Jan. 13—In a musical celebration of Blackness, healing and authenticity, Williams Homegirl Sells is presenting the inaugural Jazz Easy at Montvale Event Center on Saturday. "Black people, we have always fallen back on music," Spokane realtor and event creator Latrice Williams said. "We're taking what we had, modernizing it and making it our own. This event is more so about passing the baton."
Williams hosted jazz easies in 2017 and attended "America's Got Talent" in North Idaho before she stepped into the realtor world full time. She was part of a vocal group that teamed up with a live band frequently, but one of the singers moved to another state, and the pandemic paused any large group functions such as jazz easies. While in conversations with close friends last year, Williams became hopeful to revive the function.
"We need it, there's nothing like it," She said. "We need somewhere and something to do where we can lay back and chill, get dressed up. It's just the need that we need to come together."
Since as long as Williams can remember, music has held her together. She split her upbringing in Spokane and Star City, Arkansas, observing the vast, regional differences of Black culture. While Star City has a Black population of 15%, Black people make up only 2% percent of Spokane's population. With a smaller Black population, Williams is tackling the responsibility to pay homage to Black music and break new ground for Spokane's art scene.
"I feel like having two different viewpoints is important for where God is leading me to, and I really needed to create a space where everyone can just be. This is us. You come however you want to come," she said.
Along with Sessionz With Voice of Latrice, the fellow artists of the jazz easy are singer Alethea Dumas and multimedia artist Shantell Jackson. One of Williams' daughters, Deahnna, will be singing backup vocals. Jackson, well-known for her eccentric, powerful presence in Spokane's art community, is returning to her old love of singing. Williams called them "talented individuals" who are "focused and driven."
"As far as the ladies who came to the table to share themselves with me, as far as the band, they're amazing," Williams said. "The fact that Shantell (Jackson) dusted off old vocals? I was amazed by how talented these individuals are."
Dumas grew up in Spokane singing in Calvary Baptist Church's children choir. Calvary is the oldest church in the state of Washington. "I have a singing family, so it was kind of inevitable for me to be involved in some sort of musical thing, but I think singing is what grabbed me," she said.
"I think that events like this really give myself the opportunity to not only share my gift and enjoy singing, but it gives me the opportunity to meet other people who not only share the same gift as me but share the same passion."
Outside the communal love for Black music, the jazz easy is a space to heal. Two years into a pandemic, a housing crisis and quixotic mishaps are signs of Americans being pushed to their limits.
"Music is healing, and in the midst of everything that everyone is going through ... we all need to heal at some point," Williams said. "That's how I'm coming to music and healing."
Jadrian Tarver, Gonzaga University's current postdoctoral music fellow, agreed with Williams' idea of healing through music tracks with the Doctrine of Ethos, a concept supported by ancient Greek scholar Aristotle, that music has the power to "heal the sick and shape personal character in a positive manner."
"We give music this level of power where what is written and what you feel in music then affects your ethics and our morality," Tarver said. "When artists sing love songs, you want to feel that feel, so it requires this human connection, which requires you to lend yourself to be authentic and true."
The first song of the jazz easy is neo-soul, Grammy-Award winning R&B songstress Ledisi's "Alright." The song is a mantra of persevering and living beyond ongoing trials. Other soul and jazz artists such as Erkyah Badu, Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild are featured throughout the three sets. Prominent vocal groups such as SWV, short for Sistas With Voices, Brownstone and Frankie Beverly & the Maze will also be part of the show.
To ensure safety, attendees of the jazz easy are required to show proof of vaccination cards or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours. Doors open at 7 p.m., and an open bar will be available until 8 p.m. Patrons will be served a Tuscan pasta with the choice of beef, chicken or fish with Texas toast. NAACP President and new The Spokesman-Review columnist Kiantha Duncan will be decorating the Montvale for the jazz easy. The event is sold out.
"It's an amazing spot, and of course Kiantha is going to make it more outrageous because of the blessing that she is," Williams said.
Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.