Cathedral Park Jazz Festival Artist Feature: Jessika Smith Big Band

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With the 38th Annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival looming, we asked the artists to share some about themselves and their art form. Jessika Smith is the first installment of many to come.

JazzScene: What is your main instrument, or role in your group?

Jessika Smith: I'm the bandleader and composer for the group. I play saxophone when I'm not actively leading the group.

JazzScene: Can you describe your set for those that may not know a lot about jazz or blues music?

Jessika Smith: The band will be playing a selection of songs from our album, Tricks of Light, as well as some new arrangements. We are a 17-piece jazz ensemble, and we play everything from classic swing to Latin jazz to modal and minimalist jazz.

JazzScene: Can you describe your set for those that do know a lot about jazz and blues music?

Jessika Smith: The band will be playing a selection of songs from our album, Tricks of Light, as well as some new arrangements. I really want to showcase some of the fine players we have on this set, so expect some earth-shattering solos balanced with some danceable grooves.

JazzScene: What inspires you to perform, or compose?

Jessika Smith: My inspirations for my compositions can come from pretty much anything in my life. Some songs I write for people, some songs about nature and other beautiful places. One of my songs is actually trying to convey the rhythmic undertones of a street light. As a performer, my motivations are similar to my compositions, although it is more about communicating the thrill and beauty of music with my audience and less about specific people, places, or things.

JazzScene: How did you end up becoming a professional musician?

Jessika Smith: Like many other musicians, I got hooked on music and performance in school. I was lucky to have some amazing teachers in my life, and I was lucky to get performance opportunities on top of that. I guess once you are finished with music school, the only way to go is up!

JazzScene: If you had to pick one moment or professional accomplishment for which you are most proud, what would it be?

Jessika Smith: When I was in grad school at the UO, I had the opportunity to play with Ingrid Jensen. I would say her open and creative approach to improvisation and storytelling was truly path-changing for me. Getting to share an artistic space with her was really life-changing and impacts a lot of what I do as a musician today.

JazzScene: If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Jessika Smith: Count Basie, the music of Benny Carter: Kansas City Suite, Vince Mendoza Nights on Earth, Eddie Palmieri Listen Here!

Don't miss the Jessika Smith Big Band on Saturday, July 21st at 4 pm at the 38th Annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival.

 
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