Jesse Dee
Jesse Dee Jesse Dee’s influences read like a Who’s Who of classic soul music. Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Etta James, Al Green and many others. But Jesse Dee is not just a student of the classics. He also loves the new wave of rootsy artists –James Hunter, Amos Lee and John Legend, among them. “Soul music has always hit me harder than any other kind of music,’’ says the Boston-based Jesse, who has learned his lessons well. He puts a convincing new spin on the subject with his debut solo disc, “Bittersweet Batch,’’ which should please anyone with a love of this heartfelt style. Jesse adds a stunning vocal expressiveness and a unique ability to inject and dissect emotions. He delivers it all with a warmth that comes from analog recording and from cutting a lot of the songs live in the studio. Jesse co-produced “Bittersweet Batch’’ (consisting of all-original tracks) with Jack Younger in the latter’s Basement 247 Studio. Younger has also produced for fellow Boston roots phenomenon Eli “Paperboy’’ Reed. The record is targeted for a Sept. 9 release on 7 Not Records, which has previously issued music from talented Boston singer Danielle Miraglia. Jesse’s love of soul is honest to the core. When you step into his home studio, for example, you may find him putting on a vinyl copy of “The Best Chess Vocal Groups,’’ including cuts on the seminal Chess Records by the Moonglows, Miracles, and Flamingos. And on the walls are paintings that he has created of faves like Jackie Wilson and James Brown. The paintings are exceptional. Jesse is a graduate of MassArt (Massachusetts College of Art and Design) and almost went into art as a profession over music. “I’ve been painting longer than I’ve played music,’’ says Jesse. “I have studied art most of my life and have been doing both for a while, but I made my decision to focus on music.’’ Raised in the Boston suburb of Arlington, Jesse started at MassArt by studying illustration, but switched over to its Studio for Interrelated Media, where he studied performance, production, mixed-media, and composition. During college he was in the ten-piece band Decifunk, which played up and down the east coast and released an original record called “Open Your Eyes’’ on Squeezebox Records in 2001. That was followed by a stint in the group The Dirty Whites (“more like Black Sabbath meets Motown,’’ he says). They put out a five-song, self-released EP in 2006. Then came his own group under the name Jesse Dee, which includes guitarist Matthew Joy, bassist Jim Larkin, and drummer Matt “Pie’’ Beaulieu. They’re all on the new album, as are such top-notch guests as guitarist Kevin Barry (Paula Cole, Dennis Brennan), and the soulful duo of Dwight & Nicole, not to mention an all-star horn section with Scott and John Aruda, and Paul Ahlstrand, who has played with Susan Tedeschi. The new record has some “bittersweet’’ themes, hence the title “Bittersweet Batch,’’ but most songs reflect Jesse’s ultimately positive view of the world. The standout “Slow Down,’’ which is on his myspace page (myspace.com/jessedee), has an easy-loping swing groove and the message that “people try to stay with the pace but the fact is that life is not a race.’’ Other upbeat tunes are “Still Here’ and the buoyant “Alive & Kickin'.’’ Jesse, who has sometimes opened for the Ryan Montbleau Band, is also a cofounder of Sea Monsters, a popular club band he started with singer Christian McNeill. It’s a true musician’s band and has featured guest appearances from other Boston roots acts such as Tim Gearan, Miss Tess, and Dennis Brennan. Jesse still paints and freelances as a graphic designer. The painting sparks his music. “I sing when I paint,’’ he says. “I’ve composed songs while I paint a number of times.’’ But exploring and updating soul music is his true passion. “I’m just trying to get better – to write better songs, get better at performing them, and enjoy myself in the process,’’ he says. -- Written by Steve Morse, a former staff writer for the Boston Globe