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Eugenie Jones: Players (Openmic)

A review of the vocalist's self-produced third album

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Eugenie Jones: Players
The cover of Players by Eugenie Jones

Youth is an overrated attribute in jazz. The advantages that accrue with a little mileage have been particularly evident in the emergence of several excellent women singers since the turn of the century, including René Marie, Gail Pettis, and Denise Donatelli. Eugenie Jones, a Seattle-area vocalist and songwriter, is a more-than-worthy addition to their ranks. She made a strong impression with her 2013 debut Black Lace Blue Tears and followed up with 2015’s confident and consistently engaging Come Out Swingin’. Her self-produced third album, Players, is more than impressive, pairing Jones with a far-flung, bicoastal, multi-generational cast of, well, players who sound deeply in sync with her aims. It’s a two-disc album focusing on her originals, and if every song isn’t set to a memorable melody, her fine-grained voice and keen attention to her collaborators keeps the ear piqued.

Highlights include Jones’ composition “Sittin’ at the Bar,” a skillfully etched scene of a woman seeking musical succor at the end of a long day. Accompanied by pianist James Weidman, bassist Reggie Workman, drummer Bernard Purdie, trombonists Julian Priester and Jovan Johnson, and tenor saxophonist Asaf Even Zur, Jones sounds right at home among the august company. “Red Dress,” a passionate self-embrace, pairs her lustrous voice with Marquis Hill’s poised and silky trumpet. She’s equally effective on standards, from a funky arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” to a world-weary take on his kiss-off “You Can Have Him.”

But the standout is her version of Billy Strayhorn’s rarely covered “Multicolored Blue,” a sublime blues bejeweled with a relaxed horn intro by Priester and trumpeter Jay Thomas. The project closes with a track featuring organist Delvon Lamarr, guitarist Jimmy James, and drummer Dan Weiss called “Do I Move You?” It’s another strong original, making a resounding “Yes!” the only possible answer to the query. 

Learn more about Players on Amazon & Apple Music!

Andrew Gilbert

Andrew Gilbert is a Berkeley-based freelancer who has written about arts and culture since 1989 for numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, East Bay Express, Berkeleyside, and KQED’s California Report. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he experienced a series of mind-blowing epiphanies listening to jazz masters at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in the late 1980s, performances he remembers more vividly than the gigs he saw last month.