ALTON — Saman Swanson is bringing a Whitney Houston tribute to Jacoby Arts Center against the backdrop of its “Social Justice: Both Sides of the River” exhibit.
Backed by the Henry Taylor Revue, Swanson will perform Houston’s hits at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23. The event also will launch Swanson’s new, as yet unnamed, CD.
“I admired Whitney as a vocalist,” Swanson said. “She did something no one had done before — she broke the color barrier and became a megastar. She set the standards for those who came up behind her.”
Swanson has been singing professionally for more than 25 years and grew up performing classical, opera and jazz. When she was 8, she discovered Minnie Riperton, whose vocal range spanned five octaves and was one of the few singers who could enunciate in the high registers.
“I didn’t sing anything else until I heard her,” Swanson said. “She was singing the octaves and singing them in a way that I could understand the words.”
Swanson’s new CD will be “a look at the music I love to do. If you like different kinds of music, you’ll like the CD,” she said. The CD will sell for $10.
Jacoby board member Eva Perkins first heard Swanson sing at the Liberty Bank Amphitheater in 2012 and immediately knew her promotions partnership had to book her for a “Back to School” performance. Green/Perkins brought Swanson back by popular demand in February 2013 and most recently for the Social Justice performance.
“Saman has a great set of pipes and combines stage presence for a well-rounded musical production,” Perkins said. “Saman sinks her heart and soul into her singing and does a phenomenal job.”
Perkins said the board wanted to present different music genres throughout July, from gospel to R&B, in conjunction with “Social Justice: Both Sides of the River” exhibit.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door or on the website. Seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Doors open 30 minutes in advance. Pulled chicken and pork on Hawaiian rolls provided by J’s Market can be purchased alongside a cash bar.
“I believe in the social justice project,” said Jason Harrison, owner of J’s Market. “I’m truly honored to be a part (of the evening) and couldn’t think of a better place I’d rather be.”
The exhibit runs through Aug. 6 and serves as a platform to investigate barriers to social justice, racism and community through music, art and discussion. It continues with a free showing of “Four Way Stop” at 7 p.m. Friday, July 29. Following the film, St. Louis Public Radio host Steve Potter will moderate a panel discussion of community and racism.
The Show Me Arts Academy Youth Choir will perform selections from the national 2016 Spreading the Love Youth Tour at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 30, in a free program. Guided tours of the exhibit are available every Saturday starting at 2 p.m.