Born in Columbus, Georgia, Jean Carne and was raised in Atlanta. Her talent as a singer became evident at an early age and was encouraged by her parents. Carne’s singing ability was so striking that at age four she became lead singer of her church choir. Carne went on to learn to play the piano and organ, clarinet, English horn, oboe and bassoon.
Jean attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, where she studied Russian, advanced mathematics and science. Upon graduation she accepted a scholarship from Morris Brown College. There she not only continued to study Russian but performed every genre from musical theater to grand opera. Carne’s plans to further her studies at Juilliard School of Music in New York were put on hold when she met and married Jazz pianist, Doug Carne (now divorced) and partnered with him in what would become a trend-setting jazz-fusion tradition. The couple based themselves in Hollywood, California, where Carne was invited by Earth Wind And Fire leader, Maurice White to appear on the groups first two recordings – “Earth Wind And Fire” and “The Need Of Love”. Doug and Jean soon released the first of three early albums – “Infant Eyes,” followed by “Spirit Of The New Land” and “Revelation” on Black Jazz/Ovation Records. Jean’s vocal interpretations of instrumental classics by jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner and Horace Silver expanded the display of her musical abilities to jazz lovers, worldwide. As feature Singer and vocal arranger for Norman Connors, Carne recalls with fondness, vocal coaching and producing Glen Jones, Phyllis Hyman and Michael Henderson, with whom she recorded 1975 hit “Valentine Love”.
In 1976, Carne was signed to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. Her debut album in 1977, Jean Carne was a classy affair that merged the best of ’70s soul and jazz with solid songwriting and tight instrumental support (MFSB, Instant Funk). The debut single “Free Love” became a tremendous international dance anthem. Several of the album’s tracks received massive radio airplay. In June 1978, her second album for the label, Happy to Be With You was released and included the hit single “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head” which Jean admits, has become her theme song.
Carne’s third Philadelphia International album, When I Find You Love, penned and produced by Dexter Wansel, Gamble and Huff and The Iceman, Jerry Butler rates as one of her best and most enthusiastically received efforts. The smooth and haunting “My Love Don’t Come Easy” composed and produced by Ojays – Walter Williams and Eddie Lavert wooed music aficionados in five continents the summer of 1979.
Released in August 1981, Sweet and Wonderful includes a title duet introducing Glenn Jones, contained a stunning and sultry remake of the Spinners’ “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” on which Jean sang all the backgrounds.
With artistic and critical successes in tow, Carne moved to Motown Records in 1982, making her label debut with the album Trust Me. The single “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” a cover of the Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes hit with backing vocals by The Temptations received rave reviews. Her career continued and thanks to what critics describe as her “devoted following,” Carne continued to perform internationally. Before signing with the Omni/Atlantic, label, she added an “e” to her last name on the advice of numerologist, Lloyd Strayhorn. To reward her name change, Closer Than Close, produced and featuring saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. was released in July of that year and the title track went to number one R&B. Her 1988 album You’re a Part of Me included a hit cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way,” produced by Nick Martinelli. Carne later joined Place One Entertainment, which reunited her with former Omni/Atlantic president Steve Bernstein, for release of her Love Lessons album.
Numerous visits to Europe fostered the release of Collaborations, an album on UK label, Expansion Records. It was compiled by journalist/vocalist, David Nathan and label founder/radio personality, Ralph Tee and featured Carne’s various musical collaborations over the years.
Carne has recorded and shared the stage with some of music’s most prolific Artists, Producers and Songwriters over the years, including Dizzy Gillespie, The Temptations, Teddy Pendergrass, The OJays, Phyllis Hyman, and The Whispers among other stellar Performers. Carne has also acted as vocal coach for numerous Singers in the music fraternity including the Supreme’s Mary Wilson and Michael Jackson.
In 2008, she was among the Philly Artists featured in the two-part PBS television special “Love Train, The Sound of Philadelphia” which celebrated the musical legacy of Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff and Philadelphia International Records.
The movie Precious, released in November 2009, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, starring Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and comedienne Mo’Nique, features Jean Carne’s disco single “Was That All It Was.”
Whether you happen to be fortunate enough to catch Jean Carne performing a gospel classic in Church on Sunday or a Puccini Aria in a Concert Hall or a Disco Classic in a Hit Movie; your musical thirst is sure to be more than quenched.
Carne went on to continue collaborating with artists such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Norman Connors and George Duke. She released her debut album, Jean Carn after signing with Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. Her debut single “Free Love” went to #23 on R&B charts and several other tracks received substantial radio airplay. Later albums include 1978’s Happy to Be With You with the hit “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head,” and 1981’s Sweet and Wonderful.
Carne signed with Mowtown Records in 1982 recording Trust Me, and then moved to Onmi Records in 1986 recording Closer than Close, the title track hitting #1 on R&B charts. After releasing You’re apart of Me and Love Lessons, Carne went onto commemorate some of her greatest collaborations which over the years included Dizzy Gallespie, The Temptations, Glenn Jones, Phyllis Hyman, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, with the release of her album Collaborations in 2002 on the Expansion Record label.
She can most recently be heard on the soundtrack to the movie Precious with her disco single, “Was That All It Was,” and in the music of hip-hop group Jet Life who has sampled her work.
Chicago native, Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a jazz vocalist, vocal musicianship coach, composer, lyricist and educator with six solo recordings, her own recording and publishing company, Zenzalai Music, and an extensive discography with some of the biggest names in jazz and contemporary music. A former U.S. Jazz Ambassador under the auspices of the State Department and Kennedy Center, her achievements garnered accolades as “…the voice of her generation,” by Jazziz Magazine. She has appeared in renowned jazz festivals and venues worldwide, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Schomburg Center’s Women in Jazz Festival, JVC Jazz Festivals, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Capetown Jazz Festival, South Africa and Fiji Jazz & Blues Festival. Brief career highlights include jazz composer awards from Chamber Music America/Doris Duke’s New Jazz Works and the MacDowell Colony composer fellowship, and adding lyrics (with the composers’ approval) to the compositions of Andrew Hill, Wayne Shorter and Branford Marsalis. She appears on recordings with Andrew Hill, Stanley Cowell, Donald Brown, Dave Liebman, Ron Carter, Antonio Hart, and has toured with Michael Franks and Freddie Jackson. Her 2009 critically acclaimed Chronicles of a Butterfly CD release, produced by Branford Marsalis, was recorded live at Hayti Heritage Center, and featured pianist Mulgrew Miller. Her latest CD, I Love Myself When I’m Laughing was listed on Independent Ear’s 30 Recommended 2012 Record Releases amongst an esteemed list of jazz artists. This recording also joined the distinction with her previous releases (in 2003 and 2004) garnering inclusion on the 2013 GRAMMY ballot for consideration of nomination in vocal jazz and arranging categories.
Lenora is a fierce arts education advocate and is often sought after to speak about the music industry at conferences, as she mentors artists of all levels, as well as train emerging arts educators. To that end, she was inspired to create an online membership program www.VocalJazzOnline.com and a virtual boot camp for vocalists and vocal educators, www.VocalMusicianshipAcademy.com. Her and husband Fred Hammonds, plan to use the proceeds from these programs in their philanthropic efforts to support music programs and schools in developing countries.
Though most of Helm’s 25-year span of musical achievements as a Jazz Vocal Musician specializing in Classic, Traditional jazz standard and original repertoire to critical acclaim, she also has touring, recording and performing credits in many genres — including R&B, Neo-Soul, and Pop, Theater and Opera. She holds a B.M. in Film Scoring/Voice from Berklee College of Music, and an M.M. in Jazz Performance/Voice from East Carolina University. Helm is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music at North Carolina Central University in Durham, and co-directs their NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Since 2007, Lenora now makes Durham, NC her home – where she lives with her husband, Fred Hammonds. Helm’s achievements in music have spanned more than two decades garnering her inclusion as a subject of biographical record, for Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Women and Who’s Who in the World. Learn more at www.LenoraHelm.com.