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Hot Tone Music: Creating Great Music of Today

Jakob Baekgaard By

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There was a time when the only possibility for an artist was to record for a major label, but nowadays things have changed. While major labels are struggling to make the money they used to do, many of them have also stopped being innovators. Instead, they churn out repackaged product and focus on new music that is guaranteed to sell. Patience and long term talent development isn't a thing that is seen very often.

Fortunately, in spite of this, the music business is in a very good shape and this is mainly because of the new indie labels that are popping up everywhere. Here, the focus is on the music itself and a lot of innovation takes place. Instead of fitting music into a narrow generic frame that already exists, the indie labels are expanding the frame itself. Genres become blurred and new music is created.

One of the most interesting new labels on the indie-jazz scene is Hot Tone Music run by bassist and singer Mimi Jones, who describes herself as: "A native New Yorker from the "Boogie Down Bronx." The motto of her label is also straightforward: "Creating Great Music of Today." Indeed, Jones has succeeded in creating an admirable contemporary sound where modern jazz meets pop, soul music, R & B and gospel. As it turns out, the blending of genres has always been a part of Jones' life: "I grew up listening to all types of music from soul to jazz to country music in my house hold. For example, on any given day I could hear Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, followed by Al Green's Let's Stay Together and "You Were Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson."

However, there is one particular artist who has meant a lot to her: Miles Davis. Jones is familiar with all phases of Davis' illustrious career: "I studied his approach, which was simplistic ideas and phrasing, but always playing upon the listeners' emotions by using tension and release and choosing the blue notes. The entire series of Steamin, Workin, Relaxin and Cookin were like a bible to me. This is how I learned about the tone of a band and how important each function of the rhythm section is. Bassists Paul Chambers and Sam Jones taught me how important the tone of the bass is, and how it affects the overall band, the beat could be placed a little behind, dead center or a little on top, at any given moment, and to use harmonic leading to lift the sound and make it sound exciting."

"I was also influenced by Birth of the Cool and his work with Gil Evans is timeless... still so passionate, sensual, and intellectual at the same time. My favorite stuff to this day would have to be the stuff Miles did in the 60s with Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter... this music helps me to understand life better, and learn how to take the good with the bad..."

Talking about other key artists that have influenced her, Jones says: "Lisle Atkinson, Jaco Pastorius, Milt Hinton, Christian McBride, the late Duane Burno, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona are all very instrumental in my development."

With her love of music, it was natural for Jones to pursue education and she started early on: "I started at age 12, where I joyfully attended the Harlem School of the Arts, and studied classic guitar with Jim Bartow, and African dance class with Ms Rhymes. Eventually I would continue on to Music and Art High School, Jazz Mobile, Manhattan School of Music and begin my journey as a bassist under the tutelage of Lisle Atkinson, Linda McKnight, Barry Harris, Milt Hinton, Justin Diccioccio and many others jazz legends that mentored and gave me guidance."

Today, Jones has taken on the role of mentor herself. This process began when she started Hot Tone Music as an outlet for her own music: "I started the record label in 2009. At the time, many of my friends had been getting signed to major labels and some well- established Indie labels. I presented my stuff to a few to be denied, and realized I didn't have to wait for a stamp of approval. I had all the resources to do it, I just needed the courage, and I wanted to help others as well, since I noticed how many musicians actually get overlooked that have great potential, but are not supported, and blessed with what they need to develop. I had begun producing for my friends because I enjoy studio work and learning how to further careers, eventually I decided to claim these gifts or callings and go official, calling it Hot Tone Music, meaning hot as in great sounding music."

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