It’s presumptuous of me to welcome Jess King — a warm-hearted swinging singer and banjo-guitarist-percussionist — to the world, since she has been making music in the Bay Area most happily for a time. But this is the first opportunity I have to post videos of her performance, so that could count as a welcome — to JAZZ LIVES, at least. [On Facebook, she’s Jessica King Music.]
I knew of her work for some time with Clint Baker’s All-Stars at Cafe Borrone, performances documented by Rae Ann Berry, and a few other lovely videos of Jess with hero-friends Nick Rossi and Bill Reinhart, and Jeff Hamilton at Bird and Beckett, have appeared in the usual places. . . such as here, which is her own YouTube channel. I am directing you there because there are — horrors! — other people with the same name on YouTube. The impudence.
In researching this post, however, I found that my idea of “welcome” above was hilariously inaccurate, because I had posted videos of Jess singing with Clint’s band at a Wednesday Night Hop on January 8, 2014. That’s a long time back, and I am not posting the videos here because she might think of them as juvenilia, but both she and I were in the same space and moment, which shows that a) she’s been singing well for longer than I remembered, and b) that it’s a good thing that I am wielding a video camera rather than something really dangerous, like a scissors. I tell myself, “It was really dark there. I apologize.”
But enough verbiage.
Jess herself is more than gracious, and when I asked her to say where she’d come from, she wrote, “I’d say I’m inspired by blues, traditional jazz, swing, Western swing, and r&b. Vocally, Barbara Dane has been a big influence on me. I also really love Una Mae Carlisle, Peggy Lee, Nat Cole, Bessie Smith, Anita O’Day, and of course Ella Fitzgerald. I grew up listening to a lot of Nat Cole, Patsy Cline, Aretha Franklin, and Lauren Hill. Random enough for ya? 😂 Clint Baker and Isabelle Magidson have both been so good to me as mentors and dear friends. They’re a huge part of my musical growth in this community.”
Here’s Jess, with Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, on March 8, 2020, at the Jazz Bash by the Bay (the four selections taken from two sets that day). The NOJB is Clint, trumpet; Ryan Calloway, clarinet; Riley Baker, trombone; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; [Jeff Hamilton is on ROSETTA]; Katie Cavera, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY BLUES:
HESITATIN’ BLUES (or HESITATING or HESITATION, depending on which sect you belong to, Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox):
and her gentle, affectionate take on SUGAR:
She has IT — however you would define that pronoun — and the instrumentalists she works with speak of her with admiration and respect. And when the world returns to its normal axis and rational behavior is once again possible, Jess has plans for her first CD under her own name. I suggested that the title be THE KING OF SING, but I fear it was too immodest for her. She makes good music: that is all I will say.
May your happiness increase!