By on June 30, 2018

Power Players: Nayo Jones Raises Standards In Jazz
Re-Published from OFFBEAT Magazine
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Nayo Jones is a vocalist who frequently performs with Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, and appears on their 2015 album I’m So New Orleans. She performed at the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and can often be seen at the Carousel Lounge and the Jazz Playhouse.

Nayo Jones performing on Day 2 of the 2014 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Photo by Golden Richard III

“I moved here from Arizona six years ago and am kind of surprised by the warm recognition and open arms that I’ve been greeted with. I really do consider it home and it has felt more rewarding musically in this city than other places I’ve performed. There’s just something about New Orleans.

Being a woman in music is tough, in general. I don’t think that’s just in New Orleans. Sometimes, as women, we get overlooked. We have to push a little harder to obtain a certain level of respect. Women like myself, who’ve made it in the music industry, should make themselves available and be encouraging to young girls. You do see it happening. I have always made myself available to young women who want to become involved in music.

Just watching the [induction] celebration of our new mayor and seeing all those females out there was really awesome. A reporter asked her, ‘What do you want your daughter to take away from this?’ and [Mayor LaToya Cantrell] said, ‘You can do or be anything that you want.’ And that’s how I was raised. I come from a musical family. My dad was a musician and was always very encouraging. When I decided to leave corporate America and get into music, there was no ‘You shouldn’t do that.’ I am so grateful for my father because I was able to avoid some of the pitfalls women encounter in this business.

For the Twin Cities Jazz Festival [June 21–23], Dee Dee Bridgewater actually called me personally to congratulate me and say she was excited for me. And that’s an example of women who’ve gone before us extending themselves out to other women. I cannot believe that this happened. I was very excited about Jazz Fest—and I had an amazing Jazz Fest. But once Jazz Fest was over, I immediately [got working on] the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and somehow, some way, the universe said I deserved to be on that stage. I debuted a couple of original tunes that I’d never done before. We had a ball out there.

My plan is to do some work with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra on shows they have coming forward while they start trying to rebuild that organization. I’m also working on recording. I recorded a live tribute to Natalie Cole at the Jazz Museum recently and have not had the opportunity to go through that file and put the project together, but I’m very excited about that. Once I do that I can begin to work on some original music. People know me for doing a lot of jazz standards, which I do love doing. I like sharing my take on classic songs. But I’m excited to share some of my original work with people.”

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