In a career spanning more than two decades, jazz vocalist, songwriter, and educator Carla Cook has been recording, teaching, and performing in concert halls, theaters, nightclubs, and jazz festivals throughout the world. Born in Detroit, she has been influenced by the jazz vocal masters, but equally influenced by instrumentalists like Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery and The Jazz Crusaders. Spirituals, gospel, Motown, country, and European Classical music were also a prominent segment of her musical education.
During her formative years, Cook studied privately voice, piano, and string bass, the latter of which she played in the orchestra at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School. She attended Northeastern University and earned a degree in speech communication, and, while in Boston, she formed the first of several jazz ensembles, gigging at jazz clubs and private events. She moved to New York in 1990, where she began performing regularly on the jazz scene.
Her voice has earned an AFIM-Indie award and a Grammy nomination for her debut album, It’s All About Love, and widespread critical acclaim for her two subsequent recordings, Dem Bones, and Simply Natural.
A list of notable artists Cook has worked with includes Jimmy Heath, Fred Wesley, Steve Wilson, Regina Carter, Eric Reed, Don Byron, Craig Harris, Patrice Rushen, Savion Glover, Ben Vereen, Cyrus Chestnut, Wycliff Gordon, Wynton Marsalis, Bruce Barth, Igor Butman and Terell Stafford. Her quintet has opened for Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter and B.B. King; her band also performed at the invitation of Aretha Franklin for her annual Christmas party.
Cook appears as a guest artist on more than 40 recordings and has performed or recorded as a guest artist with such luminaries as the Count Basie Orchestra, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Lionel Hampton’s Big Band, and she was the last of a long line of esteemed vocalists to regularly perform with him before his death.
In addition to her performing career, Cook is proud of her work as an educator and adjudicator. She has taught jazz voice, ensembles and master classes at numerous universities and jazz camps in Europe, Australia, and the U. S. for teens and adults. Cook has taught at the Freiburg (Germany) Jazz und Rock Schule, Pratt Institute, the New School, and, since 2007, she has taught jazz voice and ensemble at Temple University.