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Sweet Honey in the Rock Added to Jazz Festival Lineup

The 40-year old women's vocal group will appear for Festival Finale, June 9.

Sweet Honey in the Rock, a globally-known women's a cappella group based in Washington, DC, has just been confirmed as a headliner at this year's Healdsburg Jazz Festival, according to an email message to Festival subscribers.

The 15-year-old music non-profit, which announced a number of musicians playing in this year's annual festival a couple weeks ago, added this latest big name to the roster with today's statement by email. Sweet Honey in the Rock is scheduled to play on the Festival's last day, Sunday June 9, probably at the open-air venue Rodney Strong Vineyards on Old Redwood Hwy.

Though technically not a jazz group in the tradition of many of the other performers at past Healdsburg Jazz Festivals - including this year's other headliners Charlie Haden, Charles Lloyd, Carla Bley, Ravi Coltrane, Fred Hersch and others - artistic director Jessica Felix seemed pleased with the group's participation.

"They draw from a lot of the same influence as other jazz artists," said Felix, "Blues, spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, African music - and they do improvisation, too. They represent the richness and diversity of the music."

The  group was founded in 1973 by Bernice Johnson Reagon, and named for a passage in Psalms, "But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you" (81:16).

According to the HJF statement, "this renowned a cappella vocal ensemble has been a vital and innovative presence in the music culture of communities of conscience around the world."

The group has released over 20 CDs in the 40-year career, and performed by invitation from President and Mrs. Barack Obama in concert at the White House on Feb. 18, 2009.

Current members of the group are Ysaye Maria Barnwell, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha  Kahlil, Carol Maillard, Louise  Robinson, and Shirley  Childress  Saxton who acts as Sign Language Interpreter. 

It is expected further details about Sweet Honey in the Rock's participation, and possibly other forthcoming artists to be named, will be released in the next couple weeks.

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival will take place this year from May 31 to June 9, and include concerts in the Healdsburg Plaza, at the Raven Theater, and possibly the Jackson Family Theater near the Airport.

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