Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Booker, Sandra, singer; b. New Orleans, LA. She is the sixth of eight children born to Efzelda and Johnny Q. Booker, Sr. Booker began singing at the age of three putting on one act plays and concerts for her siblings, grandmother and any one else who wanted to entertained. She credits her mother, a gospel singer and former actress with being her greatest musical influence. Others who served as inspiration include Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Maria Callas, Elis Regina, and Andy Williams.
As a student of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Dr. Burt Braud played the most significant role in her desire to make music a career. His advice to her was "take music as serious as breathing." That notion took hold some years later when she chose a career in music over medicine. As a voice major at NOCCA she formed her first musical alliances with other young local jazz musicians including Delfeayo Marsalis, Jesse Davis, and Harry Connick, Jr., however, it was Connick who convinced her to pursue music rather than medicine. He also took note of her natural acting ability and persuaded her to audition for a 1984 staging of "Ain't Misbehavin" for the Philalectric Society of Jesuit where she was formally introduced to jazz as a vocalist and actress.
Upon graduating from Warren Easton High School in 1985, she relocated to Los Angeles, California in 1986. Two years later, she began studying voice with big band singer and trombonist, Bela "Bill" Berger. He became a surrogate father, (Booker's father died in 1978) friend, and mentor until his death in 2000. She teamed up with pianist and arranger Frank Collett (musical director for both Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae) and joined his trio in 1992, which included bassist Andy Simpkins and Paul Kriebich.
She has worked with numerous artists including, Patrice Rushen, Billy Mitchell, Mike Melvoin, , Billy Higgins, Lev Kushnir, Dale Fielder, Gerald Wiggins, Joe LaBarbera, Darek Oles, Phil Upchurch, Red Tyler, Warren Meyers, Garrett Morris, The New Orleans Jazz Couriers, BlackNote, Nedra Wheeler, the WDR Big Band, 'Round Midnight featuring guitarist Matt Elias, The New Trio, and Ernie Watts. She has served as the opening act for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, The Texas Instruments Jazz Big Band, Norman Brown, Brenda Russell, and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
In 1999, she was invited to KoIn, Germany to perform with Lalo Schifrin and the WDR Big Band. Her face has been featured in fine art and photography exhibits, including Roland Fisher's "Faces of LA" at Munich Museum in Germany and Philippe Morotti's "LA: The People" at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, California.
Her usual rhythm section includes LA players pianist Danny Grissett, drummer Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Valerio. In 2001 she began studying voice with Marion Cooper. In 2003, she received the Patron's Merit Award for Excellence and the Performance Showcase Award for Vocal Music from Los Angeles Valley College. She is currently a full time student at Los Angeles Valley College and is currently pursuing a doctorate in jazz composition and orchestration.
Very Early (1995); The Best of Summer Nights at MOCA (1999); Jo Marie Payton: Southern Shadows (1999); Lalo Schifrin & the WDR Big Band: Jazz Goes To Hollywood (2000); Billy Mitchell: Never Give Up On Love (2000): Hippo Limbo: Hippo Limbo (2003)