As a saxophonist/composer/teacher/non-profit creator, Jessica Jones takes a holistic approach to music-making. All of the different hats she wears align in an open and positive musical expression. As a composer and improviser, Jones draws comfortably and equally from a wide range of sources, including mentors like Don Cherry and Joseph Jarman, as well as musics from the Caribbean and West Africa. This perspective is showcased on Jones’ newest record, Continuum (REVA), released this week. Featuring her longtime working band of Tony Jones on tenor saxophone, Stomu Takeishi on bass, and Kenny Wollesen on drums, the record showcases the continuum of the jazz tradition, both stylistically and educationally (Jones’s former student Ambrose Akinmusire guests).
Jones and her quartet will celebrate the release of Continuum this Friday, January 25, at The Jazz Gallery. We caught up with her by phone to discuss the history of the group, her approach to working with diverse musics and performers, and the work of her non-profit organization, Rare Earth Vibration Association.
The Jazz Gallery: This show Is celebrating the release of your new album, Continuum. What does the name mean?
Jessica Jones: It’s about the way that you learn jazz, as a continuum, from elders all the way down. One of my students who I had for six years, who just graduated from high school, he’s 17, he’s on the album. And Ambrose Akimusire is on it; he also used to study with me when he was young. So that’s kind of the thread going through it, the idea of the title.
TJG: How do you choose which guests to bring in, with how your band is structured?
JJ: Each case is an individual case. I wanted to feature this young student, because I think he’s really ready for that kind of opportunity, for being heard. And as far as the song with the singer, Ed Reed, he and I had some conversations, and I had taken some notes on the things he said, because he’s been through a lot and he’s really wise. And I wound up putting some of his ideas into a song, things he has talked to me about. So I wrote the lyrics based on things he’d said, and I’d never had anyone perform it vocally, only instrumentally. So I thought, why not see if he wants to do it. He sang the song, and that was geared specifically to him. The other song that has guests is, I was working at a music camp and someone was playing an instrument that he calls a kamale, a Malian instrument. He was in the room next to me, in the living situation, so I would hear him practicing. It sounded like the sonic area that Don Cherry used to play, when he played his ngoni. So I was really curious about the instrument, and wrote a song to go along with that and asked him to play on it. I asked Ambrose to play on it, because I was really hearing that trumpet sound, and he was in town, so it worked out that we could do that recording of that song together. Those were three individual situations where, compositionally, I was hearing that kind of direction, with these individuals.
TJG: What is your compositional process like? Were you thinking towards the scope of the album when you were writing pieces?
JJ: I was trying to document recent work, and looking across and seeing what united it, what the common ideas were. It’s really a cross range of styles on the album. Some funk, calypso, free stuff, blues, kind of a range, which I can’t really help.