FREE AND MESMERIZING JAZZ BY SINGER THURSTON EVERY WEEKEND 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."  ” - Jonny Whiteside - Jazz Journalist

The Burbank Leader - October 2014

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)

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

Great show last night Perlene!  My friends thought you were awesome!!” - Dawn Melton Beal

— Pip's on LaBrea - First Night

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

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

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)