Originally from Australia but based in New York City, Chris McNulty is a warm, tasteful jazz vocalist with a gentle touch and a subtle sense of swing. The Aussie isn't one to favor abstraction for the sake of abstraction, or difficulty for the sake of difficulty; her work has tended to be on the accessible side. Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald have often been cited as influences, and one also hears slight traces of Cool School favorites like June Christy, Chris Connor, and Anita O'Day in McNulty's phrasing. Another person who has had a slight effect on McNulty -- either directly or indirectly -- is Jo Stafford. But unlike Stafford -- who was a pop singer with jazz influences -- McNulty essentially falls into the jazz category. That isn't to say that she is oblivious to popular culture; actually, McNulty embraced popular music before she embraced jazz.
McNulty was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, where she started out singing rock, R&B, and pop. Back in the early '70s, her tastes ranged from soul singers like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway to progressive rockers Yes to the jazz-influenced traditional pop of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. It was around 1976 that she got seriously into hardcore jazz and discovered Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday, among others, and before long, jazz singing became her primary focus. By 1978, McNulty was co-leading a jazz ensemble with Australian pianist/composer Paul Grabowsky (who went on to lead the Australian Art Orchestra). The early- to mid-'80s found McNulty being consistently active on the Australian jazz scene, but in 1988, she moved to New York. She had been living in the United States for three years when, in 1991, her first U.S. release, Waltz for Debbie, came out on the Discovery label. Waltz for Debbie was the first time that McNulty had provided a full-length album under her own name -- back in Australia, she had been featured on various albums by local artists but didn't come out with any full-length albums of her own.
After Waltz for Debbie, McNulty recorded A Time for Love (which the Amosaya label put out in 1996), I Remember You (released on Moptop Records in 2002), and Dance Delicioso (on the Elefant Dreams label) in 2005. ~ Alex Henderson