Women in Jazz Festival Features Melba Joyce & Brandee Younger

Melba Joyce

Melba Joyce Will Be Featured at Women In Jazz Festival

Internationally acclaimed jazz singer, Melba Joyce, will be featured at the 7th annual Women in Jazz Festival this Saturday, April 13.  The festival will run from 1 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. at Saint Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue at East 54th Street in New York City. An all-day pass is $25, and you can buy one online or at the door.

Melba Joyce’s distinguished career has spanned three decades and she has shared top billing with such musical giants as Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughn, Louis Jordan, Lionel Hampton, Tony Bennett, Joe Williams, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and many others. She has also performed on Broadway and on the world tour of Black and Blue, the Tony Award winning musical revue celebrating the black culture of dance and music in Paris between World War I and World War II. To get a sense of her artistry, you can watch a haunting video of Melba Joyce performing “Send in the Clowns” in Russia as a duet with Anna Makarova, the principal harpist of The Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

In addition to her singing career, Melba Joyce has been a wonderful advocate for women in jazz.  She has served as a panelist for the Congressional Black Caucus of Women in Jazz Forum, and she produced the first Women in Jazz Festival at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In July 2009 Melba Joyce and Her Big Band debuted at Lincoln Center’s Mid Summer Night Swing with nine women and nine men. Her hiring of 50% women for that concert was a strong statement in the male-dominated world of big bands.

Brandee Younger

Brandee Younger, Harpist

The festival will include other performances, seminars, jam sessions, exhibits, and a special afternoon performance by Brandee Younger, a harpist who performs jazz and hip hop music in addition to the traditional classical harp repertoire. Younger also has a keen sense of her connection to other women performers.  At the 2013 Winter JazzFest in New York, she performed a tribute to the trail-blazing jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby. You can watch a YouTube video of Younger talking about Dorothy Ashby and performing excerpts from her Afro-Harp tribute to Ashby’s works.

The festival is produced annually by International Women in Jazz, a non-profit organization that supports  women jazz artists and related professionals. Founded in 1995 under the leadership of Nobuko “Cobi” Narita, International Women in Jazz organizes concerts, seminars, and workshops designed to encourage women in jazz, recognize their work, and pay tribute to great women artists. In addition to the annual Women in Jazz Festival, they offer a variety of workshops, jam sessions, and networking events.  Membership is $35 and you can join online.