Musicians Pay Tribute to Iconic Jazz Singers in Malibu

Three dynamic female singers and an all-female jazz band pay tribute to three of the greatest jazz singers in history in the musical performance Bessie, Billie and Nina-Pioneering Women in Jazz at Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theater in Malibu on Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 8 p.m.

Tickets, priced at $20 for adults and $10 for full-time Pepperdine students, are available now by calling (310) 506-4522 or visiting the event page.

From the Jim Crow-South era to the turbulent 1960s, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone were among the most influential and popular singers of their time. Both within their music and outside of clubs and concert halls, they have exercised their exceptional talents to fight against racial prejudice, sexism and poverty. Whether it’s by forcefully and playfully asserting its autonomy (Bessie Smith), by forcing America to recognize the pervasive racism in the American South and beyond (Billie Holiday), or by giving a voice to the movement of civil rights with moving protest anthems (Nina Simone), these pioneering singers spoke to and for those disenfranchised as women, African Americans and artists. All three women challenged social norms, embracing 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 and Nina-Pioneering Women in Jazz features three dynamic singers , each rising star in their own right: Charenée Wade (Jazz at Lincoln Center), Tahira Clayton (co-leader, Women in Jazz Organization) and Vanisha Gould (Sunday Vocal Jazz Jam Series). Presented in affiliation with WIJO and backed by an all-female band, Wade, Gould and Clayton celebrate the lasting legacy of these iconic women and artists with performances of their classic songs, including Bessie Smith’s “Downhearted Blues”, “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday. “, and “Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone.

The musical and social legacies of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone remain more relevant than ever. Their contributions resonate with artists today across many genres, as well as ongoing movements toward progress and equality for women and African Americans. Bessie, Billie and Nina will entertain, inspire and empower audiences during this pivotal time in our own history.

Pepperdine University’s Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts delivers high-quality activities to more than 50,000 people from more than 800 ZIP codes each year through performances, rehearsals, museum exhibits, and masters classes. Located on Pepperdine’s beautiful Malibu campus overlooking the Pacific, the center serves as a hub for the arts, uniquely connecting professional visiting artists with Pepperdine students as well as patrons from surrounding Southern California communities. Facilities include the 450-seat Smothers Theater, the 118-seat Raitt Recital Hall, the Helen E. Lindhurst “black box” theater, and the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art.

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