Young Alicia Olatuja wowed the world when she soloed with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. She has sung with Billy Childs and Dr Lonnie Smith, and is in demand at the Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and more.
Olatuja brings her “strong and luscious tone” to the Myrna Loy in Helena Nov. 14. It’s her only Montana appearance.
The artist combines the earthy with the sublime. She can get to the loftiest jazz places, and get gritty with R&B, as reflected on her stunning album, Intuition: Songs From The Minds Of Women.
“Olatuja possesses a special instrument: a full-bodied tone, precise pitch and personal engagement at the lowest whisper or highest wail.” (Downbeat)
Shortly after her appearance at the inaugural, she assembled her own jazz-based ensemble and recorded her first solo album, Timeless (2014).
Her new release focuses on the rich contributions of a diverse selection of female composers, while offering a musical perspective unique to Olatuja. She is joined by Kamau Kenyatta and Ulysses Owens Jr. as producers and the material includes songs of Brenda Russell, Sade, Tracy Chapman, Kate Bush, Angela Bofill and Linda Creed.
Originally from St. Louis, Olatuja grew up immersed in a wide range of musical styles, including gospel, soul, jazz and classical. These influences have informed her artistic journey and she later graduated with a master’s degree in Classical Voice/Opera from the Manhattan School of Music. After appearing in numerous operatic and musical theater productions she started to perform more regularly in gospel and jazz concerts and worked with such esteemed artists as Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans and Christian McBride.
In 2014, Olatuja came to the attention of the acclaimed composer/arranger/pianist Billy Childs, and was brought on to be part of the touring incarnation of “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro” alongside vocalist Becca Stevens. Her voice also entranced the legendary Hammond B3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, who invited her to join his band on multiple concerts, including the Charlie Parker Festival, the BRIC JazzFest, Montreal Jazz Festival and others.
Additionally, is one of three featured vocalists on the Jazz at Lincoln Center-commissioned project Songs of Freedom, joining Theo Bleckmann and Dee Bridgwater in exploring the works of Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, and Abbey Lincoln. The project continues to tour with Olatuja and Theo Bleckmann with René Marie and Joanna Majoko alternating the third vocal chair.
The concert is Helena begins at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14; call 443-0287 or order tickets online.