She began working with vocal coach while attending The Boston Conservatory of Music. After college McKinley worked as a waitress, model, secretary, courier and anything else that would afford her rent in the city. She took advantage of city living by attending open mic nights and jam sessions. She took any and all vocal work available; commercials, demo recordings, weddings, at church in the gospel choir, Big Bands, Rock bands - any kind of band. Her natural capability to perform all styles of music made it easy to find work.
A few guest appearances in larger venues (The House of Blues, Ryles Jazz Club) gave her the "singing-for-a-live-audience" fever and started her on a quest to appear as a headliner. It had become clear to those that had worked with McKinley, to her fans, and McKinley herself that Jazz was not only something she had a special knack for - she felt more passion for it than any other style of music. A voice over for a locai car dealership lead to her first legitimate jazz gig - she was asked to sing the jingle "live" and follow with a night of jazz music at the dealer's showroom. McKinley enlisted help by hiring the best jazz musican's Boston had to offer to support her - from that point on, she would continue cultivating musical relationships that would strenthen her artistically. Dick Johnson (Artie Shaw Orchestra), Herb Pomeroy, Al Vega and a list of local legends - world class performers - all spent time with McKinley with a willingness to advise and educate the young singer.
"Friendships like these are a gift - those gentlemen shared thier philosophies with me - they each taught me to trust my instincts". McKinley admits that the jazz form and the art of "improvisation" appeals to her. "I love the freedom that comes with singing jazz - although there is still a form to the music, it can move and bend - it all depends on what's inside the soul and how you happen to apply it". When asked who her influences are, she answers with a surprising mix. "Dinah Washington, Anita O'Day, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Cat Stevens, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Nancy Wilson - even Elvis.
Drawing from this diverse group, McKinley has developed a sound and style that is unique to her like leaves on a tree. Her soulful blend is simple, yet sophisticated - true and distinctive. Cassandre was recognized as a "Jazz Diva" in Arts Around Boston Magazine - a term she only feels comfortable with because of the talented women included alongside her in the article; Rebecca Parris and Carol Sloan were among them. Cassandre has just released her debut album under the MAXJAZZ label titled ”TIL TOMORROW - Remembering Marvin Gaye”. In this body of work, McKinley delivers her interpretation of selected music Gaye wrote, co-wrote and performed throughout his career. From inception to execution, McKinley's sensitivity to Gaye's message and her rich, warm sound combine to pull this project far, far away from the ordinary.
Creating a genre that just fits between Jazz, Smooth Jazz and R & B, "Til Tomorrow" is a rich exploration into Nu-Jazz and Soul - focusing on the "soul". "Making this album was like reading over old pages from my journals - it was a beautiful opportunity to see where it is I've been and then, take a moment to anticipate what may be ahead." Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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