Joan Watson-Jones - Choices
Location: AMERICA NORTH: USA: New York (NY)
JOAN WATSON-JONES is a singer, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist, and host and producer of The Jazz Room, an online radio program where she plays music and interviews some of the top names in jazz. On CHOICES, her fourth album, she presents a program of her original songs with music and lyrics penned by Watson-Jones, plus two standards.
Watson-Jones is a mainstay on the New England jazz scene, and she brought on board for this project old friends with whom she’s performed and recorded in various settings for 25 years. Pianist FRANK WILKINS is her arranger, accompanist, and creative partner. He has a long list of credits, including backing Dee Dee Bridgewater. Wilkins also accompanied Watson-Jones on her previous CD, Quiet Conversation, an intimate duet project. Bassist DAVE ZOX and drummer ALVIN TERRY are Watson-Jones’ longtime rhythm section and join her once again.
Watson-Jones has recorded her own lyrics on other albums, but this is her first project featuring almost all original material. For Watson-Jones, nothing is more important than the people in her life. She is a natural storyteller, and the stories she tells grow from her life experiences.
She opens and closes the album with two standards. “Topsy 2,” originally an instrumental composition, was a big hit for Cozy Cole. Watson-Jones penned the lyrics to the tune. “I’ve loved Cozy’s drumming since I was young,” says Watson-Jones. “I can actually hear a melody when he plays as if he were playing notes on the drums. I just wanted to express the joy I feel when I hear his pounding rhythms.” Watson-Jones closes the album with “Here’s to Life,” the Artie Butler composition with lyrics by Phyllis Mollinary. “I thought this was a fitting way to end the album,” says Watson-Jones. “I look back on my life and realize how lucky I’ve been. The lyrics that Mollinary wrote just says it all.”
Watson-Jones wrote “Choices” after attending a Dianne Reeves concert at Carnegie Hall. Inspired by Reeves’ ability to transmit the heart and soul of a song, Watson-Jones went home and wrote the lyrics about her mother. “We’re all forced to make choices that can profoundly affect our life, sometimes choosing the road less taken. My mother told me to stand behind my choices, to be proud of them. They’re words I try to live by.”
Watson-Jones attended a Martin Luther King, Jr. rally with her father in a Baptist church in Harlem in the 1960s. The church was very crowded, and Watson-Jones, being a petite woman, never actually got to see King, but his voice and words of love resonated deeply with her. “Talking with Martin” is dedicated to King and his ideals.
Watson-Jones wrote “Let Me Go” for a woman she calls her second mother. As her father’s secretary, she was always in the house and was always loving and kind to Watson-Jones. In her later years when she got too old to really take care of herself, Watson-Jones returned her kindness by looking after her. “My Child’s Dreams” is dedicated to her father, the accomplished physician, and humanitarian. After graduating from college, Watson-Jones wrote him a letter about her fears for the future. The lyrics are based on his loving response.
“I Ain’t Just a Pretty Face” is Watson-Jones’ anthem to her personal power where she tells her errant companion “I ain’t just a pretty face / Exuding style, form, and grace / That broken promise of love so true / Has shown me what to expect of you.”
“The First Time We Met” recounts the first time Watson-Jones met her husband, Peter. They met in college years ago when Peter had just come over from England. A quiet and studious person, he walked around wearing a three-piece suit and carried an umbrella and a briefcase. Despite their differences, love was meant to be … “You liked my eyes and my silly jokes / I liked your smile and your kind gentle voice / You knew crazy facts about all kinds of things / And best of all ---we both loved Nina Simone.”
“A Glass of Wine” is about the intimacy and comfort that two people share over a glass after a long day. “You and me and a glass of wine / Always stands the test of time / We sit and talk about our day / And let our troubles melt / Let our troubles melt.”
“It’s Been a Long Time Coming” was inspired by a college friend. The old friend was short and heavy with a bad case of acne. Watson-Jones says, “She was a lovely person, but other people didn’t want to room with her. So, of course, since I’m black, the college decided to make us roommates. We were both outsiders.” After not seeing her friend for many years, she ran into her on a trip to Universal Studios in California. They re-ignited their friendship, and after several years, her friend wrote that she had finally found love.
Despite growing up in a time when overt racism was the norm, Watson-Jones was surrounded by the love of her family and all the people who came into their orbit. CHOICES is a beautiful and creative homage to a life filled with love and hope and music.