In today’s JazzApril posting, I’d like to tell you more about the inaugural Seattle Women in Jazz Festival taking place April 26-28. It’s the first festival of its kind here in Seattle and will feature fourteen vocalists, nine instrumentalists, and two big bands. They will perform at Egan’s Ballard Jam House, Rainier Valley Cultural Center, the Triple Door, Vera Project, and LUCID Lounge. And as the fest’s name suggests, all groups are led by or comprised primarily of women.
Last week I spoke to Jessica Davis, the festival’s founder, organizer, fundraiser, and social media guru (checkout the fest’s excellent Facebook page). When asked about her inspiration, she told me that she came up with the idea after learning about a similar festival in Washington D.C. She thought: “’Why don't we have something like that in Seattle?’ We have such a great musical history in Seattle, it seemed like a natural fit. So, I got to working on it.”
She intentionally scheduled her festival during Jazz Appreciation Month, because, like JAM, she is committed to raising awareness for jazz and its many forms. “That’s a big part of my festival. Getting people interested in jazz who might not have gone to a jazz concert before,” she says. But building an audience for jazz is a tricky task. In part, Davis explains, because jazz is an under appreciated, often misunderstood art form. “I think it's mainly because there's a major misconception of it,” she says. “Many people don't realize that it's really an umbrella for many musical styles and influences. It has something for everyone in it.”
With this in mind, her festival’s lineup delivers a mix of styles. On the vocalist front there is a tribute to old-school master Sarah Vaughan, singers influenced by cabaret and world music, not to mention vocalists performing original compositions with a decidedly twenty-first century take. There are swinging big bands. And a handful of offerings from Seattle’s thriving improvised music scene.
Of particular note are the concerts scheduled for Sunday, April 28 at the Vera Project which have been designed to reach a younger audience. The musicians themselves are younger and they embody the diversity of jazz by presenting a variety of styles. The evening begins with a performance by the Red Holloway Memorial Scholarship recipient, a female high school jazz artist. Next up is singer songwriter Caly Calbero, recently voted one of the top four street performers in the county by Rolling Stone readers; then the all-girl Holy Names Academy Jazz Band; and finally trumpeter and composer Samantha Boshnack backed by clarinetist Beth Fleenor, pianist Dawn Clement, bassist Isaac Castillo, and drummer Max Wood. This is the first time that the Vera Project, whose mission is to engage youth in the arts, has presented jazz, and these all-ages concerts are by donation, making them affordable and even more accessible.
During the next two weeks, I will post interviews with fest participants Samantha Boshnack, Kate Olson, Jeannette d'Armand, and Sarah Elizabeth Charles. We’ll discuss their inspirations, creative process, and lives in music, so stay tuned.