Media Raves Back    
Santa Barbara News
Santa Barbara News Press
September 2, 1994

by Steven Libowitz

Sonya Jason

A weekend of jazz and blues

If there's anything that sets this year's Santa Barbara International Jazz Festival apart from its predecessors, it's the number of acts featuring female leaders. And probably no one stands out in that crowd more than Sonya Jason, the fiery young saxophonist whose debut CD, "Tigress," recently burned up the New Adult Contemporary charts.

While some serious musicians might object to having their gender being noted first, Jason, who plays Saturday at 6 p.m., looks at it as a way to get noticed.

"I don't avoid the novelty (of being a female sax player), " Jason says. "I don't fight it. It works for me. The novelty is the icing on the cake that draws people's attention to me. I'm fine with that, because once they get there I have some substance. I can play. So it's a great marketing device."

Jason, who grew up listening to pop standards, found her way to jazz in high school, and that background has added to her diversity as a musician, she says. That's one of the ways she stands out from the generic sounds of cool jazz on the radio.

"I look for diversity. Inevitably there will be two or three songs that stations like the Wave (KTWV 94.7 FM in Los Angeles) will like for that format, but my whole album isn't like that. I won't make every song fit that mold. It's very low energy music because the format is for background music. People seeing me live would be bored to death if that's all they heard. I like to inject some energy and passion into my playing. It's an irony, because stations won't play songs with too much passion. It's really hard on artists. There isn't a radio format that will support that."

Jason is versatile in her performing space as well. While clubs are more intimate, she says, festivals give her the space to let the energy out.

"People in clubs are there to sit and listen. In a festival, there's much more competition for their attention. And it's a big space so I can perform with a lot more crazy energy. I do everything on a more grandiose level. I run all around the stage."

Jason says she named her album after her own personality. "I'm soft and cuddly and ferocious too. I'm a big cat." The next one will be called "Goddess." I didn't ask why.