Denise Kirkland Bio
Urban born, suburban reared and small town southern seasoned, Denise Kirkland was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in both Florence, SC and Severna Park, MD. She was greatly encouraged by her late parents Joseph and Phyllis Kirkland and by her late grandparents, Roy and Leonye Cunningham to learn both the craft of singing and dancing. As a child though, Kirkland sang all the time: she couldn't hold a note in a basket.
Kirkland began her singing career late in life. She discovered she could sing jazz and that she had a sultry voice rather than the high sweet soprano she yearned for. In theatre productions her keys had to be dropped sometimes entire octaves. On a dare, she learned “Round Midnight and a jazz vocalist was born. Her influences are legion and legendary: Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Rachelle Ferrell, Bobby McFerrin, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carmen McCrae, Della Reese and Billie Holiday and most of all her mother, Phyllis Kirkland.
In 2006, Kirkland moved to Atlanta from Philadelphia and began singing jazz & blues professionally after a 20-year hiatus. She realized early on that she had to get her name out there and started appearing at several open mics, most notably the Whisper Room at Churchill Grounds and Twain's in Decatur and even sat in with Theresa Hightower at the Ritz-Buckhead. She has performed in small rooms and large. For two years in a row, for example, she provided entertainment for the patrons of the Renaissance Hotel's Mother's Day Brunch. She also played at a small bistro named Chazz Southern Cooking for almost 5 months on a weekly basis and a myriad of public and private venues in between.
Acting has also been a big part of Kirkland's life. She began her theatrical career as a snowflake at 4 and went on to play very diverse roles from Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls to The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella to a dead on impersonation of the legendary Jackie “Moms” Mabley. In 2008, she was cast in “Baby You Put the Jingle in My Bell”, an original musical written and directed by singer/songwriter Valerie Hines.
Drawing on her versatility, Denise has sung backup for other artists and has just recently begun doing studio vocals. She has completed 9 songs for her debut CD, “Progressive Groove” and has penned songs for other local as well as international artists in the area.
Although The Kirkland Project plays primarily straight jazz and blues, they have also been known to play some slick R&B, re-visited rock, whipped up some pop, delivered some country & you can not possibly forget those fabulous show tunes! Denise is also amenable to opening for other artists.
Straight-ahead jazz with a twist and a zigzag. Known as one of the last remaining "blue" jazz singers Denise Kirkland brings it right dowm front and sits it in your lap.
Ms. Kirkland and her present band, The Kirkland Project, are available for concerts, restaurants, weddings, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, private functions, house concerts, corporate events, independent living facilities, country club and night club engagements.
If you can think of other venues like cruises and casinos, she'll perform there too. Unusual places; just ask!
Otis C. Davis (Guitar),
Ray McMurtry (Bass guitar & upright),
Chaz Thomason (Drums)