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Image for Bessie, Billie & Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz
Bessie, Billie & Nina: Pioneering Women in Jazz
Friday, March 25, 2022 at 8pm
About the Show

Bessie, Billie & Nina
Pioneering Women in Jazz
Friday, March 25, 2022 at 8pm
presented by Irvine Barclay Theatre


This performance is presented without an intermission.

Charenée Wade: Vocals
Tahira Clayton: Vocals
Vanisha Gould: Vocals


Carmen Staff: Musical Director, Arranger, Piano
Jocelyn Gould: Guitar
Nadje Noordhuis: Trumpet
Liany Mateo: Bass
Gary Kerkezou: Drums

Eli Wolf: Producer

Presented by:

Media Sponsor


About Bessie, Billie & NIna: PIoneering Women in Jazz

From the Jim Crow era-South through the turbulent 1960s, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone were among the most influential and popular singers

of their times. Both within their music and outside of the clubs and concert halls, they wielded their exceptional talents to combat racial prejudice, sexism, and poverty. Whether powerfully and playfully claiming her autonomy and sexuality (Bessie Smith), forcing America to acknowledge the racism pervasive in the American South and beyond (Billie Holiday), or giving voice to the Civil Rights movement with stirring protest anthems (Nina Simone), these trailblazing singers spoke to and for the disenfranchised as women, African-Americans, and artists. All three women defied social norms, embracing 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 (Jazz at Lincoln Center), Tahira Clayton (co-leader, WIJO, Women in Jazz Organization), and Vanisha Gould. Presented in affiliation with WIJO and backed by an all-female band, Wade, Gould, 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.” 

The musical and social legacies of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone remain as relevant as ever. Their contributions resonate with today’s artists across many genres, as well as with ongoing movements toward progress and equality for women, African-Americans, and the LGBTQ community. 

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