Mar 12, 2019
With the release of Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women, Alicia Olatuja has raised the bar once again on what she might offer the music world. Since she caused a commotion as a featured vocalist at Barak Obama’s Second Inauguration in 2013, she has released two CDs, including the exceptional debut album Timeless; and toured consistently, including being an anchor of Billy Childs’ Laura Nyro project and Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Songs of Freedom project. The new CD, which comes on the heels of the CD release of Songs of Freedom, has Ms. Olatuja creating thematic projects that bring across the many facets of female life and times, brought to song by some of the finest female writers of the time.
When I caught some of her set at the Newport Jazz Festival last summer, her version of Joni Mitchell’s “Cherokee Louise” was a riveting piece of musical theater. She was in total command of the song, tackling issues of racism and sexual assault with sensitivity and yet with bravado. There is much of that spirit on Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women. From her multi-tracked acapella take of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” to the fiery version of “People Make the World Go ‘Round” these are not simple cover versions.
It helps that she contributes a number of savvy arrangements, and brings in the likes of Childs and Etienne Charles for more. Her backing band is nothing short of top-notch, with long-time collaborator Owens on drums; Sullivan Fortner on piano; Ben Williams on bass; Dayna Stephens on sax and Jeremy Pelt on trumpet. The result is a whole far more than these significant pieces.
Podcast 670 is my conversation with Alicia, as we talk about the tunes that make up Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women; her collaborations with Childs and Owens; and her memories of the Obama Inauguration performance. Musical selections from Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women include “Cherokee Louise”; her own composition "Just Wait", and “People Make the World Go ‘Round”; and from Songs of Freedom. Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”