Love the Color of Your Butterfly
Street Date: February 12, 2021
On Janinah Burnett's richly eclectic debut Love the Color of Your Butterfly, the renowned soprano 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.
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.
"I love Love the Color of Your Butterfly. This is a triumph of eclecticism for the gear-switching soprano and her company of musicians and arrangers who add to her own instincts for settings as they sweep through everything from a full-out Puccini aria written for the male voice to the sultry pop slow-burn "Kiss of Life" with vocoder and backing vocals. What an embarrassment of riches!" Read this review here.
Or perhaps it’s not so surprising, considering that Burnett is the daughter of Carl Burnett, drummer for Freddie Hubbard, Horace Silver, Nancy Wilson and other legendary jazz artists. “My mother tells me that, as a baby, Nancy Wilson held me,” Burnett said. “That must have given me some good energy.” Read this feature here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"his album exposes us to her multi-talents in a mixed genre presentation. La Janinah has broken free of the music business cocoon and invites us to love the colors of her butterfly." Read this review here.
SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE
In what almost seems like an alternative universe, not so long ago, when the performing arts weren’t just a virtual reality, you could have found acclaimed soprano Janinah Burnett in any number of places — interpreting roles like Bianca in La Rondine at the Metropolitan Opera House, enchanting audiences as Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, or singing jazz standards with her own quartet at the Cell Theatre in New York City. Read this feature here.
Internationally Acclaimed Soprano Janinah Burnett is set to explore the Classical Repertoire with Fresh Jazz Sensibilities. The new album features Terreon “Tank” Gully, Sullivan Fortner, Christian Sands, Keith Brown, Casey Benjamin, Luques Curtis, and Ben Williams. Read this announcement here.
"With muso roots in both her blood lines, this opera singer that knows her way around jazz is sure to open your ears in a presentation that straddles both genres and really gets your ears thinking." Full review here.
"Burnett’s Love the Color of Your Butterfly is a fantastic exploration of classical, jazz, and the many other genres in-between. From oratorios to jazz standards, art song to funk, Janinah Burnett has masterfully executed the unification of musical concepts in a very entertaining and inspiring way. Burnett’s ‘clazz’ allows for such a large variety of emotional expression in music, helping her express ‘love’ in such a large variety of forms, making it the perfect Valentine’s Day album for classical and jazz lovers alike." Read this review here.