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  • Writer's pictureJAM

Old-School Jazz is Young Again


Kansas City doesn’t often have a chance to see a Grammy-winning “Best New Artist,” especially during their Grammy-winning year. If that artist is an upcoming jazz vocalist, appearing as part of one of the city’s longest-running jazz series, landing that show is practically a miracle. Samara Joy, appearing at the Folly Theater on October 14, is a jazz lover’s dream come true

At 23 years old, Samara Joy seamlessly blends the old-school jazz sounds of artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday with R&B artists she grew up with like Stevie Wonder and Kim Burrell. That talent earned her not just “Best New Artist”, but also a GRAMMY for “Best Vocal Jazz Album,” her debut Linger Awhile.

Joy started singing jazz at her high school in the Bronx and earned her record deal after going viral, covering Ella Fitzgerald’s “Take Love Easy” with one of her SUNY Purchase professors as a “thank you” video for the benefactors who funded her scholarship for the jazz program. She has since earned not only a record deal but over 600,000 TikTok followers and over 5 million likes.

Her music swings open the door to jazz for a much younger audience; in the United States, TikTok has 80 million monthly active users and 80% are between the ages of 16-34 years old. According to a Statista.com survey conducted in June 2023, only 14% of radio listeners aged 18-29 listen to jazz or blues, but with Joy on the scene, that may soon change.

Samara Joy challenges the preconceptions that jazz has become a niche genre by infusing a contemporary flair that resonates with a broader audience. She refuses to be confined by the conventional boundaries of jazz, fearlessly incorporating elements from various musical styles. Whether she is infusing jazz with traces of R&B, soul, or even hip-hop, she pushes the limits of what jazz can encompass. This fusion not only broadens her artistic horizons but also draws in a diverse fanbase, spanning from die-hard jazz enthusiasts to emerging young music aficionados eagerly seeking novel and innovative sounds.

A key factor in Samara’s rise to prominence is her remarkable vocal abilities. Her voice stands out as a true marvel, effortlessly navigating a wide range of octaves. What sets her apart is her exceptional capacity to convey a broad spectrum of emotions through her singing, transforming each of her performances into a deeply personal and relatable experience for her listeners.

Samara Joy is a beacon of hope for jazz enthusiasts and a catalyst for creating younger jazz fans. Through her extraordinary talent, willingness to innovate, and commitment to preserving jazz’s heritage, she’s paving the way for a jazz resurgence in the 21st century.

See Samara Joy, Saturday, October 14th, in the historic, intimate Folly Theater. Joy kicks off the 42nd season of the longest-running Jazz series in Kansas City. The Folly stage has welcomed greats like Oleta Adams, Tia Fuller, Bobby Watson, David Benoit, and many more during its rich 123-year history. Secure your tickets now at FollyTheater.org.

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