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The Pulse: säje, a Jazz-Vocal Sisterhood, Talks About Quarantine Bonding and a Grammy Nod


What started as a girls’ trip to the Palm Springs desert resulted in magic for säje.

For the four singers who make up the group — Sara Garazek, Amanda Taylor, Johnaye Kendrick and Erin Bentlage — that creative bonding retreat resulted in a song that has now garnered a 2021 Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals. They’re the only ensemble of all-women arrangers/composers in the category.

What makes the moment even more special for säje is that their nominated track, “Desert Song,” is the first one they ever wrote together. Its lyrics offer women and girls an empowering message of self-love and inner strength, in a world where validation is often sought from the opposite sex. The metaphorical desert is, in fact, an oasis where women are safe to be their authentic selves and embrace femininity. (The single’s cover art was created by another vocalist, Cecile McLorin Salvant.)

Just before the world went into lockdown due to COVID, säje had only just begun to perform at various jazz festivals, conferences, and venues across the country. They produced the video for “Desert Song” as part of a residency at The Blue Whale in Los Angeles, which sadly closed at the end of last year. During quarantine, although they haven’t been able to create together in the same physical space, they are intentional about building their sisterhood by providing emotional support to one another.

On this episode of The Pulse, säje discusses their seemingly divine creative connection, the excitement of being nominated for a Grammy, and how they are staying motivated during quarantine. 

The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards will take place on Sunday, March 14.

For more information about säje, visit their website or Patreon page.

Keanna Faircloth is a Washington, DC native and comes to WBGO getting her start on-air at WPFW 89.3 FM in 2003, most recently as the host of Late Night Jazz: The Continuum Experience. She is a graduate of Howard University having majored in Music History with a minor in Classical Piano. Keanna has written for NPR Music, and worked for Radio One as an on-air personality, producer and voice-over talent. She is also the creator and host of Artimacy Podcast, where she has interviewed artists like Wynton Marsalis, Matthew Whitaker, Jonathan Butler, and Dionne Warwick. As a result, she was recognized by Radio Ink Magazine as a 2019 African American leader in radio.