NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—All last month, the New Brunswick Jazz Project highlighted women in jazz, bringing female-led bands to their various performance spaces throughout the city.
This celebration of Women’s History month came to a close and a climax with Mimi Jones’ quartet at Makeda, where the stage was shared by label-mates from the Hot Tone Music imprint.
Though Jones was the nominal leader of the group, she shared direction, composition, and featured soloist duties more or less equally with drummer Shirazette Tinnin and saxophonist, flautist, vocalist, (and apparently geologist) Camille Thurman.
The focus was mostly on original material, as the band played tunes from their three newly released albums. These compositions were fresh, varied, and changed the pace constantly through the night; there were so many temporal, harmonic, and textural shifts that two hour-long sets felt like they lasted only minutes.
The band’s fresh approach was perhaps best embodied by a selection in the second half. Beginning with a free and loose improvisation (which showed off Rachel Eckroth’s considerable abilities on the electric piano), the group ebbed and flowed through a minor drone.
As it came to a close, Jones and Thurman sang in perfect harmony: “...just bees and things and flowers…,” and the band launched into Roy Ayers’ famous “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.”
Tinnin laid down a subtle groove with an implied double time as the group moved effortlessly through the melody of the 1970’s summer anthem.
Thurman then placed her flute back on its stand and grabbed the mic, launching into an incredible vocal improvisation. The register of her voice grew higher and higher as the band built to a climax and then slowly died back down.
It was a display of talent, technique, and group synergy so impressive that as the tune ended the audience was left in rapt attention and silence for a couple of seconds, still too transfixed to launch into the raucous applause that would follow.
It was obvious throughout the night how comfortable the women on stage were with one another as players. They changed sections effortlessly and seemingly telepathically, playing hits and changing the groove at the drop of a hat.
This was a well-rehearsed concert, borrowing some of the best aspects of jazz, soul, and pop music to create a unique stylistic blend. These fixtures of the New Brunswick Jazz scene are highly recommended.
Hot Tone Music Artists: Mimi Jones - Bass/Vocals; Shirazette Tinnin - Drums/Percussion; Camille Thurman - Saxophones/Flute/Vocals; With: Rachel Eckroth - Keyboards