Los Angeles based Janiva Magness is one of todays most talented and recognized blues and roots vocalists. A two-decade darling of the blues genre, Janivas vocal prowess is now being recognized by music critics at large.
Billboard writes Magness carves out a niche by singing the blues with maturity and sophistication." Singer Magazine writes Her voice is sultry, smoky and strong with jazz, blues, and soul textures enveloping it.
Although her vocals are at times beautiful, this 49 year-old grandmother is best known for her sauciness and the bold, brazen beauty of her recordings and performances. In the liner notes of the new record Janiva pays homage to controversial and rule breaking women before her like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith for fearlessly embracing their age, their sexuality, and truth.
Janiva was barely a teenager when she was consumed by the power and expression of rhythm and blues from the radio stations of her hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Janivas influences include Etta James, Billie Holiday, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson, Memphis Minnie & Koko Taylor - some of whom she has since shared stages with and drawn comparisons.
Janiva has recorded with various artists including the late R.L. Burnside, former Fabulous Thunderbird guitarists Kid Ramos and Kirk Eli Fletcher. Earlier in her career she even toured with Jimmy Buffet.
In addition to being an outstanding vocalist, Janiva Magness is a favorite on the North American and European festival circuit. Los Angeles NPR affiliate KCRW FM says you're gonna get knocked out by what you hear. I recommend you go SEE and HEAR Janiva Magness. Fellow genre leader Charlie Musselwhite says Janiva Magness always knocks me out because she has such style and poise on stage and she hits every note she sings just right - perfect every time."
Magness vocals and stage presence expanded beyond the clubs, venues and festivals in 2003, when she played a lead character in the west coast edition of the Tony-nominated Broadway production "It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues", which ran at the David Geffen Theater in Los Angeles.
Nominated for the previous 2 years, 2006 finds Janiva the winner of a Blues Music Award, formerly the W.C Handy Awards, for Contemporary Female Artist of the Year. Janiva won Canadas 2004 Maple Blues Award for Producer of the Year with Colin Linden for her 2005 Bury Him at The Crossroads. Soundboard Magazine honored her with the B.B. King Award for Musical Excellence, Arizona's New Times awarded her their Critic's Choice - Blues Band of the Year award, as well as receiving the Jim Croce Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rhythm and Blues.
Although singing has always come natural for Janiva, her early lifes path has rarely been rosy. Early in life she lost both parents to suicide. Shortly after came 12 foster homes in two years. At 16 Janiva became an emancipated minor with chemical dependencies and a teenage mother putting her baby up for adoption. Turmoil was a daily part of her young life.
How is it today Janiva Magness is one of the most successful and determined blues based songstresses?
At 14 Magness found salvation in the form of a blistering blues guitarist named Otis Rush. On a winters night hitchhiking across Minneapolis, she ended up a the Union Bar and paid $2 to get in the door.
She explains He just blew my mind. He made me feel things I didnt know what to do with. The music spoke to parts of me that had never been addressed. It opened up some other place in me, like letting oxygen into a sealed crypt for the first time.
The enlightened teenager started hitting blues shows throughout the Minneapolis/Chicago/Detroit triangle. Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins became favorites as did the early funk and R&B of the thriving local scene including one particular emerging artist who called himself Prince long before he took the citys sound nationwide.
As with the beginning of the music itself, Janiva started listening to and singing the blues for catharsis. After discovering she could sing not only for healing but to get paid, she went to work as a backup vocalist working frequently with Sounds of Blackness member Joanne Hollis.
Janiva replaced one habit for another and made a run at a life as a blues musician. She landed in the sunnier Phoenix, Arizona and took up a mentor in Bob Tate, Sam Cookes legendary and long-time musical director. The first band she assembled in Phoenix was named as the towns Best Blues Band.
Realizing performing and recording was the only calling she could answer, Janiva moved to Los Angeles. In March 2006 Janiva releases her sophomore album for NorthernBlues Music entitled Do I Move You. It is her seventh recording in a long list of critically acclaimed albums.