Jesi Naomi: Blues, soul, jazz musician performs at Wednesday Nooner

Cesar Alexander

There’s something beautiful about the struggle within all of us; something that emanates from the soul – something that Jesi Naomi has learned to express through her music.

Naomi, the 26-year-old Chico, presented the essence of blues, soul and jazz in a charming performance for the Wednesday Nooner Sept. 18 at the University Union Serna Plaza.

If her name sounds familiar, you might have seen her performing in various local venues over the past few years, or maybe from the time she spent as a student at Sacramento State – where her dreams to be a musician began to be realized.

As she begins playing her acoustic guitar, her dreaded hair is wrapped up in a warm colored bandana, her feet are bare and her keyboard waits by her side for its turn to be played.

Her sound is mostly found through blues and soul, but Naomi has great admiration for the history that comes with jazz.

“It relates to life more than anything musically,” Naomi said. “Because it is a vibration, but it comes from a struggle.”

There’s something natural about Naomi’s positivity that has an air of reassurance when she speaks to the crowd in-between songs. Her message is to embrace the struggle and seek the lessons these situations provide, especially when things seem to be at their worst.

Originally, Naomi had been studying video production and mass communication skills. It was a class project in which she was facing technical difficulties that gave her a new path to music.

“I’m not that great with computers,” Naomi said. “But I knew how to record the voice part so I popped in Al Green and started doing backup vocals.”

She admits to pretty much failing the course, but doesn’t seem to have any regrets.

“That’s where I decided I needed to write music and start recording because that’s where I was natural at.”

Her positive philosophy follows her constantly, as just four days before performing she began to be very irritated by the swarm of flies in the mountains by the coast.

“You let [the flies] bother you more because you think about how much it bothers you,” Naomi said.”So then I was like ‘I’m gonna try to flip it around and try to make it a happy song,’ which she executed perfectly and premiered the song “Shoo Fly” in front of the Hornet audience.

Naomi recalls the time before she had material to play a show. Her ambitions were always to perform at Sac State.

“I had like one song, so it’s really cool, ‘cause now I have like a whole set,” Naomi said. “I accomplished my goal.

“Now that I’ve done this, I kind of feel like I’ve almost done it all that I had planned for Sacramento, so now my next step is the Bay Area and Hawaii.”

Naomi practices Buddhism, which she credits for the courage to perform.

“I just have to look at it as a lion – and just go for it – and not be timid or anything,” Naomi said.

However, Sept. 18 was her last scheduled performance for the time being as she plans to take a little hiatus.

“I really want to study jazz,” Naomi said. “I also really want to record my next full length album, so I’m kind of taking a step back and I’m traveling a lot; meeting some people and planning it out.”

She said she can listen to “Kind Of Blue” by Miles Davis over-and-over, while Ray Charles and Herbie Hancock are some of her greatest inspirations because of their positive outlooks despite having difficult histories.

“Pop sometimes can be really exciting, but when it’s done you feel kind of empty,” Naomi said. “Some other music makes you feel really low – really mellow – but to me jazz is like this middle road – and the middle is a hard place to stay but it’s very rewarding.”

Keep an ear out for more from this local favorite as she uses her lovely voice to take us down this “middle road.”

You can find her music on her Soundcloud page at www.soundcloud.com/Jesi-Naomi. For future work and performances you can be her friend on facebook by searching ‘Jesi Naomi’.

Cesar Alexander can be reached at statehornetarts@gmail.com