Editor's note: Samara Joy's May 7 appearance has been rescheduled for Oct. 24 at Missouri Theatre. Visit https://www.wealwaysswing.org/season/2022-2023/ for more information.
Great jazz artists play in the moment while keeping their eyes a few measures ahead.
The "We Always Swing" Jazz Series plays the same way. The Columbia concert institution scored a sort of preemptive coup when it booked then rising-star vocalist Samara Joy for its 2022-23 season. The 23-year-old's star now is firmly fixed in the firmament, taking home Grammys for best new artist and best jazz vocal album back in February.
Joy's two sets within the cozy confines of Murry's a week from Sunday represent a rare, brag-now and brag-later opportunity for jazz lovers. Before she hits town, here are five things to know about Samara Joy.
1. Joy knows how to deliver a killer opening line
The first vocal lines from last year's album "Linger Awhile" let you know exactly who you're dealing with. Joy opens "Can't Get Out of This Mood" by playing off the track's stuttering drums and shimmering piano.
"Can't get out of this mood / Can't get over this feeling / Just can't get out of this mood / Last night, your lips were too appealing," she sings, lovestruck and hungover.
The downturn at the end of her first phrase, the way she mingles dizzy feelings with a knowing glance ahead, and the pure, full resonance of her voice work together, putting listeners on notice: this is a fully-formed artist.
2. Joy belongs to a musical family that played with the likes of Andraé Crouch
Joy's family has deep roots in gospel music. Her grandparents sang with Philadelphia's The Savettes, according to her website; and her father, Antonio McLendon, worked as a singer, songwriter and producer with gospel legend Andraé Crouch.
"Sometimes I catch myself when I’m singing — I’m like, 'Whoa, that was a dad moment,'" she said in her bio.
3. She's in good company as best new artist
While the best new artist Grammy has been discussed as a mixed blessing — not always the career guarantee it might seem — the award has gone to some terrific female singers with jazz chops of late. Joy joins the likes of Norah Jones (2003), Amy Winehouse (2008) and Esperanza Spalding (2011), which is pretty sweet company to keep.
4. Joy offers a refreshing take on Monk
Late on "Linger Awhile," Joy digs into the iconic Thelonious Monk's catalog, performing "'Round Midnight." Her take is classic and fresh at the same time. Forgoing the song's original lyrics, she "sings those written by Jon Hendricks, which she had only heard in a vintage TV performance by Carmen McRae," her website notes.
"Those lyrics haven’t been recorded that much — so even though it’s a song that a lot of people know, this is a different take on it," Joy said on her site.
The recording is gorgeous and fluttering, a perfect give and take between musical statements of confidence and longing.
5. A clip of Joy responding to her Grammy nods went viral
Before she took home the gold, Joy stepped off a subway train to loved ones cheering her Grammy nominations. A clip of the moment following a wonderful arc — she first shakes her head in disbelief, then jumps up and down before breaking into a victory lap and maintaining dancing feet — was viewed more than 4 million times on TikTok, according to NPR.
The 60-second video is, like everything she does, pure Joy.
Joy will play two sets, at 3:30 and 7 p.m., at Murry's on May 7. Tickets are $20-$47. Visit https://www.wealwaysswing.org/season/2022-2023/ for details.
Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at email@example.com or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Learn about best new artist Grammy winner Samara Joy before she visits Columbia