February 2004

Evolution - Sunset Music

By Pam Huwig
LN Magazine

 

Kansas City native Baby J'ai grew up around musical greats like Big Joe Turner and Charlie "Bird" Parker, and at five years old she was already writing her own songs. Her uncle, Vernon Gower, played a killer bass with Billie Holiday and Lionel Hampton, and her cousin Michael Howell played guitar with Dizzie Gillespie. The time, devotion, and musical roots are as obvious on her new record as a full moon in the black night sky. This woman radiates pure talent. Evolution exhibits her unblemished ability to sing, arrange and produce her interpretations of classic songs such as "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On," (love that song!) "Hit the Road, Jack," and I'll Fly Away." She does so with a honey-rich voice that radiates jazz, blues and spoken word, which includes four alluring originals. Her velvety vocals demand the same kind of attention that Etta James and Red Halloway have gotten.

Sweet Baby J'ai will no doubt be considered a legend in her own time, but will also be a reference point for future extraordinary jazz musicians to be compared to. She is by any critic's opinion, the real deal.