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Hot Sauce

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Album Review

In four short years, contemporary/smooth jazz tenor saxophonist Jessica Arellano (Jessy J) has made quite a splash. Hot Sauce, her Heads Up International debut — and fourth album overall — was produced by Paul Brown, and includes guest appearances from heavyweights Joe Sample, drummer Harvey Mason, guitarist Ray Parker Jr., and vocalist Saunders Sermons. Arellano wrote or co-wrote eight of the album's ten compositions. Its finest moments include the opener, "Remember the Night," which channels Grover Washington Jr.'s Kudu era; the bluesy "Rio Grande," on which her tenor is beautifully balanced by Marco Brasci's keyboard work and Brown's guitar playing; and the title track, where she branches out to showcase some fiery Latin grooves. "Rainbow Gold," written with Sample and including Parker and Mason, is a solid funky jazz track save for Arellano's vocals. She is a plaintive singer who hasn't mastered being able to stand out in front of a big instrumental mix. The pop tune "We Kissed" is marred by the same trait. These are minor annoyances, however. The surprise reading of Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" as a jazzy soul number showcases Sermons' satin-finish vocals in an original arrangement with compelling snare work by Josh Guinta. Sample, Parker, and Mason also appear on set closer "Last Night," which is such a groove-laden number that Arellano's vocals get in the way because they are primarily a briefly sung refrain. Parker's guitars, Nick Sample's bassline, papa Joe's elegant acoustic piano, and Mason's breaks are an excellent supporting cast for Arellano's in-the-cut soloing. The bottom line on Hot Sauce is that it's a more mature and realized record than what she's done before and takes some chances — even when they don't pay off. It's tightly arranged, well produced, and beautifully played.


Born: 28 December 1982 in Portland, OR

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Jazz saxophonist Jessy J was born Jessica Arellano in Portland, Oregon to parents who had emigrated from Mexico. She grew up in Hemet, California and began playing the piano at age four, spending her childhood studying and performing in musical competitions. At 15, she was named Piano State Champion at the Béla Bartók Festival in California. Later, she switched instruments to the saxophone. After graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in jazz studies, she turned professional,...
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Hot Sauce, Jessy J
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