Profile

Jessie Turner

Jessie’s most recent release, Jazz International is her first CD comprised primarily of covers. In this, her fourth CD, she takes us on a romantic journey through the Mexican corrido, French cabaret, bossa, American jazz, an adaptation of a classical Argentine piece, and an original prayer for the planet. As with all of Jessie’s releases, this seemingly disparate collection of songs is firmly united by her characteristically supple vocals — pristine in the classical pieces, subtle and smoky in the jazz ballads, and many shades between and beyond. At the same time, Jazz International represents a career of diverse artistic influences.

In elementary school, Jessie picked up guitar to accompany her singing; at that time she was most interested in American roots music, English, and Irish balladry. This coincided with her spending time in New York City’s Lower East Side while her mother worked on a dissertation and book based on the poets and poetry of the Nuyorican community. Time spent with artists speaking in rhyme in English and Spanish expanded her interests to the language and unique rhythm of el Caribe gone New York. This sparked a life-long passion for the vast and varied cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. And so in her teens and early twenties she began travel through Spain, Mexico, and Central America, engaging in earnest studies of classical and folkloric music. Heroes, such as Victor Jara and Mercedes Sosa of La Nueva Trova movement that rose from the civil and political unrest in Chile and Argentina were deeply affecting to her.

After four years of music school and intensive studies in French and Italian, Jessie emerged with a Bachelors of Music in Classical Voice Performance. Despite the strait jacket of classical training, she was exposed to and sang music in all the Romance Languages plus Russian and German.

In her twenties, Jessie’s father laid a slew of Jazz LP’s on her; these, laced with biographies of Dizzy Gillespie and Bessie Smith and even a VHS of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm was a new kick too compelling to ignore – she devoted many subsequent years imbibing the lilts, shifts of tone and nuance of Sarah and Ella, Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, and Nina Simone. A two-week stint at Jazz in July workshop at UMass with masters Billy Taylor and Max Roach returned the word awesome to its original meaning.

While working jobs as an interpreter and translator (Spanish-English) to help support her music habit and picking up lower-paying work in Latin America and Spain to feed her other fixation, Turner released three CD’s of original compositions.

The first, aptly named Here and There was just that—a wide variety of styles ranging from folk to jazz to rock with the vestiges of music school ever-present in her vocal stylings. For ease of classification, her second CD, All the Sweet Things featured a more cohesive group of songs focusing more on a pop-rock style. It was here that she began collaboration with three-time Emmy winner, BZ Lewis and drummer/percussionist, Billy Lee Lewis (Tommy Castro, Roy Rogers) that endures to this day. All The Sweet Things met critical acclaim, found placements in publishing houses, and enjoyed major indie distribution through Caroline.

Having discovered that the realities of the industry do not cater to eclecticism or artists who have passed beyond their teenage years, Jessie came to terms with her native bent, which is not to conform, but in fact to resist classification—to do what appeals to her artistically and aesthetically. This led to her third CD, Freak of Fancy, where she demonstrated her ability to successfully take on Rock, Salsa, Country, and Classical; it was also Jessie’s first CD in which she shared writing credit on songs with BZ Lewis and Billy Lee Lewis. It was working with Billy that brought on the country. Billy had spent many years in the south and played in numerous country bands in his early professional life. Any opportunity to try to master an accent and try to infuse some of the accompanying culture was too attractive for Jessie to pass up.

Jessie’s unfailing pop sensibilities have won her original compositions numerous placements. These include MTV's hit drama series, Undressed; Standing on Fishes (Kelsey Grammer and Jason Priestly); Black Cloud (Rick Schroder and Tim McGraw); All My Children; and a song on the Tommy Castro Band's CD, Guilty of Love.

Based in the Bay Area, Jessie plays festivals, clubs, in concert settings, and fabulously through a good pair of speakers. She plays solo, with a five-piece band, and everything in between. Whatever the venue or the ensemble, Jessie is not to be missed.

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