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The Women's Jazz Festival, at Harlem's Schomburg Center, Fêtes Ella Fitzgerald

Bob Gore

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. In the spirit of the occasion, it’s worth spotlighting the Women's Jazz Festival at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, which runs through the end of the month.

Credit Bob Gore
Brandee Younger at the Schomburg Center.

The kickoff event in the series, which took place on Monday night, was organized and anchored by harpist Brandee Younger, a leading voice on her instrument.

Conceived as a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, it featured Jean Baylor on vocals, Camille Thurman on alto saxophone and vocals, Courtney Bryan on piano, Dezron Douglas on bass and Kassa Overall on drums. The program drew largely from Fitzgerald’s spiritually minded album Brighten The Corner, released on Capitol half a century ago.

The evening’s repertoire included the hymn “https://youtu.be/kTkkQnm21zg">Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” sung by Baylor; “God Be With You Til We Meet Again,” with Baylor and Thurman sharing vocal duties; and “How High The Moon,” which featured Thurman in the hot seat, scatting both with the band and in an a cappella vein.

The Women’s Jazz Festival at the Schomburg Center, which bears the subtitle “Ella, Ella: A Centennial Celebration of Mama Jazz,” continues in the next few weeks. On March 13, in a program called “Ella is Present,” drummer Terri Lyne Carrington will lead an ensemble that features singer Charenée Wade and saxophonist Casey Benjamin. On March 20, a free panel discussion will cover Fitzgerald’s legacy. And “J’adoreElla” — a WBGO Member Event, on March 27 — will feature Les Nubians, the sisterly R&B duo from Bordeaux, France.

For more information about the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, visit its website.

And in honor of International Women’s Day, WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton will play women performers exclusively during her Midday Jazz shift today, on 88.3 FM and here at wbgo.org, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

(Carmen Balentine of WBGO contributed to this report.)

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.