Jazz singer, Hope Diamond

How Hope Diamond Cultivates Jazz in the Coachella Valley

The songbird harnesses her musical prowess at local clubs and international music festivals.

Maggie Downs Arts & Entertainment

Jazz singer, Hope Diamond

Jazz singer, Hope Diamond.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRANDON HARMAN

Something transformative happens when Hope Diamond gets a hold of a song.

“I’m not just singing it, I’m relaying a message,” she says. “I’m tapping into something beyond the lyrics, and I’m bringing everyone else along for the experience.”

Then again, that’s what Diamond does with just about everything. When she opens the door of her Palm Desert home, it’s like being let in on a secret. Instantly, you’re thrust into Hope’s world, a sumptuous place that thrums with music and beauty. You’d almost swear there was a twinkle of lights or a poof of glitter upon entering it.

Diamond herself is a presence, wearing an off-the-shoulder black dress splashed with fuchsia flowers. She smiles easily with a laugh that fills the room. Sure, her real name is Hope Deans, but it’s clear the stage name “Diamond” suits her. There are many facets to this singer, and they all sparkle.

Growing up, Diamond’s family split time between Ontario, California, and Shreveport, Louisiana, where she sang in church choirs from an early age. Her contralto voice was a perfect fit for the gospel songs she loved, like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Wade in the Water,” and she embraced the music to a point where she embodied it.


I was fully engulfed by music, learning jazz at a level I had never heard before. It was just so explosive.


“Singing gospel is an experience that always stays in me,” she says. “Even today, the physical part of the gospel can be overwhelming. I had to learn how to control that, because it’s something I feel in my body and bring forward for the audience.”

Diamond cultivated a love for Motown during her high school years, when she had a Supremes-esque girl group of her own. Everything changed when she went off to college at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, discovering a genre that recalibrated her understanding of music.

“There was a huge African American program that taught me about this thing called jazz,” she says with a smile. “That’s when I became a true student of the arts — the art of jazz. I was fully engulfed by music, learning jazz at a level I had never heard before. It was just so explosive.”

It seems like that’s the point when her own musical career should’ve exploded. But Diamond had another calling — “I put on a pencil skirt and went to work,” she says, matter-of-factly — prioritizing a career in criminal justice that focused on criminal behavioral change.

Armando’s Bar

Catch Hope at Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus' annual holiday spectacular.

“This was something where I could change lives,” she says. “So there was no more music for almost 20 years.”

After retiring in the mid-1990s, music wriggled its way back into Diamond’s life. She remembers attending shows for other musicians and getting pulled onstage to sing. Eventually, the spotlight never stopped pointing at her.

It’s a second act that has opened doors all over the world, from performing at the Long Beach Jazz Festival to crooning by the canal at the Panama Jazz Festival. Diamond also taught English through jazz to students in Beijing and spent a four-month stint on an Italian cruise ship, leading a Ukrainian band through the Great American Songbook.

But the Coachella Valley is where Diamond feels most at home. After spending numerous vacations in Greater Palm Springs, the singer and her husband, James Deans, decided to make it a permanent stop six years ago.

“Sometimes people would say they couldn’t find the music here, but we’ve always found it. The music scene is thriving,” she says.

Now Diamond regularly performs at nightclubs and restaurants all over town, including Melvyn’s in Palm Springs and Vicky’s of Santa Fe in Indian Wells. And then there was the bakery.

Until it closed in 2022, Frankie Mamone had been the proud owner of Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery in Cathedral City, where he spent a decade creating authentic Italian food for the valley. But beyond the breads, pastries, and cannoli, there was something else — a tucked-away room that could seat 80.

Diamond and Mamone became fast friends and hatched an idea. It wasn’t long before Diamond brought in heavy curtains, a baby grand piano, and a curated list of performers, transforming the unused space into Frankie’s Back Room, a swingin’ jazz club.

Not only did Frankie’s Back Room become a hot spot for top-notch talent, it also sustained people through challenging times.

During the earliest days of the pandemic lockdown, Diamond and Mamone kept the popular shows running, streaming nearly 300 performances online. Instead of a cover charge, they requested gift card donations, which they packaged with loaves of bread and passed along to the entertainers. They dubbed the effort Operation Breadbasket.

“I supplied them with bread, but Hope gave people … well, hope. She gave them a reason to live,” Mamone says.

He speaks about Diamond with a sense of awe, demonstrating the impact her voice has made on the local scene. “I call her a decorator,” Mamone says. “Because she makes everything around her more beautiful.”


HOW TO FIND HOPE

This season, Hope Diamond will accompany the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus during the group’s annual holiday spectacular, Ring! Swing! Sing!.

“Hope Diamond has strong roots in jazz and soul, which is a different direction for the chorus,” says chorus president Alan McPhail. “Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus is always looking for different ways to diversify our sound and our audience. We are excited to be performing with her this December.”

The shows run Dec. 14 to 17 at the Annenberg Theater.

You can also catch Hope Diamond and Friends on Dec. 20 at Agua Caliente Casino in Palm Springs. During this special event, Diamond will be joined by a talented ensemble of  friends and musicians, promising a unique and unforgettable holiday evening filled with the best kind of blues.