New York native Stacey Kent never anticipated a career in jazz music: she was a Sarah Lawrence graduate with a degree in comparative literature. But her childhood days spent listening to the traditional beauty of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole undoubtedly influenced her. While on holiday in Europe after graduating from college, she took up singing without much formal training and never looked back.
Kent became acquainted with several musicians at Oxford in 1991, and through them she found herself participating in a jazz course at the famed Guildhall School of Music and Drama. There she also met her future husband, tenor saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, and landed a spot in the class. Her next post was singing with the Vile Bodies Swing Orchestra at the Ritz Hotel in London, which led to a role in Ian McKellen's Richard III film, playing a big-band singer. The mid-'90s were more focused on recording and in 1996, Kent inked a deal with Candid Records. A year later, the critically acclaimed Close Your Eyes was issued; Tender Trap followed in 1999. Her third LP, Let Yourself Go: Celebrating Fred Astaire, which showcased popular standards, was released in spring 2000. The ballad-oriented Dreamsville arrived the next spring. She also recorded an album with Tomlinson titled Lyric, and appeared on Blue Note for several albums during the 2000s.
In 2010, Kent released the all-French album Raconte-Moi, which went on to achieve gold status in both France and Germany. The live album Dreamer in Concert -- recorded at the La Cigale in Paris -- landed in 2011. Two years later, Kent returned with The Changing Lights. Inspired by her love of Brazilian music, the album saw her working with Portuguese poet Antonio Ladeira and French lyricist Bernie Beaupère. She followed that with 2014's Ao Vivo, a duet album with legendary Brazilian musician Marcos Valle. Tenderly, released in early 2016, marked a return to American standards. ~ MacKenzie Wilson