Judith Kay continues into the third decade of her career, as a unique singer-guitarist specializing in her own self-described TastyJazz™, a multifarious mix of swing-era jazz, Brazilian bossa nova, original and unusually fun and eclectic songs, hand-picked for catchy harmonies, everlastingly sweet melodies and/or lyrical wittiness.
Jazz great John Pizzarelli has called her a "singular sensation." WNYC radio announcer Jonathan Schwartz said "Judith Kay is wonderful" and the late Brazilian composer Billy Blanco wrote that she is "one of our very special people, interested in the music of Brazil".
Judith Kay's ChamberJazz™ Ensemble toured the greater Delaware Valley from 1991 till 2003. The core group consisted of Judith's guitar and vocals, along with the inimitable Philadelphia vibraphonist Tony Miceli; other stellar group members over the years include bassist Chris Berg, pianist Ron Thomas, bassoonist Chuck Holdeman, and trumpet player John Swana.
During this time Judith wrote and arranged exclusively for the group, over a hundred special arrangements. She has also written for string quartet and even handbells! Her commission (with lyricist Cecilia Vore) "Waiting for the Rain" for the Berkshire Chorale of Reading, Pennsylvania was debuted in the spring of 2003, then performed live in New York City by the vocal group C4, in June of 2008.
Judith begin to study Portuguese in the mid-80s and later travelled to Brazil several times to research the history and rhythmic styles of Brazilian popular music.This became the basis for a course which she taught at the University of Delaware called "The Brazilian Sound".
During the span of her career, she was fortunate to be aided in every way by her late husband/manager/photographer David A. McClintock [see sidebar story on him]. With his help as producer, Kay released six albums, as soloist or leader of her own group, on her own Tasty label. David passed away in 2008.
In 1997, along with McClintock and Arden resident Neal Van Duren, Judith was cofounder of the Arden Jazz Gild, a society devoted to the promotion and preservation of American jazz. During its two-year existence, the Gild presented five sold-out live music events featuring first-class Philadelphia area musicians, in addition to an international series featuring renowned New York guitarist Howard Alden.
Judith Kay was born Judith Kay Cordes, daughter of the late Kenneth L. Cordes, a chemical engineer who worked for DuPont, and Margaret Arnott Cordes, a special ed school teacher who played the piano and had once studied at Eastman School of Music. With her two sisters she grew up in the Wilmington, Delaware area. As a youngster, Judith began guitar lessons at age 11. By the time she was 14 she was composing her own music, and knew she wanted to be a professional musician. At 15 she was a late-start at the piano, but did the best she could, practicing her way through high school so that she could pass keyboard exams to get into music school.
In Philadelphia, following music theory/composition courses at Hartt College of Music and Temple University, Kay studied guitar with Bob DiNardo and Pat Martino. She worked on ear training and music theory privately with Donald Rappaport of the Academy of Vocal Arts, Philadelphia.. In 1979 she received a special grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study big-band arranging with the late great Manny Albam. She subsequently took a focused summer seminar in arranging at Eastman School of Music which was led by both Albam, and the noted arranger, Rayburn Wright. In the 1980s she was awarded two Individual Artist Fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts - one in jazz performance as well as composition.
Judith Kay was stricken with thoracic outlet syndrome in the early 90s, a form of Repetitive Strain Injury, and since then, has endured a 20 year struggle with this intermittently painful and debilitating chronic condition. At one point she was unable to play her beloved guitar for 5 years. In spite of this she has continued to teach and perform (albeit, at times, as vocalist sans guitar), and is now a public proponent of the education of/assistance for musicians dealing with this dreaded condition, which afflicts thousands all over the United States, and the world. Click here to learn about Guitarists and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).
A new area of interest for Judith in the last decade has been Early Music - particularly the Medieval/Renaissance period. Between 2004 and 2011 she has received numerous grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts to sing this rich and under-appreciated music at workshops led by well-known groups like Western Wind, the San Francisco Early Music Society, and Chorworks in Washington DC, led by the celebrated tenor/conductor Philip Cave at the Washington National Cathedral. Perhaps down the road a mixture of Early Music and Jazz will show up on a Judith Kay recording - don't be surprised!
After a forced hiatus from the performing world 2007-2011, Judith Kay is thrilled to be now reemerging… with a new recording in the offing and a fresh look on the website. Arden Soirée, a new house concert series, was launched in spring 2012. Meanwhile she goes on as a sought-after Delaware Valley private teacher of guitar, voice and music theory at her home studio in Arden, Delaware. Click here to learn more about her classes for guitar, voice, and theory.
Here is a partial list of past memorable performance venues for soloist Judith Kay or Judith Kay's ChamberJazz™ Ensemble:
Judith Kay was the featured artist in June 2012 on www.thejazzsession.com, a member-supported online interview show containing in-depth conversations with jazz musicians, hosted by Jason Crane. When you go to the website, scroll down a little ways to see a picture of Judith, and a place to click right there to listen to the interview (#378) which lasts about a half-hour. You can also find her interview under her name in the general archives list. Judith now joins the ranks of stellar musicians like Gene Bertoncini, Gary Burton, John Abercrombie, Rufus Reid, Don Sebesky, and others, whose interviews you will see in the archives. Have fun listening to many interviews while you are there, and you may want to become a member of Jason's site!
David A. McClintock, Photographer