Singer Mary Stallings, one of jazz's unsung heroines, will headline the 2012 Isthmus Jazz Festival. She performs a free concert on Saturday, June 2, at 8 p.m. in the Wisconsin Union Theater. The festival will also feature performances by regional bands on the Memorial Union Terrace on June 1 and 2.
Stallings was a teenage singing prodigy in San Francisco in the 1950s. In the 1960s, she recorded an album with Cal Tjader and toured with top talent like Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Billy Eckstine. But the chance to make another record never materialized, and in the 1970s she walked away from music for a career in clothing design.
When Stallings resurfaced in the 1990s with a series of compelling performances and recordings, she seemed like the great jazz singer who'd somehow slipped through the cracks. Her assured approach recalled Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald contemporaries who got the breaks she never did.
Stallings performing "I Love Being Here With You":