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Take Five With JaRon Eames

AAJ Staff By

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Meet JaRon Eames: Born 1953, Baton Rouge La. Graduated high school 1971. Attended (enrolled) Southern University and went to two classes, and was sure it wasn't for me. (When I had comic legend George Carlin on my TV show, we talked about him being a drop out, and I said "I never let school interfere with my education"), so I spent the rest of my year partying. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. What a ball the late 1960s weresome of the best years of my life. However, had I stayed in that small town another day I'd have cut my wrist.

Moved to New York in 1973 at 19 years old. I was blessed to get a great job with Japan Air Lines, 1974-1977. After traveling around the world I was fired (I have been fired from every job I have had since 1969) and that pushed me into doing music, which I wanted to do all along.

It seems like I have been pushing a very large rock uphill ever since.

Instrument: vocals.

Teachers and/or influences? Attended Barry Harris workshop in the early 80s for a short time. I still have friends I made there all those years ago. Pianist Rodney Kendricks, among them.

Attended Colby Naritas workshop UJC where Abbey Lincoln, Dakota Staton and Ann Ruckert were sharing knowledge. To this day I still sing "All of Me" the way Dakota put my coat to it.

But it was working in night clubs over years with wonderfully talented and unselfish giants of this music we call jazz like Harold Mabern, Jamil Nasser, Lloyd Mayers, Earl May, Dorothy Donegan, Reggie Workman and others, who help shaped what I have become musically today.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... The year was 1964. My parents brought my sister and me to New York. We were staying at the New York Hilton. Across the street was/is the Warwick Hotel. At midnight there were thousands of people outside screaming and crying and just going mad (now i come from a small southern town where this was unheard of). Well I found out by going in the crowd that The Beatles had just arrived in America and were staying there. (I was so excited that I told my father that when I turn 19 Im moving to New York he patted my head and said, OK son, now go to bed. At 19 I was living in New York).

During that time The Beatles held no interest for me. James Brown. Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Motown, etc. floated my boat. But on the radio station I heard a song called How Glad I Am. I found it in a record store when I got home and saw a most beautiful, sexy woman and her name was Nancy Wilson. I knew then that I wanted to do this kinda music. Then in 1969 Nancy Wilson came to New Orleans, so I cut class and drove my 1968 drop top Mustang to the Roosevelt Hotel, sat my seventeen year-old self at a huge table under a massive chandelier, the band stuck up the opening and a voice said, Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Nancy Wilson. I heard all of three notes when some big burly white man insisted that I had to leave and now. Not only was I underage, there wasnt too many folks who looked like me in that room (we are talking late 1960s in the deep south). I have a habit of getting what I want, so I "requested" if I may stand behind the curtain to see the show. I saw a few songs and another burly man ran me out. But the seed was planted.

Your sound and approach to music: In my home my parents had lots of parties, my father was in banking and always entertaining. I grew up in the 1960s with what I think was some of the best music on the earth, black soul music. I heard and saw the very best in R&B. But every Saturday, in my home, you heard Ellington, Basie, Ella, Sarah, Nancy, Stitt, Doggett, Oscar, Mahalia and Ray, etc. It was so rich and formed my taste to this day. I believe when one has seen and heard the very best, its hard to settle for what passes for good black music today. Jazz the way I remember it is no more. A watered down, pale version has taken its place, and the soul is dead.

Your teaching approach: Dont mean a thing it if aint got that swing.

Your dream band: My dream band is the band I have been working with (what few gigs I get) over the years. My band on the CD Sounds Good To Me is as good as it gets. Piano: Amy Quint; Bass: Akria Ando; Drums: Walter Perkins (RIP); Sax: Michael Weisbeger (live shows Cleave Guydon); Guitar: Ethan Mann.

Anecdote from the road: Well, Im not sure this story is palatable for a public site, and I'm planning to put it in my book (Jazz conversations, which will be a transcription from the many legends who have appeared on the JaRon Eames Show). So if one is squeamish, dont read it here.

I work so little in America, but Im happy to say the last four years I have toured in Japan, working at a very elegant/private supper club. The last tour was 13 weeks (the kinda place where one night I got a 500.00 US dollar tip).

Anyway, I believe in juicing and cleaning my colon, it keeps me fit and healthy. I take an over the counter colon cleanser which I took with me to Japan. After a month or so I ran out, and got something from the drugstore in Japan. I couldn't read it, but the man spoke a little English and told me what to do, which I did. Well this night Im on stage, and its a wonderful evening, lots of high rollers. I'm dressed in a navy Bill Blass blazer, white Hugo Boss slacks, black/white Stacy Adams shoes. Im sitting on my bar stool telling stories through song.

In the middle of Nearness of You, my stomach did aback flip, I turned to the pianist and said play until I get back. I politely made my way out of the club, to the apartment door which was on the corner from the club, a small two bedroom which served as home while I was on tour.

My stomach was telling me that I had ten seconds. I open the door, unzipped my pants and the zipper wouldn't move. Im struggling with the zipper to no avail. Im standing in the bathroom and my damn zipper is stuck... 10..9.8.7.6. I felt like it was New Year's Eve countdown, 5, 4, 3, now Im praying, please let me get this stuck zipper unstuck2,1.... bingo..... I was knee-deep in shit.

The rest of the story will be in the book. But to this day Im still trying to clean my white Hugo Boss pants.

Favorite venue: Well I must admit working the last four years in Japan has spoiled me. Treated with respect by the club owners and customers alike. The private club where I worked was the tops. A classy room, with baby grand piano, flawless sound system and lights. Ive grown so use to singing here at the few gigs I get, where one has to scream through a tin cup connected to wires, it made Japan magical.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Sounds Good to Me. Im not a fan of reviews, but I must say this disk was well-received by JazzTimes, Cadence, and many other publication. and I agree with them all.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Honesty and Swing.

How you use the internet to help your career? It kind of balances the playing field, the public can go to the site and see/hear for themselves what a performer is doing, which is a good thing.

CDs you are listening to now: Ella and Basie; Little Willie John; Benny Carter; Joe Carroll; Sonny Stiff.

Desert Island picks: Nancy Wilson, Live at the Coconut Grove or Lush Life; Anything by Louis Armstrong; Anything by Oscar Peterson; Anything by Ella; Anything 1950s.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Sad, Its all about Madison Ave - a slick publicisit can turn a bull dog into the greatest jazz singer in three weeks, and Joe Public will eat it up.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? The folks in charge now need to have a long sleep. Or get real and bring back swing and soul to this music called jazz. It's soulless and devoid of swing. But the media tells us who are good and who should be where they are, the public says OK, and that's the name of that tune. For real jazz/blues and soul, watch the JaRon Eames show, where the legends speak and perform.

What is in the near future? Im working on a book called Jazz Conversations. I have interviewed many of the jazz legends, and I'm compiling a book and documentary. I have collectively over 2000 years of history on video. For a list of who has appeared on the JaRon Eames TV Show visit the web site under the TV page - http://www,jaroneames.com.

By Day: Whatever works.

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