For nearly a decade Kathy Wade has been on an artistic journey using her powerful voice and that of other Jazz singers to raise funds that will expand horizons for kids. On Saturday at the Music Hall Ballroom, Wade will captivate audiences again with the ninth annual Crown Jewels of Jazz concert. Presented by Wade's organization, Learning Through Art, Inc., the concert features Grammy Award-winning singer, Dionne Warwick.
"We've had all the divas!" says Wade.
The Crown Jewels of Jazz has hosted many of the Jazz elite. The first to perform in this series was Rosemary Clooney. "We had between 5,000 and 7,000 people at Ault Park in the rain," Wade says. Since then she's hosted Cleo Laine, Shirley Horn and Nancy Wilson in a variety of venues.
Although Warwick isn't a Jazz singer by nature, Wade felt she would be a perfect choice.
"I literally grew up on her, song after song," Wade says.
"She has a strong body of work."
Warwick, in partnership with the legendary songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David, had a long string of musical successes: "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love," "Alfie," "Don't Make Me Over" and her definitive hit, "Walk On By." Wade says Warwick possess two essential requirements that makes her a perfect inductee into this series.
"She has longevity," Wade says. "People still line up to hear her music 20 to 40 years later. She is also recognized. I know there are Dionne Warwick fans in Cincinnati!" Wade says confidently.
Aside from the assured entertainment of Saturday's concert, the evening offers an opportunity for people to step outside their comfort zones and meet their neighbors.
"We want to introduce you to something new, "Wade says. "We are not confined to where we work, play and pray. Art is what makes us human."
Wade spoke of an instance where a spectator was shocked at the racial makeup of one of her free concerts to the public.
"I remember a black lady stopping me and said how did I get all of these white people here?" Wade says. "I told her, 'Just like I got you here!' "
Wade says that free concerts and varied ticket prices for the Crown Jewels of Jazz give everyone the opportunity to be a part of the big picture.
"We all have a commonality," Wade says. "This is an opportunity to educate, build a community, touch and change lives, while becoming global in our thinking and our actions."
Wade's umbrella title for the tour, "The Hood Is Bigger Than You Think," was inspired by Diane Reeves, another Jazz great who Wade hopes to book as a future Crown Jewel performer.
"The title of the tour is catchy," Wade says. "It's a song from the Rhythms Common Bond show about respect." Reeves' tune, "I Am An Endangered Species," provided both the melody and the inspiration.
"It's catchy," Wade says. "It speaks to the music."
Wade has many "hoods" in mind — from West Chester to the West End. She invites everyone to take a chance and open the lines of communication in Cincinnati that have been garbled for quite some time.
"I want people to take a moment to step outside their box and do something for themselves."
Be it Wade's free concert, which took place earlier this month, or the Crown Jewel performance, she invites audience members to get out of their seat and meet people they haven't seen before.
As for Wade, who opens each Crown Jewel concert with her own set, the August 2 performance will be surreal.
"I have an out-of-body experience when I sing." Wade says. "I have a good time when I am onstage. I have become more comfortable with age. It's just fun!"
Wade sings because she is happy. Wade sings because her life is a song. She sings to bring the masses together. She sings.
CROWN JEWELS OF JAZZ, featuring Dionne Warwick, happens at the Music Hall Ballroom on Saturday.