By Andrew Gilhooley / 411
Folk and jazz meet with a dash of blues in the music of Jayme (pronounced “Jay-me”) Kelly Curtis this Saturday at San Jose’s Espresso Garden. Boulder Creek based singer-songwriter-guitarist Curtis will be playing with her band, which is made up of musicians from some of the Bay Area’s top jazz and blues bands, and will be showcasing songs from her acclaimed debut CD “In A Rushing Stream.”
Jayme Kelly Curtis has a strong theme of personal journeys and transformations running through her music, which is very fitting, given the rich variety of her life’s experiences to date. Curtis was born in upstate New York, but aged only 14 she hit the road in the tradition of many of the blues greats. Leaving high school behind, she lived in Boston and on Cape Cod, and joined an artists’ community where she learned fingerstyle guitar with Rolly Brown, a protégé of the Reverend Gary Davis.
Curtis eventually drifted west to Colorado, where she lived for 15 years. There, she played in rock bands as well as developing her solo acoustic act. Five years with the Iron Springs Chateau Melodrama Theatre built her repertoire of jazz and blues standards, as well as developing her vocal skills. While in Colorado, she also returned to school, studying everything from anthropology to music theory to television production, and eventually gained a Master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Denver.
She moved to California on the invitation of a friend. “I had no idea what Northern California was like,” she recalled, “Everything I’ve done has been ‘Well, what shall I do next? Let’s do this and see what happens.’” What did happen next was a three-year stint in the Silicon Valley working for Apple Computer before Curtis decided to go freelance and concentrate more fully on her music career. The result of this decision is her debut CD, released in 2000, on her own PurrGirl Music Publishing label. Co-produced by Dave Meniketti of Y&T, it has garnered praise both locally and as far afield as Germany. Musically, Curtis embraces an eclectic mix of styles on her album, fusing them into a coherent whole that is probably best described by her own term, “New Age Folk.”
Curtis’ band is something of which she is very proud. The rhythm section is comprised of bassist Jack Marshall, who has performed at both Monterey and San Jose’s jazz festivals, and percussionist Tom Wieske. Popular Bay Area jazz pianist Walter Bankovitch and violinist Autumn Hancock provide the rest of the instrumentation. “They are all extraordinary musicians,” said Curtis, “and take the songs to a whole other level compared to a solo performance.” She is especially excited by the blend of timbres from the vocals, violin and piano.
Curtis is currently hard at work on a second CD, entitled “Sugar and Sand.” “All of the basic tracks are down; I just need to add the lead instruments and do the mixing and so on,” she said. Her goal is to have the album ready for release in July this year.
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