Singer Janiece Jaffe, whose artistry of sound encompassed healing and spiritual practices as well as jazz, passed away Wednesday, November 23 after undergoing heart surgery. She was 64.
Jaffe's warm, vibrant voice and personality won her a wide following of fans and friends throughout the Indiana jazz community and beyond. She recorded 12 albums as a leader and appeared on 25 others, and performed with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, guitarist Frank Vignola, and Indiana jazz luminaries Dominic Spera and Al Cobine. She frequently collaborated with guitarists Marcos Cavalcante and Curtis Cantwell Jackson and pianist Monika Herzig, and wrote lyrics for jazz standards composed by Hubbard, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and others.
A graduate of Bloomington North High School, Jaffe began her professional career as a preschool teacher and ran a home daycare center while raising four children. The daughter of an opera singer and a professor of classical music, she eventually forged her own path as a musician, earning a B.A. in Vocal Jazz Performance from Indiana University and winning the support of legendary IU jazz educator David Baker, who penned the liner notes for her 2002 release Heart's Desire. "She is sensitive, thoughtful when appropriate, swinging like mad when required, and masterful and sympathetic in her approach to lyrics," Baker wrote.
A Buddhist from her teen years on, Jaffe extended her vocation to helping others through a variety of spiritual and artistic means. In 1999 she became a Reiki Master (energy healing) practitioner and undertook the practice of Sound Healing. She worked with crystal singing bowls at the Loving Heart Center in Bloomington and also recorded three meditation CDs. In 2018 she wrote on her website, "I am singing my body, I am singing my love for the land, I am singing for the raising of youth and visions of a peaceful world!"
Jaffe's family will host a Celebration of Life for her at Bloomington's One World at Woollery Mill on Sunday, December 11 at 4 p.m. Jaffe and Monika Herzig's album of Joni Mitchell songs, Both Sides Of Joni, will be released in March 2023.
Watch Janiece Jaffe and Monika Herzig perform the songs of Joni Mitchell as part of WFIU and IU Jacobs Jazz Studies' 2022 Swing In September concert series: