Joi lights up Jazz Fest

The evolution of a funk-soul chanteuse

Continuously reinventing herself, Joi, aka Tennessee Slim, aka Star Kitty, returns to Atlanta to headline Friday night's Atlanta Jazz Festival main stage. The artist with so many nicknames will introduce yet another new persona, Rebekkah HolyLove, to the world later this year on her fifth independently released album. With the recording of Rebekkah HolyLove's Salvation Symphony in progress, one has to wonder if Joi will show off any of Rebekkah HolyLove's moves when she takes the stage at the festival.

If you've never seen Joi perform live, she's a seductive, genre-morphing soulful chanteuse. When asked if she aligns herself with a particular type of music, she says, "I believe, live, and breathe the funk. I have a deep understanding and affinity for the funk. That comes out in everything I do, but I don't necessarily identify with a specific genre."

Joi acknowledges that it is surprising for her to be on the lineup of an event that typically features traditional jazz artists. However, the strong historical ties between jazz and funk, as well as Joi's Atlanta roots, make her an obvious choice for the festival's headlining spot.

She credits the Atlanta Jazz Festival organizers for acknowledging the intersection of jazz and funk, as well as their vision and boldness for booking her.

"All of Atlanta is excited that Joi will headline the kickoff of the 39th Atlanta Jazz Festival," says Camille Russell Love, executive director of the City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs, which produces the festival. "We welcome her back home with open arms and plenty of love!"

A cast of old friends and Atlanta mainstay musicians will join Joi on stage, including Lil John Roberts (drums), Mary Harris (percussion/vocals), Mark Jefferson (bass), Rod Harris Jr. (guitar), and David "Whild" Brown (keys). Joi could neither confirm nor deny any special guest appearances, but based on past Dungeon Family shows, we think the odds are strong that she'll be joined by a few friends.

Joi met the OutKast/Dungeon Family crew shortly following the release of her Dallas Austin-produced album The Pendulum Vibe. She first met Rico Wade of Organized Noize at Austin's DARP Studios, and later the rest of the crew confided to Joi that they liked to freestyle in the Dungeon over the instrumental version of her song "Sunshine in the Rain." The creative connection was immediate, and they became extended family.

These days, Joi operates as an independent artist. She had a contract with Universal Records in 2002, followed by a brief stint with Raphael Saadiq's Pookie Entertainment, but has not been signed with a major label since. She prefers to maintain control over her music and, in her words, "not allow the structure of a machine to dictate how my art should be presented."

Joi took a step back from music after the birth of her daughter, feeling like she had to choose being a great parent over dedicating herself to her craft. She has no doubt that motherhood has made her look at her music, art, and the world differently. Now that her daughter is grown, she is re-dedicating herself to music, and nurturing her music with a new perspective and a fullness that she wasn't able to give while raising her daughter.

She is also producing a documentary, 20 Years of Joi and Counting, that focuses on her 20-year anniversary show in Atlanta in 2014. The documentary is tentatively scheduled to arrive by the end of summer along with Rebekkah HolyLove's Salvation Symphony. The trailer, updates, and information on the documentary will be posted to AllJoiEverything.com.

Joi is elusive when describing the direction of Rebekkah HolyLove's Salvation Symphony. However, she does acknowledge there is always funk, and that the album shows her continual evolution and forward progress. Expect a funky show when she takes the stage Friday night.

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