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Perlene Thurston: Press


Saturday mornings in Burbank have gotten a lot cooler recently, thanks to jazz singer Perlene Thurston's free, weekly 11 a.m. gigs at Olive Avenue's Backstage Cafe.  Teamed with the veteran guitarist Doug MacDonald, Thurston's brand of straight ahead jazz vocals are lush and evocative, fraught with warmth and emotion and communicates volumes of psychic information with an instinctive artistry that's near mesmerizing.  

"I am not a trained musician but some people have called me a natural," Thurston said.  "While I love singers like Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, and while some influence is bound to come through, I am very aware of the difference between imitating and singing from the heart."  

"I sing from the heart."  

The [oldest] of seven [girls], Thurston arrived in California from Detroit in the late 1960s, where her musical career was born in a dual state of tenderness and tumult; her first zzz performances came alongside her father, pianist Dick Thurston, as she was reconnecting with him following a painful divorce which had split her family asunder; a subsequent friendship with actress Ann B, Davis quickly led her to a series of international USO tours, and found her performing in Seoul when North Koreaan forces boarded and captured the intelligence ship USS Pueblo, igniting a Cold War hostage crises that lasted 11 months.  

The following year, Thurston was again too close for comfort in Vietnam when enemy forces hit our Da Nang ammo dump -- detonating over $120 million worth of high explosives.  

Such high drama provided a wildly unlikely backdrop for Thurston's creative pursuits:  She has alternately and successfully pursued and explored the arts as both a dancer and a gallery exhibited painter, but always returned to singing.  

"I was singing R&B and funk when I was a teenager in Detroit," she said.  "But I moved to jazz when

 I got out here.  My father worked in clubs all over Los Angeles, from places on Sunset Boulevard to out hee in the San Fernando Valley, and he would often have me appear as a guest with him."  

Thurston developed a winning style -- a deliberate, measured approach that's imbued with atmosphere and color -- and her warm, intimate interpretations unfailingly resonates with an audience. She also has a singular, richly philosophical attitude toward her avocation, one that extends far beyond mere artistic expression or entertainment.  

"I love to tell a tory with a song," she said.  "It has to be something I can relate to  I love sensitivity in the delivery of a song, so that more of your own life experiences come through.  If a song can move you, it helps you to escape into a different place, into a  moment where you are totally present.  That's why it's all about."  

"Tt's a  ministry of beauty and grace."  


What:  Perlene Thurston with Doug MacDonald

Where: BackstageCafe, 2520 W. Olive Ave., #120, Burbank 

When: Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Cost: Free

More info: (818) 563-4567,



JONNY WHITESIDE is a veteran music journalist based in Burbank and author of "Ramblin' Rose: the Life & Career of Rose Maddox" and "Cry: the Johnnie Ray Story."  

DOUG MacDONALD AND PERLENE THURSTON -- Jazz Guitar and Vocals with Lunch

It was perfect Southern California weather to enjoy well played jazz guitar while lunching on an outdoor patio under a large sun umbrella.  Doug MacDonald, a versatile straight-ahead guitarist, playing his favored Buscarino guitar, shared this informal Saturday performance with guest vocalist Perlene Thurston, as they romped through a variety of well-known tunes covering several decades.  I\Included were "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Day by Day"." "Besame Mucho," "Girl from Ipanema," and " I'm in the Mood for Love,\."  MacDonald's remarkable guitar work brought new life and spirit to these veteran tunes, bringinging to them an un-rushed richness and updated feel.  At the same time, he supported Thurston's traditional handling of the lyrics.  With an understanding of what she sings and a presentation in the mode of earlier great female vocalists, she has the voice and the expressive presentation attitude these vintage gems deserve.  

The surprise arrival of guitarist Jerry Case soon led to guitar duets with MacDonald, including "I Thought About You" and "Comin' Home, Baby," which were fun to ear as their differing styles were skillfully meshed together and the enjoyment of the guitarists of the impromptu duo was evident. Case is best known for his knowledge of earlier traditional jazz styles, and western swing from his days in Nashville.  His guitar was quite interesting, an Epiphone cut-away arch top, hybridized with a D'Angelico tailpiece for strings, and what appears to be a post-factory 7th string addition.  The instrument looks like it's been a good soldier for a long time, and probably has played a million tunes!  

Back to Doug MacDonald and Perlene Thurston, as they prepared to close, a beautifully stylized "I've Got the World on a String" was played to celebrate Perlene's birthday ("over 21!"), followed by "I'm Glad ThereIs You" and "Just in Time" to end.

. . . 

With large shade trees nearby, guitar playing, singing, and lunch on the patio, it felt like a garden party less than a half-mile down the street from NBC Burbank, where Johnny Carson told his continuing jokes about "beautiful downtown Burbank," Saturdays, from 11 am to 1 pm, well played guitar by Doug MacDonald and pleasing vocals by Perlene Thurston, plus possible guests, for the price of coffee or a sandwich, is a good opportunity for great listening and a good deal!  The place where this happens is the Backstage Cafe, 2520 West Olive Avenue in Burbank.  Best to phone (818) 563-4567 for confirmation, especially if the weather isn't right.  

Harvey Barkan - THE SCENE - L.A. Jazz Scene (August 2014) (Aug, 2014)

Hi Perlene, 

Just a note of thanks and appreciation for our gig last week (December 28, 2013) at Viva.  As always, you sounded so nice and I just love playing with you.  We will definitely be doing it again, and please think of me if you have any things going in the future … from duo to larger band … Love you and hope the New Year is starting off strong.  See you soon, Bruce.  

Bruce Forman, Music Director, Jazz Guitarist - Viva Cantina - Burbank, CA (Jan 4, 2014)

"Great show last night Perlene!  My friends thought you were awesome!!

Dawn Melton Beal - Pip's on LaBrea - First Night (Jul 31, 2013)
  • Chuck Corbisiero likes this.
  • Chuck Corbisiero What a tremendous voice and presence! I'm glad I was there tonight. Thank you for your Artistry Perlene Thurston. Class, class and more class. And sassy too. I'm telling everyone who will listen and I don't get excited easily. An Artist who knows how to use her voice. A stylist, one of a kind.
Chuck Corbisiero - Patron - Pip's on LaBrea - Second Night (Aug 6, 2013)
We had a great turnout at our Sunday get-together at the Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club. . . . A pause and a moment of silence was offered by Len Berman as we reflected on the loss of pianist Teddy Yamada, who passed away so suddenly a few weeks ago.

Our guest band of the afternoon was at the top of the charts as Perlene Thurston took the stage with five of the finest musicians around. She called her group Pure Pleasure, and indeed it was. Stephen Geyer was on guitar, Hank Allen on bass, Woody DeMarco on piano, Rex Harte on drums, and the outstanding Jon Crosse handling all of the reed instruments and the trumpet as well, effortlessly and with perfection.

Perlene opened the set with a dedication to the late Bob Agnew [Jazz Critic – L.A. Jazz Scene] and Teddy Yamada, performing a powerful rendition of “Almost Like Being In Love”. Next, in a bossa mode, was “I've Got You Under My Skin”, with lovely solos by Jon Crosse on both the tenor sax and the trumpet, “At Last” captured the outstanding abilities of each of the musicians in the band, and then to a funky rhythm, the tune “I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You”. Perlene has such great command of her audience – and she took us through “Our Love is Here to Stay”, a soulful “Georgia”, and “I Thought About You”. “Corcovado” was the setting for an outstanding flute solo by Jon Crosse and also featured Stephen Geyer on guitar. A bluesy “Stormy Monday”, and “Blues in B-flat” closed out a truly magical afternoon. Perlene is an absolute delight and we look forward to having her back again.
Dawn Russum - JUST A NOTE - Channel Cities Jazz Club, Inc. - Jazz News (October 2008)

"What a great evening this was! Perlene Thurston sang as smooth as ever, the band (Steve Rosen on guitar, Adrian Rosen on bass, and Michael Rosen on drums) was burning, the food was great, and the weather was perfect!  I'm glad I was the drummer on this one.  Thanks to all!!"

Michael Rosen, Drummer - Tavern 101 - Band Member (Aug 5, 2013)
I can't resist adding my 2 cents worth to the fine review that Dawn wrote about our feature attraction last month – Perlene Thurston and Pure Pleasure. Everything they did was a great delight to me as a member of the audience. But from the standpoint of [being] a musician, it was far more than that. It was more like some “died and gone to heaven” experience – to a place where Perlene and her band members communicate by some 22nd century mental telepathy thing to produce a musical masterpiece right on the spot, not as a result of hours of rehearsal, but from a lifetime developing the musical sensitivity to be able to do that with other equally sensitive and talented musicians.

Perlene sent us the following e-mail:

“Just wanted to thank you all for inviting me and my group to perform for your Jazz Club this past Sunday and for the great reception. It was a blast!!! All my musicians thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I hope it won't be the last. In the meantime, I wish each and everyone of you the happiest of holidays. - Perlene”
Bob Gaston - WHAT'S NEW - Channel Cities Jazz Club, Inc. - Jazz News (November 2008)
We like to think of each of our “guest” attractions as “special” and we certainly aim for an appealing diversity among the jazz groups presented at our monthly meeting of the Channel Cities Jazz Club. That said, I still feel compelled to refer to our October headliner as especially special! I had the great pleasure of seeing and hearing Perlene Thurston doing her musical magic earlier this year one Sunday at the Valley Jazz Club. Backed by an oh-so-sensitive quartet of fine musicians, she quickly had the rapt attention of the appreciative crowd, I among them. She “owns” the songs she sings; you don't care who else did them!

To learn more about the wonderful career of this extremely talented woman, go to her web site at where you can not only read about her exciting life as an entertainer but also, by clicking on the “Music” tab, you can listen to some beautiful clips from her CD. Do it! It's easy.

At Channel Cities on October 19th, Perlene will be supported by another group of very fine jazz musicians aptly called “Pure Pleasure”. Woody DeMarco will be on piano/keyboards; Rex Harte on drums; Stephen Geyer on guitar; and Hank Allen on the bass. Come prepared to be thrilled!!
Bob Gaston - WHAT'S NEW - Channel Cities Jazz Club, Inc. - Jazz News (September 2008)
October will bring a new performer to our club, but one who has been extremely well received in the Los Angeles area jazz scene. She is Perlene Thurston and will be accompanied by Pure Pleasure. I know you will be enchanted with her powerful performance so be sure and put it on your calendar. See you then.
Dawn Russum - JUST A NOTE - Channel Cities Jazz Club, Inc. - Jazz News (September 2008)

PERLENE THURSTON, and PURE PLEASURE Word is starting to spread about Perlene Thurston, an outstanding vocalist who is re-entering the Los Angles area jazz scene. At hearing her sing recently, three local jazz clubs quickly booked Thurston for future featured sets, including the Valley Jazz Club, where she filled the room today (4/6/2008). Talk about pressure on a performing vocalist! Imagine rumor of singing in the great Ella Fitzgerald tradition, perhaps even comparable, as anticipated by some of the fans attending the Club for the first time to check out what they have heard about her! While I don't consider it equitable to either party to such comparisons, Perlene Thurston demonstrated the highest qualities of voice and presentation. Whether using the intensity of her powerful voice or the softness, every lyric was clear as bell and emotionally felt. She personalized the meaningful passages, singing with a seasoned professionalism that freshened the well known classic lyrics. Performing comfortably in her own skin as herself, she is among the finest of today's jazz vocalists that I have heard. It felt as though she was pleased to be here to entertain, quickly establishing a warm connection with a friendly, outgoing manner. An easiness and joy in her style brought peaceful beauty to her songs. Positive about life and performing, Perlene says “Life is a changing melody of many textures and colors, and like the song says, the best is yet to come!” The beauties that were sung included “Almost Like Being in Love,” “Misty,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Besame Mucho,” “He's Funny That Way,” “Day by Day,” “I'll Take Romance,” “Make Someone Happy,” “That's All,” and a sensational “At Last” that brought out the goose bumps. Thurston was supported by Pure Pleasure, the superb quartet of Karen Hernandez (piano), Doug MacDonald (guitar), Jack LeCompte (drums), and Lou Schoch (solid body bass), four top-notch jazz players. They were sensitive to the supportive ensemble enhancement of this outstanding vocalist, and wisely, each was also featured several times to highlight their individual skills and to enrich these tasty tunes. It was a wonderful match of vocalist and band. There is only one Ella, but an impressed, knowledgeable table mate, a thoroughgoing, rock-solid Ella fan here because of the buzz about Thurston, rushed from our table at the end of her set to check with Perlene Thurston and Karen Hernandez where he could see them again, soon!

Harvey Barkan - THE SCENE - L.A. JAZZ SCENE (May 2008) (May, 2008)

Subject: Performance at Soho for UCSB History Associates Luncheon/Lecture/Concert

From: Frank Frost

Date: Tue, January 29, 2008, 11:10 am

To: Perlene Thurston


Dear Perlene:

I want to say again how much pleasure I had working with you. No singer I've ever accompanied gave me such a feeling of professional accomplishment, even the one time I worked with Ernie Andrews. The crowd was just mesmerized; they'd never heard entertainment like that. Once again, all the musicians were raving about your performance. If you ever need a piano player again, you know you can count on me.

Love and kisses, Frank

Frank Frost - Music Director - SOHO Music Club - Santa Barbara (Jan, 2008)
Subject: Re: Luncheon/ Lecture/ Concert
at Soho on 1-27-08
Date: Fri, February 1, 2008, 9:00 pm
To: Perlene Thurston

Dear Perlene,

As you could tell, the audience loved your music. Your pleasure was infectious, but we would have enjoyed the music in any event. Thank you for a marvelous performance.

I will certainly distribute your contact information to our Board, and the editor of our newsletter may decide to include it in his write up on our program of last Sunday.

Thank you so much for making the trip to Santa Barbara and, again, for such a delightful performance.
Prof. Barbara Lindemann - UCSB History Associates (Jan, 2008)

On this solstice-hailing afternoon (December 16, 2007), we had, ... Bill Ryan: guitar, Ron Javorsky: bass, ... Don Hooker: drums, Tom Owens: piano, ... we had the inspired John Setar on clarinet, who had an appropriate enthusiasm for the jam, because everybody was good. ...

Then came the great Perlene Thurston's set. Barry (Anthony) had assembled a crackerjack bunch to back her. The songs were all chestnuts, getting their moment of fire. There was no rehearsal, so there was a "winging it " feel to the whole show, an elevated version of what went on in the first two sets. Kicking off with "Almost Like Being in Love", Tom Owens displayed some sensual sliding riffs up and down the ivories, and the ebonies got a workout, too. Perlene philosophized: "Sometimes almost is enough". "At Last " was up next. Ms. Thurston did her customary smooth, complex explorations, and made the song her own.

"Sometimes you feel manipulated and sometimes you just don't care", she stated in her stately way ... "Old Back Magic", "Them There Eyes", and Embraceable You" all had velvet qualities, and "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" was a great deal of sophisticated fun. But "The Christmas Song" was the first real ballad. Her magnificent feathery vibrato on the finish of notes finally got its full appearance. Once that song stopped time, things seemed to relax: "Speak Low" and "Body and Soul" felt as if she were channeling Sarah, Nina, and even Anita, yet always Perlene. After "Our Love is Here To Stay", which she commandeered admirably, she finished with "The Wave".

Authentic, as always. One wished that she could occasionally work with just the bass or the piano to highlight her immense instrument, but that's quibbling. It was a lovely performance.
Suzy Williams - Jazz Forum News (Santa Monica) January 2008


"A real wow of an afternoon, peopled by some fine regulars and surprises. ... "Then something amazing happened. A lady by the name of Perlene Thurston took the stage. She was invited to the Forum by John Ryan, a gent and fine reviewer and who is a big part of the Valley Jazz Club and apparently can’t resist coming to our Moose shindigs. We owe him thanks, for Ms. Thurston is the best vocalist this reviewer has seen in Los Angeles, with the exception perhaps of Patti Austin and Diane Schuur, and that being on their good days.

"She began with “Just in Time” and followed it with “Misty” and she made these well worn chestnuts her own with a commanding intelligence, and an explorativeness that showed she can do anything at all vocally. With an emotional and octave-defying range and an ease that only jazz at its best can be, she held us transfixed as she glided from note to note, nuances galore without pretense, evoking Ella, Sarah and Nina Simone and some bad ass blues mama who’d been thru Katrina and back.

In “ There is No Greater Love”, she started, filled and finished each phrase with consummate power, joy and sorrow. Her “Deed I Do” was pure fun but solid as a vault. "We simply didn’t want her to leave the stage. Bravo, Perlene Thurston!"


We are happy to announce that our feature performer for December 16, 2007 will be Perlene Thurston.

Suzy Williams - Jazz Forum News - Santa Monica, CA (November 2007) (Nov, 2007)

THERE'S A NEW GAL IN TOWN! "Perlene Thurston. This gal sings like an angel. Came in to sing a song or two and wound up singing six. Consensus is that this lady's pipes are outstanding. Perlene is just returning to entertainment after an extended hiatus. We look forward to her return."

John Ryan - Valley Jazz Club (Canoga Park, CA) - Jazz Forum News (November 2007) (Nov, 2007)
"I've played with the great lady vocalists of our time, inlcuding Ella, and Sarah. You rank right up there."

(Comment made onstage to Perlene while he sat in during her set at the Jazz Forum in Santa Monica 12/16/07)
John Setar - Legendary woodwind player of the "Swinging Years" (Dec 16, 2007)

"Jazz artist Al Reese with special guest Perlene Thurston, jazz vocalist from Los Angeles, were the jazz attraction for the evening. It was a fun evening as guests mingled and enjoyed the special ambiance of Al Reese at the keyboard, transporting Perlene to some terrific vocalizing. Some of her songs were "Our Love is Here to Stay," then a Jobim classic "Wave" and "At Last," the very beautiful song by Harry Warren. She sang them all in her very unique, warm and wonderful way. You can't help listening to this lady. ... Yes, it was a special night as we celebrated the opening of Jazz Appreciation Month with these two great artists and shared the joy of jazz together."
ReVay Seifert - SBJS JAZZETTE - Santa Barbara Jazz Society Newsletter (May, 2003)

" ... Elsewhere, vocalist Perlene Thurston checked in at Mr. B's in Burbank with her trio for a gig not long ago. Here's a singer with good stage presence and a great voice, whose enunciation allows the listener to understand the lyrics. She is deserving of all the recognition she can get."

Bob Agnew - PLAYERS/JAZZLINES - L.A. JAZZ SCENE (March 2002) (Mar, 2002)
"Singer Perlene Thurston back in the limelight again with appearances at local clubs such as Ca' del Sol and Miceli's. We caught her act at Miceli's, that profusion of wine bottle ambience and jazz on Las Palmas in Hollywood, where she delivered three sets of songs with just the right amount of soul and perfect touch, whether upbeat or ballad-slow. Backing her was the Karen Hernandez Trio with Glen Mitchell on bass, Tony Terran on trumpet and Vince Jew on Guitar. Many of her friends were on hand, helping her to celebrate her birthday with pianist Ross Tompkins and singer Sonny Craver also enjoying the proceedings ... "
"The comely and gregarious Perlene Thurston was granted the gift of singing, and sing she does. Recently, standing solidly on her feet before a crowd of diners and drinkers at the 66 California Jazz and Supper Club in Ventura, she commanded their attention with her good voice and songs. Frequently, she would preface a song with a little story line, a bit of philosophy, and then, firing both barrels, hit them with the likes of "Every Day I Have the Blues" or "Never Make Your Move Too Soon." She mellowed out with other selections such as "Body and Soul," "Star Eyes," I Thought About You," and "Dindi." An actress, as well, she flavored the lyrics with just the right dramatic reading.

"No newcomer to the entertainment business, Thurston was born in Detroit where she began singing in local clubs at the age of 16. Her father, the late Richard Thurston, was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger. Eventually, moving to Los Angeles, she has sung with a host of jazz groups in the area including the Bill Berry Quartet and the trios of David Sanborn, Phil Upchurch, Sherman Ferguson and with Jimmy McConnell's big band. She also has worked with such keyboard artists as Jane Getz, Lanny Hartley, Dwight Dickerson and Marty Harris.

"She has performed at many of the better L.A. jazz spots, including Chadney's, Monteleone's, Miceli's, Loew's Hotel and Spaghetini's. Currently, she is appearing at La Notte's on South Robertson on Friday and Saturday nights.

"Perlene Thurston - - a fine jazz singer. Put her on your calendar for an evening of good entertainment." Bob Agnew - BE MY GUEST - L.A. JAZZ SCENE (June 1997)
Bob Agnew - BE MY GUEST - L.A. JAZZ SCENE (June 1997)
" ... There has to be a lounge ... someplace that swings ... someplace in the 818 area code. ... I'm underdressed at Monteleone's West in Tarzana, which I hope is going unnoticed. Then Perlene, the singer who's finishing her break, stops by the table and asks if this is my first time here. Busted for lounge-hopping out of costume.

"Technically a supper club, the place is stylish, the people are stylish, and the music is stylish. Perlene sings "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Love for Sale" with a comforting familiarity. ... "
Robin Rauzi - LOS ANGELES TIMES / Valley Life! (June 9, 1995)
" ... Tuesday nights are jam session nights at Chadney's, led by drummer Earl Palmer. On one particular Tuesday evening there were come nice surprises. Drummer Dick Berk, visiting from Oregon, along with his pal, pianist Michael Wolff, trumpeter Sal Marquez, guitarist Ron Anthony all came in to jam with regulars George Gaffney on piano and bassist Ernie McDaniel. ... Singer Perlene Thurston sang a nice version of "The Party's Over." The amazing Carl Saunders came by with his trumpet to take part in the jam. It was an extra special night at Chadney's."
Bob Comden - BOB'S BEAT - L.A. JAZZ SCENE (December 1994)

"Vocalist Perlene Thurston made her first appearance at Chadney's in Burbank, along with her Rhythm section that included bassist and musical director Brad Bobo, pianist Clarence MacDonald and drummer Joe Dougherty.

"The program started off with instrumental versions of "There is No Greater Love" and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" by the trio. Perlene then took center stage and becan her performance with "This Will Be My Shining Hour." this was followed by such well-known standards as "Where or When," "Green Dolphin Street," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and "Invitation." She obviously has a great affinity for the classic American favorits, whether it be jazz or blues, which she dedicated a good deal of time to later on in the evening.

"With her likeable personality and warm stage presence, Perlene won the audience over and was very well received."
Mal Sands - THE SCENE - L.A. JAZZ SCENE (May 1994)
at Pedrini Music Store

"Drummer Frank Wilson celebrated his birthday by performing at one of Pedrini's Saturday afternoon concerts. With him were long time partners pianist Karen Hernandez and bassist Stan Sargent, along with special guest John Bolivar on sax and flute. ...

"At this time the group was joined by a vocalist by the name of Perlene Thurston who brought the house down with a couple of real crowd pleasers. "Hallelujah I Love Him So" and Lover Man" were very well received. ... "
Mal Sands - THE SCENE - L.A. JAZZ SCENE (March 1993) (Mar, 1994)