Contributed by Sullivan Dildine, AMF Intern
While Jai Malano’s emphatic career in music didn’t start until July of 2010, her passion for singing goes back to her childhood days of listening to the R&B greats: Lavern Baker, Etta James, and of course, Aretha Franklin. Jai recalls “The first time I heard the voice of Aretha Franklin, it was on a busy Saturday morning filled with chores. The sass in her lyrics and the command in her voice, a voice that has gone unchanged over the years, changed my life. From ‘Respect’, to ‘Natural Woman’, to ‘A Rose is Still a Rose’, Aretha has always inspired me to use my voice and stand for what I represent even if it went against the standard.” Although her roots are tied to Florida and Louisiana, Jai Malano’s first real foray into the music scene came about in Texas, leading The Royal Rhythmaires with her show stopping voice and energetic stage presence.
The Royal Rhythmaires debut and final album “Shuck and Jive” is an inspired homage to the records Jai grew up listening to. Big Brass accompanies her even bigger voice on tracks that seem tailor made to get everyone jiving on the dance floor. Jai brought a more contemporary flair into her work when she evolved into the solo artist we know her as today. Her 2015 album, “Rocket Girl” moves the still-present brass to the back in favor of guitar carrying a majority of the counter melodies. While the arrangement and structure on “Rocket Girl” still hearkens back to classic R&B and Soul, tracks like “Don’t” and “Tell Me” hint at the style of work Jai Malano would go on to do with the PB’s, her most ambitious project yet.
So far, a string of singles is all that defines Jai Malano and the PB’s, but the eclectic range of styles in those releases gives the impression that Jai is more confident in her songwriting now than ever before. From the bluesy track “Never Look Down” to the almost reggae song “Practice What is Right,” fans of Jai’s work are treated to a glimpse at a new side of her that it seems will only grow. On “Hearts Never Break Themselves” and “Lay My Heart at Your Grave” Jai Malano and the PB’s touch on a sound that feels like a perfect blend of the classic influences Jai wears so proudly, and rootsy, Alabama Shakes-esque rock that has become so popular today.
Jai Malano has now been featured in a number of publications, from the UK’s Rock n Roll magazine to local institutions like the Austin Music Journal and the Austin Chronicle. The Dallas Observer predicted her success when they called her one of the top artists to watch in 2014. But for as far as Jai Malano has already come, her most recent work implies that this is only the beginning.