Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Sayer, Cynthia (Nan)

Sayer, Cynthia (Nan), banjoist, pianist, vocalist, tenor guitarist, percussionist; b. Waltham, MA, 20 May 1956. 

Sayer's first 5 years were lived in Wayland MA, then for one year in Swampscott, MA, then to Scotch Plains, NJ until she finished college.  Lived a few months in CT before moving to NYC, where she remained. Her mother is Barbara Sayer (b.Chernoff in 1931). Her father is Bertram Sayer  (b. 1928). Her siblings are Susan (b. 1955), Wayne (b. 1958), and Robert (b. 1960).  Cynthia started piano lessons at age six, added viola lessons from age 9 to about 13, and orchestral drums age 10 to about 13.  She also taught herself folk/pop guitar.  Cynthia's first jazz connection was probably upon hearing the school dance band and deciding she wanted to play a drum set.  Her parents refused due to their already noisy home and after seeing a banjo teacher's ad in the local paper, hoped to create a diversion by giving her a banjo instead.  It worked.  She studied with Patty Fischer from age 13 to about 15 or 16.  She sta rted playing her first professional gigs at age 16.  Cynthia attended Ithaca College where she graduated magna cum laude in 3 and a half years with a BA in English, minor in Drama.  Cynthia planned to attend law school but decided to enjoy being a full-time musician for a few years first.  Moving to NYC, she started playing banjo parlor style gigs and jazz on the street.  Around age 25 she became serious about playing jazz.  At age 26 she decided to continue as a musician. 20 years of articles and reviews include The New York Times, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, major newspapers abroad, and trade magazines both in the USA and abroad. Sayer became internationally acclaimed as one of the leading jazz banjoists, plus is also known for her vocal, entertaining and multi-instrumental talents.  Ms. Sayer has played with such artists as Woody Allen, Dick Hyman, Milt Hinton, Doc Cheatham, Marian McPartland, Bucky Pizzarelli, Odetta, George Segal, Kenny Davern, Warren Vache, Marvin Hamlisch, Ken Peplowski, Dick Wellstood, Bob Wilber, and many others.  She continues to tour regularly and performs in concert and at festivals worldwide.  Cynthia is the pianist and vocalist with Woody Allen's New Orleans Jazz Band, including appearing in "Wild Man Blues," the award-winning feature film documentary of Woody Allen filmed on their European tour.  She was the banjoist with the New York Philharmonic performances of "Rhapsody In Blue," conducted by Kurt Masur.  Cynthia has performed at The White House, plus in New York City's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.  She has also worked with films like "Purple Rose Of Cairo" and "Sophie's Choice."  Other soundtracks include Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway," his most recent film (still untitled) and TV's "The Cosby Mysteries."  Her television and radio credits are extensive, both in the USA and abroad.  In 2001 she was the guest on Marian McPartland's award-winning NPR show, "Piano Jazz."  In 2002, Cynthi a's concert with the top bluegrass players in the country, including Bela Fleck, Bill Keith, Tony Trishka, & Eric Weissberg, was filmed for PBS. The Dresden International Jazz Festival 2000 awarded Cynthia their trophy for Festival Favorite, describing her as "a pioneer of a new banjo style... an exceptional artist who, without showy gimmicks, captivates and excites her audiences."  The Mississippi Rag 1999 Readers Poll Award listed Cynthia second for Favorite Living Banjo Player.  Also in 1999, readers of the banjo publication The Resonator voted her their first-choice headliner.  Cynthia Sayer is internationally acclaimed as one of the leading jazz banjoists, plus is also known for her vocal, entertaining and multi-instrumental talents.  Ms. Sayer has played with such artists as Woody Allen, Dick Hyman, Milt Hinton, Doc Cheatham, Marian McPartland, Bucky Pizzarelli, Odetta, George Segal, Kenny Davern, Warren Vach&e acute;, Marvin Hamlisch, Ken Peplowski, Dick Wellstood, Bob Wilber, and many others.  She tours regularly and performs in concert and at festivals worldwide.  According to Frets Magazine, where she was a winner of the 1988 Readers Poll Awards for 4-String Banjo All Styles, "Cynthia has great tone and touch and a scorching solo style."  The New York Times points out that "within the small society of contemporary jazz banjoists, women are even rarer.  One of that very rare breed, Cynthia Sayer, plays with a plunging drive ... and her jazz-inflected singing [has] a deep sense of involvement." Cynthia composed and produced a series of radio and TV jingles which received significant recognition in the New York region.  She co-starred in "The New Spike Jones Show," as featured in People Magazine.  Her multi-instrumental, vocal and acting talents received rave reviews.  She was also the official banjoist for The New York Yankees for about 6 years.  Ms. Sayer's debut album, "The Jazz Banjo Of Cynthia Sayer," was listed as one of the top ten classic jazz releases for 1988 in Cadence Magazine and The Mississippi Rag.  "More Jazz Banjo" received this recognition for 1989.  "Forward Moves" again received this top-ten recognition for 1993. New York Post jazz critic Chip Deffa described "String Swing" as "so warm, direct and swinging -- it gave me so much pleasure."  "Souvenirs," a Multimedia CD released in 2002, might be the first feature recording on Multimedia CD to be issued in early jazz or banjos. Sayer is currently continuing to concretize and tour, plus create new projects for the banjo.  She endorses OME Banjos and GHS Strings. 

Recordings:
The New York Banjo Ensemble Plays Gershwin (1982); The New York Banjo Ensemble: Jazz (with Howard Alden, Eddy Davis and Frank Vignola) (1984); The Jazz Banjo Of Cynthia Sayer Volume 1 (featuring Milt Hinton and Dick Wellstood (1988); More Jazz Banjo Volume 2 (featuring Bucky Pizzarelli and Dick Wellstood) (1989);  Forward Moves (featuring Kenny Davern) (1992); Jazz At Home (1998); String Swing (2000); Souvenirs (multimedia CD) (2002)
As sideperson (selected):
Play For Me A Love Song (1982); The Great Freddie Moore (1982); John Williams Jr.: Let's Have Fun Together (1983); Adolphus Anthony 'Doc' Cheatham: Too Marvelous For Words (1993); The Purple Rose Of Cairo [Original Soundtrack, credits erroneously list Mia Farrow on ukulele) (1983); Woody Allen and His New Orleans Jazz Band: The Bunk Project (1993); Tony Trischka: World Turning (1993); Bullets Over Broadway [Original Soundtrack] (1994); Peter Ecklund: Strings Attached (1996);Woody Allen and His New Orleans Jazz Band: Wild Man Blues (1998); Peter Ecklund: Gigs: Reminiscing In Music (1999); Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band: Live at the Campidoglio (on DVD) (2003)

Television:
Numerous television talk shows and performed music segments in USA and Germany including but not limited to:  "The Morning Show" with Regis Philbin (ABC-TV), "The Morning Program" (CBS-TV), "Good Morning America" (ABC-TV),  "The Joe Franklin Show" (WOR-TV), "NDR Talk Show" (Germany); "Li'l Liza" Regional TV Commercial for Laser Medical Associates

Film:
"Wild Man Blues" 1997, Directed by Barbara Kopple

Contact information:
www.cynthiasayer.com
Cynthia Sayer
Ansonia Station
P.O. Box 23-1362
New York, NY 10023

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