The Nayo Jones Interview

October 11, 2018

Nayo Jones at the 2018 Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

Nayo Jones is a Chicago- born vocalist who grew up in a musical family and is now based in New Orleans. She performs with her own group, “The Nayo Jones Experience,” in addition to touring with Kermit Ruffins as a featured vocalist. Twin Cities audiences were first exposed to Ms Jones at the 2018 Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Her dynamic, soul-filled performance of standards like Saint James Infirmary and My Favorite Thingsearned her four standing ovations from thousands of people who had never heard of her. At one emotional point, a gust of wind caused the sleeves of her flowing dress to spread out like wings to the delight of the crowd. Jones will be returning to the Twin Cities for an appearance at the Fall Jazz Festivalbeing held at Crooners Lounge and Supper Club in Fridley on Sunday, October 14th. She’ll perform at 2:30 in the large Lounge, and 7:30 in the intimate Dunsmore Room. The following interview took place after her June performance.

I understand you grew up listening to a lot of jazz because your dad is jazz a jazz player. Were there any artists in particular that caught your ear that made you say that’s what I want to do?

Dinah Washington – Nayo’s favorite

I want to say none in particular –  not until I began singing, and that wasn’t until many years later, because I played flute, and I would play jazz but I never sang. And so the first voice I had listened to several – my dad told me to listen to this and this and that. And then Dinah Washington  – her voice just resonated with me when I started really studying female jazz vocalists and to this day she probably is my favorite.

So when you choose songs for your repertoire what do you look for? 

Lyrics mean a lot to me so that every song that I shared today, every song that I ever share, whenever I perform, the song does something for me, it moves me, I believe that if I can feel a song and if the song moves me than I have the ability to move the crowd.

That’s certainly apparent. You did a couple of originals what are the names of those?

One is Imagine, which I wrote several years ago. It’s never been done, at least produced properly so I think we’re going to go in the studio on record that.  There was really a good reception for that song and it came back to me because you know it’s a lot of negative things going on in the world today and I just believe in the power of dreaming, loving, and imagination and that song means a lot to me. Product of the Mind, the second one, also came back for the same reasoning: we can change the world. There’s a co-writer on Product of the Mind Her name is Naomi Imeke. 

You did a good job of firing up the audience today. How do you figure out how and when to do that?

Thank you. This is going to sound very, very quirky but I can feel the energy. I really can. I can kind of tell if they need me to ease them into it, or if I can come out guns blazing and I did that today. I knew that I would be able to do that because of seeing how the crowd just responded to the music last night . Sometimes I can’t see faces and I can’t see exactly what’s happening in as far as people smiling, but I could see smiles on there tonight, and I could see people swaying, and crying and that let me know how far I could go. 

You have recordings?

I have several actually on ITunes. I have a Christmas album of which I’m still very, very proud. It’s one of my older projects but I’m still certainly proud of that project. Product of the Mind is actually on My Name is Nayo. That’s an R&B album.  OK You would never know it’s me because it’s a totally different energy than what I do on stage now because it’s an older album also. OK But yeah you can find me on ITunes

What are your future plans? Any CDs in the offering?

Yes we are going to start recording more original music. I’m very excited about the future. as I just started collaborating with The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. I’ve done a few shows with them, t.hat’s a twenty-piece band. Working with them and to have that opportunity come my way has been a dream come true.  So you’ll see more with me with the New Orleans Jazz. Orchestra in the future.. 

Finally, what would what do you think is the most important lesson you learned from your dad? 

The first thing, and I always tell people, when I started singing and when he realized that “I think she’s going to do this for real,” he said, “Always do it because you love it, don’t do it for the money. And to this day that’s why I do it. He said, “The money will come. Just do it because you love it.” It’s a labor of love. 

Thank you for your time.


Indoor Music: 10.10 – 10.16

October 10, 2018

Well Fall is surely here with temps in the 50s and lots of dreary days, so our thoughts turn to indoor events such as the Fall Jazz Fest and a Women’s Composers Festival, both of which are on Sunday afternoon. We’ve some notable visiting artists in jazz and roots music, and of course, great resident artists to see and hear. Music Lifts the Spirit!


Wednesday, October 10

Russell Malone @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm $30, $35), 9pm ($25) Chicago guitarist Malone can swing like crazy or caress a ballad. You can read an interview I did with him a few years ago here.

House on Fire @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Here’s an intriguing evening featuring a collection of songs inspired by these times and written by Chris Hepola, keys; with Paul Fonfara, clarinets; Spencer Roth, trumpet; and Eric Shruve, bass.

Thursday, October 11

Joey Alexander Trio @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40, $45, $50), 9pm ($35, $40, $45) You may have seen this young piano player a few years ago at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, but he’s now 15, and still the brightest star in the jazz firmament.

Fat Kid Wednesdays @ Khyber Pass Cafe, Saint Paul.11:30pm – 1am ($20) FKW  as been together for almost twenty years, but don’t play too often these days. The 9pm show is sold out, and this show may be sold out by the time you get this, but is a rare chance to hear the trio of: JT Bates, drums; Adam Linz, bass; and Michael Lewis, sax. You can read a New Yorker review of their show from a few years ago here.

Friday, October 12

Miss Myra & the Moonshiners @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7:30pm ($10) Traditional jazz and blues still has the power to uplift folks, at least as practiced by vocalist/guitarist Miss Myra and her merry band of Moonshiners. Sure to be a hit with the Friday night crowd at Crooners.

Tribute to Bird & Dizzy @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID)  Saxophonist Aaron Hedenstrom & trumpeter  Omar Abdulkarim bring Dizzy & Bird into the 21st Century.

Saturday, October 13

Saturday Night Jazz @ the Blackdog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) 7pm: JazzInk Showcase with the Eli Zukor-Zimmerman Quartet.  At 8:30pm, the Ted Olsen Quartet headlines, with Ted Olsen, bass; Aaron Hedenstrom, saxes; and others TBD.

Steve Hobert & Marcus Wise @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 9:30pm. ($10, $5w/Student ID) Pianist Hobert  as been playing to his strengths in collaborations that often have world music influences. Tonight he teams up with veteran tabla player Marcus Wise.

Sunday, October 14

Twin Cities Fall Jazz Festival @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 1pm – 8:30pm ($35 – $90) It’s eight shows on two stages. Vocalist Nayo Jones was a sensation at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival last June, receiving five standing ovations during the course of her show. She’s the headliner today, appearing from 2:30 – 4pm in Crooners’ Lounge and then from 7:30 – 8:30 in the Dunsmore Room. Also on the bill are the Southside Aces w/Butch Thompson, The Acme Jazz Company featuring Butch Miles, The TannerTaylor Trio, Connie Evingson and Debbie Duncan with Dave Karr, Butch Miles, and Andrew Walesch, and Lucia Newell’s Brazilian Trio.

Monday, October 15

Thomasina Petrus Sings Lady Day @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. ($25) Petrus channels Holiday like no one else.

For more listings, KBEM has a calendar of jazz and roots events, while the Jazz Police features commentary, reviews, and previews of jazz in the Twin cities and beyond.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Wednesday, October 10

Ian Alexi and the Deserters on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Longtime listeners of Harold’s House Party will recall Ian Alexi from his days with the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, and other visits to the House Party. Now, however, Alexi’s music has taken a turn from the bluegrass/Americana Nephews to a more rockin’ style. He still writes about misfit characters, but the music was inspired by vinyl recordings of folks like the Pretenders, Thin Lizzy, and Tom Petty. Tune in, and head to the 331 if you’re inspired by what you hear.

Dee Miller Band @ Mancini’s, Saint Paul. 7pm – 10pm (No Cover) The old-school lounge of Mancini’s has been rockin’ on Wednesdays this fall. Tonight they feature the Dee Miller Band  which has been raising the roof themselves since vocalist Miller was recently named Performer of the Year by the MN Blues Society, and the whole band was chosen to represent MN at the International Blues Challenge in January.

Amy Helm @ Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($20 Advance/$25 Door) The daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm is making her own musical way quite nicely, singing Americana, gospel, and blues. Helm just released This Too Shall Light, on Yep Roc Records.  It was produced by Grammy-winning Joe Henry, and features a wide variety of songs, from Rod Stewart’s Mandolin Wind, to Allen Toussaint’s Freedom for the Stallion, a pre-Band song of her father’s, and a reflection on Blossom Dearie.

Thursday, October 11

RAMM Band @ Moe’s, Moundsview. 6:30pm – 10pm (No Cover) Every Thursday night is BBQ & Blues night at Moe’s. Tonight its The RAMM Band: Real, American Made Music f(Motown, Blues, R&B) from guitar master Paul Mayasich; John Iden, bass; and Donald “Hye Pockets” Robertson.

Forro Night w/Samba Meu @ Can Can Wonderland, Saint Paul. 6pm – 8pm  ($2) Brazilian country dancing is easy enough if you can do a two-step or are willing to take part in a multi-culti square dance. Dance instructors will be on hand and Samba Meu will provide the music. Afterwards you can take part in the many diversions at Can Can Wonderland, including mini-golf.

Saturday, October 13

Craig Clark Band @ Schooner Tavern, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Tip Jar) Blues guitarist Clark grew up singing gospel music and listening to groups like the Mighty Clouds of Joy, which undoubtedly influences to his soulful singing. He’s a spark plug, whether playing in the Dee Miller Band or heading his own group, as he does tonight.

R-Factor’s Prince Tribute @ Birch’s Brewhouse, Long Lake. 8pm – 11:30 (No Cover) With six singers and eight musicians and a repertoire that makes them a popular wedding band, the R-Factor has both the vocal chops and musicianship to do right by Prince songs. Birch’s is a bit West, but for those of you in the Western ‘burbs, and others wailing to make the drive, this will be a fun evening.

Sunday, October 14

Women Composers Festival @ The Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis. 3pm-4:30pm ($?) An afternoon of music by women composers, including Maura Bosch, Kari Tweiten, Sarah Houle, Missy Mizzoli, Shulamit Ran, & Julie Sweet. Flutist Julie Johnson will be performing an excerpt from  her composition “Crocus Hill Ghost Story,” with narration by KrisAnne Weiss.

Eric Gales Trio @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35, $40) When guitarist Gales released his first album at the age of 16, he was  already being compared to Hendrix. That was in 1991, and since then he’s released 15 albums. Though often called an average singer, he more than makes up for that with electrifying playing, drawing on influences from the psychedelic blues-rock of the 70s, while staying grounded in modern times.

Monday, October 15

Steve Clarke & The Working Stiffs @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 7pm (No Cover) It’s Monday, so its another swing dance night at Famous Dave’s. Tonight saxophonist about town Steve Clarke brings hard charging Working Stiffs to the stage to inspire dancers, so of whom showed ups forth swing dance lesson at 7pm.

Tuesday, October 16

Lindsay Beaver @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 7pm Free Dance lesson, 8pm show. ($10) If ducktails, ponytails, Betty Page dresses, & leather jackets are your idea of dressing up for a night out, then you’ll likely get crazy, man, crazy over stand-up drummer/vocalist Lindsay Beaver and her band. Heck, even if you aren’t a 50s fashionista, you may appreciate the way Beaver and her band mine old school rock n’ roll and R&B with the fire and fury that brings dancers to Lee’s dance floor.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues (and some roots) events, see the MN Blues Society calendar. For a comprehensive listing of Cajun and Zydeco events, see the Krewe de Walleye calendar.

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