Back in January the 20 Pearls Foundation, the charitable arm of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Theta Theta Omega Las Vegas Chapter, of which I and my mother are proud members, presented “An Evening with Violin ‘Soul-o-ist’ Karen Briggs with special guest Freddie B,” for a concert in support of the HerShe Group Foundation, Inc., an organization preparing girls in foster care for successful transition into adulthood.
I remember asking, “Who is Karen Briggs?” when it was requested I write and distribute the press release on behalf of our chapter’s 20 Pearls Foundation. Seriously, I had no idea who she was, and I fancy myself “in the know” when it comes to popular jazz artists (See my Jazz Groupies post), so not having name recognition had me less than excited, as well as being told “she toured with Yanni” had me thinking the 90s, world music, a mustache and a mullet. Any enthusiasm to write the news release was all but removed.
Come to find out after a little digging, I could not have been more wrong. Karen Briggs is a highly sought after featured soloist who has perfected the melismatic style (I had to look that term up, and for those of you that don’t know what the word means either, it is defined as “A passage of several notes sung to one syllable of text, as in Gregorian chant” ~The Free Dictionary by Farlex.) Her musicianship is reflective of her exposure to countless music genres including jazz, gospel, Latin, classical, African and Middle Eastern.
She is world renown and has played Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, the Apollo Theater, and the Kennedy Center. Her nickname, “The Lady in Red” was given to her by her fans (I am now one of them) after extensively touring with Yanni. She was a part of his critically acclaimed and live multi-platinum recorded album Yanni Live at the Acropolis (1993) which became “one of the best-selling PBS specials of all time and was broadcast in 65 countries.”
She began her professional career with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra after graduating from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia. Several years later she released her self-titled debut album Karen (1992), her sophomore album Amazing Grace (1996), followed by Soulchestral Groove (2009). And has collaborated with many influential musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Swinging into the 21st (2012) and Selections from Swingin’ into the 21st (2011); Ledisi, Lost & Found (2007); Kenny Loggins, More Songs from Pooh Corner (2000); Vertu’, Stanley Clark, Lenny White and Richie Kotzen (1999); Diana Ross, Every Day Is a New Day (1999); and Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams, The Hopeville Tour/DVD (2009), to name a few and there are many to name.
That was a great night and she is one funny lady who really loves and appreciates her fans. At one point we were all grooving when I noticed she had us all clapping along to a square dance song. It felt like Hee Haw for a minute. I was waiting for a Minnie Pearl look-alike to appear on stage.
I highly recommend you catch a show when you can. She has her schedule on Facebook at Karen Briggs, Violinist Page II. She will be in Austin, Texas on Friday, April 5 at the Women in Jazz Association, Inc.’s JAZZ IN P!NK CONCERT.