• Jonathan Widran

JESSY J, Live at Yoshi's

With the release of her dynamic new album Live at Yoshi’s – 10 Year Anniversary Special, Jessy J celebrates a remarkable decade since she brought her sizzling beats, dynamic Latin and samba rhythms and sensual melodies to contemporary jazz via her #1 hit debut album Tequila Moon. Following in the tradition of other jazz greats – including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Pat Martino, Joe Pass and Arturo Sandoval – who have released albums recorded at the historic Oakland venue, the charismatic saxophonist captures the excitement and spontaneity of her live performances with a set list featuring her classic hits and several songs fresh to her eclectic repertoire.

I felt like a live album would be the perfect way to mark the 10th anniversary of Tequila Moon, because I love performing live and it presents a completely different experience than my studio albums, with exciting interactions with the audience and the spirited ensemble action with my band,” says Jessy, whose previous releases include True Love (2009), Hot Sauce (2011), Second Chances (2013), My One and Only One (2015) and California Christmas (2016), which marked her debut on her own independent label Changi Records.

“My sax solos onstage are much longer, and each song takes on a personality of its own that it may not have had on the original recording. Having recorded six albums and performed all over the world, I feel like I have reached a whole different level of maturity as a player and performer since the beginning – and it’s great to have the opportunity to share that vibe on this live album. Yoshi’s has an incredible history of performances by jazz legends, and it’s special for me because I’ve always had incredibly passionate audiences there who really appreciate what I do. Usually when artists perform a show, it’s right in the moment and then it’s gone, so it’s exciting to be able to showcase exactly who I am as an artist right now with this special recording.”

A major part of capturing the essence of Jessy is experiencing the way she ensembles with her powerhouse band, which includes longtime members, drummer Iajhi Hampton and bassist Frank Abraham. Rounding out her group at the Yoshi’s concert was veteran keyboardist/pianist Jay Rowe, who has played many of Jessy’s East Coast shows for years and who performed with her at Pizza Express in London in 2015. Rowe also contributed several arrangements and his otherworldly keyboard talents to California Christmas. Jessy and her band bring new life to her #1 Billboard hits “Tequila Moon” and “Tropical Rain,” her Top 5 hit “Hot Sauce,” her Top 10 hit “Tango Boy” and audience favorites like “Mas Que Nada” and “Sin Ti/Without You.” The saxophonist also debuts her twist on the timeless Antonio Carlos Jobim Brazilian classic “Agua De Beber” and two original songs with an old school 60’s styled jazz flair.

Another unique aspect of Jessy J Live at Yoshi’s is that everything onstage was mixed by two different crews, a sonic duality that is used on the hit ABC-TV show “Dancing With The Stars,” whose live band Jessy has played on telecasts with on and off since 2014. “On the show,” she says, “they create one mix for everyone in the house and then there is a remote crew outside that mixes the sound for the television audience. Our setup at Yoshi’s is on a much smaller scale, of course, but the dynamic is the same, with one crew inside mixing for the house and the other outside the venue, mixing sound for the CD.”

Looking back over her ten year recording career, Jessy reflects that she has made a lot of stylistic choices from project to project. “I have always written songs reflecting my cultural and life experiences,” she says. “Tequila Moon was a very organic album recorded live with every musician together in the studio, which was rare at the time because more people were tracking things separately. My producer, Paul Brown, and I kept that spirit going on True Love, which had even more of a Latin element. Then with Hot Sauce, I worked with the great Joe Sample, who gave me a whole different perspective on the recording process because he came from a time when groups like his band The Crusaders would record six songs an hour for hours at a time.

“I shifted gears a bit on Second Chances, which was my first CD that didn’t have a lot of percussion,” Jessy adds. “I ventured away from the Latin sound for a more R&B/jazz approach, with a little New Orleans mixed in, working with Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip, Norman Brown and Johnny Britt. Then I ventured back into more exotic textures, exploring my Latin roots and African rhythms, on My One and Only One. Because California Christmas was on my label, I could go all out, handpick my favorite musicians from over the years, and play everything from classical and jazz to Latin, funk and blues. My goal was to bring a new perspective to songs we have known in other ways for years.”

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