Chrisette Michele

In a very short span of time, R&B singer/songwriter Chrisette Michele shot from small-time performer up to one of Def Jam's most promising talents, purely based on her unique instrument -- a gorgeous and effortlessly versatile singing voice colored with Billie Holiday-esque inflections of vocal pop and jazz. The jazz-influenced vocalist, born Chrisette Michele Payne in 1982, developed her pipes through singing gospel, first performing for a congregation at age four. God and music were clearly instrumental in her upbringing: her father, who also played the organ, was a deacon, and her mother was the church's choir director. Growing up in Patchogue, New York, a small town on Long Island, the young singer's parents always kept her busy with tap dancing, piano lessons, choir rehearsals, and the like. But at age 17, Chrisette had an epiphany. After a teacher gave her a CD containing the bossa nova standard "The Girl from Ipanema," she was immediately won over to jazz by Brazilian jazz singer Astrud Gilberto's voice. She spent endless hours isolated in a room with a piano learning jazz standards as they were sung by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and other greats. She wound up studying vocal and jazz performance at Five Townes College on Long Island.

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