For more than two decades she’s been on the scene, bassist/vocalist/producer/label owner and now filmmaker Mimi Jones has reigned supreme, as a side woman to an impressive coterie of musicians and as a leader with three CDs on her own Hot Tone Music label, A New Day (2009) and Balance (2014) ----her third CD for the label, Feet in the Mud, being her most powerful, propulsive, and personal recording to date. “Feet in the Mud to me means being true to one’s own self despite your race, age, gender, size etcetera,” Jones says. “It’s about finding true joy within yourself, having an open mind and spirit and a connection to the earth.”
Jones is supported by an engaging and ingenious collection of musicians: pianist Jon Cowherd (Brian Blade, Cassandra Wilson, Rosanne Cash), drummer Jonathan Barber (Kenny Barron, Kurt Elling, Erykah Badu), and soprano saxophonist Samir Zarif (Jason Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Aaron Neville).
The jazz world is happy that Mimi Jones is on the scene. Born Miriam Sullivan in New York City on March 25, 1972 of parents from Barbados, she was raised in the Bronx. Jones grew up listening to a variety of music including Al Green, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Earth, Wind & Fire, and more. She took up the guitar at the age of twelve, studying classical guitar with her first music instructor, James Bartow, at the Harlem School of the Arts. She also studied percussion, songwriting, voice, drums, and dance. Jones switched to cello after being accepted at the famed LaGuardia High School of Music and Art because the school because they had no guitar teacher. Band director Justin DiCioccio heard her messing around with an acoustic bass and recruited her to play in the school jazz band, which at the time included budding young lions such as Abraham Burton, Eric McPherson, Walter Blanding Jr., and Michael Leonhart.
“Once I switched to bass, I began listening Jimmy Blanton and Oscar Pettiford. They had their own sound and their individual approach to weaving bass lines and improvisation. Milt Hinton took me under his wing, and gifted me a scholarship to the jazz camp at Skidmore summer camp. He had an early influence on me to sing and play bass,” Jones fondly recalls. “I grew up listening to a lot of Miles Davis, which naturally exposed me to the great Ron Carter, Sam Jones, and Paul Chambers. Later on I experienced the Oscar Peterson trio, which exposed me to Ray Brown. Wow!”
In preparation of college, with help of her mentors, Jesse Hameen II (aka Cheese), Rodney Jones, Lisle Atkinson and Linda Mcknight Mimi was able to properly prepare for her audition which eventually would award her a full scholarship at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music.
Jones studied classically under the tutelage of Linda McKnight and simultaneously attended weekend classes at the Jazz mobile school on Saturday mornings with bassist Lisle Atkinson. She also studied with jazz masters such as Barry Harris, Ron Carter, Milt Hinton, Dr. Billy Taylor, Yusef Lateef, Max Roach, Maria Schneider, and bassist Guillermo Edgehill.
As a Jazz Ambassador, Mimi toured Africa, Europe, Russia, China, South and Central America, and the Caribbean for the U.S. State Department. Her vast work as a sidewoman includes gigs with Kenny Barron, Lizz Wright, Beyonce, Frank Ocean, Dianne Reeves, Tia Fuller, Ingrid Jensen, Roy Hargrove, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendricks, Kevin Mahogany, Corey Glover, Raymond Angry, Marc Cary, Toshi Reagon, Rachel Z, Tammy McCann, Sean Jones, Cyrille Aimee, Allan Harris, Rudy Royston, Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Peterson, and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy Award winning Mosaic Project.
Jones launched her own record label, Hot Tone Music, in 2009 which now has produced nine albums thus far. In addition, Mimi Jones co-directs with ArcoIris Sandoval a project called The D.O.M.E. Experience, a multimedia project that is meant to inspire its audience to become aware of environmental and social issues, within the community and globally, by original compositions performed by a 20 piece jazz orchestra, dance and cinematography. Mimi also created an original mini musical production about the great migration and harlem renaissance, with a cast of seven entitled “Next Stop Harlem”. To create more opportunities for herself as well as others she felt should have more exposure, Mimi Jones started up the annual Limitless Music Festival (NYC)in January during jazz convention week. Since 2013, Mimi has been hosting a jazz party/experimental jam called The Lab Session based in NYC, and as of October 2017 will also be hosted throughout multiple cities in the US sponsored by organization called Live it Live, that cultivates the growth of live music by bringing the musicians, the audience and the venues together.