Jessy J is a contemporary jazz musician who plays the saxophone. In this blog, Renier Fee, Director of Marketing at Music & Arts, sits down with her to learn more about her first introduction to the saxophone and successful career.
I believe you started playing music on the piano at age four. Do you come from a musical family?
No, I’m the only person in my family that plays instruments. Everyone else is a music fan, they enjoy listening to music and going to concerts.
Later, you picked up the saxophone at age nine in band class. What words of advice do you have for other young beginners in search of their first instrument?
Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment with different sounds. Listen to music from various instruments and see what grabs your attention. Then practice as much as possible 🙂
Did you take private lessons to supplement band class?
Yes, I always had a private tutor for piano and saxophone. My first private saxophone tutor used to tour with Sammy Davis Jr. and the Rat Pack. He piqued my curiosity about musical styles including jazz.
What was the “a-ha” moment when you knew it was time for a professional instrument?
I was 15 years old and my saxophone tutor at the time knew that I wanted to become a professional musician. He had a heart to heart talk with my mom about purchasing a Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone (which I still play to this day).
Did the professional instrument help you find your tone?
The professional instrument helped define my sound as did listening to the jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley. I loved Cannonball’s sound and tried to emulate it on my sax.
Why is the Selmer Mark VI such a beloved saxophone among professional players?
The material that it is made from gives it a rich deep tone and makes the instrument extra sturdy from wear and tear. I love the character of the sound.
Maintaining your instrument is just as important as finding it. What tools do you use to keep your sax in playing condition?
I take it to the repair shop every six weeks for a touch up, but also maintain it on my own by using great cases. I use Walt Johnson, SKB and Protec cases for my instruments. I also use D’Addario reed cases and BG mouthpiece cases.
What are the differences between your mouthpiece, the Otto Link 7*, and other mouthpieces on the market?
I enjoy my Otto Link 7 * on Tenor Sax because that’s the same set up that John Coltane used, I also play a Selmer ligature that is fabulous. I can tell you it has lasted for several years without being replaced. I love the classic sounds from the 1950’s and 60’s so I basically use the equipment that was available then.
You play on Plasticover D’Addario reeds. What are the telltale signs of a good professional reed?
I can tell if it’s a good reed right away. I don’t try to “fix” reeds, either they speak right away or they go into the trash. I find that the Plasticover reeds are the most consistent for my outdoor jazz festivals. I also use La Voz reeds on my alto saxophone for a warm tone.
Are you particular about your straps, ligatures, gig bags, etc?
Yes, I believe good cases help keep my instruments safe from dents and misalignments. I use D’Addario neck straps and Selmer Ligatures.
With hit songs and records under your belt, plus sponsorships from top-tier brands like Selmer Paris and D’Addario, and a constant touring schedule, what’s next on your to-do list?
This spring I’m releasing a brand new 10 Year Anniversary album that will be recorded live at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland, CA.