Take Five With Carolyn Lee Jones

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Carolyn Lee JonesMeet Carolyn Lee Jones:
In my own words, Have You Met Miss Jones?

Born and raised in Nebraska, one day I hopped on a bus with 21 suitcases and boxes, $200, my best friend and went to Dallas, Texas! My first career was in retailing as a buyer traveling the world. My travels gave me opportunities to perform and to meet other musicians.

Always wanting to be a professional singer, a few years ago, I decided it was now or never. So I threw myself a birthday party hired a six-piece band—two gown changes—and sang as the main vocalist. I had the good fortune of meeting Julie Bonk, a great pianist and musician. Julie was Norah Jones' jazz piano teacher in Dallas. She led the band and, as the story goes, the party was a success and a new singer and performer was born! We even recorded it!

Since that time, I have performed jazz in a variety of New York City Cabarets, various venues and private parties from Paris to NYC and, of course, at home base in Dallas.

I recently released in November, 2008 my first jazz CD, Bon Appetit.



Teachers and/or influences?

Julie Bonk (Norah Jones' piano teacher), here in Dallas, Texas initially guided me into the world of jazz. She is a singers dream pianist and a wonderful mentor. My influences have been everyone from Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett to Anita O'Day and Karrin Allyson, a very wide range of musicians and styles. And I can't forget Shirley Horn!

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I just could not keep the melodies from coming out of my mouth and the tingling sensation I got when I heard any kind of band play.

Your sound and approach to music:

My approach is to learn a piece of music the best way possible (as it was written), then to internalize it and interpret it in my own way. I think my sound is continuing to develop but I do shoot for clear enunciation and always feeling the pulse of the music on my inside.

Your teaching approach:

Be joyous and positive and lead by example but be truthful—if they are off-pitch for heavens sake they must know it!

Your dream band:

To be honest, I love my band mates from my newly released CD, but we are physically miles apart at the moment. I am striving to find the ideal situation and band mates who are as like minded as I am in wanting to find a particular sound and perform as a very cohesive unit—not unlike the special bond and sounds produced by Tierney Sutton and her band.

Anecdote from the road:

Unusual, yes, waiting to be paid after a gig I did at a Cabaret Room in NYC, that will go unnamed. When the manager on duty did not show, I just sat my black evening gown and rhinestone-strapped self down like a queen at the front door and waited until I got my money! I laugh about it now; what a sight that must have been.

Favorite venue:

I personally liked singing in New York City at Helen's Hideaway Room and did so for a few years until it closed. The room was just the right size and the piano was great.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Naturally "Bon Appetit" is my favorite song. I heard another singer perform it on her CD seven years ago, so I called the composer up and had him send me the chart. And Bon Appetit, being my first CD, is my favorite! I waited five years to feel prepared enough musically to give my own interpretations of some jazz classics, some new tunes from friends and a few songs from my youth.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

My positive attitude. I am walking down this musical path and learning new things every day. I hope that as people get to know more about me and hear me that, perhaps, the music I sing will touch them in as many special ways as it does for me to sing it. Sounds funny perhaps but it is the truth!

Did you know...

I was a go-go girl at the KOIL AM radio station teen fun fair in Omaha—my mother did not find out until I was in my thirties! Good secret, and I got to hang out to hear and meet all of the lead singers of the famous rock bands. Now that was fun!

How do you use the internet to help your career?

I developed the graphic concept and launched my website four years ago. I carry my themes across all visual and internet media. Constant Contact is my email and template service for regular communication with my mailing lists.

CDs you are listening to now:

Daline Jones, Listening to The Light

Sonia Kitchell, This Storm

Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza

Karrin Allyson—re-listening to all of them Laura Nyro, re-listening to all of them.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Growing—evolving—exciting.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Musicians being open minded to new concepts—new sounds—and getting out there in front of the people exposing them to it.

What is in the near future?

Discussing some New York City club dates for April and May 2009. Finishing my next CD, probably recording it again at M+I Studios in NYC with my same great guys and hopefully Julie Bonk from Dallas. Working on a really interesting arrangement for "Nature Boy"!

By Day:

Until the end of October 2008, for the day job, I was a buyer traveling the world for various specialty stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bailey Banks & Biddle and, most recently, a chain of western stores. A few of us were downsized—over and out—so happily, I am now out in it as they say—music full time!

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