JESSY J - True Love (Peak Records)

Jessy JFrom the moment Jessy J hit the stage in Fresno, California for the first time as a member of superproducer/guitarist Paul Brown’s live band on Valentine’s Day 2006, it’s been, to quote the title of the hot rising star’s latest Peak Records release, True Love between the 27-year-old saxophonist/vocalist and contemporary jazz fans. 

The growing early buzz led to her first major show at the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival later that year, and in 2007, as part of the event’s 20th anniversary, she became one of the only artists to ever headline shows on all three weekends. Jessy was also a featured performer on The Smooth Jazz Cruise 2008, hosted by the late Wayman Tisdale.  With her sizzling mix of hot beats, Latin and samba rhythms and sensuous, instantly captivating melodies, the Mexican American saxophonist and singer had everyone swaying and grooving under the Tequila Moon.  The title track from her popular debut album stayed perched #1 for an incredible eight weeks on the Radio & Records airplay chart and was the overwhelming choice by R&R and Billboard for contemporary jazz song of the year; Jessy was also named R&R’s “Debut Artist of The Year.” Tequila Moon, which like True Love was produced by veteran instrumental mega hitmaker and guitarist/labelmate Paul Brown, debuted at #11 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart and spent weeks in the Top 20.

Being a breakout star means keeping more good company—she was a featured performer with genre greats Gerald Albright, Peter White, Jeff Lorber, Euge Groove and Jeff Golub on the popular 2008-2009 editions of the all-star Guitars and Saxes tours. She has also headlined with her own band several times at the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival and at such events as the City of Lights Jazz and Rhythm & Blues Festival in Las Vegas and the 98.1 Anniversary Gaslamp Festival in San Diego.   One of the most remarkable aspects of True Love is Jessy’s ongoing commitment to her development as an artist and composer on her own terms. Backed on most tracks by Brown, keyboardist Gregg Karukas, bassist Roberto Vally, drummer Sergio Gonzalez and percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia, she puts her unique, multi-cultural stamp on an 11 track mix of vocals and instrumentals that draws from her rich Latin heritage and love for both traditional and contemporary jazz. Jessy embarks on a colorful journey featuring Afro Cuban influenced Latin pop (“Tropical Rain”), R&B  (“Forever”), Spanish-Cuban bolero (“True Love”), grooving funk (“Mr. Prince”), Brazilian music (“Somewhere In A Dream,” “Brazilian Dance,” and a cover of the Luiz Bonfa classic samba “Black Orpheus,” often known by its original title  “Manha De Carnival”), jazz/blues  (“Jessy’s Blues”), Colombian music (the Shakira influenced “Llegaste Tu”) and an original festive Mexican flavored jam urging us to “Baila!” 

Most urban jazz artists are content these days to throw together a nice mix of random songs, but Jessy’s soul-bearing search for True Love blossoms into a full on concept that tells a playfully romantic story from start to finish. An example: the sensual and exotic, soundscape kissed “Tropical Rain” forest may be the ideal location to meet that special person and have a sizzling affair that you think, in your state of euphoria, might just last “ Forever” (whose sense of peace is conveyed through a dreamy chill and laid back funk vibe). But just when you think you’ve met your “True Love” (a balmy bolero in which Jessy turns on her seductive and swinging jazz charms), he shows his edgy, rebellious and flirtatious side (the retro soul, Michael Jackson, Prince and Santana influenced “Mr. Prince”) and you wonder if he’s mature enough to go the distance. 

After a few sleepless nights (conveyed via Jessy’s soaring sax melody and straight ahead meets old school soul jazz rhythms of “Jessy’s Blues”), you embrace the future with a refreshed outlook and find an even deeper, truer Love on “Llegaste Tu” (“You arrived”), an anthemic, richly percussive Spanish pop-folk anthem composed by Jessy with top Latin producer Pablo Aguirre and Paulina Aguirre. Imagine that—in a genre where so many artists just gather a bunch of great grooving tracks, Jessy the romantic creates that cool rarity: a concept album! Z

Besides the eclectic slate of great music, the most inspiring part of  “True Love” is that Jessy didn’t worry about topping herself or finding some formula to snag another #1 hit. Her approach came straight from the heart. She dug deep into her essence as a person, songwriter and musician and put 100 percent of her heart and soul in every note, session and song. The result? Well if you thought the music was beautiful under the Tequila Moon, stay awhile and like Jessy, you may just experience True Love.



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- Jonathan Widran