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Jazz, Latin rhythms and R&B
Jessy J to perform at Largo Cultural Center
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Photo courtesy of JESSY J
Jessy J performs July 16 at Largo Cultural Center.
LARGO – With her sizzling mix of hot beats, Latin and samba rhythms, instantly captivating melodies, Jessy J will visit the Tampa Bay area for a one-night only performance on Wednesday, July 16, 7:30 p.m., at Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo.

Tickets start at $16.50. Call 587-6793 or visit largo­arts.­com.

Jessy J and her band will perform songs from her latest No. 1 Billboard charting jazz album as well as many other hits. The Mexican-American saxophonist and singer-songwriter was recently featured on the cover of Jazziz Magazine and on the cover of Saxophone Journal Magazine and Latina Style Magazine. Her song "Tequila Moon" hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Jazz chart and received the Contemporary Jazz Song of the Year award from Billboard Magazine. Her song "Tropical Rain," from her 2009 release, reached the top of the Groove Jazz Music chart and she soon followed with the No. 1 spot on the Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown, as well as the Billboard Jazz charts.

All this success resulted in Jessy J being named Radio and Records Debut Artist of the Year in 2008.

Musical prodigy

The artist known today as Jessy J was named Jessica Arellano when she was born in Portland, Oregon in 1982.

Her father hails from Mexico and her moth is a native Texan. As a child, she experienced festive, live Latin music frequently: Her parents often hosted parties at which La Banda music of her father’s home country would flow all night long.

It was apparent early on that Jessy was a true musical prodigy.

According to her biography provided by Monterey International, she began playing piano at age 4 and spent most of her childhood as a competitive artist, performing at major conferences, competitions and festivals. These childhood experiences and the discipline and work ethic she gained from them would prove to be a great testing ground for her future career in the industry.

In addition to her family’s cultural heritage, Jessy also sough inspiration from other musical wellsprings. She was a huge fan of Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, but also enjoyed listening to pop.

She graduated from USC with a degree in jazz studies where she was named Most Outstanding Jazz Student of her class. After graduation, she didn’t waste any time contemplating career decisions: She jumped straight into recording sessions with artists like Michael Buble and she toured with The Temptations (2005-6) and Jessica Simpson.

Jessy also joined the cast of the off-Broadway show “Blast!” in 2004. She drew on her range of skills as an actress, singer, dancer and sax player as she performed in the U.S., London and Japan.

While the stage appealed to her, it was during this time that she felt compelled to write and perform more of her own music.

With her first recording, “Tequila Moon,” she realized her dream.

Tequila Moon and beyond

Jessy J released her debut studio album, “Tequila Moon,” in March 2008 on Peak Records.

All songs on the album were mixed, recorded and produced by Paul Brown. The album featured a number of talented studio musicians, such as Dave Beyer on drums and percussion, Paul Brown on guitar, Kiki Ebsen on piano and strings and Richie Gajate-Garcia on percussion.

“Tequila Moon” earned high praise from critics and helped propel the hopeful musician beyond session-player status.

Her 2009 follow-up, “True Love,” reinforced her standing as a talented newcomer to the contemporary jazz scene.

The hit “Tropical Rain” from “True Love” reached the No. 1 spot on the Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown, as well as the R&R and Billboard jazz charts. Jessy appeared on the October 2009 covers of Saxophone Journal and Latina Style Magazine in February 2010. In September 2010, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers selected this multitalented musician for its prestigious ASCAPLUS writing award.

Jessy’s third album, “Hot Sauce,” was released in September 2011 on Heads Up International.

The album highlights her collaborations with some of today’s most prominent contemporary jazz musicians, including guitarists Paul Brown and Ray Parker Jr., keyboardists Joe Sample and Gregg Karukas, and drummer Harvey Mason of Fourplay. “Hot Sauce” showcases eight original songs along with adventurous new arrangements of Francis Anthony ‘Eg’ White’s pop hit “Leave Right Now” and Duke Ellington’s jazz classic “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Second Chances

Last year, Jessy J released her fourth studio album, “Second Chances.”

The self-produced recording features collaborations with Grammy Award nominated keyboardist-producer Jeff Lorber, Grammy Award-winning guitarist Norman Brown, renowned bassist Jimmy Haslip (formerly with The Yellowjackets) and legendary pianist Joe Sample.

As a press release promoting “Second Chances” points out, the album is a major milestone for the artist as she takes over the reigns as the producer of the new album. Simultaneously, “Second Chances” represents a course change for Jessy, who purposely set out to meld her love for jazz and Latin rhythms with R&B grooves.

The album title, “Second Chances,” developed out of the theme that it's never too late to try again.

“Getting a second chance to do something that you messed up on the first time,” Jessy explains in the press release. “In this case, for me it was with something that happened the previous year. I realized that this year I had a second chance and every day is new, is fresh. The title track is really an inspirational song about doing something you really want to do.”

Some of the songs on “Second Chances,” released by Shanachie Entertainment, feature "two" in the title – including the first single, "Listen 2 The Groove," co-written by Lorber; "Tango for Two," "Dos," "Twice" and "Double Trouble."

The 10-song set features eight originals and two covers including the Roberta Flack hit “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and the Sergio Mendes classic “Magalenha.”

“I like to play music that people will recognize and connect to and be familiar with and also play music that’s original, that really inspires them and creates new memories,” Jessy says in the press release.

Jessy, a big fan of ’60s and ’70s music, chose to include Flack’s hit “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”

“Roberta is a gorgeous singer,” she says. “We felt that we could redo it in a way that would make it special again and also make it more current. I always thought of it kind of in a Robin Thicke mode with the recurring guitar theme. It also has a Brazilian vibe, the vocals are laid back and almost in a hushed tone. And it’s completely re-harmonized. I like arranging music and harmonizing it.”

Jessy’s passion for Latin music shines through on the Sergio Mendes classic “Magalehna,” one of her all-time favorite Brazilian tunes.

On “Dos” a lovely guitar intro gives way to Jessy on both flute and soprano saxophone.

“That song is a really sexy song,” she says. “It’s about two things: the good and the bad. Sections of the music had a reflective feeling that was dark and then other parts of the music were light. We wanted to have the alter ego – two things. One of my heroes is Grover Washington Jr. He’s my favorite soprano saxophonist and I always think of him when I’m playing that instrument.”

“Second Chances” may be all about getting the chance to do something over again, but for Jessy this album is a celebration of firsts as well. In addition to taking on the role of producer for the first time, she was able to work with two new artists on her “wish list” through her collaborations with Jeff Lorber and Norman Brown.

The Mexican-American saxophonist/singer/songwriter has a lot to look forward to as she continues to enjoy the success of her hard work and dedication.

“It’s a great life and I’m grateful for it,” Jessy says. “It’s going to be a good year.”

Her performance at Largo Cultural Center promises to be an equally good with a blistering mix of contemporary jazz, Latin and samba rhythms and enchanting melodies from her Jessy’s new album, “Second Chances,” and her previous releases.
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