SINGER. SONGWRITER. SURVIVOR. FEMALE VOCALIST.
“I sing a song my way – I sing from my heart, not someone else’s.”
For the outstanding jazz vocalist Kate Ross, singing has been a lifelong destiny. While that may be true for others as well, the level of commitment demanded to overcome the challenges that stood in the way of that destiny sets Kate apart.
Like many other great singers, Kate’s earliest musical experiences were spawned in church – specifically Woodland Avenue Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio (where she was born in 1950). Singing in the church alongside her mother, who was also the organist, was one part of the equation. The other was a rich musical presence in their home, where not only were Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Shirley Caesar often heard, but also the jazz stylings of Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday. Kate sang constantly, not only at home and in church, but also in the school playground, parks and the streets, entertaining her friends and anyone who passed by. Everyone always knew she would be a singer – but life takes its own turns.
Single motherhood – and the true sense of responsibility that demanded – put Kate’s career on hold, as she worked three jobs to provide for the needs of her children. Truly living up to her mission of “my children come first” to provide them with the best opportunities in life, she added her own college education to her already heavy list of activities. Receiving both an Associate Degree in data processing and a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration, she was able to put her daughters through college where they both eventually earned Masters Degrees. Amidst all of these formidable challenges, Kate was in chronic pain and in the late ‘70s was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease. Putting off surgery until her daughters completed college, Kate struggled with the constant pain.
But her musical aspirations were never forgotten and in the mid-1980s, Kate was finally able to pursue her lifelong goal, adding to her incredibly intense schedule by performing in clubs and at events in Columbus, Cleveland and Indianapolis. By now her musical sensibilities had been honed and developed. The influences of Shirley Horn, Lou Rawls, Johnny Hartman, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the Jazz Crusaders were brewed together with R&B heavyweights Gladys Knight, Jeffrey Osborne (with whom Kate had the opportunity to perform), Peabo Bryson and Oleta Adams to create Kate’s unique sound and style. One more key influence that may best illuminate Kate’s personal artistic vision was the unparalleled Betty Carter. No vocalist who truly understands Betty’s greatness would try to sound like her. But Kate, profoundly affected by “the freedom she had to do what she did” absorbed the ultimate lesson to be learned from Betty – to own every song she sang as her own, and to discard any sense of limitation of someone else’s expectation of what it’s supposed to sound like.
Although she performed in and around Columbus for more than 10 years with many of the finest musicians on the scene – including guesting with the Ohio State University Jazz Orchestra and performing with local legends Bobby Floyd (with whom she also studied piano) and B3 master Hank Marr, it was clear that Kate needed her own band to properly deliver her own special style of music. She began leading her own groups in 1998.
The long overdue spinal fusion major surgery in 1999 was a temporary setback, as was a second surgery a few years later, and finally five years after that, getting rear-ended in an auto accident demanded a third. But despite the astonishing challenges of a twice broken neck, three surgeries and constant pain, Kate has continued to perform her rich, vibrant music in her own distinctive style, her beautiful contralto voice undamaged and not diminished by her pain – but rather adding more wisdom, passion and gratitude for her ability to perform at such an extraordinary level.
Working with essentially the same group of musicians for nearly 15 years and maintaining her own consistent quartet/quintet since 2004 – Craig McMullen on guitar, pianist Caleb Hutslar, Dave Irwin (now deceased) on bass drummer Greg “The Governor” Pearson – Kate is a powerful presence on the Columbus, Cleveland and Indianapolis scenes. She performs regularly at top clubs, and is a regular presence at galas and major events at the MLK Center, as well as the Columbus and Indianapolis Convention Centers. She performs regularly at Juneteenth Festivals and is becoming a frequent performer at jazz festivals, including the 32nd Annual Michelob Women in Jazz Festival in June of 2014. For the past year she has also been the featured vocalist with Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra.
Finally, Kate is ready and able to take that long-delayed major step into the recognition she so richly deserves.
“I am a chronic pain sufferer who at times has suffered depression and continue to take a lot of meds to control the pain. But I am Blessed to still be living and to have lived long enough to fulfill my dream.”
She recently released her first CD, the brilliant People Make The World Go Round, which has been garnering rave reviews. Festivals, promoters and equally importantly, other musicians are taking the long overdue notice of this extraordinarily talented artist, ready to step out into the forefront of the jazz vocal world. Her repertoire is a scintillating mix of re-imaginations of classic songs and popular hits; originals by Kate and her band members; and original songs written by composers who allow her to express them in her own manner because they love what she does with them. And her loyal and growing audiences have been known to travel from city to city to hear her.
“I don’t know if it’s because of what I’ve had to overcome and how my music heals me and elevates my spirit to transcend my pain, but my audiences tell me that when they hear me, they feel uplifted and transported.
By that alone, I am rewarded and so grateful.”
PHOTOGRAPHS: Click on any photo on this page to view and download the high-res. image.
Jazz Singer Kate Ross Releases Debut CD– PR Web
Jazz Vocalist Beats the Odds to Relaunch Singing Career – PR Web
Local Limelight | Kathy Kimbrough-Ross – The Columbus Dispatch
Jazz Vocalist Beats the Odds to Relaunch Singing Career – EJazzNews.com
Interview with Vocalist Kathy Ross – JazzColumbus.com
Sidebar 122 Restaurant to Re-Open Jazz Venue – Mark Subel
Kate Ross WSNC-90.5 FM Radio Interview – Jim Steele
Kate Ross WCRX-LP102.1 Radio Interview – Allen Honigberg
VIDEOS: TO WATCH ALL MY VIDEOS AND LISTEN TO MY MUSIC, GO TO
Enjoy streaming audio music samples from Kate Ross’s new album “People Make The World Go Round.” BUY HER CD, ALBUM or individual MP3 TRACK DOWNLOADS here.