Patty Waters (born March 11, 1946) is a jazz vocalist, best known for her free jazz recordings in the 1960s for the ESP-Disk label. Although she has rarely recorded since then, she is more and more recognized as a vocal innovator whose influence extends beyond jazz.
Waters was born in Iowa. She started singing semi-professionally in high school. After school she sang for the Jerry Gray Hotel Jazz Band. Her family moved to Denver where she started listening to Billie Holiday, whose life and singing had a profound influence on her.
In the early 1960s she followed the recommendation of friends to move to New York. Albert Ayler heard her in a dining club and introduced her to Bernard Stollman, the owner of the experimental jazz label ESP-Disk. Her most influential albums, Sings (1965) and College Tour (1966) were made for this label.
Her best known recording is a nearly 14 minute version of the traditional song "Black is the colour of my true love's hair" (from Sings), which is rendered in an intense, haunting, anguished wail.
In the late 1960s, she spent some time in Europe and then left the music world to bring up her son (born in 1969) in California. Almost 30 years later she recorded the album Love Songs in 1996 and began performing in public again. This included reunion concerts with pianist Burton Greene at two music festivals in May 2003: Visions Festival in New York and Le Weekend in Stirling.
In 2004 she released You Thrill Me: A Musical Odyssey, a collection of rare and unissued recordings from the years 1962-1979.
ESP-Disk reissued Sings and College Tour on a single CD (as The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings) in 2006. In November 2016, Patty Waters performs at Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
She also has a sister.
Diamanda Galás, Patti Smith and Lydia Lunch have all named Patty Waters as an influence.
Rock group Telstar Ponies covered her song "Moon, don't come up tonight" and one of their songs is called "Patty Waters".
Thurston Moore of the band Sonic Youth is also an admirer.
- 1965 Sings [ESP-Disk]
- 1966 College Tour [ESP-Disk]
- 1969 appears on Marzette Watts Ensemble [Savoy]
- 1996 Love Songs [Jazz Focus]
- 2004 You Thrill Me: A Musical Odyssey 1962-1979 [Water]
- 2005 Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe: Live in San Francisco 2002 DBK Works
- 2006 The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings [ESP-Disk]