Her voice reached towards the sky and clawed at the gutter simultaneously
Jessica Jones Quartet Featuring Candace Jones Bowery Poetry Club New York, New York July 13, 2008
The first notes of Candace Jones' voice hit me like a tornado. Sure, they were sung softly, but that did not lessen their impact. I smiled to myself. So much beauty in the world. Saxophonist-composer-bandleader Jessica Jones and her band/family (more on that later) invaded the Bowery Poetry Club on July 13 under the guise of a show celebrating the release of Jessica's newest record, Word, an album rife with experimentation in the combining of poetry and jazz (po' jazz). What resulted was a showcase for daughter Candace and the power, grace, beauty, and humor of her voice. The entire midsection of the show was devoted to the younger Jones, belting many of her mother's compositions as well as a few standards. > The band included three Joneses (Jessica and husband Tony on twin tenor saxophones along with Candace) backed by a rhythm section of Ken Filiano (bass) and James Windsor-Wells (drums). Mark Taylor joined the group sparingly on various wind instruments. The abovementioned first song was Rodgers & Hart's "My Romance," which started out innocently enough. But after those first few notes, sung by Candace sans accompaniment, her voice reached towards the sky and clawed at the gutter simultaneously. As the notes got higher, her voice, it seemed, became more powerful. Subsequent songs seemed to encompass Candace's entire teen life. Each tune was prefaced by: "Jessie wrote this one for me when I was 13"; or "Jessie wrote this one for me when I was 19 and had just had a bad breakup," etc. Maybe that's why the vocalist was able to sing them with such gusto. But regardless of the source of her inspiration, she ran the gamut from sultry and seductive to emotional and powerful, from wryly humorous to deeply disturbing. Moreover, she wore her emotions on her face, giving every note a purpose.
Jessica's compositions provided perfect vehicles for Candace's chops. Many of them snakelike in their twists and turns, the five songs had the musical-emotional weight of ten. Jessica, though a saxophonist by trade, eschewed the horn in favor of keyboards for most of Candace's songs, choosing to stay in the background while giving her daughter the spotlight. And Candace made the most of the opportunity, easily stepping into the role of star of the show.
After Candace's performance, the stage was left without a vocalist during an instrumental interlude as the audience caught its collective breath. Soon, however, the band was joined by poet Abe Maneri, whose spoken word provided a reassuring counterpoint to the band's pointillist ruminations. He and the band were obviously in synch, as his voice rose and fell in sympathy with the ebb and flow of the underlying music.
But the prize of the night was most certainly Candace. While the accompaniment was often amateurish and disjointed, the vocalist was able to command attention so completely that the audience noticed only her compelling vocals. She is admittedly comparatively "raw," given her enormous potential, but if she can sing so effectively on the basis of inherent talent, one can only anticipate the masterful performances that experience and training are certain to bring.