland Hanna's arrangements for an 8-piece band and Grady Tate singing with me. John Snyder produced this CD, and it was released in 2003 by Artists House.
The newest CD is "The Cat Who Went to Heaven", based on a 1931 prize-winning children's book of the same title, written by Elizabeth Coatsworth, a writer from Maine. I have written 16 songs, melodies and lyrics, which tell the story and are sung by the four characters. Kenny Werner arranged these songs for the piano, Michael Mossman orchestrated the piano arrangements for a jazz trio, string quartet and several soloists, and we recorded in June 2004, with a jazz group featuring Kenny Barron, George Mraz, Dennis Mackrel, Clark Terry, and Frank Wess. The Cat Who Went to Heaven can be seen as the story of the miracle of recognition, if you read it from the cat's point of view. Or it can be seen as the artist's struggle to preserve compassion and integrity in the face of pressures from the establishment. Or it can be read as a love story between the cat and the artist, or as an opera in which the heroine dies before the final curtain. The CD was produced by John Snyder and will be released the end of September 2005 by Artists House.
I trained myself as a singer to invest whatever song I sang with the thoughts, emotions and dreams that preoccupied me. Now that I'm writing the music and the words, I find the process is the same, though perhaps even more intense. In singing and writing, if I can't touch the feelings under the surface, it doesn't seem worth doing.


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