Kitty Margolis: Performer Bios

Kitty Margolis
Kitty Margolis
Kitty Margolis is a fifth generation Californian, as much a part of San Francisco as the 49ers, earthquakes, and cable cars. Her great-grandfather was a gold rush pioneer, her grandmother survived the 1906 quake, and her grandfather was the president of the famous Market Street Railway. Growing up with the San Francisco Sound and experience had a big influence on Kitty. As a youngster, when she was glued to underground radio stations like the legendary KSAN, she’d tag along with her big brother to concerts at the Fillmore, Winterland and the Avalon Ballroom. “I saw all sorts of bands on the same bill – Miles, the Dead, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Traffic, Gary Burton, Muddy Waters, John McLaughlin, Taj Mahal, Buffalo Springfield, Charles Lloyd, Frank Zappa and B.B. King – which imprinted in me a kind of eclecticism that’s an intrinsic part of my music today,” notes Margolis.

At the same time, the young music fan became a musician. She got her first guitar and soon she had taught herself to play, emulating her heroes Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt and creating bands with her friends during high school. At age 20, after performing professionally with a western swing band around the Boston area at night while maintaining Dean’s list standing at Harvard University by day, the fledgling artist heard saxophone colossus Rahsaan Roland Kirk at the Village Vanguard during a weekend visit to New York. Margolis describes the impact of that night as “life-altering.”

Turning her sights to jazz, she moved back to the Bay Area to finish her degree in San Francisco State’s world-class recording arts program. While there, she studied with veteran saxophonist John Handy, formed her own jazz unit and honed her technique and improvisational ability in the thriving Bay Jazz Area azz scene. Her apartment in San Francisco's North Beach was a few doors down from Stan Getz, more importantly it was also near the legendary club Keystone Korner, where she came to know jazz masters past and present, many of whom she would ultimately perform with.

Although she continues to make her home in the City by the Bay, Margolis has become a singer of international acclaim, electrifying audiences at the top festivals, clubs and performing arts venues on four continents. She has appeared at The Kennedy Center, The Sydney International Arts Festival, The Boston Pops, London’s Royal Festival Hall, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, New York’s Blue Note, Holland’s North Sea Jazz Festival, Oakland’s Yoshi’s, Switzerland’s Yehudi Menuhin Music Festival and eight performances at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

She has worked with many of the greatest names in jazz and blues, including Joe Henderson, Lionel Hampton, Elvin Jones, Roy Hargrove, Charles Brown, Hank Jones, Herb Ellis, John Handy, Joe Louis Walker, Red Holloway, David “Fathead” Newman, Pee Wee Ellis and Eddie Henderson. She has also performed and/or recorded with such diverse artists as the rap group The Coup and Phil Lesh of The Grateful Dead. Her lyrics have been sung by such artists as Diane Reeves, and her song “It’s You” has become an underground remix hit in Tokyo and London. To pay it forward, she continues to share her wealth of experience via masterclasses at high schools and universities wherever she travels.

Margolis' recordings on Mad-Kat Records, the indie label she co-founded in 1988, have earned awards and accolades including a BAMMIE for “Best Jazz Album," six Downbeat Critics' Poll nods, a nomination for the Soul Train “Lady of Soul” award and the California Music Awards “Certificate Recognizing Exceptional Creativity” three times. All of Margolis’s recordings have received Top 10 radio airplay nationwide. She is currently in pre-production for a new release.

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