By Dee Jae Cox
A warm breeze on a fall night, a glass of sweet red wine, with the resonating sound of a saxophone filling your senses and you can easily find yourself in another era, pulsating rhythms that stir the memories and echoes of the greats like Billie Holliday;
Them that’s got shall have
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own
(God Bless the Child)
This was the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival experience, showcasing the Golden Age of jazz, Contemporary Soul and Timeless Gospel.
At the onset of the twentieth century New Orleans was a melting pot of rich culture, ripe for an exciting new style of music that would define generations to come.
JAZZ! The word is thought to be derived from the slang terms jism or gism, meaning spirit, energy, spunk. Some believe that it came from Jasmine, the flower that was commonly worn by prostitutes in the brothels, where Jazz was said to have originally taken root. Regardless of it’s origin, the word took on a whole new life of it’s own and created a musical revolution.
While a quick google search will tell you of some great women in jazz, such as Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald, it isn’t surprising to learn that jazz, like many fields in American culture, has offered much less recognition to the contributions of women as singers, musicians or composers. Not ones to let any type of barriers slow them down, Producers Gail Christian, Lucy DeBardelaben, and Internationally acclaimed jazz/blues artist Sweet Baby J’ai, joined forces to create one of the most exciting events to hit the Coachella Valley, The Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival (PSWJF.) They are an established 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and foster an appreciation of jazz and blues music and to support female jazz and blues musicians who traditionally struggle for recognition and employment.
There is nothing that cools down the heat of the desert like the smooth sound of jazz. Celebrating their fifth year, this year’s festival is titled, Sweet Baby J’ai’s place. Set up in a Jazz club style, they presented one of the most exciting and engaging musical productions to fill a stage. With performances at the Riviera Grand Ballroom and the Annenberg Theater, a host of acclaimed, multi-award winning women jazz artists gathered in the desert from around the world.
Running November 5-12th, the Festival was kicked off on Friday with “The Golden Age of Jazz”, featuring acclaimed artists Melissa Aldana, Jazzmeia Horn and Claudia Acuna. Saturday’s show presented “Jazz + Blues = Soul,” with Grammy nominated Miki Howard and Jazz/neo-soul singer, Kandace Springs. Sunday’s theme, “A Tribute to the Gospel Divas,” featuring Ladies of the Firm Soundations, gospel group, Susan Massengale, Maree Reed, Sanisha Johnson and Octavia.
The Women in Jazz All-Stars were an exceptionally gifted group of musicians who brought their unique talents to the stage from around the country. Not having previously performed together, their sounds blended seamlessly, as their musical artistry filled the stage.
And Recipient of the 2017 PSWJF Jazz Master Award was Bandleader and educator Ann Patterson, founder of the highly acclaimed all-female Jazz big Band, Maiden Voyage.
It takes a tremendous amount of time and talent to make a show look so effortless. The energy of the women who performed and produced the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival infused this event with magic. Close your eyes and let the music take you to another place and time. If you missed it this year, keep watch on the calendar because this gem of a show will return to the desert next year and you don’t want to miss it.
For more information on The Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival visit their website; http://palmspringswomensjazzfestival.org/
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.lawomenstheatreproject.org