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Bessie, Billie, & Nina — Pioneering Women in Jazz

Category: Music

Date and Time for this Past Event


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In the history of jazz, three women stand out for their unique style, extraordinary talent and influence on not just the musical form but on the very heart of American life.

From the Jim Crow era-South through the turbulent 1960s, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone won fans and changed minds. On stage and beyond, they used their exceptional talents to combat racial prejudice, sexism, and poverty. Bessie Smith powerfully and playfully claimed women’s autonomy and sexuality; Billie Holiday took on the racism pervasive in the American South and beyond; and Nina Simone gave voice to the Civil Rights movement with stirring protest anthems. As women, African Americans and artists, these legendary performers defied social norms and embraced self-empowerment through their art. 

Produced by Grammy-winning Eli Wolf (Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson), and with arrangements by pianist and musical director Carmen Staff (Dee Dee Bridgewater), BESSIE, BILLIE, & NINA: PIONEERING WOMEN IN JAZZ features three dynamic vocalists, each a rising star in her own right: Charenée Wade and Camille Thurman (both regular performers with Jazz at Lincoln Center) and Tahira Clayton (co-leader, WIJO, Women in Jazz Organization). Backed by an all-female band, Wade, Thurman, and Clayton celebrate the enduring legacies of these iconic women and artists with performances of their classic songs, including Bessie Smith’s “Downhearted Blues,” Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” and Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam.” 

Presented in affiliation with WIJO.