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Jazz Festival Gives Women Their Turn to Shine

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Women have always played a big role in jazz. But they haven't always received the time on stage they deserve or the recognition. 

"Because only three percent of major jazz festivals have female musicians on them, three to ten percent, I mean that's arguably," says Sweet Baby J'ai, the creative director of the Palm Springs Women's Jazz Festival, an event that's striving to change that.

The concept is simple yet mind blowing: all women, all stars from different bands coming together to improvise.

Sweet Baby J'ai says that formula is special, "Not only do the audience get to have this sort of wonderful experience of this thing unfolding but so do the musicians we come in often times and say, 'Hello, my name is,it's so nice to meet you, lets do this in b flat,'" adding that it makes for a one of a kind experience, "it's all about you never know where it's going to turn, where it's going to take you and where you have that sort of female energy right, it's got another wave to it." 

You'll hear from women already making history, like the only woman to win the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, Melissa Aldana.

"People don't realize that women have this much contribution," says Sweet Baby J'ai, adding, something else people who attend for the first time don't realize, they've been jazz lovers all along, "they've been listening to it all over around them and never knew exactly what it was."

She says allowing women to shine inspires future women in jazz and honors their roots, "All of these women coming together in celebration and to pay homage to those that we've stood on the shoulders of."

Because whether it's the first lullaby or first love, you can bet the male greats were were inspired by women, "You better believe it honey, there's a woman behind everything, that's what we do."

The non profit Palm Springs Women's Jazz and Blues Association puts on the festival with the mission to preserve and foster female performers. The festival runs through Sunday at the Riviera Palm Springs. The festival is celebrating its fifth anniversary. 

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