Mainly known as a jazz singer, Karen Young is a gifted musician. With great sensitivity, she has explored many styles and traditions of music. She would have wanted to become an ethno-musicologist; she became a timeless and borderless musician.
Karen Young has been singing, writing and performing since the 70’s. Her first folk hit in Canada, The Garden of URSH, earned her a contract proposal from Warner, that she declined, feeling she was not ready. And it’s only 5 years later that she discovered jazz! The tone was set for her career; musical exploration was to be the priority, before commercial success. In 1980, she won the best vocal jazz group award from DownBeat magazine with her formation Bug Alley Band.
During the 80’s, Karen Young divided her time between performing and researching. She sang in many different formations, singing World music in Creole and Spanish; touring Canada, Europe and US with her jazz bass and voice duo, Young&Donato; performing Contemporary music with the SMCQ (Societé de musique contemporain du Québec) and choral Early music with the SMAM (Socitété de musique ancienne de Montréal) and Llibre Vermell. At the same time, week after week, she explored music librairies, recording on cassettes World music and Classical music that touched her, preparing herself for composition.
In early 90’s Karen Young created her own record company. Over the years, she has produced 12 albums; rich, astonishing in their diversity, always creative, always bringing forward the musicians, and singers. She explored jazz composition for voice, and horns with Nice Work if you can get it and La couleur du vent, inspired by Impressionist music.
In 2000, Karen Young released her medieval opera, Canticum Canticorum, with mediterranean flavours, inspired by the Song of Songs. The album Âme, corps et désir is her tribute to 14th century «Ars Nova» in France and «Trecento» in Italie, and won an award for vocal classical album in 2008.
In recent years, she has sung with her jazz standard trio, Young, Provost&Guilbeault, as well as with tribute bands: to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Thelonius Monk, Mingus and Billy Strayhorn. She performed a tribute to Joni Mitchell at the Montreal Jazz Festival with the big band l’Orchestre National de jazz de Montréal in 2013. She takes part in Jazzique! a collective with Helmut Lipsky, Matt Herskawitz and Vladimir Sidorov.
Karen Young has never stopped her exploration of world music. She toured and recorded the project Tur Malka of the group Magillah in 2014-2015. It performs songs in Yiddish, composed on poetry written in Montréal during the XXth century. Notably, the group performed three times with the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal. Ms Young sang also with Tamar Ilana and Fairouz Oudjida, during Festival Sefarad de Montreal.
A carreer grant from CALQ in 2008-2009 (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec) allowed Karen Young to explore choral composition. It led to the cycles Missa Campanula, premiered in 2013 at the International des musiques sacrées de Québec, and Strange Tales from the Isles, premiered in 2016. Missa Campanula, a cappella mass for double-choir, five soloists and three trebles was recorded in 2015, with the participation of the soprano Suzie LeBlanc. And in December of 2016, the Choeur Karen Young, composed of six women’s voices and harp, performed medieval carols and some of Karen’s contemporary arrangements at la Chapelle de Bon Secours in Montreal.
In March 2017, Karen Young and her soul-jazz singer daughter Coral Egan will release their duo album, Dreamers.
Karen Young taught 6 years jazz interpretation and improvisation at Université de Montréal, and never stopped teaching in summer camps and vocal workshops.