Tricks of Light is Jessika Smith’s 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 native and 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.