By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — She grew up in Harlem’s Sugar Hill area, listening to the sounds of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday.
Her New York neighborhood was home to Harlem’s most talked about and respected people of the time — men and women in the fields of law, music, sports and medicine — and many famous in their day.
These are the images Derry singer Joan Watson-Jones remembers well. In her decades of making music, she recalls the influences and faces that helped shape her interests.
“I grew up knowing all these people, hearing jazz names,” she said in an earlier Derry News interview. “It was the best place to live.”
Her father was a prominent doctor who had Holiday and Ellington family members as patients. Her mother was a performer and once entertained at the famed Moulin Rouge.
Those influences are keeping Watson-Jones going strong as she continues to perform as a soloist and jazz ensemble entertainer.
Her newest CD “Quiet Conversations - A Duet” pairs her with longtime friend and pianist Frank Wilkins. It will be celebrated in a release party on Jan. 30 at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston.
Watson-Jones returns to the spotlight with a new collection of intimate duets with Wilkins, including soulful renditions of “Here’s to Life,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You.”
Reviews call her newest efforts “fresh faced and bright, but seductive” in various instances and also celebrate Watson-Jones and Wilkins’ balance innumerable harmonies together.
The new collection follows years of presenting her jazz standards on a radio show, on the Internet, and through special performances and gigs all over the region including private gatherings and weddings.
Watson-Jones also hosts her show, “The Jazz Room,” online Wednesdays from 10:30 to 11 p.m. The show features her own take on some of the favorites she plays, including Ellington and Holiday.
She is also a former music teacher at both Grinnell Elementary and the former Floyd School in Derry.
To learn more about Watson-Jones and the new CD, visit joanwatconjones.com.