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  • Writer's pictureJAM

Bessie, Billie, & Nina – Pioneering Women in Jazz – Sunday, March 6

Three dynamic vocalists celebrate the enduring legacies of three iconic female artists.

Carmen Staaf – Musical Director

Eli Wolf – Producer

From the Jim Crow era through the turbulent 1960s, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone were among the most influential and popular singers of their times. They wielded their exceptional talents to combat racial prejudice, sexism and poverty and defied social norms, embracing self-empowerment through their art.

Produced by Grammy-winner Eli Wolf, “Bessie, Billie & Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz” features three dynamic vocalists: Charenée Wade, Vanisha Gould and Tahira Clayton.

Presented in affiliation with Women in Jazz Organization and backed by an all-female band, Wade, Gould, and Clayton celebrate the enduring legacies of these iconic women with breathtaking performances of their classic songs.

The performance of the Bessie, Billie and Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz ensemble, presented in collaboration with The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts and Civic Music Association of Des Moines Foundation, is supported by Presenter Consortium for Jazz, a program of Chamber Music America, funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Charenée Wade

Charenee Wade is not one to hold back or let fear stand in her way. She is the first artist to enter two Thelonious Monk Vocal competitions, she walked away from the second one in 2010 with instant buzz and second place to her newfound friend Cecilé McLorin Salvant. This led to Charenée’s first full-length album, a tribute to Gil Scott-Heron, which is arresting in how timely Scott-Heron’s messages are today. Wade deliver the 1960s message and updates them through her savvy arrangements and intimate jazz interpretations.

Produced by Grammy-nominated music industry veteran and Sirius XM Jazz Director Mark Ruffin, the recording features notable guest stars and a stellar band comprised of Brandon McCune on piano, Dave Stryker on guitar, Lonnie Plaxico on bass, and drummer Alvester Garnett.


Tahira Clayton

Known for her honest vocal delivery and charismatic energy, New York based vocalist Tahira Clayton is sure to charm any audience. An urban contemporary and jazz vocalist, Tahira hails from Dallas-Fort Worth, where she began performing professionally at the age of 10. Singing in church, Tahira learned how to cultivate a big sound. At the age of 11, Tahira competed and won the vocal jazz camp scholarship at the University of North Texas. With a unique style and a vast knowledge of music, Tahira has established herself as a true musical force in New York City.


Vanisha Gould

Since coming to New York City, Vanisha Gould has become an important new talent on the New York jazz scene. She’s graced the stage at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in Lincoln Center, Smalls Jazz Club, The Jazz Gallery, and other esteemed venues. She’s toured Internationally and recently released an album entitled In Her Words, a collaborative open-hearted glimpse into the inner lives of Women.


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