Accomplished singer and Harlem native Vivian Sessoms, having amassed credits as a backing vocalist for Chaka Khan, Rob Thomas, Dionne Warwick, Donna Summer, Cher, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Pink, Patti Austin, Guru, Sinead O’Connor, P. Diddy, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Towa Teiand a host of others, has proven herself a fiery and forward-thinking artist in her own right. On her releases Sunny One Day,LIFE &LIFE II,in collaboration with producer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Parks, Sessoms has displayed an adventurous arranging sensibility and a refreshing disregard for genre boundaries. Her expressive, sophisticated sound draws on jazz, R&B and pop in fresh and moving ways, whether she’s presenting her own material, reinterpreting “Strange Fruit” for our own troubled times, or reshaping classic pop, jazz & soul hits with a view toward transformation and constant surprise.
Through it all, Sessoms soars in a voice that is full and robust, unerring in pitch, utterly at home in a wide variety of feels and settings. Her singing has met with praise in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Ebonyand other publications.
Sessoms is the niece of jazz legend Nancy Wilson, with whom she spent a great deal of time growing up. “I am extremely proud of Vivian,” Wilson has said. “She has her own distinctive style and sound and her interpretation of a song is fabulous.” Vivian’s mother, Sharmaine Sessoms, was a jingle and session singer in the late ’60s and ’70s and appeared on a number of notable singles of the time. Her father, Lemuel Smith, was a flautist and percussionist for James Brown among others. Her work in the profession, doing voiceovers for television and radio, began as early as age 9. She also received classical training in voice and piano and began writing original music by age 16.
One of Sessoms’ breakthrough tours was with pianist/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose lessons in song craft and performance made a lasting impression. With Sakamoto she had the chance to perform regularly with world-class musicians such as drummer Manu Katché(Peter Gabriel, Sting), Victor Bailey(Weather Report, Madonna) and Darryl Jones(Miles Davis, Rolling Stones). She was featured in the group as a lead vocalist, at times singing in Japanese and Okinawan (She also sings in Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and French).
Sessoms’ work has landed her on the stages of Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, The Beacon Theatre, The Apollo Theatre, Irving Plaza, The Knitting Factory, Bowery Ballroom, Highline Ballroom, Joe’s Pub and many more. She has performed, written and or produced dozens of jingles for high-profile clients, and made TV appearances on The Tonight Show, The Today Show, Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, The Wendy Williams Show, Soul Train, The MTV Awards, MTV Unplugged and many more, including international appearances as well.
With Chris Parks, Sessoms formed a partnership that represented a turning point in her career. In addition to their own multifaceted work, they have established a track recordof writing and producing for other artists. Through their production company Supr Dupr Sound they’ve written, produced or remixed songs for acclaimed artists including Khani Cole, Lalah Hathawayand several others. They also formed the group Albright (named for Vivian’s maternal grandmother) and recorded Sunny One Dayat their Supr Dupr Sound Studio in Brooklyn.
On LIFE andLIFE II, Sessoms and Parks bring their interpretive finesse, seasoned soul and jazz mindset to the next level, partnering with ace keyboardist Shedrick Mitchellas well as guests Donny McCaslin, Gregoire Maret, Casey Benjamin, Keyon Harrold, Brandee Youngerand more. In addition to reimagining material by Billy Strayhorn, Stevie Wonder, The Stylistics and Cole Porter, among others, Sessoms puts forward her own riveting originals including the disquieting “I Can’t Breathe,” written in the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death. The acoustic and electric blend, expansive harmonic concept, flowing grooves, subtle electronic touches and other details all cohere to make LIFE& LIFE IIa confident, unique and definitive statement.