SOULFUL KEYS AND THE NEW NORMAL
Jenn Jade Ledesna has come a long way since earning allowance by performing at age 6 in the Bronx. The nomadic multi-talent writes, arranges and composes for Jenn Jade & RajAfro (Bronx-Senegalese Quintet), Jenn Jade & the Jazz Immigrants (International Quartet), and Jenn Jade’s Sexteto Sabroso (Afro-Latin Sextet). Having lived abroad in Brasil and Chile, it’s not unusual for the artist to travel for bookings or cultural immersion. Ledesna, who is Puerto Rican and Dominican, considers herself “Bi-Atlantic” and frequently performing at “Aux Trois Mailletz” in Paris and abroad to places in Europe and Africa.
The artist admittedly takes pride in her polyglot muscle and sings fluently in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Russian, and English and is currently learning Arabic. Ledesna also speaks German, Serbian, Woloff, and Yiddish. “Constant study, learning to be a better listener, occasionally calling ‘next’ on the basketball court and traversing the earth to deepen her understanding of the human condition,” drives Ledesna to reach deep as her work evolves.
Ledesna, who also has theater and film and television credits, reflects on where she now finds herself artistically, “Artistically, I’m in the ‘Woodshed’, building my rhythmic arsenal: Expanding my ears, synergy, lines, and body. This season I am focusing on Senegalese Sabar, Puerto Rican Bomba, and house music! My personal philosophy is if you cannot dance it, you cannot sing it. It’s all in the nuance, feeling, isolations and cross rhythms y’all!”
With Ledesna’s mother, who left Puerto Rico at the age of 11 for New York City, recently joining her father in “celestial ancestory,” a loss she deeply experienced, she is in the process of building her “new normal”. “Now I must continue the majesty of their legacy and honor their spirits.” Ledesna comments on survival and the realness of the American dream, “…my father was a first generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic.”
Ledesna, inspired by global multidisciplinary artists, has new work in development and looks forward to cultural performances on the horizon. “I’m currently composing my next album entitled ‘Orphan’ and writing a new one-woman show. I’m very much looking forward to the Tres Mujeres Magnificas concert, where I’ll be bringing some magic home to da Boogie Down Bronx in honor of Women’s History Month. I’ve also been film scoring for my thespian comrades in France.” She chides, “Latina composer realness!”
All humor aside, Ledesna has eyes wide open on the importance of the arts. “The arts have always been a revelatory refuge and empowering force in times of solidarity and anarchy. Today, with the overwhelming cross-cultural awareness that advanced technology has gifted us, the threat of sonic homogeneity is an issue.”
“The stark difference that is the ‘Individual’, whether it’s household to household, country to country, or continent to continent, is what makes concurrent civilizations pluralistically singular! This applies to every walk of life, in my opinion. The common thread is that: We all are human. We all are animals. Yet it is the integrity, morality, moreys of a populous, a harmonic scale, a mantra, a belief, that personify every morsel of sonorous dissonance to enrich the roux of our international identities, as a people.
“This fusion is the pinnacle of beauty, a glorious mutation! Interpretation, not imitation, is an ingenious privilege. Improvisation. Discovery. I personally love breaking stereotypes, ie: “How is that NYC Latina singing a traditional Russian song with blues inflections over mbalax rhythms?”
In taking time to learn the craft of others, we learn about our similarities. The honor births itself in the release, the breath of a song. Anything before becomes forgotten in the moment, the fourth wall collapses, and imagination unifies beating hearts!”
If you want to get schooled then ‘hey Baby’ her or question if she knows her keys. Ledesna has a zero tolerance policy for condescension and insulting assumptions that many singer/musicians have to constantly combat. Ledesna is relieved to see the scene change for the better, “Thankfully, there is more of a female presence in Jazz instrumentalists as the years progress, it has helped the scene tremendously.”
This alumnus of the New School Jazz Conservatory and of the “Famed” LaGuardia Arts has sung at Carnegie Hall with Bobby McFerrin in the “Instant Opera! Young Artists Concert” and in the World Premiere Tour of “Chapel/Chapter” with Bill T. Jones and the Arnie Zane Dance Company. She graced the stage at Norway’s International “Silda Jazz Festival”, the CHORUS Jazz Club in Lausanne, and lit up the Saint Croix’s “Take Five” festival with soul. Ledesna was also an “Ambassador of Song” for the US-Brazilian and French Consulates.
Industry Rules celebrates Ledesna for forging the way as a female composer in a male dominated industry and her mission to “elevate and heal each other through the universal language of art. My only calling is my service to ‘Us’, we as a people, the mirror.” Why? Because, “love is naturally reciprocal!” Now that’s something to sing about.
For a dose of Ledesna’s Truth you can purchase her most recent album of follow her on Facebook for performance dates.