Tales Episode 08: Jua Howard

Image by Will Hull

I was working on my list of guest invitees when I noticed that each month I added more names to the list, so much so, that the list almost doubled in size every month. At the rate I was going it would be 25 years before I’d get through the first page of the list.

Looking at those names on the list, I also noticed that besides the ones that I’ve personally worked with and have known for a long time, there were an equal number of musicians that even though I met them on the road touring and enjoyed their music, I’d yet to perform with them.

This led me to the idea that perhaps I should do more than one show a month, especially if I’m including guests like the noteworthy gentleman on this month’s episode.

The gracious young man I’m referring to is singer-songwriter Jua Howard. We met a few years back at Jazz Connect’s annual music conference, which was held in New York City. Although I was familiar with his work only through recordings and I did not know him personally very well; I finally got a chance to hear him sing in a live setting at Cafe BAM Live (Brooklyn Academy of Music) as part of Onaje Allen Gumbs group – New Vintage and after his performance, I confirmed our interview, thus making him a ‘first’ of many Podcast guests to where there isn’t a prior history of performing together.
I’ve always felt that if you want to allay your doubts about someone’s validity as a performer just go see them in a live concert setting. The true professional shines the brightest. And Jua Howard came into his own when he stepped onto the stage. His poise and earnest love for what he was doing attracted the audience into his world where he splendidly told his stories.

Nothing beats the empowering attitude of people who want to accomplish things in their lives, see what needs to be done, then do those things. So many tremendously talented people playing music today have started their own labels because they got tired of waiting for most, now-defunct, labels to reach out and recruit diverse and uncommon artists. Those labels with their motto being: If it doesn’t sound like someone that we know that has been successful in the past, then we don’t want to take the chance, are sadly missing out on unique and individualized talent. Still there is a silver lining to the dilemma in that by staying with that paradigm, the labels have actually given these new artists the opportunity to make records the way they want, bringing new innovations to the scene reminiscent of the days when A&R searched clubs looking for that “this is really a different” sound. Jua Howard is one such artist that has not let the lack of “interest” by labels to interfere with being a man determined to succeed.

We will be awaiting……..

Some individuals may recognize early in life their dreams yet only a few dedicate themselves to the actual realization of those same dreams. And then there’s Jua.. Jua brings a vocal sound reminiscent of jazz and soul singers such as Nat King Cole, Nancy Wilson, Donny Hathaway, Will Downing, and Luther Vandross. However, Jua’s rich voice resonates with a combination of depth and fresh emotion that is uniquely Jua.

I should be incapable of drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than now.

About Jua Howard

Jua (Swahili for the Sun) was born January 6, 1979 in Chicago, Illinois; home of the Musical Melting Pot. Encouraged to share this talent, by the time his family moved to Alabama in 1989, Jua had developed an undeniable love for singing. He continued performing as a soloist with choruses and church choirs, in school musicals, community pageants, fashion shows and weddings throughout high school. During his junior year in high school in 1996, Jua was selected to perform with the Alabama All-State Boys Choir. That same year, he was awarded not only the Best Choral Member award by the Alabama Boys State Chorus but received a full four year vocal scholarship to the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama.

Before moving to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Emory University, Jua participated in the annual highly regarded All-Atlanta Chorus Gospel Christmas performance with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. While in college, Jua continued singing in talent shows and athletic events including the 1998 AT&T Professional Tennis Championship where he accepted the invitation to sing the National Anthem.

Revisiting his gospel background, Jua was a member of the Emory University Voices of Inner Strength Gospel Choir from 1997-2000. The year 2000 found Jua in London, England studying abroad. Attempting to take full advantage of his time in the UK, Jua continued to hone his craft at Open-Mic night performances at local London clubs and venues.

Returning to the States with newfound aspirations, Jua graduated from Emory and returned to his hometown. Back in Chicago, Jua directed his energy to honing his craft and started by taking vocal lessons from Sondra Davis, a now close friend and musical mentor.

In 2002, Jua moved to the Washington DC area where he pushed forward with his dream of being a professional artist. Jua performed with a couple of local groups before landing a prized opportunity to gig with the legendary Blackbyrds as a featured background vocalist.

Determined not to wait for a major label to determine his musical destiny, Jua self-released his debut album Anticipation in October 2007. Jua’s other musical projects include being featured on Contemporary Soul Songbook: Volume I released by Soul Unsigned that fuses neo-soul, jazz and funk, as well as, a soundtrack for the novel, 7:33 a.m. written by Monda Webb; both projects were released in 2009.

After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, Jua attended the Jazzschool Institute in Berkeley, CA and was the first recipient of the prestigious Mark Murphy Vocal Scholarship. Currently, Jua is working on his sophomore project “Colors of Life” and deepening his commitment to artistic growth and integrity.

Taken from Jua’s bio page on his website www.juasmusic.com

Tales from the Jazzside