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Jazz’s cool queen gets hot with Swing Fever
October 2, 2015, by Andrew Giilbert,  BERKELYSIDE.

Denise Perrier’s theme song could be “Travelin’ Light,” as the supremely stylish San Francisco jazz singer continues to follow her wanderlust to the wide corners of the world. Since she first lit out to tour Australia some five decades ago, Perrier has performed in more than two dozen countries, a tireless itinerary that means she’s often introducing herself to new generations of Bay Area jazz fans when she gets back home. You can catch her Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory with Swing Fever, but then she’s off for San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, followed by her first trip to Cuba in December.

Like so many of her previous foreign connections, Perrier got the chance to fulfill her longtime desire to sing in Cuba by being in the right place at the right time. A few months ago she was performing at
Bird & Beckett, the invaluable San Francisco bookstore and venue in Glen Park, where she met the great Cuban poet, translator and essayist Nancy Morejón and “we ended up at the Sheba Lounge singing in Spanish together,” Perrier says. “She talked with the minister of culture and got me this invite.”

Perrier knows how to make a lasting impression. With her velvety contralto and unerring sense of swing, she’s equally at adept at interpreting American Songbook standards with a piano trio in an intimate cabaret as she is belting out blues backed by the Junius Courtney Big Band (though she’ll be in Havana for the JCBB’s next gig at Yoshi’s on Dec. 15, so the estimable Rhonda Benin is stepping in).

She’s been working with Swing Fever since the turn of the century, regularly performing with the group on first and third Tuesdays at the Panama Hotel in San Rafael (as well as Pier 23 and Sausalito Seahorse). Founded and led by trombonist Bryan Gould, the combo has long served as a smart showcase for the best singers in a region known for producing exceptional vocalists, starting with the great Mary Stallings. Before Perrier took over the vocal spot Swing Fever boasted singular singers Paula West, Kim Nalley, Brenda Boykin and Jackie Ryan. For Saturday’s gig, the band features tenor sax great Noel Jewkes, guitarist Jeff Massanari, drummer Tony Johnson, and bassist Dean Riley, a Bay Area jazz mainstay since 1945 (!).

Part of what makes Perrier such a beguiling singer is the way her dry sense of humor and supple phrasing reveal layers of irony in familiar standards. “She does the blues great, but I really think she’s a standards singer,” Gould says. “With Swing Fever the blues make up about a fourth of her repertoire and the rest is mostly Gershwin and Arlen. I really believe in songs, and we pay a lot of attention to the lyrics. It’s straight out of Ella and Billie and Sarah.”


Denise Perrier is one of the great musical gems who calls San Francisco home. We who live here are blessed to see her perform and hear her rich and sultry contralto voice when she is not traveling nationally or internationally. Her voice is matched by her wonderful and elegant stage presence, as she stirs her audience with the passion and moving interpretations she brings to jazz standards and blues classics alike. You will kick yourself if you've put off seeing the classy Denise Perrier perform, asking yourself, "What took me so long? "- Christine Harris

"Ms Perrier boasts a gorgeous instrument; call it a burnished contralto. When she sustains a tone, it remains unswerving. Yet when she decides to go for a high note, she can leap an octave with ease and vocal strength."
 --- Harvey Siders, Jazz Times

Denise has this wonderfully warm voice....Listening to her is like sipping the best glass of wine you ever
  had in your life.  You savor every note that comes    out of her mouth.” 
   - Dee Spencer, pianist and professor of music

  "Denise has everything a singer should: sound, soul, swing and feeling.  And she's a party!"
   -- Houston Person, tenor saxophonist

  "Denise Perrier is more than a good singer. She is a  complete entertainer, who is able to take a song and
    make it her own."  
Clifford Brown, Jr. radio host, KCSM

   "She's the real deal, right in there with Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington."
- Bryan Gould, founder of big band Swing Fever

  "A commanding singer with a big, warm voice and a  stylish delivery."
-Donna Kimura, Jazz Reviews

   "Perrier’s work is big, rich, melodic, and hits home with a remarkable punch. She has that swirling,
    dancing, ingratiating intimacy usually associated with Continental vocalists…a real pro,"
- Phillip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner

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