Singer Alicia Olatuja is one of the strong new voices in the jazz world. As you listen to her effortless melodies, you can hear a wide range of influences—gospel, soul, jazz, and classical. These are the gifts of growing up in St Louis, a musically diverse city, then soaking up the music of the world in New York. She has impressive classical training as well, graduating with a Master’s degree in Classical Voice/Opera.
She has a beautiful instrument, and she knows how to use it, delivering songs in a powerful and memorable way. As ICON critic Nick Bewsey puts it, “Vocally, Olatuja has a salt-of-the-earth voice and genuine embrace of the lyric—she’s like a rebooted Lizz Wright, but with her own sense of majesty. There’s her gospel soul combined with riveting storytelling style that pours joy, heartache and optimism.”
Olatuja now calls Brooklyn home, and came to the world’s attention in 2013 when she performed as a soloist with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at the Second Inauguration of President Obama. Dianne Reeves called her out in the audience at a break between songs in her own concert, assuring her audience that they were looking at a star in the making.
Olatuja’s career continues to rise. She has worked with such esteemed artists as Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans, Christian McBride, and legendary Hammond B3 organist, Dr. Lonnie Smith. She featured on The Promise, a recording with her former husband Michael Olatuja, an African-born jazz bassist. Most recently, she teamed up with vocalist Becca Stevens for the touring incarnation of Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, a project of the acclaimed composer-arranger and pianist Billy Childs.
At the same time, Olatuja hasn’t skipped a beat establishing her solo career. In 2014, she assembled her own jazz ensemble. Her debut recording, Timeless, features notable appearances by Christian McBride, Christian Sands, and Grégoire Maret. On the strength of that recording, she has headlined at clubs and festivals across the United States. At the end of November, she’ll be taking the stage at the Berney Theatre as part of this season’s Izzy Asper Jazz Performances.
One thing is undeniable about Alicia Olatuja and her music: she puts 100% of herself into everything she creates. If you don’t leave this concert feeling inspired and uplifted, you probably weren’t paying attention. Her spirit is bright and she has honed the ability to represent that through sound.