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Lorez Alexandria; Jazz Singer Noted for Style

May 24, 2001|JON THURBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lorez Alexandria, a jazz singer highly respected by musicians and other singers even though she never quite achieved the wide recognition her talent merited, has died. She was 71.

Alexandria died Tuesday at Gardena Memorial Hospital of complications from kidney failure, said her son, Michael Martinez of Reno. She had been in failing health since having a stroke shortly after she retired from performing five years ago.

Born Delorez Alexandria Turner in Chicago, Alexandria sang first in gospel and choral groups before finding jobs in Windy City clubs. At the Brass Rail and the Cloister Inn, she worked with the King Fleming Quartet and later Ramsey Lewis.

She moved to Los Angeles in 1962 to pursue more recording and club opportunities. In the Southland, she continued to sing good songs with a strong jazz feeling, attractive vibrato and sensitive phrasing. She was a popular performer in such clubs as the Parisian Room and Marla's Memory Lane.

When asked to describe her strength as a vocalist, Alexandria responded:

"My feeling for a lyric. I'm a storyteller, and I try to have excellent diction, so you won't have to guess what I'm saying. Some people listen to a song for years and don't know what the lyric is."

Among her albums are "Lorez Alexandria the Great" and "More Lorez Alexandria the Great," recorded in the mid-1960s.

Though she received high marks in critics' polls in jazz journals such as Down Beat, the necessary element that would thrust her into the high commercial levels of her profession seemed just beyond her reach.

"What was missing, and what might make a difference for her," jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote in The Times some years ago, "was an outstanding piece of material that could become exclusively identified with her and perhaps catch the ear of a recording executive. This talented woman never makes for less than rewarding listening, but the magic element that could bring her broader audiences is still just a hit song away."

Reflecting on her career, Alexandria said: "Music gave me my life. . . . It made me able to relate to people on more than one level."

She is survived by her son and two grandchildren.

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