December 2006

Progressive Jazz in the 00's

By Don Hammond

Music Now


Singer, songwriter, arranger & producer introduces jazz to a new generation. Jazz likes to think of itself as a progressive, sometimes elitist kind of music, eluding many who came of age in the 00's. BUT WHEN IT COMES TO ACCESSIBILITY, SWEET BABY J'AI CHANGES ALL THAT.


Putting them on a first name basis with Miles, Bird, Ella and Dizzy, she causes many young listeners to rush home to their parent's music cabinets in search of “old school” jazz.


Like J'ai's latest release, “Evolution”, her live set is a compilation of eclectic songs merging contemporary sounds with classic standards. “Jazz Is”, is a tune seemingly about a “hip-hop lovin', loud bass poppin', pants draggin', typical sixteen year old, though on closer examination J'ai sings , “Just because he looks like a Snoop Dog Coolio doesn't mean he can't recognize Philly Joe Jones on the radio.” It is this brand of jazz which introduces a new generation to the genius of jazz royalty usually reserved for the forty-something's who can rattle off names of famous musicians simply by hearing a familiar solo.


Performing a set of both standards and originals, J'ai displayed her arrangement capabilities with a funky rhythmic, “Exactly Like You” and frothy modal jazz “Autumn Leaves”. Originals “Too Sweet”, “You Were Great Last Night” and the classic sounding “Upside Down” were all audience favorites. Teaming up with the gifted Te James on flugelhorn at Rice Hall, J'ai's poignant original, “I Don't Want the Neighbors To Know” left the standing audience with no doubt that this multi-talented performer is an important voice in jazz.