AMERICAN MUSIC ARTIST
Although her smooth piano fingers and dynamic stage persona draws fans, Carmen Stokes has maintained her over 20 years career with a dedication to performance and coaching children and adults of all ages. An Indiana girl arriving on the Chicago scene in the 90’s with her debut, Sexy Feelin’ album, Stokes established herself as an in-demand player in the Chicago area, building on the soulful jazz style of idols like Ramsey Lewis and Joe Sample. Her album Words of Wisdom was heavily influenced by her love for the contemporary stylings of Joe Sample. Over the years, she has earned numerous accolades including the Indiana NAACP Women in Jazz Award and international acclaim for her album Sexy Feelin’.
At the behest of her father, Stokes started playing the piano at 6 years old. As she grew to love all forms of music, Stokes began studying classical music at the age of 8. Her numerous accolades in Classical included acceptance into the Indiana University Young and Gifted Program in Bloomington, Indiana at 15 years old. Because Stokes hated leaving her college experience, she accelerated her high school classes graduating as a junior only to return to Indiana University and continuing her classical studies. While Stokes was studying classical music, she would enjoy listening to the jazz stylings of Oscar Petersen and Ramsey Lewis learning how to play their licks.
After Dizzy Gillespie was fooled by his piano player when he asked Stokes to show him what she could do by performing Dizzy’s A Night In Tunisia, Dizzy invited Stokes to New York where she seriously began her jazz studies and career graduating from Long Island University in Brooklyn. Over the years, she has toured and performed with legendary artists like Dizzy, Phyllis Hyman, Roy Ayres, Herbie Hancock, Prince, Sheila E and others.
After moving to Chicago and becoming known on the music scene, one day Stokes received an unexpected call from Ramsey Lewis asking her to perform in his place at the Chicago Jazz Awards because he was scheduled to be in London. Lewis told her there were only two pianists in all of Chicago he trusted playing his music and the second one was working with him in London. Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune music critic, wrote …Stokes’ powerful performance and artistry are workings in the tradition of Ramsey Lewis. Comedian, game show host and a regular guest at Benny’s Chophouse, Steve Harvey states “….this is the phenomenal woman I come to see when I’m in Chicago ‘cause she is my favorite and THE best pianist in all of Chicago”. As Benny’s Chophouse Musical Director and one of the headliners for its famous New Year’s Eve Bash, Stokes’ direction has successfully garnered SRO audiences with guests reserving seats a year in advance. During her electrifying vocal/piano performance in the 2018 Chicago Jazz Festival, a packed audience gave Stokes rousing applauses and three standing ovations. Stokes was selected to perform at the Chicago Jazz Arts Institute Nina Simone’s classically inspired piano compositions in A Tribute to Nina Simone: Feeling Good.