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Vocalist Tammy McCann Pays Tribute To Gospel Great Mahalia Jackson With YES MAHALIA!


No jazz singer on the scene today bridges Sacred and Secular like Chicago vocalist Tammy McCann.

Vocalist Tammy McCann Pays Tribute To Gospel Great Mahalia Jackson With YES MAHALIA!

No jazz singer on the scene today bridges Sacred and Secular like Chicago Vocalist Tammy McCann.

Throughout her career, McCann has paid homage to gospel pioneer Mahalia Jackson, and on Friday, August 6, 7:00 pm, at Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park, she and the Eyal Vilner Big Band will perform her latest soulful tribute, "Yes Mahalia!, at Jazzmobile's Summerfest 2021, which is dedicated to co-founder Dr. Billy Taylor in honor of his 100th Birthday

In addition to their spirit-filled voices, both Jackson and McCann traveled from the South, (Louisiana and Mississippi respectively) to make their homes in Chicago, where Thomas Dorsey created the modern gospel music sound. On August 6, McCann follows in Jackson's footsteps when she takes the stage at Marcus Garvey Park (formerly Mt. Morris Park) where Mahalia Jackson performed at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, featured in the Questlove-directed documentary, Summer of Soul.

For McCann, her tribute is an evolution in progress that grew organically. "I usually did the tribute with an organ and backup singers and a choir, but a couple of years ago, right before the pandemic, I took my jazz rhythm section with me for my gospel tour to Italy and Switzerland. The music really blossomed. So that's what gave me the idea to see how far I can take this. How far can I push the boundaries and still feel like I'm residing in the sacred realm of Mahalia? And that's where Yes Mahalia! came from."

McCann's set list will include selections made famous by Jackson, such as Duke Ellington's classic "'Come Sunday,'" which he wrote for Jackson. 'We'll also be doing the gospel standard "How I Got Over," a wonderful arrangement by bassist, Mimi Jones, adapted for the big band by Eyal. It's really one of my favorite songs, because it speaks to obstacles that I, and I'm sure others, have had to overcome in life."

"To me, there is a synergy between the Mahalia Jackson sound, and the sonic energy that a big band brings to bear," McCann says. "You have her voice that was so unique, so powerful, partnering with the sonic energy of a big band. I felt, why hasn't anybody done this before?"

For McCann, Jackson's music also connects her to her musical roots. "My affection for Mahalia Jackson stems from the influences of my grandmother and my mother McCann says. "They kept me connected and steeped in our family church, St. Paul Church of God in Christ in Chicago. So, her music was either coming from a record player or from the mouths of my mother and my grandmother. I was baptized in Mahalia Jackson's music from an early age. Her music is particular ... it is sacred, and for someone like myself, who dwells in the secular realm, it is important to me that the listener recognizes that they have stepped into Mahalia's realm; that this is a place of reverence."

McCann will also perform Yes Mahalia! in her hometown at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival (9/26). She headlines Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles (8/13), with guitarist and fellow Chicagoan Fareed Haque, bassist John Clayton, pianist Tamir Hendelman, and drummer Clayton Cameron performing selections from her forthcoming CD, Southside Folk Tales.

"Being from Mississippi," McCann says, "I've been wanting to do a really personal record that celebrates my influences, Chicago Jazz Legends Von and George Freeman, to explore the origin of the Chicago Jazz sound. It came up from Mississippi and New Orleans through the Great Migration where it was marinated in the blues gospel and R&B creating a sound unique to Chicago. This project has been a labor of love.' The fruits of McCann's labor paid off when she was named Chicagoan of the Year in Jazz in 2020 by the Chicago Tribune. McCann's work speaks for itself, with several acclaimed recordings under her belt and a long list of All-Star collaborations, from Dee Dee Bridgewater and John Clayton to Ramsey Lewis and Ray Charles.

Former jazz critic Howard Reich of the Chicago Sun Times, wrote that McCann has, "a voice that soars in all registers, at all tempos, on all occasions..." and her biggest supporter, the late Stanley Crouch, proclaimed that McCann's, "pitch is superb ... clear on the top ... startling at the bottom, while all of the steps in between are polished with swing ... I have not heard a voice like hers in decades." Tammy McCann's voice is an instrument, highly honed by years of craftsmanship in the spirit of Mahalia Jackson. "To me, Mahalia is always set apart," McCann says. And I'm honored to continue to introduce her and her music to a new generation."

For more information on Tammy McCann and Yes Mahalia!, log on to For the complete Jazzmobile/Summerfest calendar, please go to

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