ARTISTC DIRECTOR, Sweet Baby J'ai
Sweet Baby J’ai is a multi-award winning, critically acclaimed singer, composer, arranger, educator, actress, writer and the Artistic Director of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival. A creative force on the music scene for over two decades, she tours the world with her genre-defying work, which both embraces and expands jazz tradition. She has worked in various festival capacities, including talent buyer for major music events throughout the country.
Recently honored as a Living Jazz Legend by the Los Angeles City Council, J’ai brings a new perspective to programming choices featuring some of the world’s most visible, high level jazz artists. By bringing together a carefully crafted, eclectic selection of exceptional performers, her Women in Jazz All-Stars always produce memorable and unexpected surprises!
Message from Artistic Director:
Welcome to the 2017 Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival!
I was at an outdoor amphitheater many years ago to see Sarah Vaughan in concert. It was mid afternoon and the crowd was ecstatic – electricity in the air. Beach balls were being tossed around; fans readily passed chicken, cheese and crackers, and glasses of wine back and forth. I remember, very distinctly, a fan shouting out to Sarah, “I love you Sarah!” Sarah replied with, “Sit your drunk ass down…and somebody get that beach ball before I have to come off this stage!”
How often have you heard some little nugget about Sarah, Billie, Ella or Dinah? Famous jazz singers, whose achievements have been trumpeted throughout time by critics and fans alike, have had many stories told and retold with a little twist about them. When we think of women in jazz those are the names that first come to mind, but there are many others; instrumentalists, composers and arrangers, that fan out over time and have stories of their own.
Valaida Snow, known as the Queen of the Trumpet, was often compared to Louis Armstrong. Her trumpet playing was so outstanding that she was dubbed “Little Louie.” Satchmo avowed that Snow was the second best trumpet player in the world – that, according to my Uncle Vernon, who played bass with Billie and got it on good authority. He shared lot of stories about musicians from back in the day. Did you know that pianist, composer and arranger, Mary Lou Williams, who wrote and arranged for such bandleaders as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, also mentored Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and many others?
If the concert halls could talk at the rehearsals of the 1940’s International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the Prairie View Co-Eds, and other bands led by female bandleaders, what would they say? Would Ina Rae Hutton, Nellie Lutcher, Lil’ Hardin, Hadda Brooks, Clora Bryant and Hazel Scott be talking about the same things those many years ago, as present day bandleaders like, DIVA Jazz Orchestra’s, Sherrie Maricle, Maiden Voyage’s, Ann Patterson, Terri Lyne Carrington, Geri Allen and Esperanza Spalding are discussing today - compositions, job opportunities, racism, sexism or the hippest arrangement of Caravan?
The Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival continues to create stories of its own - anecdotes that you’ll be able to share many years from now about women in jazz. Legendary jazz vocalist/pianist Diane Schuur described it as, “One of the greatest moments in music. It was very magical. There is an intuitive quality that happens when women get together.”
As artistic director of the festival I have crafted a collection of extraordinary musicians who will descend on sunny Palm Springs for a compelling musical tapestry with delightful surprises. Female artists; singers, instrumentalists, composers and arrangers come from near and far to celebrate their contributions to jazz in all of its forms —straight ahead, contemporary, funk, blues and Latin. Making this, not only a memorable weekend for the musicians, but audiences alike, who don’t often see this kind of unique and special coming together. From multi-platinum award winning performers to rising stars, you don’t want to miss this one-of-a-kind, fabulous weekend of music!
On behalf of Lucy and Gail, our Board of Directors, our wonderful staff and volunteers, committed donors, partners, sponsors, musicians, venues, and ticket buyers who support our efforts to bring women’s jazz and blues to Palm Springs -thank you and we hope to see you in our warm musical desert paradise in November!