Archive for Ingrid Jensen

Album Review: Mimi Jones – Balance

Posted in CD Reviews, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2014 by curtjazz

The following review first appeared in the February 2014 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s Jazz Inside Magazine.

Mimi Jones

Mimi Jones Cover Shot

BALANCE – Hot Tone Music HTM 103 www.hottonemusic.com  Nothing Like You; Traveler; Speedbump; The Incy Wincy Spider; The Spinning Tree; Patriot; Someone Like You; To Be; The Edge of a Circle; Everybody Loves The Sunshine; Junk Funk; Dream

PERSONNEL: Mimi Jones, bass, voice; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Camille Thurman, flute, voice; Luis Perdomo, piano, Wurlitzer, rhodes, moog; Enoch Smith, Jr., piano; Mike Hamaya, piano, Wurlitzer, rhodes; Marvin Sewell, guitar, piano; Sean Harkness, guitars; Shirazette Tinnin, drums, percussion; Justin Faulkner, drums; Mala Waldron, vocal

By Curtis Davenport

Attractive young woman…plays a killer jazz bass… sings well…not overly concerned with genre boundaries…

If I were lazy, I would make this review about a comparison between Mimi Jones and a certain Grammy winning artist who also meets all of the above criteria. But I’m not going to do that. This is all about Mimi Jones, because she deserves to be considered solely on her own substantial merits.

Mimi Jones (birth name: Miriam Sullivan) is a New York City native who grew up with a multitude of musical influences; from the Caribbean music of her parent’s birthplaces, to straight-ahead jazz, to ‘70’s R & B to The Doors and Streisand.  She originally studied the guitar before enrolling in high school and discovering that the school did not have a guitar program. She then switched to the cello but destiny could not be denied as young Miriam was discovered by a music teacher, spinning a friend’s upright bass and playing the iconic bassline from the Barney Miller TV show.  The teacher immediately drafted Miriam into the school’s jazz band and then began to study the instrument that she excels with today. She has learned quickly; studying with bassist Lisle Atkinson and others leading to work with Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman and Kevin Mahogany and recordings with Tia Fuller, Terri Lyne Carrington and Lizz Wright, among others. In 2009, Ms. Sullivan recorded her debut album as a leader A New Day. She also adopted the alter ego by which she is now professionally known, Mimi Jones.  A New Day was, for the most part a contemporary jazz album, with a heavy dose of vocals and a decided R & B influence in most of the performances. On her new album, Balance Ms. Jones leans more in a traditional jazz direction, though there is still a nice dose of the contemporary. Ms. Jones has matured as an artist and composer in the four years between albums and it’s quite evident throughout. While A New Day was good, I found Balance to be much more satisfying for me as a listener.

Ms. Jones has an impressive list of guest stars to help put forth her vision; Ingrid Jensen appears on trumpet on a couple of tracks; Luis Perdomo, a terrific pianist/keyboardist who you should know if you don’t already, also guests as does guitarist Marvin Sewell.  Equally if not more impressive is the work of the lesser known musicians who come up strong throughout this date. “Nothing Like You” the Bob Dorough composition jumps out at you from the beginning in an instrumental trio version which allows Ms. Jones to show off her bowed and plucked bass skills.  Mr. Perdomo takes it to the next level with a fiery piano solo. “Speedbump”, written by Jones and Perdomo is excellent post-bop with Ms. Jensen blowing hard and sounding like Miles fronting his last great quintet. Perdomo eggs her on while Ms Jones and drummer Justin Faulkner are a powerful rhythm duo. Perdomo’s sudden shifting of gears into 4/4 in the middle is very striking.  A very pleasant surprise is an easygoing take on Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” on which Ms. Jones gets some formidable support from two of her Hot Tone label mates, drummer Shirazette Tinnin and Camille Thurman on flute and ethereal soprano vocals.  Ms. Tinnin is a very strong percussionist as she proves here and on a couple of other tracks. And Ms. Thurman’s vocal harmonies and scatting set the perfect groove. Though she doesn’t play it here, Ms. Thurman is also a formidable tenor saxophonist, watch out for all three of these young ladies, who are simultaneously releasing new albums. But my favorite track was “Incy Wincy Spider”, the quirkiest take on that old children’s song that I’ve ever heard. It starts with a foreboding and slightly dissonant piano line, followed by Ms. Jones’ haunting vocal. Just when things have turned as dark as possible, the sun comes out and the performance turns bright and swinging on the back of Miki Hayama’s piano, another strong bass solo by Ms. Jones and Tinnin’s perky cymbals. It looks like everything turned out okay for that spider after all.

Mimi Jones is an exciting talent and Balance is a very, very good album. It kept my attention from first note to last, which isn’t an easy thing to do. It is accessible and diverse but I never felt like the musicians were pandering to anyone’s tastes. It is an album that I expect to return to many times throughout this year.

I Have A Dream – The Entire Speech

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on August 28, 2013 by curtjazz

Martin Luther King - LPI’ve written posts here before about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he and his life and work meant so much directly to my parents and indirectly to me as I was not quite eight years old when he was assassinated. I’ve studied him at length over the years and I’ve grown to admire him greatly.

I recall that a few weeks after Dr. King’s murder, my parents bought the album that you see pictured here, which included Dr. King and many other speakers from the day, including Roy Wilkins, A. Phillip Randolph and John Lewis. The liner notes by the way, were written by the great jazz writer and 1st amendment advocate Nat Hentoff.

That album was on heavy rotation in my home for at least a year, maybe more. In that time I became extremely familiar with Dr. King’s words from that day and the majesty of his oratory. In addition, I was exposed to the stentorian tones  of Mr. Randolph and the youthful passion of Mr. Lewis both of which have stuck with me to this day.

As I got older and did a little acting, I was asked on many occasions to recreate Dr. King’s word from that day in 1963. As I took on the daunting task of memorizing the entire 16 minute plus speech, the words grew in meaning for me exponentially. I always felt that the public was cheated each year during January and February when television would truncate everything down to the words “I have a dream” and “Free at last, Free at last…”. To me it was if you had reduced the entire Holy Bible to “Jesus Wept” (John 11:35).

In most cases, I was asked in performance to “skip to the good part”, beginning with “I say to you today my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream…”. (This is the first mention of the immortal words, which occurs about 11 minutes in, when King decided to abandon his prepared text and decided to “preach”, using words he first had used in a speech in Detroit two months earlier.)   As a performer,  I understood why folks asked me to do this. There’s still a little over five minutes left in the speech and all of it is highly memorable.

But it was still frustrating as even five minutes was too much for some. I remember the youth pastor of a church that I was attending, begging me to come out to Jones Beach one Sunday evening to deliver “the good part” at a summertime concert. He asked me to come in full suit and tie, which made me feel ridiculous while everyone else, this pastor included, was in t-shirt and shorts. He then took a few minutes to apologize to the audience before I came on, because I was going to deliver “the whole speech” as he called this 5 minute segment and he then begged them not to leave while I performed.

Having been set up for failure, I nevertheless went on, in spite of being now mocked by some drunks who felt empowered by this man’s apology. The final insult came when this youth pastor returned as I finish to literally hold me in place on the stage while he told people “you see, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” While a loud, bad Christian rock band played behind us and he screamed about “Freedom” and “Brotherhood”, while hoisting my hand in the air with his. I’d never been a theatrical hostage before. It was a new experience. And I left feeling totally used and extremely angry.

Anyway I told that story because I had to finally get it off my chest after twenty years. I can now put it to rest. The main reason I write today is to post this video of the entire 16 minutes of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was once titled “A Cancelled Check” during earlier drafts. If you watch this you may figure out why. I’ve also included a clip of Dr. Billy Taylor’s beautiful King tribute “His Name Was Martin” featuring  Dr. Taylor on the piano and the wonderful Ingrid Jensen on trumpet. And a fascinating piece by the great Max Roach, featuring his drum solo against some of the famous quotations from the speech.  I hope that you’ll enjoy that as well.

Until the next time, the struggle (and the jazz) continues…

A Gorgeous “Mosaic”

Posted in CD Reviews, Unsung Women of Jazz, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2011 by curtjazz

As we’re in the midst of our “Unsung Women of Jazz” series, a post about drummer/composer/producer Terri Lyne Carrington’s new album, The Mosaic Project, feels rather timely.  Not because Ms. Carrington is obscure (with an over two decade career that has included gigs with Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter and most visibly, on Arsenio Hall’s late night TV show in the ’90’s, she’s anything but unknown), but because the jazz on this disc is performed by women only.

And what a powerful group of women this is: Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendryx, Cassandra Wilson, Esperanza Spalding, Helen Sung, Tineke Postma, Geri Allen, Patrice Rushen, Ingrid Jensen, Sheila E. and Gretchen Parlato all make beautiful musical contributions. Though I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Carrington’s work on the drums, I’ve found her albums as a leader to be frustratingly uneven. That is, until now.  The Mosaic Project  is Terri Lyne Carrington’s strongest album, by a mile.  Ms. Carrington’s driving, soulful rhythms are always a perfect fit with the diverse contributions of her guests.

For me the most memorable tracks were “I Got Lost in His Arms”, the Irving Berlin classic, which gains new life wrapped in an R & B groove and Ms. Parlato’s sensuously ethereal vocals; Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Echo” with a powerful spoken introduction by  Angela Davis, Abbey Lincolnesque vocals by Ms. Reeves and a muted trumpet solo from Ms. Jensen; Geri Allen’s “Unconditional Love”, with haunting solos by the composer on piano, Ms.Postma on soprano sax and Ms. Spalding’s wordless vocal line, floating over the top; “Michelle”, the Beatles’ classic, sounds terrific in a post-bop reworking; and “Magic and Music”, a touching tribute written by Ms. Carrington, to the singer Teena Marie, who passed away suddenly last December.

Check out the accompanying videos for a sampling of more. You’ll dig Terri Lyne Carrington and the ladies of her gorgeous “Mosaic”.

Unsung Women of Jazz – The Introduction

Posted in Unsung Women of Jazz with tags , , , , , , , on March 31, 2011 by curtjazz

Our newest Obscure Jazz Masters series will deal not with an instrument, but with gender. 

I’ve seen many articles and musical compilations that deal with “Women in Jazz” but most seem to overwhelmingly favor singers. The reason is kind of understandable. For so long, “vocalist” has been the dominant role of women in jazz. And yes, the list of great female jazz singers could fill many a book and blog and start many unwinnable arguments. 

However, the list of legendary female instrumentalists is much smaller. If asked to name ten great jazzwomen who didn’t sing, many people will start with the great pianist Mary Lou Williams, perhaps follow with organist Shirley Scott and  then begin to mumble and stare at their shoes. 

It’s not the fault of the artists. From its roots, jazz has been a male dominated genre, except for the singers. Women on an instrument have often been viewed unfortunately, as a novelty act; especially if they play anything but the piano. And even then, many fine women pianists have been pushed toward singing, in order to make themselves more “palatable” to mainstream audiences (as if a woman displaying instrumental virtuosity would frighten children or something!).

Thankfully, times have begun to change, albeit at a glacial pace.  Though there is still a considerable amount of chauvinism in many corners of the jazz world, I’ve been encouraged of late by the number of very good female instrumentalists that I see on the regularly on the jazz scene; Ingrid Jensen,  Anat Cohen, Sherrie Maricle and the indomitable DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Geri Allen, Cindy Blackman, Tia Fuller and of course, Grammy Winner Esperanza Spalding are just a few of the women who are kicking down the boys club door. These artists (and more) offer uncompromising musicianship at a level of excellence that makes their gender irrelevant.

So this next series of undeservedly obscure jazz masters will consist of ten women instrumentalists. Most of them are not active today, but all of them had a lot to say with their axes.

Some of them will be familiar names to those well versed in the idiom, but that’s cool. My objective with these series is not to stump the cognoscenti, but to bring someone new to the attention of the casual to moderate jazz listener.

I’ve tried to provide a few available recordings and musical samples by each of the artists; so if you dig them, you can buy their music… better late than never.

They will be listed in alphabetical order; one per post; starting with the next post, tomorrow, April 1.

Please feel free to leave comments. I love reading them, I will post them all (unless they are obscene or spam) and I try to respond to as many as possible.