Archive for Geri Allen

A Gorgeous “Mosaic”

Posted in CD Reviews, Unsung Women of Jazz, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2011 by curtjazz

As we’re in the midst of our “Unsung Women of Jazz” series, a post about drummer/composer/producer Terri Lyne Carrington’s new album, The Mosaic Project, feels rather timely.  Not because Ms. Carrington is obscure (with an over two decade career that has included gigs with Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter and most visibly, on Arsenio Hall’s late night TV show in the ’90’s, she’s anything but unknown), but because the jazz on this disc is performed by women only.

And what a powerful group of women this is: Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendryx, Cassandra Wilson, Esperanza Spalding, Helen Sung, Tineke Postma, Geri Allen, Patrice Rushen, Ingrid Jensen, Sheila E. and Gretchen Parlato all make beautiful musical contributions. Though I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Carrington’s work on the drums, I’ve found her albums as a leader to be frustratingly uneven. That is, until now.  The Mosaic Project  is Terri Lyne Carrington’s strongest album, by a mile.  Ms. Carrington’s driving, soulful rhythms are always a perfect fit with the diverse contributions of her guests.

For me the most memorable tracks were “I Got Lost in His Arms”, the Irving Berlin classic, which gains new life wrapped in an R & B groove and Ms. Parlato’s sensuously ethereal vocals; Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Echo” with a powerful spoken introduction by  Angela Davis, Abbey Lincolnesque vocals by Ms. Reeves and a muted trumpet solo from Ms. Jensen; Geri Allen’s “Unconditional Love”, with haunting solos by the composer on piano, Ms.Postma on soprano sax and Ms. Spalding’s wordless vocal line, floating over the top; “Michelle”, the Beatles’ classic, sounds terrific in a post-bop reworking; and “Magic and Music”, a touching tribute written by Ms. Carrington, to the singer Teena Marie, who passed away suddenly last December.

Check out the accompanying videos for a sampling of more. You’ll dig Terri Lyne Carrington and the ladies of her gorgeous “Mosaic”.

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Unsung Women of Jazz – The Introduction

Posted in Unsung Women of Jazz with tags , , , , , , , on March 31, 2011 by curtjazz

Our newest Obscure Jazz Masters series will deal not with an instrument, but with gender. 

I’ve seen many articles and musical compilations that deal with “Women in Jazz” but most seem to overwhelmingly favor singers. The reason is kind of understandable. For so long, “vocalist” has been the dominant role of women in jazz. And yes, the list of great female jazz singers could fill many a book and blog and start many unwinnable arguments. 

However, the list of legendary female instrumentalists is much smaller. If asked to name ten great jazzwomen who didn’t sing, many people will start with the great pianist Mary Lou Williams, perhaps follow with organist Shirley Scott and  then begin to mumble and stare at their shoes. 

It’s not the fault of the artists. From its roots, jazz has been a male dominated genre, except for the singers. Women on an instrument have often been viewed unfortunately, as a novelty act; especially if they play anything but the piano. And even then, many fine women pianists have been pushed toward singing, in order to make themselves more “palatable” to mainstream audiences (as if a woman displaying instrumental virtuosity would frighten children or something!).

Thankfully, times have begun to change, albeit at a glacial pace.  Though there is still a considerable amount of chauvinism in many corners of the jazz world, I’ve been encouraged of late by the number of very good female instrumentalists that I see on the regularly on the jazz scene; Ingrid Jensen,  Anat Cohen, Sherrie Maricle and the indomitable DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Geri Allen, Cindy Blackman, Tia Fuller and of course, Grammy Winner Esperanza Spalding are just a few of the women who are kicking down the boys club door. These artists (and more) offer uncompromising musicianship at a level of excellence that makes their gender irrelevant.

So this next series of undeservedly obscure jazz masters will consist of ten women instrumentalists. Most of them are not active today, but all of them had a lot to say with their axes.

Some of them will be familiar names to those well versed in the idiom, but that’s cool. My objective with these series is not to stump the cognoscenti, but to bring someone new to the attention of the casual to moderate jazz listener.

I’ve tried to provide a few available recordings and musical samples by each of the artists; so if you dig them, you can buy their music… better late than never.

They will be listed in alphabetical order; one per post; starting with the next post, tomorrow, April 1.

Please feel free to leave comments. I love reading them, I will post them all (unless they are obscene or spam) and I try to respond to as many as possible.