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Within moments of getting on the line with Jimetta Rose we are waxing lyrical about the beauty of connecting at differing points in the same day—her morning in Los Angeles dialed in to my evening in London—or as Rose would put it, living the same moment but “stretched across space.” Such lofty sentiments with an awe-tinted gaze on the world are fitting for an artist such as Rose. The Californian singer and songwriter blooms in her artistry as she channels the eternal spirit of her spiritual jazz idols; taking cues from the past with eyes on the future. Jimetta Rose always maintains an appreciation for the present and its manifold blessings. As Rose says “gratitude leads to reverence,” and a reverence for life and the earth as it spins suffuses Jimetta Rose’s music in every sweet note.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Jimetta Rose “probably first heard music in the womb, as my mom was an avid churchgoer.” She continues: “According to my mom, I sang when I was born. After they stopped me from crying, she said I wasn’t making the cooing noises, I was humming. And so later going to church, I sang my first solo at two or three in the children's choir, and my mom was like “Yeah, I knew she was a singer.””
Jimetta attended the performing arts magnet Hollywood High—a high school that has an almost mythic aura, owing to the starry list of alumni including actors, writers, singers, all the way back to the silent movie era. As a part of the curriculum, Jimetta was pushed to take part in all the aspects of performance and practice, a variety of disciplines including dance, acting, singing, and stage tech. She describes herself then as “this stubborn girl coming to Hollywood High like ‘I’m a singer. I don’t need to go to dance class, I don’t need stage. I’m a singer.’” Now, however, she is grateful for the well rounded training that she gained there. In fact, gratitude for life’s myriad blessings and experiences is an ever-present way of operating for Rose. Her time at Hollywood High, working on different productions, shaped her as an artist and primed her in collaborating with others. Fondly, she recalls a memorable production of Little Shop of Horrors: “I had the best role because I was the voice of the plant,” she chuckles.
When I tell her that “With Firm Conviction,” off of her 2022 album The Gift: Around the way Queen, with its affirmation-like refrain of “I can believe in love/I can believe” makes me think of those moments in a musical when a character is filling themselves up with what they need to make it through to the next act—resolve, hope, self-belief—but that I wasn’t sure if the comparison to musical theater would be welcome, she responds emphatically: “Totally a part of my journey. Some people think musical theater’s corny, and I know, it can be. It definitely can be,” she chuckles again, “[…] it's about telling the story in a way you want to hear it. I enjoy a partnership of drama and voice and storytelling and costume. When you put it all together it becomes an experience.”
Singing was, of course, where she excelled. Beyond school she remained committed to church choir too. “It was definitely an artistic and cultural upbringing, but it was not like ‘you're going to be a star, a celebrity.’ It was just performance. I think for me, it was always about it meaning something.”
At an early age Rose was balancing her energies between spiritually oriented expression and more Hollywood friendly forms—and we have the image of a young artist treading these dotted lines and beginning to discover her own path. Years later when she would begin discovering spiritual jazz records those dots connect, forming a constellation in the sky that illuminated where these pathways merged, and the way ahead for her.
“There's this strange place where jazz, gospel, soul, stage, pain, drama. All of it came together. It was so great to find that kind of music because it felt sacred, but it still felt relatable. If you weren't walking this path of trying to find your inner purpose, you know, it still had the grooves to get you, but it had meaning in there.” It was then she realized: “Oh, okay, you're not crazy to want to make meaningful music that jams.”
First she discovered more traditional jazz which, by assimilating jazz techniques, helped her to develop her own style of singing. “Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan—I really loved their voices. And I found Coltrane, Monk, Mingus, and Charlie Parker. I love the melodies. I love the way that they're talking because it sounded like conversations almost like, ‘oh, did you hear what the drummer just said?’ Then you hear this voice of the trumpet wailing about, doing all these things and going everywhere, and I applied that thinking to my voice.”
Over the years Rose then began to connect with other musicians in the city, organically meeting peers also inspired and influenced by jazz, soul, R&B, and hip-hop, at shows and through friends.
“Some of the key players in town, and just in music right now, are people that were my friends, that we dreamed together at some point in our lives,” Rose says, having now stacked up collaborations with the likes of Shafiq Husayn, Blu, M.E.D, Quelle Chris, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Anderson Paak, Bilal, Sa-Ra Creative Partners, and more.
The liner notes to 2016’s self-released The Light Bearer EP aptly describes Rose as a “jazz romantic whose reality is rooted in the beat heavy soul filling the living rooms of South Central Los Angeles.” The record, produced by Georgia Anne Muldrow, is notable for being a female-only collaboration, something somewhat rare within a very male dominated scene.
Jimetta was always intentional in her collaborations, being especially mindful when singing the hook on a track with male verses, saying: “I was very selective on the words that I was willing to sing, and very particular about the energy I want to convey.”
Her desire to uplift radiates through her catalog, a profoundly touching expression of the ability, and necessity, to buoy one’s self even when life might feel as though it’s dragging you down.
“I make music to sing from my heart […] Your voice is your instrument. You use it to shape your imagination. You use it to pray your prayers. You use it to say negative stuff. So, we’ve got to own it.”
In 2016 she also began working on a project with producer House Shoes, where Jimetta wrote over tracks from House Shoes’ beat tape series The Gift. The resulting album The Gift: Around the way Queen, released in 2022, is a beautiful collection of songs where sweet, soulful vocals sit atop a mix of dusty beats from the Street Corner Music archives.
Jimetta began to feel frustrated by the limitations of writing to pre-made beats, always creating in response to rather than straight from herself. She speaks candidly about the weight of conversations, saying she should have “made it” already given the caliber of artists she was working with and surrounded by. Her achievements are significant. Jimetta’s collaborations with the crème de la crème of LA’s contemporary beat scene might not be the full realization of what she has to offer up as an artist. Jimetta’s vision for her contribution to the world was to conspire with creation on a more cosmic scale. She’s a Hollywood High alum, after all.
The late producer Ras G prophesied Jimetta’s coming into her own and releasing her full potential through more celestial rhythms. “He was such a visionary, because I was making hip-hop songs at the time, singing over hip-hop. He was like ‘Yeah, this is nice. This is cool. Your voice sounds good. Yeah, I like the harmonies, but this is not what you got… You like June Tyson [of Sun Ra Arkestra], Jimetta. You haven't found it yet, but you got to find a way to express like that. Keep that fire in your voice.’”
The clear and often mesmerizing voice from songs such as “Somebody Else’s World” and “We Travel The Spaceways,” June Tyson was a devoted and key member of the Sun Ra Arkestra from 1968 until her death in 1992. During those years Tyson not only sang, but played violin, choreographed dancers, and designed and sewed costumes for the group. The similarities between Tyson and Rose are easy to see now, both having honeyed voices that serve as ciphers of divinity, and a talent and vision that transcends across artistic disciplines.
The first spiritual jazz record Rose remembers discovering was Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchinanda: “when I found that, the heaviness of the tones and the space that it put me in…it blew my mind. Alice Coltrane opened the door into spiritual jazz, but then I found Max Roach, I found Abbey Lincoln, and I found Sons and Daughters of Lite.”
“I remember hearing the [Rahsaan] Roland Kirk “Theme for the Eulipions,” and thinking about how he combined poetry and stage—because that was technically a monologue that the woman is doing—and the partnership of harmonic voices in that song. I just remember being like, ‘Wow, this is so magical.’ He's got his horn going. He’s got this lady telling the story about the man in the train station. And then what's this Eulipion thing? I looked it up, and he had made up this word that meant people who love music. And I was like, “Well shit, I'm a Eulipion.”
In true Eulipion spirit, Jimetta formed the Voices of Creation—a community choir assembled of mostly non-professional singers and musicians who share “an interest in healing themselves and others”—with her co-musical director, organist Jack Maeby. In 2022 they released their debut EP How Good It Is, a six-track gem produced by Mario “C” Caldato and his wife Samantha Caldato. The project offered her the chance to hear “how the sounds in my head actually come out […] We [crafted] the music around the melodic ideas that I've already come up with. Painting the picture with many voices has been really fulfilling and inspiring.”
The record features original songs, as well as re-imagined versions of “Let the Sunshine In” and “Operation Feed Yourself” by the Sons and Daughters of Lite. She explains of her process that when listening to these records: “...the melodies that stuck with me, I would listen to those on repeat. Sometimes I will hear other ideas along with it. Those came from a time of discovery and always singing those songs with these extra harmonies as I just cleaned the house or whatever, because I listen to music all the time.”
Now, the Voices of Creation are set to record their second album. Rose also has her mind on her next solo project, one that will be rooted in spiritual jazz. Rose says she feels lucky and inspired by the time that we are living in. “It’s a beautiful renaissance that we’re in, a renaissance of thought and sound.” She also mentions other writing projects in the oven, explaining that she is not limiting her creativity and potential: “I’m so happy that I let myself out of my own limitations […] I was forced to learn that in the ninth grade,” she laughs, once again referencing good old Hollywood High. And as we wrap up our conversation, talking about all that is to come, she remembers: “I used to sing a solo in church. If you can use anything Lord, You can use me. I'm excited to be at a point in my life and a point in my music where I can say that the music I'm sharing now, and that I will share from this point, will definitely be shaped and informed by authenticity, spirit, and truth.”
See Jimetta Rose and the Voices of Creation perform on Saturday August 12 at We Out Here Festival. Find tickets here.