The Jazz Journalists Association has recognized a Port Orchard resident as one of the 36 Jazz Heroes of 2023.
While grateful for the recognition, singer-songwriter Eugenie Jones does not consider herself a “jazz hero” but someone who is utilizing her gifts for the betterment of her community.
“I’m not seeking the title of hero, and I don’t see myself as being a hero,” she said. “I see myself as being an activist and an advocate.”
Jones is an accomplished jazz vocalist who has released three albums since 2013. Her latest titled “Players” features collaboration with a number of nationwide artists and has been praised by critics since its 2022 release, hitting No. 7 on Jazz Week’s top 50 charts and contending for a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
It’s a proud addition to a catalog of “jazz you can feel,” a phrase Jones adopted from audience feedback to describe her music.
She said: “I had a couple of women specifically that came up to me and say, ‘I’m not usually into jazz, but I listen to your music, and I listen to the stories behind your music, and it makes me feel something that other jazz hasn’t, and that’s why I’m here.’”
Jones also described her music as an addition to the legacy of African-American art, reflecting on the genre’s early origins and the many greats to play at that time. “It’s like the only form of music that was created by African-Americans in our country,” she said. “So of course, from a cultural perspective, that’s something important to me, that I’m adding to that legacy.”
Jones said her master’s degree in Business Administration in marketing and fondness for community service has added to the impact of her music. Events under her nonprofit Music For A Cause include the Jackson Street Jazz Walk in Seattle, which creates performance opportunities for local artists while celebrating jazz. Jones also headed creation of the Celebrating Ernestine Anderson series, recognizing one of Seattle’s most accomplished jazz and blues artists.
Those celebrations have helped fund Seattle organizations, but Kitsap County charities as well, such as Coffee Oasis. Jones is also the president of the board of directors of the Music Discovery Center, a Kitsap-based nonprofit that introduces kids and adults alike a chance to find their musical talent through free instrument drives and volunteered music lessons.
She added, “We do music events for the community like Make Music Day,” which is free and set for June 21.
Jones also announced a partnership between the Music Discovery Center and Coffee Oasis to create First Fridays LIVE, an open microphone event aimed at supporting at-risk teens. Performances will be the first Friday of each month from June-November.
Despite all that, she insists she’s not a hero. But she could consider herself a legacy activist, helping to preserve the historical and cultural impacts of jazz. “I’m trying to keep alive the legacy of African-American music that was created in Seattle, and even over here in Bremerton,” she said. “I’m an African-American who’s proud of who I am, and I don’t want that history lost.”