Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Billy Childs, Becca Stevens and Alicia Olatuja to perform ‘Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro’ Feb. 5 at Schwab

Jazz pianist and composer Billy Childs will make his Center for the Performing Arts debut with “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5, in Schwab Auditorium. Guest vocalists Becca Stevens and Alicia Olatuja will join Childs in a performance inspired by his 2015 Grammy Award-nominated album.

Childs will be backed in concert by his band, which features saxophonist and flutist Bob Sheppard, guitarist Peter Sprague, harpist Carol Robbins, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Billy Kilson. The State College-based Allegria String Quartet will also perform as part of the concert. Allegria includes violinists Sally Williams Minnich and Mark Minnich, violist Debbie Trudeau and cellist Jonathan Dexter.

Purchase tickets, which are $38 for an adult, $17 for a University Park student and $28 for a person 18 and younger. A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes Penn State student prices possible.

Childs was already a part of the Los Angeles jazz scene when he was discovered by trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard. He performed and recorded with influential jazz musicians, including Joe Henderson and Wynton Marsalis, before embarking on a solo career as a recording artist and a composer for Kronos Quartet, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, The Ying Quartet and other ensembles. His releases, from 1988’s “Take for Example This …” to 2014’s “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro,” have garnered critical acclaim.

Nyro—the late American singer-songwriter, pianist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer—blended Broadway-inspired melodies, jazz improvisation and socially conscious lyrics into songs made famous by Three Dog Night, The Fifth Dimension, Barbra Streisand and others. Her songs include “Eli’s Comin’,” “And When I Die,” “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Midnite Blue.”

The “Map to the Treasure” album features a who’s who of musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma, Esperanza Spalding, Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin, Wayne Shorter, Renée Fleming, Susan Tedeschi and Stevens. The recording was nominated for a 2015 Grammy for best jazz vocal album, and the track “New York Tendaberry” won a Grammy for best arrangement, instrumental and vocals.

Vocalist and instrumentalist Stevens draws from jazz, indie rock and folk to craft compositions for her own band plus the trio Tillery (featuring Rebecca Martin and Gretchen Parlato). The North Carolina native has collaborated with Spalding, Dave Douglas, Brad Mehldau and Taylor Eigsti, among others. Last year she released “Perfect Animal,” a collection of songs produced by Scott Solter (Spoon, St. Vincent) and mixed by Matt Pence (Here We Go Magic, Jason Isbell).

Olatuja, a classically trained mezzo-soprano, turned heads with her solo during the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the 2013 presidential inauguration. Olatuja, who grew up in Missouri, has performed in a variety of musical theater and opera productions. She released a solo album, “Timeless,” in 2014 and performs with her husband, Michael, in the African-jazz duo The Olatuja Project.

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring Childs, takes place in Schwab one hour before the concert and is free for ticket holders.

Find more information about the “Map to the Treasure” project.

Watch Childs and Stevens perform “The Confession.”