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Known for her talent as a story-teller, when Anna-Lisa is on stage, she uses her phrasing, her multifaceted voice and musical ingenuity to transport the listener to a place where they can lay their burdens down for the moment, and exist in the beauty of the story she is weaving for them. From ballads, straight ahead swinging standards or personalized arrangements of songs from more modern popular repertoire, Anna-Lisa effortlessly flows from one genre to another, creating a seamless, yet diverse selection of music. She performs in such an intimate way as to make each audience member feel like they are simply sitting beside her, having their own personal conversation with her.
Canadian by birth, Anna-Lisa’s career as a jazz vocalist has spanned 25 years. She moved to New York in 1990 to learn and grow as a jazz vocalist in New York City. She enrolled at The Manhattan School of Music and was even further educated on the stages of some of New York’s most enduring jam sessions.
She learned further from getting to experience all of the great Jazz vocalists live in New York at that time: Ella Fitgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Dianne Reeves, Claudia Acuna and more. These singers set the framework for the singer she was eventually to become.
She was fortunate to perform and record with saxophonist and composer, Andy Farber and his Swing Mavens, back when he first formed the band in the late '90's. She learned so much from getting to work with Andy Farber and Doug Wamble and Eric Lewis and Jennifer Vincent and everyone else that was in that killer band, at places like Swing 46 and Lincoln Centre Mid-Summer Night Swing Concerts.
During these formative years in NYC, she had the privilege of sharing the stage, recording and most importantly, learning from more of the world's very best Jazz instrumentalists: Steve Kirby, Spike Wilner, Xavier Davis, Cyrus Chestnut, Jennifer Vincent, Mimi Jones, Jim Green, Matt Munisteri, Alvester Garnett, Antonio Ciacca and many others.
From 2003 - 2018 she was the Jazz Vocal Instructor and the Jazz Program Coordinator, alongside her husband Steve Kirby who was the Director of the program, at The University of Manitoba Jazz Studies Program. These were extremely critical and formative years for Anna-Lisa, not only as a performer and educator, but more importantly, as a life-long student of the music and as a human being.
While in Winnipeg she had the opportunity to perform and record with the University Jazz Faculty Ensemble for many years. Her concerts of her original arrangements of the Songbooks of Leonard Cohen and Carol King garnered excellent reviews but being featured with the Steve Kirby’s Oceanic Jazz Orchestra has been the highlight of her career so far.
She had the great fortune to learn from all and work with some of the wonderful vocalists and instrumentalists that her and her husband brought to the university to perform and teach: Cyrille Aimme, Cecile McLoren Salvant, Kurt Elling, Dianne Reeves, Charanee Wade, Gregory Porter, Alicia Olatuja and Allan Harris, Houston Person, Kenny Barron, Joe Lovano, Christian Mc, Bride, Spike Wilner, The Clayton Brothers, Marcus Printup, Warren Wolf, Regina Carter, Omer Avital, Spike Wilner, Terreon Gully, Steve Wilson, Steve Turre, Stefon Harris, Mulgrew Miller, Anat and Avishai Cohen. Anna-Lisa truly believes that all the joy, all the pain, all the passion, all the hurt, all the sadness, over the years mingled with unforgettable musical and personal experiences with so many great artists, has shaped her into the artist she is now.
The one thing that has remained constant over the past 25 years is the personal and musical relationship Anna-Lisa and her husband, bassist Steve Kirby share, nurture and maintain. Despite many difficult challenges, they continue to thrive and even blossom as artists and as humans. They are both devoted to their careers as artists and performers, to their two incredibly strong and beautiful children and to each other.
Click here for some performance samples
from Wicked Grin (2007), Stepchild (2012) and from a 1997 recording with the Cyrus Chestnut Trio