Growing up in Newton, Rebecca Parris was always singing around her family of musicians. Her parents got her onto the Massachusetts summer musical theater circuit, a regular activity for her between the ages of 6 and 18. In junior high school she joined the jazz vocal group The Greater Bostonians. She studied singing for a while at Boston Conservatory, but ended up hanging around more at Berklee, then fronting Top 40 bands for a decade before switching to jazz. She long ago earned the moniker Boston’s First Lady of Jazz, having worked, onstage or in the studio, with, among others, Gary Burton, Dizzy Gillespie, and Buddy Rich. She’s gone on record saying that her favorite Duke Ellington song is “I Didn’t Know About You” (which is on her 2007 recording You Don’t Know Me), but is as comfortable crooning a soft ballad as she is belting out a tune with a bossa nova groove, often letting her rich, warm voice hit notes in the low register. Parris, like her parents, is also a teacher of music, offering private singing lessons as well as workshops and clinics on vocal technique and the music business. But she’ll always be a performer first. She says of interacting with her audiences, “The key is to look everybody in the eye and find out where they are, then bring them to me.”
Parris passed away on June 17, 2018 at the age of 66.
(by Ed Symkus)