For two decades, Santa Cruz soul, blues and gospel singer Sista Monica Parker has drawn musical inspiration from her experiences in love and lust, and the pains of leaving and letting go. Those are hard facts of life that passionate people can always relate to, Parker admits with a laugh. “And that's the kind of music that always seems to feed my soul,” she says. To celebrate her 20 years of performing, Parker will sing at a concert called “Acoustic Honey” on Saturday, along with a four-piece band at Kuumbwa Jazz.
Throughout her career, Parker has performed at festivals for thousands of fans, and in her younger years, those huge crowds energized her. One of the most pivotal moments in her career, she recalls, was performing in front of 15,000 people as a fill-in for blues icon Etta James, who came down with heatstroke at a festival in 1994. For “Acoustic Honey,” however, Parker looks forward to an intimate setting, where she can feel the love from the audience and give it right back to them in her songs. “When you can make eye contact and sing to a person and see them experience where you're coming from, that takes a certain amount of maturity and depth,” she says. “Acoustic Honey” is a tribute to Parker's whole career, but she says it's also a celebration of life. Ten years ago, on Jan. 29, doctors diagnosed Parker with a rare form of cancer called synovial sarcoma, which forced her to undergo chemotherapy and fight for her life. “One of things that I got out of that experience, besides the opportunity to live, is a sense of urgency and defined purpose for my life,” she says. “I realized that my purpose is really to sing straight to people's hearts. Because when you do that, the connection is everlasting. And it doesn't matter the size of the crowd anymore.”
INFO: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $23/door. 427-2227.
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