By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Jazz singer Sharon Rae North is getting some serious traction from her latest release, “Sincerely Yours.”
A Youngstown native who was a reporter for WYTV-TV Channel 33 in the early ’90s, North lives in Richmond, Va., where she is a public information official for the city’s public works department.
North’s passion has always been her music career, and she has recorded four albums since 2003.
She released “Sincerely Yours,” a five-song EP, in 2016, and the album has brought her career to new heights.
The smooth jazz compilation was a first-ballot contender in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category for the 59th annual Grammy Awards in 2017. It did not survive the second ballot, which whittles the list down to the nominees.
Music critic Sandy Shore, writing for SmoothJazz.com, described “Sincerely Yours” as “a sexy jazz bomb of epic satisfaction ... featuring sweet sax, contemporary, relaxing grooves and the piece de resistance, Ms. Sharon Rae North’s silky smooth vocals.”
The EP was produced by two-time Grammy nominated hitmaker Chris “Big Dog” Davis, and features two standards and three songs by noted vocal arranger Freddy “Freddyboy” Sawyer.
Last week, North released the title track, which had already captured the ears of radio programmers, who have been adding it to their playlists.
The prior single, “Lonely Nites,” peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart and spent a significant amount of time on many secondary charts.
The first single, a cover of Sting’s “Sister Moon,” reached No. 5 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz chart and peaked at No. 14 on the U.K. Soul Chart. It continues to get airplay on jazz and adult contemporary programs.
To capitalize on her momentum, North will release a new single in July.
“It will be a prelude to my next album,” she said in a phone interview. “We will drop that single and then work on the project, which will be released in 2019.”
North isn’t certain whether it will be a full-length album, a five-song EP or something in between.
“It’s a little easier to get people to listen to five, six or seven songs,” she said.
A 1980 graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School, North earned a bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University and a master’s from the University of Akron.
After her stint at WYTV from 1991 to 1995, she wrote for ABC News in New York before moving to Atlanta, where she worked as a newswriter and fill-in anchor for CNN, and later as a communications specialist at the Centers for Disease Control.
She moved to Richmond several years ago.
Her previous albums include “The Things You Do to Me” (2003), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (2007) and “Gee Baby” (2012).
North’s performance schedule includes a show Thursday at Tin Pan, a club in Richmond. She also has a June 23 show at the Triad Theater in New York, a July 11 stop at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, Calif., and several performances at the Chalabre en Serenade jazz festival in Chalabre, France, in August.
She played Akron’s Blu Jazz last summer, as well as Natalie’s in Columbus, and also did a show at Nighttown in Cleveland in November.
In her career, North has opened for many national acts, including Bob James, Joe Sample and the Jazz Crusaders, and Patti LaBelle.
She has been included among opening acts for artists such as Chaka Khan, Lalah Hathaway, Stanley Clark, Boney James, Chuck Mangione, Norman Brown, Poncho Sanchez, Marcus Johnson and Bob Baldwin.