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Samara Joy at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center


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When Samara Joy performed last June at the Vocal Jazz Summit in Virginia Beach she was fairly new on the scene and even though she could deliver a song like a seasoned pro she was a little shy interacting with the audience. What a difference one year and two Grammys make. The singer, who appeared at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News, VA to headline the Ella Fitzgerald Festival, was an instant hit with an audience (276 sold out house) eager to hear the young singing sensation. Walking out on the stage to a standing ovation Joy was relaxed and started talking with the audience right away. Joy is no diva, just a down to earth girl who owned the crowd even before she sang the first song.

Ella Fitzgerald, "The First Lady of Song," was born in Newport News in 1917 just a few blocks from the Walter Reed School which is now the cultural center. In the festivals 25 year history such artists as Jane Monheit, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Patti Austin, Diane Reeves, Aretha Franklin and so many more have headlined the festival.

Joy shared the stage with pianist Luther Allison, bassist Michael Migliore and drummer Evan Sherman. The trio was there to support the singer and other than a few piano solos they held back and let Joy shine. Borrowing from the jazz greats the evening was a huge success for Joy and her audience. It's just a matter of time before the names Fitzgerald, Vaughan, Holiday and Joy will be said in the same breath.

Following are photos from the evening.
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