By Holli Harms
She has the crystal clear voice of the Broadway performer she is, and the gut-wrenching growl of a rock-n-roller. She’s a charismatic storyteller, drawing you into her many heartaches and stances on a love that declares “I won’t be squashed.” She is a creator of lyrics and music that she shared with us in the too-short performance at 54 Below. Yes, we wanted MORE!
She is Taylor Iman Jones. You need to see her in order to bask in her presence and her songs. Songs that will make you cry and laugh, clap your hands, and stomp your feet. At 54 Below she held everyone in the center of her beautiful hilarious presence. I fell in love, and looking around, knew that most there were already smitten.
Jones, accompanied by singers Isaiah Tyrell Boyd, whose high notes are not to be missed, and Keirsten Hodgens, who has her own growl and pump, and a wonderfully diverse four-piece band, was funny and honest, and down to earth. Jones’ voice knows no limit. That voice is beautiful water flowing over us, clouds floating by, flames of fire rising up. It was like we were at her home hanging out and she was giving us her all and then some.
All of the songs of the evening but two were original compositions. The other two, “Toxic” written by Cathy Dennis and made famous by Brittany Spears, and “Holding Out For a Hero” from Footloose, had us practically out of our seats dancing around the tables of 54 Below.
Jones stands solid, proud of herself and who she is, as she sings her song “Four Letter Word,” her voice soaring up, her growl in full force. Her song “Stay,” a quiet remembrance of love, had couples in the room reaching out to one another. She was in a Zoom show – ah, that unforgettable time in our lives – based on the tumultuous marriage between Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, and the writers couldn’t get a song to really show that turmoil. Jones offered to try her hand at it, the only stipulation, she had to use the word “tsunami” in it. Tsunami, the word, is the perfect metaphor for a love affair that endured fame and the weighted crush it can put on life and marriage and she gave us that with her lyrics and sound.
Jones’ lyrics are universal about love, about declaring “oh no you don’t” when she sings about learning that SHE is the other woman. Her honesty in trying and failing, again and again, is what we find so endearing. Been there again and again and done that – We can all relate.
It was her “Sunlight’s Soul (Shots Fired)” song she wrote in response to the senseless killing of Breonna Taylor and so many other men and women of color that had the room in quiet contemplation. A song of innocence killed in this country on practically a daily basis expressed our collective exhaustion of the same damn story over and over, shots fired, shots fired. She sings to all those of color, “We’re the light/ look at our skin/ it glows.” And she is singing for all of us who are tired of the shootings, who are tired of the racist hatred and stupidity. It was beautiful and powerful
Taylor Iman Jones, she’s just getting started! Heck yeah!
“Taylor Iman Jones” Created and performed by Taylor Iman Jones, Directed by Henry Gottfried, Produced by Shannon Molly Flynn
Backup singers: Isaiah Tyrell Boyd, Keirsten Hodgens
Band: Elijah Caldwell on Piano, Jesse-Ray Leich on Drums, Lee Daniele Moretti on guitar, and Styler Volpe on Bass
54 Below 254 W 54th St, New York, NY 10019