Peak Records, 2008
Album Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Artwork: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Jessy J may not have as big a following in contemporary jazz as Boney James or Dave Koz. She may not also have the fame of Mindi Abair or play the funk style like Candy Dulfer. Jessy J, however, does play a strong debut album with Tequila Moon, which helps genre lovers take notice of the Portland, Oregon-born saxophonist.
Be careful not to confuse Jessy J with the English pop performer and songwriter, similarly named, Jessie J. The smooth jazz sax player, born Jessica Arellano, showcases her own multi-talented performances on her first album.
On Tequila Moon, one will hear Jessy J’s supreme sax playing and vocals that pay homage to her Latin heritage and adds a refreshing layer of samba rhtyhms to the world of smooth jazz. Her impressive performance as well as the record’s chart success are reasons for my five hearts rating.
In 2008, the year the record came out, the title track “Tequila Moon” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s “Smooth Jazz Songs” chart. The song spent a total of 35 weeks on the chart, giving Jessy J early success. Even more impressive for the artist’s career, the song earned Billboard’s No. 1 Smooth Jazz Song of the Year by the end of 2008.
Two other songs stand out to me on the Latin player’s debut album. She receives my praise for her brilliant vocals on “Mas Que Nada” and “Besame Mucho.” I typically favor instrumental tracks over the vocals when I listen to jazz. However, Jessy J’s vocal work is exceptional and captivates my listening ears; it is always incredible how any artist can excel at both playing and singing musical notes.
Finally, two other songs on this record caught my attention. “Poetry Man” and “Turquoise Street,” to me, both exemplify essential elements of contemporary jazz. These songs, which are light and easy-listening, help tie together Jessy J’s Latin rhythms and marvelous vocals found on the other tracks.
Two-time Grammy-award-winning smooth jazz guitarist Paul Brown produced Tequila Moon, which helped the album and Jessy J become a musical success. Brown brings his brilliant guitar-playing skills to complement the sax player’s Latin vibrance on this record. Among the songs both co-wrote for this album, including the title track, you can hear the duo’s musical synergy well on “Fiesta Velada,” “Running Away,” “PB ‘n’ J.” (By the way, it did not occur to me until as of late that ‘PB ‘n’ J’ may very well stand for an abbreviation of the said two artists.)
Gregg Karukas, another solo jazz artist, provides his keyboard talents on the title track and on “Mas Que Nada.”
Aside from the music, Tequila Moon has earned my five hearts artwork rating for the CD package design by Andrew Pham. Throughout the CD booklet, from the track list to the credits, your eyes will meet a well of pleasant earthy tones. Jessy J’s innocent beauty graces the booklet’s pages, as she poses with her saxophone among some green plants one might find in the rain forest or tropical regions. Lori Stoll photographed these incredible shots of Jessy J, according to the sax player’s website.
• Congratulations to Jessy J. She recently announced she had engaged with her boyfriend late this past year.
• Also, look for another album review right before Valentine’s Day, right here on MoundCityJazz.com.