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Jean Carn was born Sarah Jean Parker in Columbus, Georgia, but shortly afterwards the family moved to Atlanta. Like most, if not all sisters of soul, Jean's musical education began in the church, and by age four, she was singing in the choir. She also took piano, clarinet and bassoon lessons, becoming proficient at all. As a teenager she sang on a morning radio talk show, "Today In Georgia," singing "Misty" while being accompanied by piano legend Erroll Garner. A musical scholarship at Morris Brown College in Atlanta beckoned and Jean further honed her skills there doing everything from musical theater to opera.
Jean had her sights set on the famous Julliard School of Music in New York, but a meeting with jazz pianist Doug Carn led to love, marriage, and a place as featured vocalist in Carn's jazz fusion band. The couple based themselves in Los Angeles, where Jean did three early albums with her husband, "Infant Eyes" (1971), "Spirit Of The New Land" (1972) and "Revelations" (1973). Her work with the band garnered enthusiastic new jazz fans and brought her to the attention of the soon-to-be mega-group Earth, Wind and Fire. Her voice helped brighten the group's first two albums, "Earth Wind And Fire," and "The Need Of Love" where she expanded her musical learning with the group and went beyond her jazz work.
Jean's marriage to Carn ended and she found herself as featured vocalist with jazz giant Duke Ellington, the last vocalist to do so before his death, touring and exposing herself to more mainstream audiences. After her stint with Ellington, Jean was approached by hot young drummer Norman Connors, a prot?g? of Pharoah Saunders. Connors was ready to record for Buddah Records and he put together a stable of young talented vocalists like Jean, Phyllis Hyman, Eleanor Mills, and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Jean hit the charts in 1975 with a duet with Michael Henderson, a bassist from Detroit who cut his musical chops with the likes of Stevie Wonder. "Valentine Love" bit the Top Ten and Jean toured with Connors, wowing audiences all over.
When she teamed up with Norman Connors the result was magic, she can be heard on four of his acclaimed albums. She then contributed her sassy vocals to the "Reach For It" album by George Duke in 1977. This brought her to the attention of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Gamble & Huff quickly persuaded Jean to sign with their legendary label, Philadelphia International Records. Work began on her first solo project with Kenny and Leon doing most of the writing. Additional material was rounded up by labelmates Dexter Wansel, McFadden & Whitehead and T.Life. McFadden, Wansel and Whitehead also aided in production and vocal backing.
"Jean Carn" was Gamble & Huff's first album release of 1977. That year also brought us fine PIR albums from Lou Rawls, Billy Paul, Archie Bell & The Drells, Teddy Pendergrass and Dexter Wansel, but few would argue with the assertion that Jean had them all beat, hands down. Terrific songs, exquisite vocals and a pair of classic singles, "Free Love" and "If You Wanna Go Back" should have ensured high chart placings for such a superior piece of work. In the year of disco crossing over onto the pop charts it's many charms were steadfastly resisted by the urban consumer who could place it no higher than #-24 on the Cashbox album charts during a 23-week run. On the Billboard singles chart "Free Love" struggled up to #-23 in March, while "If You Wanna Go Back" missed out entirely. By way of consolation, "Go Back" has gone on to become a true club classic, making the album a highly sought-after collector's item. It must have been immensely frustrating for all concerned to see this landmark album fall somewhat by the wayside while lesser artists and performances overachieved to compensate.
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Want to talk about your event now? Give us a call at (212) 645-0555 and one of our booking agents will be happy to help you immediately.
Our office is staffed from 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM EST, Monday - Friday.
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