Update browser for a secure Minnesota Orchestra experience

It looks like you may be using a web browser version that we don't support. Make sure you're using the most recent version of your browser, or try using of these supported browsers, to get the full Minnesota Orchestra experience: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge.

Carmen Bradford


Born in Austin, Texas, and raised in Altadena, California, Grammy nominee Carmen Bradford grew up with music in her home and in her heart. It was only natural that she would follow in the footsteps of her great family legacy, being the daughter of legendary trumpeter-composer Bobby Bradford and world renowned vocalist-composer Melba Joyce. Her grandfather Melvin Moore sang with Lucky Millender and Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band in the 1940s and sang with the Ink Spots, making Bradford the third generation of incredible musicians. She has carved out a place in music history for herself and is playing an integral role in this uniquely American art form called jazz. Carmen Bradford is Jazz Royalty.

Bradford was discovered and hired by William “Count” Basie, and was the featured vocalist in the legendary Count Basie Orchestra for nine years. She has since performed and/or recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Shelly Berg and John Clayton along with the Clayton Hamilton Orchestra, Nancy Wilson, Doc Severinsen, Tony Bennett, James Brown, Patti Austin, Byron Stripling, Dori Caymmi, George Benson, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Joe Williams, DIVA Jazz Orchestra, the National Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Dani Felber Big Band, Dallas Symphony, Oklahoma Symphony, Vancouver Philharmonic and countless artists around the world. Bradford performed on two Grammy Award-winning albums with the Basie band in the 1980s and later collaborated on a third Grammy Award-winning album, Big Boss Band, with guitarist George Benson in 1991. Her soulful voice warmed the hearts of Americans through the celebrated performance of the classic duet, How Do You Keep The Music Playing? on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson that same year.

Bradford’s 2015 release, titled John Mills Invisible Design featuring Carmen Bradford, is another example of Bradford’s ability to sing all forms of jazz, be it straight ahead jazz, blues or jazz fusion, and swing it like nobody can. A Christmas album, the 2015 release of the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, directed by Scotty Barnhart, titled A Very Swingin Basie Christmas on Concord Records, with Johnny Mathis, Bradford and Ledisi was another first for Bradford as well.

In 2016 Carmen Bradford was asked by South African trumpeter Darren English to be a part of his new critically acclaimed CD, tilted Imagination Nation on Hot Shoe Records. Whether it’s a duo concert with Shelly Berg, Big Band with the ladies of DIVA or her new favorite, performing with symphony orchestras around the world, Bradford’s body of work reflects a vast depth of musical experience and technical brilliance. She is also recognized for the overwhelming passion she brings to the lyric. 

Bradford’s love of teaching has been recognized by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as the new Roots, Jazz and American Music (RJAM Program) has welcomed her with open arms. She is the resident professor of jazz voice and director of vocal jazz studies.