Introduced to jazz at an early age in Kansas City, where her uncle Vernon Gower played bass with Billie Holiday and Lionel Hampton, Sweet Baby J'ai has been impressing Los Angeles audiences for the past ten years with her eclectic approach that includes jazz, blues, and spoken word. Surrounded by several of L.A.'s finest musicians, J'ai's original storytelling approach is enhanced by trumpeter Oscar Brashear, pianist Nate Morgan, saxophonist Louis Taylor, Jr., bassists Nedra Wheeler & Trey Henry, and others.
Her message, that jazz comes in enough shapes and sizes to suit everyone, is delivered openly in the title song: "Look to the rainbow / Notice every hue / Look to the rainbow / There are many kinds of blues" and, in particular: "From boogie woogie and swing / To bebop, cool and free jazz / From blues on a back porch in Mississippi / To Sunday morning Gospel / It's all good, it's the art of blue."
J'ai's tribute to Carmen McRae, "Carmen's Blues," begins with Nedra Wheeler's big walking bass line, continues with the vocalist and bassist "conversing," and then allows time for each member of the rhythm trio to stretch out in honor of the late singer who we all miss dearly. The Billie Holiday and Mal Waldron ballad "Left Alone" finds singer and trumpeter Brashear expressing tenderly, "Stop The Word" combines the music of several familiar blues tunes with poetry that drives home a message about the negative aspects of television with respect to violence in society, and "Willow Weep for Me" finds both pianist Morgan and Baby J'ai at their very best.
"Louisiana Stomp" rolls out the rhythm carpet for a New Orleans shuffle with horns, rollicking piano, and even a washboard; the lyrics mention Ray Charles, Dr. John, and Professor Longhair, as pianist Wayne Peet provides authenticity. This debut recording should be available in stores; information can be obtained from Collin Artists, P.O. Box 10782, Beverly Hills, California 90213 (213) 660-1016.
There Was a Time; Soldiers of Love; Carmen's Blues; Left Alone; Stop the Word; Neighbor, Neighbor; Hop on the Pony; Willow Weep for Me; I Don't Want the Neighbors to Know; Louisiana Stomp; Don't Touch Me; The Art of Blue.