“I was singing before I started speaking”, says Jimena Bautista, a young jazz vocalist from Mexico who has been enthralling international audiences with her unique sounds and style, “when I was 2, my family already had recordings of me. I was completely amazed and dazzled by Michael Jackson’s Beat It.” With the knowledge that music was her passion, even at that early age, Jimena’s path was set out before her. Born in Mexico City and raised in Cancun, it soon became clear that Jimena had inherited the talent that ran in her family. Her father, who played with the notable pop band Mister Loco, won accolades such as “World’s Most Popular Song” at the Yamaha contest in Tokyo during 1975, for Lucky Man. Following her education at a British private school, where she became bilingual, Jimena was eager to follow in his footsteps. “By the time I was 13 or 14, it was a different world for me. When I first heard Manhattan Transfer, I knew I wanted to do jazz,” she recalls. “I was also inspired by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington’s orchestra. This is how I got started in the music industry–it was a little difficult for me at the beginning.”
Jimena persevered, and soon met the legendary George Duke, who became her mentor. “I met George Duke in 2003, at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival. I was walking in the street and recognized him, and asked him where he was going to sing,” Jimena says. “He invited me to sing with him, live, and I was like, ‘Are you sure you want me to sing with you tonight?” Following that improvisational performance, Jimena’s career began to roll. She performed in such diverse locales as the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, and recorded tracks at Bennett Studios in New Jersey. Jimena is also a composer, and she produces all of her own music. “I create music in a variety of genres, a fusion of jazz, blues, and Mexican,” Jimena observes.
Jimena has also become involved in social causes, joining the United Nations’ Say NO, Unite To End Violence Against Women in Latin America campaign. “I was very honored to become part of this campaign, to send a message around the world to stop the violence,” Jimena states. “Violence against women in Latin America is a severe problem, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say it out loud.” The program encourages Latinas to stop the cycle of abuse through education and understanding that they can get away from their abusers. Participating in the UN campaign is an important part of Jimena’s professional life. “Women need to see that there is a better life for them out there.”
With a new album, My Swing Moods, Jimena is bringing it all together. “It’s all about positive emotions,” she notes, “a big step forward for me.” The collection, which was released during a live concert this past August at Jazz Club Muliero in Cancun, is a distinctive gallery of the artist’s latest work, including songs like Evidence Under The Pillow, We Will Always Be Together, and Showtime. Joining Jimena on the album are pianist Mario Patron, Aaron Cruz playing stand-up bass, drummer Giovanni Figueroa, and Grammy Award-winning engineer Alessandro Perrota, who worked with R&B icon Tony Bennett. It’s available on iTunes, and Jimena’s voice complements her band with a soft, touching blend of contemporary jazz and blues. The vocalist is also branching out into other art forms and projects.
“Five months ago, “Jimena says, “I was writing the story for a documentary. We’re going to film it in the next 3 months, and it has a lot of music! It tells the story of a jazz singer who doesn’t meet her father until later in her life.” Jimena’s long-term plans include enhancing the cross-border appeal of her music with audiences in the United States, “showcasing everything I have,” and continuing to create more resonant, enthralling music.
Story by Nathan James
My Swing Moods now available on iTunes