NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Although she considers herself "a baby in the music business," Nayo Jones commanded the Congo Square stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Friday with the grace and fire of a seasoned veteran.
"This is such a huge festival and I'm just honored to be on the bill with such seasoned artists," she said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think what has worked in my favor has been that I've never tried to emulate anyone else though I'm inspired and influenced by many. I'm just me and I think that those in the audience can sense my genuine love for what I do and that's catching on like wildfire. I'm just blown away by it."
In her festival debut, the Phoenix, Ariz., native drew fans in with sultry, velvety tones on jazz standards like "Route 66" and "My Funny Valentine," as well as tunes from her own release, "My Name is Nayo Jones."
"That felt great," Jones said after the show. "I have this rush of relief and it's always great to see the crowd respond to the stuff I wrote."
George Salario, of Long Beach, N.Y., said he was attracted to Jones' voice and stayed in front of the stage as the sun's rays beamed down because of it.
"She's got a great voice, so up and down and real smooth," he said. "She makes it seem so easy, like she's just breathing."
George Hochschwender, of Andover, N.J., said Jones' singing was "first-rate."
"I heard her from a distance and said, 'Listen to that,'" he said. "You know it's good when you get shivers in this weather."
Salario said one of the reasons he returns year after year to the festival is because of opportunities to hear new acts like Jones.
Sayonara Davis, of New Orleans, said she'd heard Jones perform in other venues in the city and was glad the festival booked her for this year's event.
"Giving new artists a chance to get heard is one of the festival's greatest services," she said. "And, we get treated when surprise artists pop up like today."
Festival-goers out early to hear Jones' set were rewarded when trumpeter Kermit Ruffins appeared and sang "On The Sunny Side of the Street."