Sunday, May 22, 2011

Three Faces of Jen Hajj, Utah's Desert Songstress

When Utah acoustic singer/songwriter Jen Hajj told me she attended the rival high school in my hometown, Tempe, Arizona, she became my instant friend.  Her music brings back scenes of my life growing up in the raw southwest desert.  A classically trained vocalist, Jen has branded folk music as her own.  She's sprinkled her repertoire with other genres to create unique sounds and rhythms which tell stories and touch hearts.  In the past few months, I have happened upon several of her performances.
CD Release Party, Holladay Church of Christ - March 26, 2011
The first full-length CD is a rite of passage for musicians who dare. Jen released her CD "I Of the Storm" wearing an up-do and a bright blue sequined top. I don't normally add fashion commentary, but ... "Wow!" With a full compliment of musicians behind her on stage and in the audience, Jen played her CD mix to a packed house.  A compelling part of the evening came when Jen sat alone behind the piano for "Beautiful."
The most charming compliment about Jen's performance came from a seven-year old: "Mom, I want to buy her CD so that I can hear the song 'Rain' every night." Who can argue with a testimonial like that?  "Rain" eclipses the traditional "it's raining, it's pouring" song with a drum-backed melody that evokes images of a snake charmer luring a snake from a clay pot.  If you love "Rain" as much as all Jen's fans, you will want to get a free copy of it on Reverbnation (see link below).  Between the house lighting and incorrect camera settings, photos taken during the show were less than optimal and made Jen's blue dress look red (perhaps we need a song about that?).
Diane Gulezian Art Exhibit Reception, Red Butte Gardens - April 9, 2011
Jen sang Gandhi's thought-provoking words "Be the Change" as I entered the Red Butte exhibition area.   "Conservation, some folks shudder when they hear the word, we're asked to do small things to save some silly bird" are words close to Jen's heart (she's Education Director of HawkWatch International).  Diane's paintings exude a wildness vibe, so what songstress could paint a better backdrop than Jen, Utah's queen of the desert herself?   Backdrop acoustic, yes ... shrinking violet, never.   Jen attracted the attention of my guests, most particularly the young daughter of one of my friends.  And like Jen, we were wearing dresses and Hanes in a sea of casual Friday denim. 
2011 Tucson Folk Festival, Tucson Museum of Art - April 30, 2011
The beautiful desert city Tucson was one of my childhood homes. The ride between Phoenix and Tucson flooded me with memories ... dozens of bugs splashed on the car window, cactus stands, roadrunners, Oracle, and Picacho Peak.  Seeing the exit signs along I-10 was a vivid reconnection with my past.  I spotted a lizard on the way to the front door of the Tucson Museum of Art.
Jen drew the first spot at the Songwriting Competition, not ideal because the audience wasn't quite in place nor nearly as warmed up as they were by the musician who drew the much favored tenth spot.  No worries.  It couldn't have been a worse fate than having the airline lose her luggage.  She emerged to the Tucson Art Museum's Casa Cordoba stage wearing a newly purchased violet dress and cowboy boots.  Her picturesque "Where You Take Me" came alive against a landscape of desert foliage under the warm Arizona sun.
This would be the only one of these three of Jen's performances where I was unable to drag along at least part of the audience. My parents were planning to come, but at the last minute had to attend a funeral instead. Still, it was wonderful to connect with Utah Slim as well as Peter and Mary Danzig of Otter Creek while surrounded by Palo Verde trees.
About Jen's CD ... I listened for an entire day before the CD release party and have listened yet again many times since.  Jen's work showcases her smooth, sweet voice.  Powerfully, gently, Jen conveys the spectacle of nature with songs such as "Where You Take Me," "Rain," and "Water On the Wasteland."  Yet I found myself craving listen after listen to "In The Beginning" about Adam's wayward, rebellious first wife.  The lineup masterfully weaves together more than a dozen songs with thoughtful, kind lyrics and poetic tunes. If "I Of The Storm" is the beginning, I can't wait to hear her encore CD, when that emerges from the presses.
I Of the Storm
Where you Take Me
Eye of the Storm
In the Pines
I am Home
In the Beginning
Thank You
Water on the Wasteland
Run Away

Jen Hajj
Reverbnation - Jen Hajj
Facebook Fan Page - Jen Hajj Music

1 comment:

  1. Could it be your muse is back? sure looks like it to me! Great post.