A local journalist once tagged July’s end as the beginning of Mobile’s “jazz season” for its confluence of genre-themed events kicking off then. This year, the last full week of the month might better be called “Jonesy season.”
That’s because multi-talented entertainer Yo Jonesy will headline events for two of Mobile’s older jazz organizations. Along with her combo the Crowned Jewelz, she will take the stage at the Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed’s (MOJO) Summer Jam on Monday, July 22 at 6:30 p.m. in midtown’s Bellingrath Hall (1260 Dauphin St.).
“Jazz is not something you would normally associate the Crowned Jewelz with, but I don’t put us in a box on anything. There’s all types of music we’ve done,” Jonesy said.
She admits most gigs along similar lines are “corporate, or like a duo,” but she knows the musicians are versatile. When a woman can play trombone, sing and dance, then you tend to take her word for it.
“Put it like this: It’s Crowned jazz music,” Jonesy quipped. “I’ve always appreciated jazz and am honored to do this.”
Jonesy pointed to her composition “Jazzlipz” and its “Nina Simone vibe” as evidence of her respect for the genre. The first half of the MOJO show will feature her trombone chops, something she’s polished since picking up the instrument at Dunbar Creative and Performing Arts Magnet School. There was a family legacy involved.
“My brother plays sax. My other brother played trumpet and guitar. My dad played guitar. Nobody was playing trombone and I didn’t know any females playing it,” Jonesy chuckled.
The catalyst was a trombone-playing music teacher at Dunbar. His example was inspirational.
“I just really liked the way Mr. Coaxum was with students — him and Ms. Lewis. There’s something they did with kids that I can tell gave them heart and a certain discipline that made us want to be better musicians all around,” Jonesy said.
She put the trombone down before her last year at LeFlore High School, when she became a drum majorette. Ten years later, she found herself in The Fortunate Few, a blues band, and volunteered her trombone talent to go with their saxophonist and trumpeter.
“I was nervous about it and wasn’t as confident as before then, but as the years went on I just kept playing and it’s something I do daily,” Jonesy said.
Any lack of confidence is hard to believe. A natural hoofer inspired by Savion Glover, she taught herself to tap dance in middle school before a teacher pulled her into an academic studio. She passes it onto new generations as an instructor. She taught at Boys and Girls Clubs for five years and can be found leading classes for Studio37 this summer.
“I have more guys that are interested in [tap dancing] than girls are. I guess because I make it more of a stomp/hip-hop thing,” Jonesy said.
The second half of the MOJO show will encompass more of “[her] kind of thing.” It is bound to include the high energy that has made the Crowned Jewelz a highly sought party band along the Gulf Coast.
Three days later, Jonesy and colleagues will inject the same verve into the 21st annual Gulf Coast Ethnic & Heritage Jazz Festival’s (GCEHJF) Evening of Jazz and Spoken Word on July 25 at the History Museum of Mobile (111 S. Royal St.). Sharing the stage will be Huggy Bear da Poet and PowerLines Poets.
The festival’s culminating concert event one week later has changed locales. Held at the Mobile Convention Center the last few years, GCEHJF will instead head to the recital hall of the University of South Alabama’s Laidlaw Performing Art Center on Friday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $25 and available at Eventbrite. You can also call 251-478-4027 or go to gcehjazzfest.org.
The bill includes the Marcus Johnson Summer Jazz Camp Orchestra, The E.B. Coleman Orchestra with Kamilla Ali and headliner Delfeayo Marsalis. Coincidentally, the headliner carved out his own spot in New Orleans’ “First Family of Jazz” by mastering the trombone.
Marsalis is also a valued producer, logging more than 100 projects with Harry Connick Jr., Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, along with his famous relatives. While in Mobile, Marsalis will serve as the distinguished Artist in Residence for the Marcus Johnson Jazz Camp.
Despite original plans, the Crowned Jewelz multi-talented leader said she won’t be working as a clinician in this year’s jazz camp.
“I want to do it next year, for sure,” Jonesy said.
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