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 it."

So what inspires her?

"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 growing up.

"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 forefront."

Jessy in very accessible to her fans and keeps them in the know via the Internet.

"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.

Find out more about Jessy J at www.jessyj.com and www.myspace.com/jessyjsax

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