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Genres You Will Love
Blues: Rhythm & Blues Blues: Soul-Blues Urban/R&B: Blue-Eyed Soul Moods: Mood: Upbeat Moods: Featuring Saxophone

By Location
United States - California - SF Sell your music everywhere

Nancy Wright


"One of the hottest blues sax players in the business, she is known for powerful, soulful, fascinating playing. Her sax solos are a highlight of any show she’s in.”
- John Orr, San Jose Mercury News

“ . . . Big, fat tone, warm vibrato, nice building of tension and release . . . some kickass blues playing and loads of fun to listen to . . .”
- Bruce Iglauer, President of Alligator Records

" . . . Wright (has a) naturally bluesy voice . . . a semi-shouting mezzo soprano that’s reminiscent in its approach to Ruth Brown and Dinah Washington . . . (she doesn't) just sing the blues, (she) feel(s) them as well."
- George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish, Blues Blast Magazine

Well-established as a top Blues sax sideman for more than 30 years, Nancy Wright will release a new blues/roots CD in early 2015, adding vocal and songwriting dimensions to her artistry. “Putting Down Roots” consists of twelve blues/roots originals (six instrumentals and six vocals) spanning blues, R&B, New Orleans, funk, and gospel styles.

". . . Nancy . . . and the band have nailed this one in every way possible"
Dick Shurman, blues producer and historian

Though she’s called the Bay Area home for 30 years, Wright’s saxophone career got its start in Dayton, Ohio. She was a classically-trained bassoon player majoring in Music, when the university theater department offered her the sax player role in a production of “Cabaret.” Arriving early for rehearsal one day, she found a group of musicians in the hallway jamming on the blues. They invited her to sit in. “The coin dropped that day,” says Wright, ”and I discovered the world of improvisation.“ Having trained on piano, violin, concert harp, flute and brass, as well as bassoon, Wright says it was also “a question of finally getting to the right instrument.”

While in Dayton, she discovered a mentor in Lonnie Mack, one of the founding fathers of blues-rock guitar, joining him regularly on stage. She also toured with Grammy-award winner John Lee Hooker, performing at Carnegie Hall and the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival, and performed with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert King, and Albert Collins.

Wright first appeared on the Bay Area music scene in 1984 with the critically acclaimed New Orleans Rhythm and Blues Band, Hot Links. Following a successful North American tour, Wright and Hot Links were tapped to perform with Swamp Boogie Queen Katie Webster, appearing on her Arhoolie Records release, “You Know That’s Right.” Wright and Webster also performed together at the Chicago Blues Festival and appear together on B.B. King’s album, “Blues Summit,” winner of the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.

After relocating to San Francisco, Wright spent the next two decades touring North America, Europe, and Asia with such artists as Lonnie Mack, Elvin Bishop; Commander Cody; New Orleans legends Johnny Adams and Earl King; Joe Louis Walker; Maria Muldaur; and Greg “Fingers” Taylor (accompanied by Debbie Davie and Janiva Magnus, opening for Jimmy Buffet’s top-grossing summer amphitheatre Outpost Tour). Wright recorded with B.B. King, Katie Webster, Elvin Bishop, Joe Louis Walker, Little Charlie and the Nitecats, Mark Hummel and many others in the 80's and early 90's, and chose to stop touring in the mid-1990's. During this period, she also performed with many top blues artists including Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Lowell Fulsom, Son Seals, and Ike Turner. “I have been blessed to play with and learn from so many wonderful musicians,” says Wright.

While the blues thread remains the strongest in the tapestry of Wright’s music, in the late 90's a new thread appeared—the opportunity to work with local Hammond B3 organ artist Jackie Ivory (who also worked with sax luminaries Junior Walker and Willis Jackson). This rekindled her love of organ combo music, which led to a performance with monster Hammond star Tony Monaco and to the release of her critically acclaimed debut CD “Moanin’” (produced by Monaco and backed by his trio) featuring a mix of soul jazz, blues, ballads, and boogaloo, including four original compositions. Like Texas Tenors Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet, and Chicago “Tough Tenors” Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, Wright works back and forth between blues and jazz comfortably.

" . . . San Francisco-based saxophonist Nancy Wright operates in the big-toned tenor tradition of Gene Ammons and Houston Person . . . Wright is the real deal . . ."
- Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes

Wright performed regularly in Northern California with her own group and also performed regularly and/or recorded with blues and roots-based acts including the Blues Broads, Mighty Mike Schermer, Houston Jones, Lady Bianca, Steve Willis, Macy Blackman and others. In 2013, Wright was awarded the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame Blues Saxophone Player of the Year. In 2014, she toured in Europe, Canada and the US with Frank Bey (who received multiple Blues Music Award nominations in 2014) and Greg Nagy (31st BMA Best New Artist Debut), and continued to play in Northern California with her own group and other artists. She continues to reach out to new blues audiences. Wright will be performing with the Tommy Castro on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise in January 2015 and will tour in 2015 to support the release of Putting Down Roots.