Solo Performer. Vocalist. Topliner. Writer. Musician. Songwriter. Playwright. Librettist. Actor. TED Speaker.
Gild The Black Lily's Black Americana sound was curated by Harlem-based vocalist, songwriter, musician, and producer Queen Esther. She was raised in Atlanta, Georgia and rooted in Charleston, South Carolina’s culturally rich and enigmatic Lowcountry, a region with African traditions and Black folkways that span centuries and continue to inform her work. Her creative output musically is the culmination of several critical Southern elements, not the least of which are years of recording and touring internationally as frontwoman for several projects with her mentor, harmolodic guitar icon James “Blood” Ulmer, including a stint in his seminal band Odyssey.
Gild The Black Lily was recorded at Brooklyn’s Mighty Toad Recording Studio with engineer/owner Craig Dreyer at the helm and produced by Queen Esther. These 13 songs include originals from Queen Esther as well as covers from Son House, Chip Robinson of The Backsliders, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Eagles, and George Jones, with performances from guitarist Boo Reiners (Demolition String Band), bassist Hilliard Greene (Little Jimmy Scott), organist and Thelonious Monk specialist Gregory Lewis, guitarist Jeff McLaughlin and drummer Shirazette Tinnin.
A member of SAG/AFTRA and Actors Equity as well as the Dramatist's Guild and the Recording Academy, Queen Esther’s work in New York City as a vocalist, lyricist, songwriter, actor, solo performer, playwright and librettist has led to creative collaborations in neo-vaudeville, alt-theater, various alt-rock configurations, (neo) swing bands, trip-hop DJs, spoken word performances, jazz combos, jam bands, various blues configurations, original Off-Broadway plays and musicals, experimental music/art noise and performance art. Musical theater credits include principal work in RENT (original cast, first national tour) and George C. Wolfe's Harlem Song at The Apollo Theater -- noted for being the only musical in the venue's nearly 100 year history to receive an open-ended run.
She has performed and or recorded with Speedball Baby, Mona’s Hot Five, Eyal Vilner Big Band, Burnt Sugar Arkestra, Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra, Richard Barone (The Bongos), Elliot Sharp (as the alt-blues duo Hoosegow), Swingadelic, LaLa Brooks (The Crystals), Dusty Wright, The Hot Toddies, Dan Levinson’s Jass Band and The Dirtbombs, amongst others. Recent highlights include a TED Talk about the true origins of bluegrass and country music; a Black Americana performance at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Ill; Blackbirding, a new solo show performed at the Royal Family Theater’s Female Forward Festival; a performance workshop for The Hang, a new jazz musical by Taylor Mac; a month-long All Media Artist Residency at Gettysburg National Military Park; sold-out performances of Queen Esther Sings Lady Day: The Lost Classics at Dizzy’s in New York City’s Lincoln Center; and Millenium Stage performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
With each song on the album Gild The Black Lily, the Blackness that raised her moves steadily from The Old West (The Black Cowgirl Song) and the foundations of the Black church (John The Revelator) to heartbreak (He Thinks I Still Care) with soulful declarations (All That We Are) and country-rock reworked into black country soul (Take It To The Limit) and back again. Ultimately, this album reveals and illuminates many facets of the Black sonic experience.