At 25 years old, through both training and pure instinct, Jesse has grown into one of the most accomplished and dynamic vocalists (and composers) in the jazz and overall music scenes. Her voice is a flexible, facile instrument wielded by an ambitious and visionary player; it can be sweet or salty, polished or raw, wide in range and broad in stylistic scope, channeling and combining influences such as Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter Sarah Vaughan, Patsy Cline, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder and Carmen McRae. It's the voice of someone who has a voracious appetite for growth and is fearless in that pursuit -- the perfect equation for a promising future. "I've grown so much -- musically, harmonically, as a thinker in general," says Jesse, who took Outstanding Jazz Vocalist honors at the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Detroit Music Awards. "Instead of just getting on the bandstand and playing tunes off-the-cuff, we have our own unique interpretations of standards and classic songs as well as my original compositions. Working with such accomplished musicians, we are constantly pushing each other to expand outside of the box. This has taken our group to the next level".
It's fair to say that singing is in Jesse's blood. Her grandmother, Dorothea Raynor, was an opera prodigy in New York who continued singing throughout her life. Jesse's father, who harbored his own ambitions to be a DJ, was raised in a musical household, which he passed along to his family, keeping plenty of Motown, show tunes, Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Prince, Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett on the home stereo. The precocious Jesse started singing publicly at age five and learning piano at six. She subsequently studied oboe and trumpet and attended a middle school that specialized in the performing arts, where she starred in a number of theatrical productions. In fact, the first public indication that jazz lay in her future came during rehearsals for "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," when Jesse, playing the narrator, began "embellishing" the melodies; although the director admonished her, she also told Jesse's mother that Jesse had a natural inclination towards improvisational singing. "That's when I started really digging deep in a whole bunch of jazz records," Jesse recalls, "and really immersing myself in the language of improvisation." However, she was also conscious of the parade of adolescent and teen stars soaring up the pop charts and decided that maybe she could do that, too. She began contacting producers such as Detroit's Jeff and Marky Bass (Eminem, 50 Cent) as well as Andrew Gold (Linda Ronstadt, Celine Dion). But despite some interesting sessions, Jesse's path was already taking her in different directions. "I never felt quite at home," she says, "until I had a forum to improvise". Her persistence paid off in getting the University of Michigan School of Music to allow her to be part of its jazz program as a vocalist -- a course of study the school didn't offer at the time. But after hearing Jesse audition, they struck a compromise in which she agreed to take classical voice classes ("Working on my vocal hygiene," she says) while studying jazz theory and improvisation with legendary artist/instructors such as Donald Walden and Dennis Wilson.
During the past several years, Jesse has forged her reputation as a live performer throughout the Detroit area, racking up credentials by sharing stages with Geoffrey Keezer, Christian McBride, Greg Hutchinson, Xavier Davis, Avishai Cohen, Sean Jones, Rodney Whitaker, Ron Blake, Carl Allen, Joel Frahm, Wes Anderson, James Carter, Marcus Belgrave, Uri Caine, Dr. Teddy Harris, Paul Keller and others. Now on leave from school, she's been collaborating with the music director and pianist of her Jesse Palter Quartet to develop arrangements, originals and stylistic touches. The group (which also includes Marion Felder or Keith Hall on drums and Ben Williams on bass) have often played at the world renowned Baker's Keyboard Lounge, Arturo's Jazz Theatre and Cliff Bell's, have performed extensively around the Detroit Metropolitan area, had their New York debut to a sold out audience at The Blue Note and have played other venues such as Dazzle's (Denver), Ortlieb's (Philadelphia), The Living Room (New York), Joe's Pub (New York), Zinc bar (New York), Cachaca (New York), Bar Next Door (New York), Piano's NYC (New York), Anthology (San Diego), Dizzy's (San Diego), Firefly (Ann Arbor), Pops For Champagne (Chicago), Hothouse (Chicago), Katerina's (Chicago), Martyr's (Chicago), Trio's (Indiana), Cliff Bell's (Detroit), Andy's Jazz Club (Chicago) to name a few. The band was also 1 of 5 bands selected to be part of the JAS Aspen Academy 2007 with Christian McBride and his band, where they had the opportunity to open for Arturo Sandoval. JPQ has also played such festivals as: River Raisin Jazz Festival, Birmingham Jazz Festival (opening for yellowjackets), Boblo Island Jazz Festival (opening for Chuck Mangione), Jazz On The River Festival, Comerica Cityfest, Arts Beats & Eats, and the Detroit Jazz Festival with Greg Hutchinson joining on drums. Jesse also spent a month performing in China with The Sam Barsh Band in November 2008.
Jesse and company released her first album in 2006 to rave reviews, Beginning to See the Light, which will include originals such as "Change of Heart", a song inspired from a personal experience with misplaced love, along with standards like "One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)","Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" as well as the Kermit The Frog classic "Bein' Green". "Sometimes I'm like, 'Oh my God, this is happening so quickly," Jesse says. "I'm real lucky to be playing these clubs and these festivals, especially with musicians I respect so much. On the other hand, I've been doing this for quite some time. People don't realize I "have" paid many of my dues. When you think about how long I've been trying to go for this, it's been a huge learning experience -- and I'm still learning about it every day of my life."
"Detroit jazz vocalist Jesse Palter shows her youth when singing—and we mean that in a good way. She inhabits Billie by way of Erkyah and can do Ben Folds–ish pop, neo-soul and the standards with just the right combination of wink and sincerity." - Time Out Chicago
"Jesse Palter has been turning heads (as well as the attention of the music world) with her unique voice that is both polished and raw at the same time. The rough beauty of her vocals belies her young age. She is heavily influenced by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter Sarah Vaughan, Patsy Cline and Joni Mitchell, while channeling it all into her own unique style." -
"Palter's smoky alto offers beautiful clarity, delivered with the skillful precision of a seasoned improviser. Tearing up solos that would make Ella grin, Palter can hold her own with just about any sax player." - Denver Westword
"Jazz snobs, please note: Dismiss Jesse Palter at your peril. Certainly, her youth and sultry good looks could lead one to write her off as yet another pop tart. But the West Bloomfield singer, pianist and songwriter removes all reservations the moment she opens her mouth to sing. Her debut CD, "Beginning to See the Light," will be released in the near future, revealing the 20-year-old Palter's surprisingly mature jazz sensibilities." --Real Detroit Weekly
"The exuberantly swinging title track, complete with tricky meter changes and a confident scat chorus, suggests Palter's exceptional promise. So does the drama she finds in Kermit the Frog's "It's Not Easy Being Green." The slinky, postmodern take on the Turtles' "So Happy Together" rides the coattails of similar '60s covers by Cassandra Wilson and Patricia Barber. --Detroit Free Press"
"I listened to this jazz album more than any other this year. What a wonderful jazz vocalist, with a voice that's as delicate as a bee making love to a flower." --Metro Times
"Palter knows the language, but has her own interpretation"-- South Bend Tribune
Mike Jellick (piano),
Ben Williams (bass),
Keith Hall/Marion Felder (drums)