Baltimore’s first weekend in June begins with a regional tradition—the 29th annual Capital Jazz Fest in Columbia.
Legendary soul and jazz artists from all over will grace the Merriweather Post Pavilion stage on Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5. To kick off the show, there will be an indie soul showcase from 8:30-10 p.m. at Maryland Live! Casino on Friday, June 3.
“Soulful Saturday” at Merriweather will feature 10 artists from noon to 10 p.m., including superstars Keyshia Cole and Common. A special surprise guest performance will pay tribute to Teena Marie.
The music will shift gears to 10 jazz artists for “Jazzy Sunday,” also from noon to 10 p.m., culminating in a headlining performance from Chaka Khan.
Before you go, get to know one of the iconic artists from Saturday’s lineup: Deborah Cox.
The multi-hyphenate, spanning music, Broadway, TV, film and fashion, made her debut in the mid-90s with a self-titled studio album and later garnered 13 No. 1 dance club hits on the Billboard music charts. Most notably, the Canadian-born musician recently became the first Black woman to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Cox reflects on soul, career and how she uses her platform to as an agent of change.
You wear many hats in entertainment, from music to stage to screen. What drew you to performing, and what was it about soul that captured your attention?
I’ve been in love with performing since I was young, and I’ve only grown to love it more and more as the years have gone on. The opportunity that performing gives us entertainers to connect with people from all around the world is remarkable and so fulfilling. Whether it’s on stage performing music or portraying a character on television or in a play, hearing that your work resonated with someone or helped them through a challenging time is always one of the most rewarding parts of the job. R&B and Soul specifically have a tendency to do exactly that—to hit home and speak to their listeners—and I think that the community that surrounds them is what made me realize that that was the kind of music I wanted to focus on making.
How has your experience as a Black woman shaped your career, and how did it feel to be the first Black female inductee to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame?
It’s an honor to help blaze a path for the next generation of young artists, especially Black individuals and other BIPOC who don’t often get the recognition that they deserve. Overcoming hurdles has been a large part of my journey as a Black female, but it’s only made my wins feel that much greater. My Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction only further emphasizes the fact that anything is possible and that we are forging a more equitable way forward. There are so many inspirational artists on the scene right now, and I hope that young people can learn from the successes that they’re seeing today and use them as motivation to keep fighting for themselves and for what’s right.
June is National Pride Month. Tell me why it has been important to you to advocate for LGBTQ+ community and social justice causes.
My connection with the LGBTQ+ community dates back to before Pride Month and other equity initiatives were recognized or celebrated. Even then, the persistence and tenacity of this community were incredible and, as the years have passed, their positivity and resilience continue to amaze and inspire me. I have learned so much from their ability to push back and speak up for what’s right. I feel incredibly honored to have such a longstanding connection with the members of this community and to be able to stand by them as they continue to educate and change the world for the better.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned over your 25-year career?
I’ve learned so much that it’s hard to nail down just a few lessons, but I think one of the main things I’ve realized is the importance of staying true to your authentic self. There are so many external forces—especially in the entertainment industry—that might try to change your beliefs, values, or image, and having the strength to stick to your own thoughts can be tough sometimes. I’ve always made it a priority not to stray from who I am and what I set out to do. Sticking to that sentiment has been one of the keys that have helped me navigate the ups and downs of the last 25 years.
In what ways has your music evolved, and what can Baltimore expect from your performance on Saturday?
In a lot of ways, my music has grown with me and in others, it has stayed the same. I’ve always known the type of message, tone, and energy I wanted to put into every song, and I’m proud to have kept that consistency throughout each record. As my career has gone on, my music has been able to evolve to reach so many genres and communities, and I feel so blessed for the support of all of the fans that continue to make it a part of their lives. My performance in Baltimore will pay tribute to that music and give the fans and I a chance to enjoy it after the tough few years that it’s been for everyone. I’m ecstatic to be back to connect with the fans in Baltimore and can’t wait to sing and dance together.
For more information on tickets and after parties,” visit capitaljazz.com.