(EL Recordings) from Harlem, NYC
"My Grumpy One" (track #4)" Video here
When I See You" Again (track #1)
Raised in the unapologetically Black bastion of Atlanta, Georgia – ensconced in the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement and the sonic undertow of the Black church – and rooted in Charleston, South Carolina's culturally rich and enigmatic Lowcountry, a region with African traditions and Black folkways that span centuries and deeply inform her work, Queen Esther embraces lost American history along with her wide-ranging and ever-changing aural influences, as she leans heavily on the bluing of the note to create reclamation-driven Black Americana. Her Southern penchant for storytelling entwines historical truths with personal anecdotes that contemporise traditional and original songs, blurring the past and present and embracing the connectedness of the human spirit.
Set adrift in the narrow COVID-restricted confinement of life in New York City after a month-long residency alone on the Gettysburg battlefield, Queen Esther let her heart shelter in place as she wandered creatively, and wrote and produced Rona, recorded at Mighty Toad Recording Studio with engineer/owner Craig Dreyer and released on her imprint EL Recordings. With five original songs, a voice memo from her brother and two cover songs – Lost Without Your Love from 70s supergroup Bread and a jazz take on Queen’s rock and roll anthem Bohemian Rhapsody – Rona explores themes about love: those we hold close near and far, the ever-evolving landscape of a desolate city and finding a place to call home in a changing and restless world.
Queen Esther toured internationally and recorded with her mentor, harmelodic guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer for many years in several incarnations, including a stint as frontwoman in his seminal band Odyssey. A bandleader in her own right with her own collectives that include hot jazz, western swing and Black Americana, she has performed and/or recorded with Speedball Baby, Mona’s Hot Five, Eyal Vilner Big Band, Burnt Sugar Arkestra, Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra, Richard Barone (The Bongos), Elliot Sharp (as the alt-blues duo Hoosegow), Swingadelic, LaLa Brooks (The Crystals), Dusty Wright, The Hot Toddies, Dan Levinson’s Jass Band and The Dirtbombs, amongst others.
Recent highlights include: performances with her western swing project The Black Rose of Texas with Cindy Cashdollar (featuring Queen Esther, Kat Edmonson and Synead Cidney Nichols) at Lincoln Center’s outdoor festival Summer for the City and a sold-out weekend at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola; one of 25 chosen for the 2023 Western Arts Alliance Performance Artist Discovery Program; one of three Americans chosen for 2022 Global Music Match; one of five playwrights chosen for the 2022 - 2024 WP Theater “Pipeline” PlayLAB Playwriting Residency; and official showcases with 2023 Folk Alliance International and 2021 Americanafest.
Her Black Americana album Gild The Black Lily (EL Recordings, 2021) continues to make waves internationally, along with her 2018 TED Talk about the true origins of bluegrass and country music.