Tina May

Tina May

Tina May
Jazz vocal

One of Britain’s most popular vocalists who could handle an excellent selection of material with aplomb, seductive phrasing and wide vocal range.


    Considered one of the finest jazz vocalists the U.K. has ever produced, Tina May was recognized for her vocal art on more than one occasion. She was selected Number One Vocalist and the Critic's Choice at the 1998 BT Jazz Awards and was voted Critic's Number One choice for the 1995 British Jazz Vocalist Award. She was also the recipient of London's Outstanding Young Musician Award in 1993. Given that Britain harbors many fine jazz vocalists, being recognized as one of the best is no small achievement. 

    Influenced at an early age by her collection of Duke Ellington and Fats Waller records, she emerged as a singer who was at ease with both the traditional pop and standards from the Great American Songbook, as represented by Ellington and Waller, as well as with songs produced by contemporary composers. During the early '80s, May headed her own Back Door Theatre Company, producing such shows as Lady Chatterley's Lover. In the late '80s, she moved on to establish herself in Paris, performing as a chanteuse at various clubs in the City of Light. It was then that she decided to concentrate on a jazz career, forming her first quartet in 1989. May had an abundant recording career, releasing seven albums under the U.K. record label 33Jazz. She has been featured soloist at important jazz events and venues including the Duke Ellington Mass, at the venerable London jazz club, Ronnie Scott's, and at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club in Paris. Among the jazz notables she has shared the stage and/or recorded with are Nikki Iles, David Newton, Stan Tracey, Marian McPartland, Cleo Laine, John Dankworth, and Clarke Tracey, whom she married in 1989. She appeared frequently on BBC radio and TV either as guest performer or as a leader of her own group. 

    As a classically trained pianist, she formed and led a number of small groups over the years, including a trio and her Paris Quintet. An accomplished lyricist adding words to bop standards such as Cannonball Adderley's "Havin' Fun," she also produced original jazz material. She had a dusky, three-octave soprano range which she employed with flexibility and imagination to interpret both traditional standards and newer material. May occupied a strong position as a premiere jazz vocalist as her career stretched into the 2020s. Tina May died on March 26, 2022, after being diagnosed with cancer.