From Gospel to Classical to Jazz, Alicia Olatuja brings it all to the Vermont Jazz Center on May 16th, 2015

The Vermont Jazz Center is delighted to welcome vocalist Alicia Olatuja and her quartet on May 16th at 8:00 PM. This sublime singer is best known for her soaring solo with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Obama's second inauguration. But even though she grew up in the church, loves the music and draws inspiration from it, Alicia's voice and persona are expansive. She uses her gospel roots as a springboard to investigate jazz, African music, classical and even well-crafted pop. In a recent interview, Alicia stated, "I blur the lines that some draw between genres. Along with the great jazz singers, I'm heavily influenced by Take Six, CeCe Winans [progressive gospel singer], Whitney Houston and vocalists from the classical world - not just their voices but also their history."

To achieve her goals of attaining versatility while maintaining "healthy technique that I can apply to any genre," Alicia trained at Manhattan School of Music and earned a Masters degree in classical voice. She has sung opera and performed recitals at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. But these presentations have been mixed with her interpreting jazz, gospel and African music at such legendary venues as Minton's, the Jazz Standard, the Blue Note, BAM, Julliard, the Kennedy Center and of course, our nation's capitol. Alicia is currently touring with Becca Stevens and piano legend, Billy Childs as part of his "Reimagining Laura Nyro" project.

Listeners at the Vermont Jazz Center can expect to hear a varied program that emphasizes Olatuja's breadth of knowledge, mastery of styles and fusion of genres. The quartet will be performing mostly material from her new album "Timeless." Alicia affirmed: "We've got the music from the new album nice and cookin' - we're looking forward to digging deeper into those tunes so that they tell different stories. We're so comfortable with the material now, that we want to take it to a different place. The "Timeless" album is a mishmash of originals and arrangements of favorite tunes by artists that are meaningful to me, like Love Me Still by Chaka Khan, Human Nature by Michael Jackson and Serrado by Djavan [delivered in its original Portuguese]."

When asked about the thread that holds together this project, Alicia responded: "I decided to base the album upon a single theme to create unity. The subject of the album is how we look at life in time and over time; how relationships evolve and change over time and how things like forgiveness lead to the development of that relationship into something else. I'm looking to create a lens that observes how life and love develops - a journey of love over time. It's pretty miraculous that relationships can change and grow and individuals can merge their visions together while maintaining their own unique identity. That's the theme of this album."

Alicia and her husband, Michael (the group's bassist) have formed a group called the Olatuja Project that has more of an emphasis on African music. Alicia, a native of St. Louis is drawn to Michael's Nigerian Roots and to learning the meaning and pronunciation of words from his rich tradition. She states: "I've always loved singing in a variety of languages - this is beaten into you in classical training [she laughs]. I've sung in many languages, mostly German, Italian and Portuguese, but singing in African languages is now for me, inevitable. I'm a big language geek. I've sung in dialects from Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where it is so critical to sing clean and clear. Michael and I get together and compose: I'd write a lyric and then Michael would translate it into Yoruba. I would then use the phonetic training I learned through my classical education and apply the International phonetic alphabet to decode the sounds. If I understand the sound of that language then I can sing it. It's pretty tricky with Yoruba, because it's a language based on proverbs - you have to distill the meaning or intention of the phrase in English in order for it to be translated."

Along with Michael, Alicia will be performing with Jahaan Sweet on piano, and Otis Brown III on drums. Both Michael and Otis Brown have performed with her for years. Alicia is using this opportunity to introduce a relatively new pianist (and celebrated producer of urban dance music) to the scene. She commented - "I frequently perform as a guest artist with the Julliard Jazz Orchestra and ensembles, so I get to meet and hear the talented, excellent musicians that come through their Masters program. Once I heard Jahaan, I said to myself - Oh my God, I have to figure out a way to create music with this young man. This concert at the jazz center has afforded us this wonderful opportunity. I can't wait."

Bassist Michael Olatuja is now emerging as one of the top bassists among the upper echelon in New York's demanding jazz scene. He appeared once at the Vermont Jazz Center with Lionel Loueke. In a review of that concert, blues guitar legend, Scott Ainslie wrote: "Olatuja's bass playing was decidedly African: declarative, gestural, harmonically interesting and rhythmically vital. The actual tone of the instrument was tight and well-compressed which allowed the details of the faster passages in his playing to be rendered clearly and forcefully." Along with Loueke, Olatuja has performed with Terence Blanchard, Patti Austin, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Gretchen Parlato and many others. He and drummer, Otis Brown III are currently touring with Joe Lovano's Village Rhythms Band. Drummer Brown is another young titan quickly emerging to the top. Since his arrival in New York Otis has performed and toured with Christian McBride, Eric Lewis, Ron Blake, Roy Hargrove, Frank Lacy, Jeremy Pelt, Don Braden, Alex Sipiagin, Marc Ribot, Adam Rodgers, Pete Malinverni, Tim Hagans, Conrad Herwig, John Hicks, Oliver Lake, Aaron Goldberg, Bob Mintzer, Ron Jackson and others.

Alicia Olatuja will perform at the Vermont Jazz Center at 8:00 PM on Saturday, May 16th with her quartet including Jahaan Sweet on piano, Michael Olatuja on bass and Otis Brown III on drums. She is a person who believes in the power of music to heal, she is a serious jazz singer called "flawless" by Dianne Reeves and the "Queen" by pianist Monty Alexander. Come find out why the New York Times claims "Ms. Olatuja is a singer with a strong lustrous tone and an amiably regal presence onstage." Or why Seattle Pi states: "Her vocal tone has shades of blues, soul, and gospel with a pop edge. Elegantly delivered and vibrant in color, her voice has an eternal beauty that transcends the dividing lines made by generations and music genres."

Be sure to reserve your tickets in advance. This concert is made possible thanks to the generous financial support of dear our friends at: Peach Press - Ed Anthes and Mary Ellen Copeland. The VJC is grateful for ongoing support from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Hospitality for our artists is provided by the Hampton Inn of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW and WFCR.

Tickets for Alicia Olatuja at the VJC, May 16th are $20+ general admission, $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available at In the Moment in Brattleboro, or online at Tickets


Saturday, May 16th
8:00 PM
Vermont Jazz Center
Sliding Scale ticket fee: $20.00 - $40.00
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