Greetings from planet Jomama | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Greetings from planet Jomama 

Radiate offers an evening with ersatz diva Jomama Jones

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Jomama Jones sings soul music electric in Radiate

Jomama Jones sings soul music electric in Radiate

Craig Bailey

Broad and tall, with a big 'fro and a lifetime supply of sequins, singing about the Moon and what lies beyond the rings of Saturn, Jomama Jones might be an emissary from the planet of the Amazons. But then she might be a lot of other things, too. Pam Grier as Foxy Brown. Disco goddess Donna Summer on a frizzy-hair day. Deep-voiced, dignified Nina Simone. Invincible Angela Davis. Titania, queen of the fairies. In the course of this evening-with show, Jones suggests all kinds of personas while remaining defiantly true to herself—at least insofar as a theatrical construct can be true.

As created and performed by Daniel Alexander Jones, Jomama is an American soul diva who had her reign in the 1970s and '80s. But the materialism of the Reagan years, not to mention the crassness of record company A&R men, forced her to flee the United States. She lives now in a Swiss villa, she says, with her little goats—Hans, Ingeborg, Myesha, and Leguana. But pressure from her fans—three of them, anyway—has brought her back to the U.S. to "speak our truth." In Radiate, Jomama reminisces amusingly, sings some lovely, self-consciously retro tunes in the Afro-love mode (backed here by a professional singer and a "community choir" of three), flirts shamelessly with the audience, poses, and, perhaps most interestingly, doesn't trouble herself one bit about cognitive dissonance. Clearly unconcerned that we might catch a glimpse of the man behind the sequin curtain, she eschews the standard drag act. She is who she is.

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