The J Love Band elicits a gamut of audience reactions.
At Stock Hill Restaurant and Parkway Social Kitchen, expect rhythmic head nodding; at The Phoenix, toe tapping and finger snapping; at The Juke Club, high-spirited, raucous dancing. The repertoire includes R&B, blues, gospel and jazz, pulling from Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Etta James. Listeners are seduced by “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “At Last” and “Everlasting Love.” More Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan are planned. Perhaps, Gladys Knight and ’70s Motown.
Singer Jamie Chase was early on given the nickname “J Love” for her loving, optimistic outlook on life. Chase grew up in Kennett, a small town in southeast Missouri (also the hometown of Sheryl Crow, whose brother graduated with Chase). The two great inspirations in her life were her grandfather, Lelon Pulliam, guitarist and lead singer of The Soul Stirrers gospel group in the ’60s and ’70s, and her cousin and church choir leader, Veda Brown, an R&B singer with Stax Records in the ’70s. Another cousin, Limmie Pulliam, is a rising international opera star.
Inspired by their example, at 19 Chase decided to try her luck in Kansas City and worked with many local artists in their home studios. Sean Raspberry, songwriter/producer, launched her CD “Life’s Side Effects” in 2008 to a good reception. He introduced her to Strange Music’s Krizz Kaliko and Tech N9ne, whom he also produced (Tech N9ne remains a close friend; he attended one of her shows at The Phoenix last year).
It was at that point that Chase auditioned as lead singer for a band in transition. She remembers she sang “Baby, I Love You” by Aretha Franklin. The decision was immediate and unanimous — she was “the one.”
Drummer/percussionist Clarence Smith named the band for her right then. Smith is a local music luminary, playing everything from jazz to classical. He’s also an honored educator (Music Fellow at Northwestern University, “Downbeat Magazine’s” Jazz Teacher of the Year and Director of The American Jazz Museum’s KC Jazz Academy). Jazz is his passion; he’s constantly nudging the band in that direction.
Jerrod Foutes rules the bass onstage. An introduction to the saxophone at 12 spurred his interest in jazz and, in particular, Charlie Parker. According to Chase, Foutes holds a key to the band’s success. He arranges and compiles their sets, often bringing “the funky,” in her words. He describes Chase’s voice as “earthy and gritty.” “God Bless the Child” is on his must list.
Paul Roberts plays keyboards and is an active composer, arranger and scorer. Projects have included Ida McBeth’s Band, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Pack Band, the Fountain City Brass Band and The Broadway Jazz Orchestra.
Saxophonist James Isaac is another multi-instrumentalist, skilled on piano, flute, bassoon, oboe and clarinet. He performs regularly with his own James Isaac Group, the People’s Liberation Big Band and Victor and Penny, among others. He teaches jazz improvisation and practical skills for musicians.
Church and family were Chase’s vocal coaches. She never trained formally; indeed she was warned against tampering with what was naturally strong and pure. She sings by instinct. The four talented musicians support her impeccably; a spirit of collaboration reigns. Chase makes sure each gets solo time to showcase individual virtuosity.
Per funinkc.com, “The J Love Band really puts on a show . . . you are not gonna want to miss a minute of these awesome performers!”
The J Love Band has won fans at The Bob James Festival, The Plaza Art Fair, The Kill Devil Club, Chaz on the Plaza and Quasimodo. They’re quite busy, but Chase enjoys patronizing other singers about town and, from the audience, giving them nods of encouragement and appreciation. One of her fondest memories is of her grandfather driving the first ice-cream truck in Kennett and generating great excitement and pleasure. She’s committed to doing that in her own way.
See the J Love Band at the Plaza Live Series, from 5 to 8 p.m. May 24 at Valencia Court on the Country Club Plaza. The band plays First Fridays at the Phoenix, Second Fridays at Parkway Social Kitchen, Third Fridays at the Juke House and regularly performs at Stock Hill. For a complete schedule, visit www.jloveband.com/schedule.
Above: The J Love Band, featuring (left to right) Jerrod Foutes, Paul Roberts, Jaimie “J Love” Chase, Clarence Smith and James Isaac, performed in March at Stock Hill Restaurant, one of the band’s regular venues. Photo by Jim Barcus.