Internationally Acclaimed Soprano Janinah Burnett Explores Classical Repertoire with Fresh Jazz Sensibilities on Debut Album, Love the Color of Your Butterfly

Due Out February 12, 2021

Featuring Terreon “Tank” Gully, Sullivan Fortner, Christian Sands, Keith Brown, Casey Benjamin, Luques Curtis & Ben Williams

World-renowned soprano Janinah Burnett is proud to step into the spotlight with the release of her new album, Love the Color of Your Butterfly. On this richly eclectic project, the vocalist breaks fresh ground and ever-so-naturally transcends traditional genres and parameters in marrying jazz and opera. Undoubtedly inspired by her father – legendary drummer Carl Burnett – Janinah presents Love the Color of Your Butterfly as a particular nod to the influence of her mother, Imani Constance. On this debut album, Burnett reminisces upon the supportive words of her mother (“you can’t be another butterfly, you have to love the color of your butterfly”) by exploring the boundless musical elements of her life and career, including opera, art song, oratorio and the American indigenous music genres: spirituals, blues, jazz and soul. Love the Color of Your Butterfly is available on Bandcamp now.

The origins of Love the Color of Your Butterfly dates back to a 2016 performance at the Cell Theatre in New York City, during which Burnett pushed the boundaries between the classical idioms she was famous for and the jazz passion in her heart – a hybrid she now refers to as ‘clazz’. She performed transcendent genre-blending versions of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” (fused with segments of “Habañera from Carmen) and “E Lucevan Le Stelle” from Puccini’s Tosca – both of which appear on the album. Supporting this project from its very inception is longtime friend and visionary, Grammy-winning drummer Terreon “Tank” Gully, producer of this thirteen-track collection of rejuvenated gems. Bringing this album to fruition is a powerhouse ensemble featuring pianist/organist Sullivan Fortner, Grammy-nominated pianist and arranger Christian Sands, pianist Keith Brown, vocoder player Casey Benjamin and bassists Luques Curtis and Ben Williams.

The repertoire on Love the Color of Your Butterfly represents Janinah Burnett’s most beloved styles and genres: art songs, spirituals, opera, rhythm and blues and jazz. In choosing to present these varying elements, it was imperative to feature some of the world’s greatest composers of these genres: Bizet, Gershwin, Ellington, Puccini, and Waller. The emotional core of Love the Color of Your Butterfly is the suite of Duke Ellington tunes, including a sensual vocal and jazz trio rendering of “In A Sentimental Mood” and two from the piano legend’s Sacred Concert recordings series of the 60’s and early 70s – including two originally sung by Alice Babs, the wordless gem “T.G.T.T.” and the prayer-like “My Love.” The collection includes the rumbling, tempo shifting “Creole Girl” (from Leslie Adams’ Night Songs song cycle) thoughtfully arranged by Gully; a soulful fusion of the spiritual and American Civil Rights anthem “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”; a rousing jazz/funk/gospel/classical romp through Donny Hathaway’s timeless “Someday We’ll All Be Free”; and a trippy, sensually-hypnotic twist on Sade’s “Kiss of Life,” a bold multi-genre experiment featuring filtered vocals and choir elements. 

The vocalist wraps the set with a haunting rendition of the Billie Holiday-popularized “Strange Fruit,” The Gershwins’ longing lament “I Loves You Porgy” and a spirited rendition of “Honeysuckle Rose” – the first solo song Janinah performed with the vocal jazz ensemble as a student at Hamilton High School, where she was enrolled in the Academy of Music and Performing Arts.  

The deeper story behind Love the Color of Your Butterfly is destined to inspire young people navigating their own unique paths as different forces battle for their creative souls – much the same way that Janinah shifted focus from jazz to classical music when she got to Spelman College, and was inspired by numerous gifted African American singers pursuing careers in classical voice. Releasing this album in early 2021, on the heels of 2020’s harsh renewed spotlight on systemic racism in America, makes this a powerful universal statement of social consciousness.  In some ways, the project is an extension of Burnett’s acclaimed multimedia performance piece I, Too Sing America: An Artistic Lament for the Fallen, which features her own writings and includes photography, art songs, freedom songs and spirituals. The show is rooted in education, activism, committed artistic expression and healing while honoring those who have been killed due to social injustice.

More About the Artist

Janinah Burnett is a singing phenomenon and one of the few singers to perform roles on both Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera stage. Raised in jazz music, she is the daughter of jazz drummer Carl Burnett. Janinah was surrounded by such artists as Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Harris, Shirley Horn, George Cables and many others who inspired her early musical beginnings. However, during her time at Spelman College, Janinah chose to take the path toward classical music and continued her studies in vocal performance and literature at the Eastman School of Music where she received a Masters Degree in Music. Directly following graduation from Eastman, Janinah thrilled audiences as “Mimí” in Baz Lurhmann’s La Bohème on Broadway in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles which led to her performance on the Tony Awards as well as her winning  the LA Theater Alliance’s Ovation Award. Shortly thereafter, Janinah’s brilliant technique and exceptional character interpretations led to her joining the Metropolitan Opera for their productions of Carmen and La Bohème, and has since returned for Parsifal, Le Nozze di Figaro, La Rondine, The Enchanted Island, Iphigénie en Tauride, Elektra and Manon.

Janinah made her MET debut as Bianca in La Rondine. In addition to her work at the MET, Janinah has performed extensively portraying such roles as Bess in Porgy and Bess, Violetta in La Traviata, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Norina in Don Pasquale, Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, Marguerite in Faust, Leïla in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Micaëla in Carmen (to name a few) in over 25 international and domestic cites.

Prior to the COVID 19 shutdown, Janinah appeared as “Carlotta Giudicelli” and “The Innkeeper’s Wife” in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway while simultaneously presenting solo concerts of diverse musical styles as well as opera roles. Janinah is inspired to assist the generations succeeding her and privately teaches some of today’s rising singing stars while regularly presenting masterclasses to students at colleges and educational institutions worldwide.

Track listing:

  1. Creole Girl
  2. What Is This Thing Called Love?/ Habañera 05:18
  3. E Lucevan Le Stelle
  4. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize
  5. My Love
  6. In A Sentimental Mood
  7. T.G.T.T.
  8. Someday We’ll All Be Free
  9. Kiss Of Life
  10. Lament/Strange Fruit
  11. I Loves You Porgy
  12. Honeysuckle Rose Retro Intro
  13. Honeysuckle Rose

Catalog: CLZ001

Label: Clazz Records

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