Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College continues its 2017-18 Kumble Theater season with jazz singer / songwriter Alicia Olatuja on Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 8 pm. Drawing from a wide range of musical influence including classical, R&B, soul, and gospel, this Brooklyn resident brings her scintillating jazz stylings to Brooklyn’s Kumble Theater, including a preview of selections from her yet-to-be-released second album, “Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women.”
Praised by The New York Times as “a singer with a strong and luscious tone and an amiable regal presence on stage,” Olatuja has been astounding audiences with her exquisite vocals, artistic versatility, and captivating demeanor. She first came into the national spotlight in 2013, performing as the featured soloist on the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration. GRAMMY®-winning jazz artist Dianne Reeves was so impressed with Olatuja’s voice that she emailed pianist Billy Childs a link to the performance, writing, “You should hear this girl, she can really sing!” Shortly thereafter, she assembled her own jazz-based ensemble and recorded her first solo album, “Timeless” (2014).
Originally from St. Louis, MO, 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. Of her classical studies, Alicia remarked in a 2017 interview with Hot House Jazz magazine, “When I started classical voice, I was really studying for a healthy foundation, so I could sing whatever I wanted to sing. I had a huge appetite for variety in music, and I just wanted to learn how to work my instrument. Falling in love with opera became a part of that process. I always knew, though, that I would further pursue my roots in gospel, jazz, and soul 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 a part of the touring incarnation of Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, alongside vocalist Becca Stevens, in the 2015-16 season. Her voice has also entranced the legendary Hammond B3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and she has recently performed with him at multiple events including the Charlie Parker Festival and the BRIC JazzFest.
Over the past year, Olatuja’s own band has been steadily in demand, and they have performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Saratoga Jazz Festival, Jazz Standard, Birdland, Vermont Jazz Center, Rockport Jazz Festival, Markham Jazz Festival, Monty Alexander Jazz Fest, and the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, to name a few. She was a featured vocalist on Gregory Porter’s 2017 Grammy®-winning Take Me to the Alley.
Her newest projects for 2018 include touring throughout the year with drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Songs of Freedom with German-born vocalist Theo Bleckmann and German / Zimbabwean singer Joanna Majoko. Developed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the project focuses on the music of Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, and Abby Lincoln. She is also heading back into the studio to record a new album, titled Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women, which will likely feature songwriters from that project. According to a recent JazzTimes interview, the album will be “all female composers, including myself, a celebration of those perspectives and experiences.”
Brooklyn Center’s presentation of Alicia Olatuja is made possible through the Jazz Touring Network program of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts’ 2018 Kumble Theater season concludes on April 28, 2018 with two performances by Washington D.C.-based dance troupe Step Afrika!. In addition to the artists being presented at Kumble Theater, Brooklyn Center will also partner with the Weeksville Heritage Center to present their 11th annual National Grid Earth Day Celebration (April 21, 2018). Discounts for Brooklyn Center’s 2018 Kumble Theater performances are also available for seniors, students, Brooklyn College faculty/staff/alumni, active/retired military personnel, children ages 12 and under, and groups of 10 or more. $10 student rush tickets available day-of-show.