“…a heavily layered modern jazz album with a sharp, forward-thinking edge.”
Parker Hall, Willamette Week
“Jessika Smith is a composer whose language speaks to every milestone of her genre…”
Sean Ongley, Thru Magazine
“…Smith’s new record contains blasts of big band sound that will burst the bubble of complacency in your heart…”
Rob Cullivan, Portland Tribune
About Tricks of Light
PJCE Records is proud to introduce the Portland jazz audience to Jessika Smith’s compositional prowess. Tricks of Light is her debut album as a leader/composer/saxophonist and will be released on December 18th, 2015. This album should do plenty to ensconce her status as a top-flight jazz composer in Oregon and beyond. Smith is a Spokane nativeand University of Oregon alum and this will be the first artist to release a big band album on the PJCE Records label. Smith compiled a band of top-notch instrumentalists from all over the Pacific Northwest to record this CD, but the sound and artistic vision of the record are all her own.
Last October Smith decided to plan, write, and record her debut album after being inspired during a tour of Europe with the University of Oregon Jazz Ensemble. She did not share a common language with the audiences, yet Smith noticed that her music was being received with excitement. The large and enthusiastic audiences met the music with an appreciation and understanding for the lyric-less, pseudo-traditional big band music; the collection of danceable rhythms, and imaginative harmonies and melodies found in few other modern musics. She took that spirit with her into the period of creativity
In March 2015, Smith called upon twenty-one of her favorite musicians and former teachers to record the big band album at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. Tricks of Light is a collection of new work from Smith that displays her careful attention to melody, ability to construct mood, and impressive compositional skills. The writing features subtle nuances in phrase length, angular (yet singable) melodies, and gives room for the high-flying soloists to tell their own story. While the music sits comfortably in the straight-ahead jazz realm there are flashes of experimentation with Latin flavors and explorations of darker, rock-influenced moods.
About Jessika Smith
Currently residing in Eugene, Oregon, Jessika Smith (Jessie Smith, formerly Jessika Leek) finished her duties as a Graduate Teaching Fellow and graduated with her Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies at the University of Oregon in June 2014. She is currently the director and coordinator of the Eugene Composer’s Big Band. During her time at UO, Jessika played lead alto with the award-winning Oregon Jazz Ensemble, which toured Europe in the summer of 2014 and participated in the Montreux, Vienne, Umbria, and La Spezia Jazz Festivals. Jessika also plays frequently around the Eugene area with assorted jazz groups, and is teaching K-4 General Music at Prairie Mountain School.
During her time at the University of Oregon, Jessika was a graduate teaching fellow whose duties included directing Jazz Lab 2 (big band), jazz combos, teaching private saxophone lessons, and being a teaching assistant in Jazz Performance Lab and Jazz History courses. She studied with Steve Owen (jazz composition/arranging) and Idit Shner (saxophone). Jessika is also a graduate of Eastern Washington University with a BA and teaching certificate in K-12 Music Education. While working toward her undergraduate degree, she studied saxophone performance with Todd Delgiudice and music composition and arranging with Rob Tapper. She received the “Outstanding Undergraduate Jazz Award” both in 2009 and 2010, graduated magna cum laude, and received the honor of EWU’s Frances B. Huston award in 2011.
While living in Spokane, Jessika was a director of the Spokane All-City Jazz Ensembles, which focuses on hands-on learning of the jazz language in a small group setting for the most talented students in the area. She was also the youngest member of the Bob Curnow Big Bandfrom 2008-2012, and can be heard on Bob’s studio recordings for Sierra Music Publishing Company. In the classical style, Jessika has won the regional solo and ensemble contest two times, and also won the gold medal at the Spokane Musicfest competition as the leader and soprano saxophonist of EWU’s saxophone quartet.
Jessika’s private students have won principal chairs in honors groups including the Washington All-State Wind Ensemble, participated in regional and state-wide solo contests, and have won music scholarships for college. She has experience in many genres of music including jazz, classical, funk, rock, and Latin. Jessika can be heard on Milonga’s “The Brown Album“, Bob Curnow’s “The Music Of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays Vol. 2“, on numerous tracks recorded by the EWU Wind Ensemble and EWU Jazz Ensemble, and on the Oregon Jazz Ensemble’s recordings from 2012-2014. Jessika’s debut album, “Tricks of Light” will be released on December 18, 2015.
Smith’s composition “Cyan Thread” was recently announced as the winner of the 2015 National Band Association Young Jazz Composer’s Contest. The Navy Commodores will be performing the piece at the 2015 Midwest Clinic in Chicago on December 17, 2015. “Cyan Thread” was also awarded an honorable mention in the 2015 Ithaca College Jazz Composition Contest.
In 2013, Jessika’s composition, “Lights” for large jazz ensemble was the winner of the first annual Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra Composition Contest. “Lights” was performed with guest artist Ingrid Jensen at the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, WA on October 24, 2013. Lights and other samples of Jessika’s playing and writing can be heard here: http://www.jessikasmithmusic.com/listen.html