by Gus Marshall
April is jazz appreciation month, with International Jazz Day taking place on Saturday.
The Royal Room will be hosting an impressive lineup to celebrate jazz in all its glory that night, with two special shows, one early and one late.
Critically acclaimed jazz vocalist and sensational songwriter, producer and event coordinator Eugenie Jones, has set up an evening of jazz excellence and will be gracing the stage with her commanding presence and soulful voice.
The band is made up of the crème de la crème of active jazz musicians. The legendary jazz pianist, Overton Berry, whose rich musical and cultural legacy is deeply rooted in Seattle’s musical history will be performing along-side another jazz legend in his own right, the avant-garde boundary blasting jazz trombonist Julian Priester. Accompanied by professional jazz aficionado’s D’Vonne Lewis and Bruce Phares, on drums and bass respectively, this rare alignment of superior talent and graceful artistry will be superb.
Eugenie Jones spoke with the South Seattle Emerald about her encouraging experiences performing with Overton Berry and Julian Priester, her songwriting process, and her work in the community.
Gus Marshall: How long have you been singing?
Eugenie Jones: My first paid performance was 2011. My first CD was released in 2013. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are both in marketing and business. I do marketing communications work for a non-profit, I teach marketing at Western Washington University, among some other volunteer work that I do. So, music is a really large departure from anything I had done personally or professionally before.
GM: What speaks to you personally about jazz?
EJ: Well, jazz resonated with me for a couple of reasons. One, I was accustomed to listening to jazz with my parents growing up, and it seemed to be the best format for me as a person. It fit my personality and my style more than any other genre of music. I think there is an intelligence and a sophistication, and a legacy that is uniquely attached to jazz, and that appeals to me.
GM: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
EJ: My inspirations, or people that I admire, I think that is a more accurate word, are Betty Carter and Peggy Lee. Not so much because my style is comparable to either of them, in terms of my singing, because I was very deliberate about not listening to other singers when I was trying to figure out what my voice was, but more so because of their accomplishments as singer-songwriters and business women. Having a clear definitive idea about who they wanted to be and forging a new path that didn’t exist before they started. So those are the people that I admire.
GM: How is your experience playing with jazz legends, such as Overton Berry and Julian Priester? And can it be intimidating?
EJ: I think I was more intimidated when I first started my recordings and playing with local players than I have been with Overton, and also with Julian too. Overton was someone that mentored me, he always was someone who very kind and gracious and encouraging to me. So, I have always felt more at ease and relaxed with him than any other artist I have performed with. And Julian and I are new acquaintances, but he has that same warmth and personality about himself, they’re both very humble people despite of the tremendous legacy behind each of them. They’re not at all who they could be in terms of personality, not conceited or condescending, or all those things you run in to with artists sometimes, they’re just down to earth, kind people. So, no I don’t feel intimidated to perform with them, I’m actually very much looking forward to it.
GM: How do you go about writing your music? Do you start with the lyrics or melody first?
EJ: I start with both simultaneously. Usually, first thing in the morning is when inspiration hits me, I wake up singing. Sometimes I start with a thought in mind, I want to write a song about a topic, and I will start singing lines that kind of feed into that topic. But my understanding of jazz, in terms of storytelling, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, is how I am always approaching a song. When I am writing something, I am introducing an idea, and telling a story about it, that will hopefully resonate with the person that hears it, and they will hear some part of their lives in it, or they will feel inspired by it. That’s pretty much how I approach my songwriting.
GM: What do you feel has been your biggest musical accomplishment?
EJ: That fact that I have managed to record two self-produced CD’s, and that they have made a footprint on the international stage, I think that is my biggest accomplishment. That they were primarily all original tunes for the most part. My first CD had two jazz standards, and my second CD had three, well two jazz standards and one R&B tune. I think that is tremendous, especially in the genre of jazz, because a lot of the expectation is that vocalist will sing jazz standards, and my thinking was that if I am going to spend my money on recording and producing music, that I should put the stuff out there that speaks about my life, and the modern day experience of my listeners. I think those things are the things that I am most proud of, the fact that I went through that process and have had a measure of success with it.
GM: I read that you work for a program called Up Beat On Jackson, can you give me some information on that program?
EJ: Sure, my marketing communications work I do freelance sometimes, and Up Beat On Jackson is concert series that is being put on by the Low Income Housing Institute, but it is funded by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. Somehow, I got connected to the people that put that together, and I signed up to be the marketing communications outreach person. I designed the logo and do all the social media and help doing anything with getting the word out about these performances. Poster design and calendar posting, and anything having to do with marketing. And the concert series is free and open to the public, we have a concert once a month, at the Ernestine Anderson Facility that the Low Income Housing Institute owns. Low Income Housing Institute is like a sister organization to the company that I work for, because we also do housing for homeless folks, we do head-start, employment training. The people that I am working with have this commonality of music, but we also have a commonality of serving the community, so it’s been a really interesting partnership. I am also looking forward to being the producer of the Jackson Street Jazz Walk, which will be connected to the Up Beat On Jackson concert series. So, I am using my marketing communication skills to work in the music industry as much as I possibly can.
GM: Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming International Jazz day performance?
EJ: Thank you so much, for doing this for helping us get the word out about the International Jazz Day. It was a brainchild of mine from the get go, trying to figure out what’s a good platform for pulling people together around music. I knew that international Jazz Day happened but there wasn’t anything happening locally that was a part of this huge endeavor worldwide. So, I got the venue, lined up the artists, and we are doing the show in Seattle, but we are also doing the one in Bainbridge Island too. There has been a lot of good feedback so far, and ticket sales, so I’m happy about that.
What: International Jazz Day Concert featuring Overton Berry, Julian Priester, Eugenie Jones, Bruce Phares and D’Vonne Lewis
Where: The Royal Room. 5000 Rainier Avenue.
When: Saturday, April 28th, 2018. Early Show Doors 6pm. Late Show Doors 9pm.
Cost: $15 Advanced. $18 Day Of Show