JAM UNBLOGGED~ The Saga Continues!


Sarah Vaughan (March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990) was an American jazz singer, and easily one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century.

Nicknamed "Sassy" and "The Divine One" Sarah Vaughan was a four-time Grammy Award winner, including a "Lifetime Achievement Award".  The National Endowment for the Arts bestowed upon her its "highest honor in jazz", the NEA Jazz Masters Award, in 1989.

Just a little history for those  who are not familiar with the late great Sarah Vaughan.  As a new jazz singer in the '90's, I did a lot of listening. Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dinah Washington.  But when I started listening to Sarah Vaughan, it changed my whole perspective.  For me, she was the end all, be all for jazz.  She was a true stylist. An true elitist as far as jazz vocalists go.  I was a serious fan of Dianne Reeves (still am)  but when it came to studying the fundamentals I learned so much listening to Sarah Vaughan. 

So in 2012, I did a tribute concert at the old Hattiloo Theatre.  It was an amazing experience and my first time working with my current music director, Keenan Shotwell (piano).  It went so well, I said let's do it again! But this time I wanted to record it.  Thus the Sarah Vaughan Project was born.  We did the live recording in late 2014.  However, because of serious technical difficulties, we realized that we weren't going to be able to use the a lot of the recording.  My feelings were hurt so I stepped away from the project for a moment and focused on some original music that I had been writing and wanted to go ahead and produce.  I reunited with my buddy Claude Hinds III to produce Blue Moon and sat down with Keenan to work on You Got Me.  The two songs were completely different but equally wonderful for me.  I was thoroughly pleased with their production and both songs got airplay. 

However the SV Project was still looming so I had to get back to it.  We went into the Memphis Slim House Collaboratory studios and did a live studio recording with an audience, which was a fun and unique experience.  My band (Mood Swing) and I were able to complete several songs.What fun, what fun!!!  So now here we are, preparing to roll out the finished project- Sassy's Return, my first full length album.  This album will be followed by a full album of original music with several collaborations.  I'm excited about that project but now I just can't wait for you to hear what we've done with this music!  See the following unBLOG for more details about the music! 

Aaaaaaaand........WE'RE BACK! 

So excited to reclaim my domain and be back online!  Stay tuned for a full UNBLOGGED account about our upcoming release: THE SARAH VAUGHAN PROJECT- Sassy's Return.  Set for release THIS SUMMER!!!


 You Got Me~ another lesson in patience.  Recently someone working with me on my music said to me “Thank-you for your patience Jam”  I wanted to tell him, I haven’t been patient, I’ve actually been pulling my hair out over here, stressing and losing sleep about this song but if you want to call me patient—ok!  Patience is not really my thing.  But I’ve learned the hard way that when you have to rely on multiple people to play a part in your success of completing a song, sometimes you will have no choice but to WAIT.  Scheduling musicians, studio time, engineers, singers, addl. meetings and whatnot can be challenging to put it lightly.  My original release date for the single: You Got Me was in August 2014, and now as I plan the release the Feb/Mar 2015, I am finally breathing a sigh of relief!  During the WAIT however, the song continued to evolve…

As of July, "You Got Me" had been heard by two different test audiences.  I was really loving the piece  and the audiences were totally vibing w/ it.  There was no bridge to the song at that time, just two verses.  One day, Keenan was playing some new ideas through with me and he switched up the chord structure on one part.  I said what is that?! I love it!   He said, he didn’t know but he wanted to get that in there somewhere.  I asked him to include it in the rough track we were about to record after the second verse and I would write something to it.  I took the song to San Antonio where my sister had decided to have a house party and let me share my upcoming singles.  The day before the party I was working on the song and I said to my niece, hey what do you think of these words? “I can’t breathe, I can’t think, I can’t be- without you, without you near me.  The heart knows what it wants and baby I want you, I want you I want you!”  She was digging it and the bridge was born.  I sang it the next night for my sister’s friends.  I tripped up a little on the new section but it was a non-issue.  They loved the song!

 In September, I was chatting with a friend/guitarist Thomas Crivens and he said- Hey Jam, why am I not on any of your music?  I said- Good question!  30 minutes later I asked him to put ears on "You Got Me" and see if he could insert some electric guitar.  It took three sessions and endless tracks but we finally got what we were seeking with the guitar part.  The song was truly taking form!

  Prior to adding guitar I got my singers in the studio.  While Deena was there, there was one part in particular where she asked, Jam- what exactly are you saying right there?  I asked Isaac to isolate the voice and we listened over and over finally I said ha-ya-ya-ya.  She repeated ha-ya-ya-ya?  Yep ha-ya-ya-ya!  And so it was!  I LOVE the studio! 

You Got Me- grammar?
I went back and forth with this title.  Would I call it: Thinking Of You or the next logical choice- You Got Me?  I kept saying to myself, is this proper?  Poor grammar is a pet peeve of mine but there was no way that I was going to change the whole song to say “You’ve got me”!  But when someone says that you pulled one over on them, what do they say?  You Got Me!  I’m still not 100% sure if it’s proper grammar or not.  I’m not really concerned either.  In essence it’s kind of raw because this kind of deep rooted feeling and regard that one person feels for another is not a refined and appropriate feeling but often one that is beyond our control and will.  I was watching a show called Being Mary Jane and she was completely obsessing over a man and my song popped into my head.  I thought, yeah, she gets it! The song says, “I open my eyes you’re there. I close my eyes, you’re there, you’re always on my mind.  In my dreams you stalk, in my day I can’t keep you away.”  That’s pretty raw if you ask me. So could I very politely say that after all of this madness in my mind that “You’ve Got Me?”  No. I think its just necessary to keep it plain and say "You Got Me!" That’s all there is to it!

BLUE MOON- The story behind the song... 

Some of the best songs have a good story behind them.  This is one of my best songs and one of my best stories. 

 The moon affects the tide of the oceans.  Like the tide, with all relationships there is an ebb and flow.  The flow is when the relationship is in the ushy gushy stage. Life is good, love is good, Everything is easy. The ebb is when the relationship is seemingly in a lull. It appears to be stuck, usually in a stale place.  The key to a lasting relationship is to stand strong during the ebb and await the next flow.  Since the moon affects the tide, the wait can then be said to to be for the moon to change the tide.  The Blue Moon is a Full Moon.  The full moon has the most potent affect on the tides-more than any of the other phases.  The Blue Moon is a wonderful phenomena when the full moon occurs for the third of four times during a season. 

I was excited to see the blue moon last Fall. It was big and bright and inspiring.  I immediately decided to write a song about the moon.  I ruminated for days but I knew the theme right away.  The tides. It had to be about the tides. 

Before the words however, came the bass line.  The bass line  came to me and stuck with me for days.  I added some simple chords.  I played it over and over again.  Then came the words.  The first verse came easy, then I called Claude.  We met and I shared the bass line line and chords.  He was stumped with the rhythm at first but it was catchy.  He tried to revamp it but I held fast.  It had to be the way I first conceived it.  I told him he had to build the rest around the original bass line.  So he did. C3 (Claude Hinds III) did what he does best and the song continued to evolve.  True to form, when we write, the process is easy.  We don't bicker, we vibe. We flow.  (A writing partner like this is a gift!) After that day, I wrote the rest.  The 2nd verse came easily because the story needed a 2nd chapter.  The first chapter is the "flow".  The 2nd verse is the "ebb".  The rest of the story is written by the listener, inspired by the adlib of the band. 

While working on the song, we agreed that we wanted another instrument in addition to the rhythm section.  We agreed immediately that a flute would fit the song perfectly.  We called up Gerald Morgan and he climbed right on board and was thrilled to be a part of the production.  With James Sexton on Drums and Doc Samba on bass, I really was getting excited about recording.  After a couple of failed attempts at rehearsing everyone together, I proposed to Claude for us to consider NOT rehearsing the song with the full band. Knowing that everyone was ready to roll, I didn't want to over-rehearse the song and take away from the opportunity to have an organic experience in the studio.  We went for it and the 5 of us met my friend and fav engineer, Isaac Daniel at the Memphis Slim House to record the first song for this brand new studio.  The chemistry was easy and natural.  The song flowed easily and didn't need but a few takes for the band to lock it in.  BLUE MOON was on the rise!!

Prepare for the release of BLUE MOON in February of 2015!

The Single...2014 

Well it's that time again!  I'm so thrilled to be going back to record this single.  As a songwriter, there is no greater thrill than to have music that I've written be produced and shared with the world.  As a performer, I get to grace the stage regularly, but as a writer, my moments take more blood sweat and tears!  Don't be confused, I don't put more stock in either.  I hold both gifts dear and thank God for them equally.  However, having another opportunity to produce a song is a mad adrenaline rush!  This song started as a bass line in my mind. So I sat down and played it over and over until a melody started taking shape in my mind. Then I left it alone.  Then last fall, I saw a wonderful sight in the sky that inspired the theme and words of the song. 3 weeks later I called Claude and said, "Hey I got the next song, when can I come through?" Claude added his magic and now we're preparing to bring it to you! Stay tuned for the next installment for more details of how this song has come to life!

The Hard Part 

The hard part.
My skin has definitely thickened in the last year. I had to learn to deal with “no” although it doesn’t usually come in that form. The “No” can be silent but loud and clear. I’ve lost count of the empty promises, the “I Got You!”, the unreturned phone call/email/msg. But I learned early on that if I couldn’t handle the many no’s, I would never have received the many yes’s along the way. It’s tough, it can be brutal and downright painful but after awhile, you realize it’s just part of the game. You can either play the game and get good at it, play and lose miserably or simply get out of the game. I’m playing, learning and winning-that’s all there is to it!
Then there are the so-called haters, they come in many forms. Some set out to sabotage you, some hate you from a distance, and some smile in your face while yielding a very sharp knife behind their back. Whether they’re driven by jealousy, resentment or a genuine dislike, they are all around and they have multiplied since I released the CD. However, as ever present as they may be, they are a non-issue. I don’t have time to deal with people with ill intentions. I just keep one eye on them and continue to handle my business.
I tell everyone the same thing, the writing, rehearsals, and, the recording the project was definitely the easy part. It was fun. It was not work. But being an Indie Artist means you learn and apply the “business” of music all by yourself most of the time. That part was and is very difficult, time consuming and frustrating. Thanks to the Memphis Music Foundation, however (does this sound like a commercial?), I was equipped with the tools and education I needed to handle my business. Had they really told me what I was getting myself into, I might have chickened out but if I learned one thing about myself, it’s that I can be very savvy when put to task and that my passion for my music would continue to drive me to keep pressing.
That is all for now. Jam

Caring For Your Instrument 

 Any good musician will tell you that caring for your instrument in one of THE most important things to stay on top of.  The same goes for vocalists.  Over the years I’ve learned more about the proper care of my voice.  It’s not always easy but I do my best.  The most important thing is hydration.  I drink tons of water. Mostly without ice, especially if I’m singing.  I always have water with me at rehearsals-room temperature.  Just remember- water, Water, WATER! 

The next thing is warming up.  Just like you wouldn’t do a full workout without warming up, you also should never sing in full voice or for a sustained period without warming up your voice. I tend to do different scales, arpeggios or vocaleses to warm up.  Watch out for vocal strain.  I don’t go out a whole lot but if I do you will rarely hear me yelling out or howling in laughter.  I might even have my mouth open cracking up but there might not be any sound! (insider secret revealed!)  I’m constantly in scarves from Fall to Spring to the point where my co-workers tease me about over dressing but I tell them that I have to protect my voice!  It’s bad enough I work with kids and anybody who works in an Elementary school knows that it is a germ factory!  So I do what I can, loading up on antioxidant rich foods, taking vitamins etc.  Do I drink tea? Yes but keep in mind it serves the purpose of making your throat  feel better but it does not heal your vocal cords, that is a myth.  



So as it goes, I did a great job of taking care of myself and my voice all the way to December, but my husband who doesn’t have my 15 years of built up immunity from working in public schools has been subbing for a couple months and brought home this horrific bug that took over my whole house!  Sore throats, chills and fever, congestion and guess what- loss of voice!!!  It wasn’t the flu, it was just this horrible mutant ninja virus!! 

So I’m at Walmart and the Salvation Army bell ringer was ringing and singing and I stopped to listen cuz he was really singing! So then he was like –You must be a singer! I said yeah why? He said cuz singers always stop!  Let me hear a little something. So I gave him a quick one liner. Now mind you my voice was shot to hell thanks to the mutant ninja virus! So he was like that was beautiful! Tell me about yourself! That led to a whole conversation—yadda yadda yadda. So I’m like I gotta go shop so he says well on your way out you have to give the people a song! I said no I don’t that’s your job!  He said you can’t be stingy with your gift!  (that’s where he got me). So I’m shopping dreading going back out there bcuz I KNOW my voice is not to where I need to be singing for anybody!  But I couldn’t avoid him so as soon as I walked out he said I KNOW you’re going to bless us with a song.  I said you first. So he busts out with a song, then it was my turn.  So I squeaked out Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas with as much tonal quality as I could get away with having 35% of a voice.  He was like OMG that was beautiful!  I was like OMG you’re a lie!! (In my head only) LOL!!  Anyway, enough of that story.  That was just yesterday and my voice is STILL jacked! I was supposed to do a little singing this weekend but I don’t really see that in my near future. Good thing I don’t have a gig this weekend.  I was mad that I wasn’t able to book anything but now I’m glad bcuz I don’t know what I would do. Being hoarse is one thing but this is more like laryngitis.  Well that’s all for 2nite.  See you tomorrow.  If you see me out do NOT ask for an A selection!!  IAMJAM!

Rejection and the drama around I Promise Forever! 

So yesterday I told you I had sent the lyrics ideas back to my writing partner laid over his track. I have to admit I was a bit nervous to get the response from him. Because of the trusting musical relationship we have, Claude would not hesitate to tell me if he wasn’t feeling what I’d done. I had told myself I would just dive back in and catch another vibe if he didn’t like it. But his response was and I quote, “Omg, Jam I love that!!!! I couldn’t hear the words good but the feel of that is dope to me!!!!” And a song is born!
Rejection is a hard pill to swallow but your skin gets tougher and tougher as I am learning. Dishing out the rejection is equally hard. Markevius was not the first person that was supposed to sing the duet “I Promise Forever” with me. I thought I had a guy in mind to sing it. During rehearsal with him he really struggled though. Then at the studio, it went terribly wrong. Pitch and tone is very important when recording in the studio. Auto-tune will only get you so far. By the end of the session, my boys sat me down and were like Jam- dude ain’t gonna work out! I was like you guys are both in agreement? (C3 and I.D.) Yeah, we both agree. Well I’m not going to argue with you, I told them. I’ll let him know. My stomach hurt the next day when I knew I was about to see the guy. He was all excited, asking how I thought it had gone. I broke the news to him that we were replacing him, crushing his excitement. That was really difficult.

Claude came back to me with a few suggestions for male singers. I chose Markevius Faulkner (Day One/Jehovah God). I made a good choice but that doesn’t mean everything went great from that point! Back in the studio, I had already recorded my track so Markevius was supposed to come in, knock his stuff out and we were planning to move on to some other songs. As it was he wasn’t quite ready so I had to reteach some parts then C3 and ID agreed that his sound wasn’t matching my sound and that I should re-record all my tracks!! I was like what!!!?? So I did. But then Kevi was feeling all creative and whatnot and started loaning suggestions. Ooh let’s try this! And this! And what about this?! I was enjoying the process when I wasn’t counting hours and thinking about all the songs we weren’t going to get to! The song really evolved that night. The session that was supposed to go from 8-12 let out at 5:30 am with the sun rising and I had to go to work!! I went home got ready and went to work but by 10am I was sick with exhaustion and went home early! I was so excited about what we’d produced that night until Claude and I.D realized that the drums were off. Since it was recorded live, it couldn’t be fixed although they tried. In the end, Claude recorded an awesome keys and string version to go under the vocals and it turned out beautifully! Me- I just stressed the whole time but I trusted my team and we worked it out!

I started out talking about rejection. I got off task so I’ll save that Unblog for another day!


Ok, so lately I've been writing again. It’s such an exciting thing when I am able to write. It's not a 24/7 thing for writers like me. Some days the music and words flow like water and on others it’s difficult. It is flowing right now and the feeling is amazing and incomparable. When you can write a good song, you feel like you can conquer the world!

My writing partner and I are trying a different approach with some of the songs this time. Will it work? We’ll see. This time he has sent me some skeleton tracks with a basic groove and wants me to try to vibe with them and add lyrics and melody. On the first song it was instant and the words came to me right away. The 2nd song took me about 3 weeks to catch. So here I am now- I sent the song back to him for him to review with some vocals I put on top. I am waiting for his feedback. I told him if he doesn’t like it I will trash it and start again. I don’t know if he will dig it or not, we will see. I’ll let you know.

We are excited about the next project. It will be a full length album. It will be about 50% Jazz and the rest will be whatever I’m feeling during the next few months. You will hear some Neo Soul, Gospel, R&B, Rock and who knows what else! I’m planning several collaborations. I also plan to use more than one producer this time. It will add another dimension to the project. The fun thing about being an independent artist is that I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to follow any rules that I don’t want to follow. I don’t have to stick with one genre. Yes I am a jazz and soul singer but at the end of the day I am a musician. I am a songwriter, a composer, a trained vocalist, a publisher, a producer. I am always seeking higher mountains and bigger dreams. I AM JAM!


In The Sun- Writing The EP
Sometimes people ask me what it took to write and record a CD. I ask them how much time do you have? But I really want to share some of the process with you all because it really was one of the most challenging, wonderful and empowering efforts I have ever completed in my lifetime and yes, there will be a full- length album recorded soon! (We’ve already started writing!)
It really was a dream fulfilled. I always thought it would be fun but I really thought I was just going to do a demo project. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that I would not only record an EP but also that I would use all originals. I already had 2 songs that I knew I wanted to use. I had written Malibu several years ago and was looking for the opportunity to do something with it. I Promise Forever had been written for my sisters wedding a couple years back so I wanted that on there too. The other three, I wrote specifically for the project, The Intro in the Spring of 2011, MUZIC that summer and finally the title track- In The Sun was written to complete the project.

The thing most daunting to me, was knowing that I had to trust someone to write with me. These songs were my babies and I had to let someone be a part of my creation. It was risky and I thought what if we don’t vibe? What if I hate what he wants to do? None of that happened. It was nothing short of magic!! The writing process looked like this, Claude and I would meet, he would sit at his keyboard and I would sing a song and give him as much of the vibe as I was feeling. Sometimes I would play the basic chords, sometimes I would just let him do all the playing. He would listen and then he would start playing. We experimented with groove after groove. Sometimes he had to sleep on it and call me when he had a concept to run by me. “Muzic” was especially difficult to develop the music around. Claude would be like what about this? I’d be like no. Then he wanted to key to be higher, I said no then he said what about this and I said—I think I like it and then finally after a billion ideas, it just worked!

“Malibu” was a challenge because it was the oldest song and I had trouble adding to the song to fill it out. Driving down Sam Cooper one day, it just hit me-what about another language? Ooh what language? Spanish nah! Portuguese-uh nope! French! Perfect! I had a French speaking co-worker who worked tirelessly to develop my lines based on the phrases I wanted to say. I did make one major error while recording but I’ll never tell so unless you speak French, that secret will stay with me! The layered scatting came about because I was trying to adlib/scat to a slow song and it felt empty. I originally wanted 3 layers but that didn’t work out. Dave Parks loaned his idea for the vamp and the song was complete, making Malibu a fan favorite.

In The Sun was the easiest as far as developing the groove and the format, the reason is because it basically wrote itself. That song embedded itself so far in me that I was able to tell Claude exactly what I wanted from the start. I played the chords, the bass-line, I knew what I wanted the vocalists to do. I have never put so much of myself into any song before but I hope to write many more like that.

The Intro (What’s Your Name?) was, believe it or not, written in about 30 minutes. I sat down on the floor in my music room with my pad of paper and started singing and writing and recording. I called my best friend Una and my sister and sang it for them on their voicemails and said hey what do you think? The scat section was a hot mess (see the UnBlog about the studio) when I sang on the phone but it came together over time. One day I called Claude and said, “Claude I hear horns!” He agreed that that would be cool and we started developing that whole notion.

I Promise Forever was a labor of love. I wrote it for my sister’s wedding. I insisted on using on the CD. Claude and Isaac pushed back saying maybe I should leave it off because it wasn’t fitting the vibe of the rest of the jazzy CD. I told them I didn’t care and that it was staying. That was the end of that conversation but it wasn’t the end of drama surrounding that song. The rest will be shared in the Studio UnBlog! Now that I’m writing this, I realized that I lost the MOST sleep over THIS song! But it has given me much joy along the way and I am pleased with its outcome!

Wow, I really hadn’t plan to write this much but I guess I had a lot to share about these songs. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I appreciate you sharing in this journey with me. The amount of work that goes into making music is monumental but I wanted to share a few of the pieces not only to you but to allow me to record my own memories as well. Stay tuned because recording in the studio was a trip and I can’t wait to talk about it!