Fall Arts Guide

Da Camera Looks Back at a Tumultuous Decade with an Evening of Jazz

“Songs of Freedom” pays tribute to Abbey Lincoln, Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone.

By Chris Becker August 21, 2017 Published in the September 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Illustration based on photos by: John Abbott (René Marie); Lynne Hardy (Theo Blackman); Carsten Fleck (Alicia Olatuja) 

First presented at Jazz at Lincoln Center and brought to Houston by Da Camera, “Songs of Freedom” explores the music and politics of one of the most tumultuous decades in America’s history by paying tribute to three very different singers: Abbey Lincoln, who inaugurated Da Camera’s Jazz Series in 1995, Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone.

Throughout the 1960s, each of these singers addressed both the personal and political with startling immediacy, while drawing heavily upon jazz in its most progressive forms. This ambitious concert, conceptualized by drummer and musical director Ulysses Owens, Jr., features three fearless, forward-thinking vocalists—René Marie, Theo Blackman and Alicia Olatuja, each a master of a broad range of musical styles from jazz to gospel—interpreting the music of the inspiring artists who came before them.

Far from an exercise in ’60s nostalgia, in the hands of such talented singers, this music speaks to our own volatile and uncertain times.

Da Camera's "Songs of Freedom," 8 p.m. Dec. 1, Wortham Theater Center

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