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5:00-6:15pm Centennial Tribute to Dinah Washington featuring Dee Alexander, Bruce Henry, Miguel de la Cerna, Jeremiah Hunt, Charles Heath IV, and Melody Angel

They called her Queen of the Jukeboxes and Queen of the Blues, but Dinah Washington was truly—as Duke Ellington would say—beyond category. Born Ruth Lee Jones in 1924, she played piano and sang gospel as child, but by her teens she’d begun to sing jazz in local clubs, and in 1943 she joined Lionel Hampton’s big band as featured vocalist. Her debut recording, 1944's “Evil Gal Blues,” kicked off a career that resulted in 47 chart hits, including such classics as “Baby, (You’ve Got What It Takes),” “Am I Asking Too Much,” “This Bitter Earth,” and the immortal “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes” (which she nailed perfectly in just one take). She also earned a reputation as a riveting live performer capable of summoning intimate warmth, but who also refused to back down from any perceived slight or challenge, whether from a stage mate or an audience member. Here Dee Alexander, one of Chicago’s premier vocal artists, will be supported by some of our city’s finest musicians along with vocalist Bruce Henry, who’ll join Alexander to recreate some of the classic sides Washington cut with Brook Benton. (DW)

6:30-7:30pm Vanessa Collier

Saxophonist/singer/guitarist Vanessa Collier has been tearing up the international blues circuit for more than a decade. Originally from Maryland, Collier received degrees in performance and music production & engineering at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. After graduating, she became a valuable band member to such stars as Annie Lennox and Willie Nelson. But it was working alongside Joe Louis Walker that emphasized her passion for the blues. Ten years ago, she released her debut album, Heart Soul & Saxophone, and followed it with Meeting My Shadow (Ruf) in 2017 and Honey Up the following year. Throughout all of these records she weaves modern funk, jazz improvisation and classic soul phrasing into her original music and thoughtful interpretations of American classics. Along the way, she has earned a slew of accolades, including winning the Blues Music Award for horn player of the year in 2019 and 2020 along with a BMA for best contemporary female artist of the year in 2022. Undoubtedly, more trophies will be coming her way. (AC)

7:45-9:00pm Southern Avenue

Southern Avenue carry on the Memphis soul tradition with a panache and brio the likes of which haven’t been seen since such Memphis-based firebrands as Sam & Dave set stages ablaze and wrecked houses during soul music’s 1960s/’70s glory days. Founded in 2015 by Israel-born guitarist Ori Naftaly and named after a street that runs from East Memphis into the heart of the neighborhood known as “Soulsville”—the home of Stax Records—they released their self-titled debut album in 2017 on the revitalized Stax label. It garnered immediate critical acclaim, and their star has been rising ever since; they’ve dropped two more albums—the most recent being 2021's Be the Love You Want, a determinedly optimistic and inspirational post-pandemic celebration of life, renewal, and the indomitability of the human spirit (“we do this,” affirms lead singer Tierinii Jackson, “for the love of music and for the freedom of our spirit and hope that it frees other people from whatever they’re going through”)—and they recently signed with Chicago’s Alligator Records; their Alligator debut, recorded at Memphis’s fabled Royal Studio, will be released later this year. (DW)


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