Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Six-time Grammy nominated-jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon played to an intimate audience in Atlanta Sunday afternoon as part of The National Black Arts Festival’s October Events.  The songstress, who has worked with everyone in the music industry from Aretha Franklin to the late Ray Charles to Herbie Hancock, performed almost two hours worth of jazz classics.

img_0565Following the show was a lively discussion between Freelon and Jazz 91.9 WCLK’s RivaBlue about her fascinating career and why music from “The Great American Songbook” is a must for any of her performances.

“They are the bible of this music. Those tunes are the popular music of a certain time and what the jazz artists did was to take those songs and interpret them. That is what they did. When Miles Davis got his hands on ‘My Funny Valentine,’ it became a new thing,” said Freelon to RivaBlue.  “When Carmen McRae took any standard that she sung, you knew it was her. So that’s what this equal opportunity jazz music does. It allows you that creative freedom to tell your own story through the song. It is very, very important.”

img_0590Freelon also talked about her new theatrical stage production, “The Clothesline Muse.” The intergenerational story is centered around Grandma Blu (played by Freelon), an elderly washerwoman, storyteller and owner of Blu’s by Hand Laundry and her 26 year old granddaughter Mary Mack (played by Tyanna West). Mary is an emerging screenwriter, feminist and afro-futurist, who sees little value in washerwoman culture and Grandma’s old fashioned stories. As Grandma Blu passes on, Mary must fulfill her promise to take care of her house filled to the brim with a lifetime of memories and laundry artifacts.

img_0585“The byline to the play is ‘before we were online there was the clothes line,'” said Freelon. “I love playing an old woman because I can get away with a lot of stuff. I can’t wait til I’m eighty and I can say all of those things. At sixty you can’t say it but at eighty you can. And you don’t have to apologize or edit either (LOL).”

Freelon also shared a quote that her grandmother told her at a pivotal time in her career. She hoped it would inspire someone in the audience as it did her many years ago.  “A lot of times we have excuses for why we are not doing what God has purposed for us. I was making excuses for why I couldn’t pursue this dream and was complaining to her when she said to me, ‘Bloom where you’re planted. God can deal with you and with what you know and what you don’t know.’ And that has proven to be very true in my life.”

Check out more photos below + click here to learn more about The Clothesline Muse:






Photo Credits: