Samara Joy photo by Ambe J Williams
Saturday, May 25, 8pm
200 University St
BY NADYA BARGHOUTY
In 2023, Samara Joy had one of her busiest years yet. She took home the Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album. In addition to her sold-out Seattle show and Grammy wins, Joy sold out countless venues around the country and even released a delightfully warm Christmas EP titled A Joyful Holiday. Featuring renditions of timeless classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Christmas Song,” Joy breathes new life into our old favorites. Her vocal clarity and ability to play with power make these cherished tracks a new holiday staple. Joyous runs nod to the gospel background of her youth–instantly recognizable in tunes such as “Oh Holy Night.” The track’s last two minutes capture her impeccable range, velvety tone, and deep passion for music.
An endless love of and dedication to music spans multiple generations in Joy’s family. Her grandparents, Elder Goldwire and Ruth McLendon, were founders of a 1950s Philly gospel group called The Savettes. Not to mention, Joy’s father is a gospel singer, songwriter, and producer who has toured with the likes of Andraé Crouch. Growing up, Joy was a part of her church’s gospel choir in the Bronx (these early influences are later evident on her hit LP Linger Awhile). She continued performing at Fordham High School for the Arts as a part of the jazz band. In 2021, Joy graduated from SUNY Purchase after studying music and vocal performance. After winning the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019, her career skyrocketed.
There’s little question: Joy shines out as a face of the next generation. We are witnessing the musical tides changing with artists like Joy and Icelandic singer/songwriter Laufey who make waves and push boundaries. With over half a million followers on TikTok, Joy’s voice is reaching hundreds of thousands people around the world all the while reinventing the way Gen Z learns and understands jazz, a genre not commonly associated with teens.
At just 24 years old, Joy sounds as if she has been singing jazz for decades—a wise sound often compared to such greats as Carmen McRae and Betty Carter. If you missed out on Samara Joy’s sold-out Seattle performance last March, do not fret! The Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist returns to the Emerald City on Saturday, May 25, in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium at Benaroya Hall. And if you had the chance to experience Samara last year, well, isn’t two a lucky number? Tickets are sold via Benaroya Hall. To purchase please visit seattlesymphony.org.