by Katherine Guest–
Women have loomed into the artistry of jazz for centuries—fortunately this year, the Bridge Arts Festival plans to kicks off their cultural event with an all-female jazz lineup of vocalists, instrumentalists and musicians alike, on Saturday, September 7th including MV Caldera, Lakecia Benjamin, Alexis Morrast and Audra Mariel, featured in the Anthony Fuscaldo Trio.
The lineup of seasoned musicians is set for several hours of non-stop sophisticated jazz that will draw thousands of Bayonne’s community members to Dennis P. Collins Park on 1st street with additional featured activities including—an artist vendor market, a kids craft corner by Crafty Fox, a food truck row and a dance performance stage.
Venezuelan vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer, MV Caldera, shares the festival’s performance stage as a female Latin artist known for working with other talented musicians such as: Marc Anthony, Ruben Blades, Brenda K. Star, Juan Gabriel, Gypsy Kinds and more.
While female jazz musicians haven’t always been as well-known as their male counterparts, MV Caldera explains the recent progression within the collective music industry.
“It is really hard work because for many music entrepreneurs they think that the business is [predominantly] for men, but I think that little by little it has opened up as a place for everyone and that is very important,” said Grammy nominee, MV Caldera.
With 10 years in the music industry, MV Caldera hopes to celebrate the city’s diverse Hispanic community by introducing her Latin heritage with a variety of musical sounds ranging from Calypso and salsa to Latin jazz.
“We have a lot of people who live here. This community is very diverse, they like Latin music and have a fun time. This is what my music offers, enjoy no matter what language we speak. When the music speaks, nothing matters,” said MV Caldera, a first-time participant of the Bridge Arts Festival.
With a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh, and music degree from the Cecilio Acosta University located in Maracaibo, Venezuela, MV Caldera learned to play the percussion, drums, bass, ukulele and piano. She also appeared on Venezuelan reality television show called “Camino a la fama” Televen where she came in second place.
Growing up in a predominantly Dominican neighborhood in New York City’s Washington Heights, like MV Caldera, Lakecia Benjamin, an influential and innovative jazz, funk R&B saxophonist, is a product of her upbringing. As an international touring musician, Benjamin will cross the Hudson River to show off her fiery sax skills.
Whether onstage as a leading alto-saxophonist or a band-leader of her self-made band called Lakecia Benjamin and Soul Squad, Benjamin possess a charismatic persona that engages her audience with a high-energy performance. Benjamin has also shared stages with Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, The Roots, Macy Gray and many more musicians.
The Anthony Fuscaldo Trio returns to the festival stage. At this year’s festival, the trio will feature female jazz vocalist Audra Mariel who plans to connect with the audience through the collective language of live music.
“I often perform jazz standards, and feel grateful for the opportunity to interpret the timeless, universally relatable lyrics and music of others,” said Mariel who is deep rooted in theater. “I think storytelling such as this connects people via the human experience, despite superficial differences.”
While singing her entire life, for the past 14 years, Mariel has performed as a jazz vocalist and more recently explored the intrinsic storytelling of musical tapestries as a solo looping artist under the name of Martin Howth.
“I am committed to being as authentic as possible, whether I’m interpreting the work of others, or performing my original music under the name Martin Howth,” said Mariel while referencing her passion in collaborating with other musicians. “The exchange of energy and ideas is unique to live performances, especially jazz improvisation.”
Mariel explains that being included in an all-female lineup is uniquely appealing since the festival provides an opportunity for community members, artists and other musicians to be genuinely supportive of each other in an industry that sometimes fosters unnecessary competitiveness.
Like Mariel, 17-year-old jazz singer and songwriter, Alexis Morrast, who now resides in Plainfield, New Jersey, hopes to celebrate women and embrace a movement of positivity through artistic expression.
“Participating in an all-female lineup is a great experience,” said Morrast, who draws musical inspiration from the Queen of Jazz, singer Ella Fitzgerald and four-Grammy Award winning American jazz singer, Sarah Vaughan. “I can’t wait to praise and support the rest of my gifted sisters.”
With a deep-seated gospel background, Morrast began singing hymns in church at the age of seven. By the age of 12-years-old, she naturally transitioned into jazz, which embodies similar themes and melodies. Since then, she’s performed on several stages including the U.S. Open, NJPAC with Christian McBride and Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Club with jazz legend Barry Harris.
“This will be my first time participating in the Bridge Arts Festival I’m honestly elated to have this opportunity,” said Morrast who’s performance is courtesy of the Newark Arts Festival.