"Pat makes the guitar sing like a bird without even having to sing a single word." - Sam A. McKenzie, Dialectician
They range from Ma Rainey to Nina Simone to Bonnie Raitt, and their voices ring clear in “Blues Is a Woman,” the show arriving at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave., this Saturday night.
PORT ANGELES — “They’re funny, they’re sexy, they’re delicious,” said singer Pamela Rose, describing the women who galvanized her many years ago and continue to lift her up today.
Originally booked for May 2020, “Blues Is a Woman” is emerging from a pandemic-induced hiatus that felt like “we were in mourning,” Rose said in an interview from her home in San Francisco. At this moment, “we are incredibly happy not only to be playing music in general, and together, but to be doing this work,” added the singer, who formed the ensemble in 2016. “We take the audience on this big journey in time. It’s not just the music. It’s quite theatrical, like a play, with a great concert going on,” Rose added of the two-act production.
Tickets to the 7 p.m. show are available at JFFA.org and at Port Book and News in downtown Port Angeles, are $10 for ages 14 and younger, and $18, $28 and $38 for economy, standard and premium seats respectively. All patrons 12 and older must show proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR or antigen test from within 72 hours of the performance start time. Protocols are listed on JFFA’s website, while more information is available by phoning 360-457-5411 or emailing email@example.com.
“Blues Is a Woman” is composed of Black and white women from the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area. They are Rose, guitarist Pat Wilder, standup bassist Ruth Davies, saxophonist Kristen Strom, drummer Daria Johnson and pianist Jennifer Jolly; “we all sing,” Rose added. “It’s an ensemble cast. We tell the stories of these women, and we start with the very beginnings of the blues. It’s like a conversation,” she said. The music of Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace, Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie flows through Act One; then come their spiritual daughters such as Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. “These women carried this music’s DNA through the decades,” Rose said.
The performers of the 1960s and ’70s carried the music forward, “and it gave us the voice of the Civil Rights Movement.” Now as then, these women have a lot to say, Rose believes. She and her compatriots are committed to giving voice to their foremothers. “It’s a powerful time to talk about race and women. People are moved by the piece,” Rose said of her show. Kyle LeMaire, JFFA’s new executive director, added that “Blues Is a Woman” gives him a shot of inspiration. “For me, in the time we’re in, seeing an all-women blues band makes me feel a little bit of progress is being made in the performing arts,” he said. “That in itself really excites me.”
After a long break from performing, the return to rehearsals and shows has been an emotional one, Rose admitted. She’s missed the thrill of having the music swirl around her. “Musicians get the most satisfaction out of playing together,” she said. At a recent rehearsal, some tears were shed as the women reunited. “We needed it in our souls,” Rose said.