When the KEXP Documentary Team chose our favorite female vocalists for the 10-part series Sirens of Jazz, we decided to go with the ones most interesting to the KEXP listener, rather than the obvious Top 10. Local singer Ernestine Anderson was on the top of our list. Not only because she is internationally-acclaimed and has that special twist of talent we look for here at the station, but also because she has always remained somewhat underground. And you know we love those underground artists.
Ernestine has traveled the world, riding on her signature bluesy style that still somehow remains in the realm of jazz. It was a thrill to interview her in her home in Seattle’s Central District. A home that, a few years ago, she almost lost due to a lack of income and her advanced age (she’s now 72). Local legend Quincy Jones stepped in to help her save her house.
An unassuming woman in a sweatshirt reading the word “jazz” and a sparkly headband, Ernestine seemed a bit shy at first. But after a few minutes warmed up and shared a bit of her history with us: “I always knew I had to please the audience, or else find another profession.” She also talked about how music changes the world. “Music changes your attitude. For me, I can be down in spirit and I put on an record and I’m up again. It has to do with your moods.”
KEXP Documentaries are created by Michele Myers. With assistance from John Felthous, Abe Beeson, Tiffany Grobelski and Mary Janisch. Executive Producer is Kevin Cole. If you would like to follow along more closely in the creation of these radio stories, we post research materials, songs and videos on our Facebook page and on Twitter.