Jessy J gets jazzed about sax
By Naughty Mickie
Natural talent and natural beauty are rare enough separately, but
Jessy J has both. This young woman offers up a selection of impressive
tunes on her album, "Tequila Moon" (Peak Records), with her sultry
vocals and splendid saxophone stylings. Jessy has toured with Guitars
& Saxes, which featured Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub, Jeff Lorber and
Peter White, as well as Michael Bolton. She has also toured with
Bolton and performs with her own band at various venues and festivals,
including the Playboy Jazz Festival and the Jazztrax Festival at
Catalina Island. Jessy began her musical path at age four.
"I started on piano and when I was nine I joined the elementary
school band and I played the alto saxophone," Jessy says.
She became enamored of the sax, although she kept with the keys and
took up flute as well.
"I played soprano saxophone too and eventually I started playing the
other saxophones in college, like tenor sax and bari(tone) sax,"
shares Jessy. "My family really loves music. They don't personally
play, but my step-sister plays the clarinet and sings and we always
used to do events together like little concerts. My dad especially
loves music and has a huge record collection."
Jessy grew up listening to his music, which ranges from traditional
jazz to Sinatra to contemporary grooves. She went on to major in jazz
studies at USC.
"I've been lucky to always have music as my career." Jessy explains,
"I did teach music lessons in high school, I had a private studio, and
I did that also for a little while after I graduated from USC. I've
always been teaching for outreach clinics. In high school I taught
piano and saxophone lessons and when I graduated from USC, I taught
the same thing for a little while, then I went on tour with a show
called 'Blast.' It was a great experience."
"My main hobby is swimming," says Jessy of her free time. "I'm a
member of the Masters Rose Bowl Aquatic Team (in Pasadena,
California). When I'm in town I like to go to the Rose Bowl and work
out with the team. It's relaxing and it clears my mind and it's also a
great workout. I like the backstroke, I like it because I can look up
at the sky."
Jessy and I discuss her effort, "Tequila Moon."
"Half of the CD is original compositions of mine, including 'Tequila
Moon.' Jessy goes on, "I usually write at the piano. I'm mostly
inspired when I'm practicing, I'll think of something or a thought
will cross my mind, a melody. Then I'll go to the piano and sing the
melody first and then play it and I'll find the harmonies that go with
"Mainly by listening to other songwriters like Sarah Vaughn, Ella
Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, those people have the best lyrics,"
responds Jessy. "I like to listen to what they're talking about and
try to relate in some way the same form."
I also ask her how she selected the cover tunes for the release.
"I work with a producer, his name is Paul Brown, and he had a lot of
input of the cover songs that we picked, like 'Song For You' and
'Poetry Man.' And I picked the two Latin cover songs, 'Mas Que Nada'
and 'Besame Mucho,'" says Jessy.
I wonder if she picked these tunes because she heard them while
"Yes," Jessy replies. "'Besame Mucho' I heard all the time in my
house. 'Mas Que Nada' I heard mainly doing a lot of jazz gigs because
everyone would always request that song. I'm also a huge Sergio Mendes
fan and that was his huge hit."
Because of her youth, I'm curious on Jessy's perspective on the
ongoing popularity of jazz.
"I think that everyone can appreciate jazz because it draws upon our
basic needs-- improvisation, to be free, it's relaxing, soothing, it's
a great art form and I love it because I can really express myself
through jazz," Jessy states. "My first love was classical music, then
pop music and jazz, now world music. I just try to appreciate
everything that I can hear."
I also want to know what Jessy thinks about women in music.
"I think that women are really at the forefront of music now." Jessy
goes on, "As performers we're high in demand because there's not as
many and it's also great balance to have women in a band. I think it's
important too for a performer to embrace her femininity and procreate
it-- wear a dress or do your hair and you're all dolled up for the
shows. Because it's part of being a woman and people who come to the
show want to see who you are really. So I try to just embrace
everything as a female artist and also I try to really be sensitive to
the people around me, like if I am working with a lot of men, I'm
sensitive to that. I think it's a great balance. There should be more
women, but the women that are in music now are really at the
Jessy in very accessible to her fans and keeps them in the know via
"I really do keep up with my fans, so if anyone is interested in
shooting me a line, I'll definitely talk to them," Jessy says.