“Ojeda Penn is a friend and also one of the most popular jazz musicians in Atlanta. He has been a force in Atlanta’s jazz scene since he moved here in 1967. His numerous appearances at the City of Atlanta’s Annual Piedmont Park Arts Festival, his concerts at colleges and his performances on local television stations reflect not only his love for the music but also his concern for providing his audiences with the opportunity to get involved personally with music.”
Late Honorable Atlanta Mayor
Maynard Jackson, 1980 album “Happiness”
An extraordinary jazz pianist, Ojeda Penn, comes from a family of music lovers and musicians. Born in Montgomery, Alabama he didn't have to look far for encouragement when his love for the piano took off. "My mother played piano and was a very creative person. Music was always around... mostly blues on the radio, with some jazz on Sundays.” Being teased for playing the piano, at seven, Ojeda cut short his inherent talent for music after only two years of piano lessons, but not before performing Beethoven’s “Minuet in G” in concert.
When he reached fourth grade, his mother persuaded him to play clarinet in the high school band, which he did for the next nine years. “When I started playing clarinet, it was just like when I played piano. I was always more interested in the music I heard than in the music on the page. I always heard alternative harmonies, melodies and rhythms.” Ojeda’s grandfather ran his own firewood business. Every week wood had to be sawed. While waiting to hand his grandfather another piece of wood to saw, he would listen to the rhythms of the gasoline engine and the humming of the saw as his grandfather cut the wood before him. These sounds were music to his ears.
Listening to Jimmy Smith’s album “The Sermon” while in High School was the catalyst that inspired his love for jazz. While attending Howard University he was influenced by the Jazz radio station WOOK, a hip station out of Washington, DC. At last his mission had begun. After immersing himself in listening to Jazz his freshman year, he one day told himself, “I’ve got to play. It feels too good to me. I know I can play it. When I hear Gene Harris play (pianist for The Three Sounds), I want to eat those chords he plays. They sound that good to me.”
“My music defines me as a human being. Music tells me “who” I am, and how I should feel about myself. Music centers me and affords me a much-needed vehicle to express my very personal feelings in an arena where it’s safe.”
After earning his Bachelor’s of English degree at Alabama State College, he began in 1973 - 1975 composing jingles and industrials with a voice-over thrown in on occasion for Coca-Cola and several small businesses. He then received his Master’s in American Studies in 1971 and is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Studies at Emory University. Ojeda spent 20 years teaching Jazz History at Emory University. While at Emory in 1973, he introduced the first Jazz history course for the Afro-American Studies Program. He also taught at Atlanta Metropolitan State College for over 27 years and also at Bard College in upstate New York for 11 years.
Ojeda Penn has also been a pioneer as an artist and believes in addressing social change with his music. He was the first artist to record a rap song on the horrors of Apartied titled, "South Africa" in 1983. With compostions such as "Martin and Malcolm", "Matthews and Collette", "Feelings From A Far", "Trayvan's Lament", "Je Suis Charlie", Ojeda has created music to inform, inspire and empower his listeners. The music he creates is intended to inspire us all to be better people. The warmth of his music helps deliver a message of love and harmony.
Mr. Penn has performed with Life Force, Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard. "The Ojeda Penn Experience" (his band) has preformed at the Atlanta Jazz Festival for over 25 years and is known as a staple in the Atlanta and Georgian Jazz communities as both a composer and performer. He has scored a movie (Stock Car), a play (Distraughter and The Great Panda Scanda), corporate campaigns (Coca-Cola and others) and commercials. Mr. Penn has been interviewed and performed numerous times on local television, new programs as well as cable television shows.
His musical talents and albums are also recognized around the world. His first two vinyl albums, "Happiness" and "All is One" are considered collecter's classics among Jazz enthusiasts in the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy, France. Both albums continue to sell out online in most of these countries. His albums are being purchased by people by willing to pay top dollar for his music.
He continues to create new and inspired music for the masses showing his evolution as an artist. He has combined other genre's of music with Jazz including blues, funk, reggae, rap and now hip-hop. With "J-Hop", he is combining jazz instrumentation, melodies and solos over
beats with known hip-hop elements. Ojeda Penn has always strived to evolve as an artist and continues to do so while delivering his own concepts and style of music. His warm harmonies and progressions can remind you of Earth, Wind and Fire. He has also been compared to Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner by others and humbly welcomes the comparison. But make no mistake, Ojeda Penn has his own voice, his own style and his own sound. Enjoy the music.
All Is One: 1983
I Always Dream Of Winning : 1987
Love Storm: 2012
Ride Music: 2015 (summer)