During these times of social unrest artists who were activists come to mind. Among the most staunch defenders of freedom was the singer Abbey Lincoln who was married to the drummer Max Roach. Her she is later in her life still making great music.
Alexa Tarantino on alto sax is a pleasant addition to the growing number of women playing the saxophone. Her straight ahead style makes her a sought out side musician in New York and a regular in jazz clubs with her own quartet.
Today its easy for female sax players to get lost in the mix of the many outstanding women musicians who have chosen the saxophone as their instrument of choice. However, that is not going to happen to Alexa Tarantino who has been around for several years and only gets better.
Today, August 25th is Alice Coltrane's birthday. Its nice when a woman reaches a level of success that its not necessary to mention her husbands name. Pianist, Flautist and a jazz giant. Here she is in a concert from the early 70's.
In 1991 Downbeat Magazine announced drummer Allison Miller was "up and coming." It has been straight "up" every since. She is described as a "powerful drummer with an unerring sense of swing," and exemplifies women musicians at their best.
Angelique Kidjo, the marvelous African artist from Benin, won a Grammy in 2020 for Best World Music Album with Celia, her tribute album to Celia Cruz who in her lifetime won enough Grammy's to fill a room. Here Angelique sings one of Celia's most famous songs.
One of the few jazz vocalists to be mentioned in the same sentence with Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn. Anita O'Day. Her drug habit kept her from the stardom the deserved but it couldn't take away her talent.
If you do something exceptional, even if its for a short time, there is a chance it will be remembered and admired. That's the case with jazz vocalist, Annie Ross, who recently passed away at the age of 89. From 1958-62 she was part of the jazz trio, Lambert, Hendrix and Ross, which made a very clever decision to take straight-ahead jazz music and add lyrics. It gave them one of the most interesting sounds in jazz vocals. There is clearly a place for Annie Ross in jazz heaven.
ARETHA FRANKLIN, March 25, 1942 - August 16, 2018. This is the second anniversary of Aretha's death. While she became the queen of soul her early jazz albums were some of her best. Here she is at International Jazz Day a few years before she passed. Long Live the Queen.
When you hear the sound of the organ you think of Jimmy Smith. From now on you can think of the soulful Barbara Dennerlein, a Germany musician who appears on this 1986 video with the legendary guitarist, Emily Remler, whose life was cut short in 1990 by dope.
Jazz Times, as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, named the 10 best albums from 1980, the year of its inception. On that list is the album, Look What I Got by the always compelling, Betty Carter. She has clearly one of the most unique and interesting vocal styles in jazz.
Blues and R&B singer, Bettye LeVette has a new CD named after her hit song in 2010 covering the Beatles, BlackBird. LaVette is always on the verge of coming back from her success in the 60's. Hope this is the time it happens. Her unique voice makes her always an interesting listen.
Remembering Memorial Day. You get a lot of bbq and booze and invite all your friends over to join you in the backyard for an afternoon of laughing, lying and getting drunk. The musical back drop for this wonderful afternoon is the Blues. Jazz stays home on Memorial Day. Here is the best of the best, Buddy Guy with Big Mama Thornton singing, Ball and Chain. This can go way into the night unless the cops come and bust everyone for being Black and having fun.
The harp is not instrument that has attracted many jazz musicians. Alice Coltrane is credited with introducing it into her music with some level of success. Today the harp has a new advocate. It's Brandee Younger and here she does the Alice Coltrane composition, Rama Rama.
Some artists can sing any genre of music they choose. Brittany Howard is one of those. Her music always stands out and it defies a particular bag. In the current situation I cannot think of a better song that one that says, " I just want to stay high with you."
Camila Meza is a Chilean guitarist and singer with a very smooth sound that makes her a club favorite. Downbeat Magazine called her a rising star in 2018 and she has lived up to the hype. She's has clearly made a name for herself on the New York scene.
While most of us find it hard being good at one thing, Camille Thurman manages to be exceptional at three. As a vocalist she has won the prestigious Sarah Vaughn Vocal Award and is also an outstanding horn player on the sax and flute. A major artist in the making in all areas.
Composer and pianist Carla Bley doesn't get around much any more but when the 82 year old comes out to play its worth seeing. Bley is one of the most revered and respected members of the jazz community. She has a body of work that will last forever.
Joining the ranks of jazz royalty is Cecile McLorin Salvant. She is clearly one of the best jazz vocalists to come along in a long time. She has already earned herself a seat at the table with the major female artists. She will be around for many years to come.
Every female jazz artist can’t be famous, but the good ones stand out. Charenee Wade is one of those. She began to get the attention she deserved in 2010. Since then she has won major awards and played in the best places with the best musicians. She keeps jazz on a solid footing and gives it the depth to continue to be an important part of American culture.
Claire Daly has a new CD out that is a tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk that is clearly worth your listening time. What sets Daly apart from other female sax players is that most choose the tenor sax leaving the big-girls to play the baritone. Here's Daly and her big-girl group at a jazz festival in Jersey. Great stuff.
Diane Krall has a new CD coming out in September 2020. It's called The Dream of You. Krall always reminds one of June Christy, the vocalist who dominated the West Coast jazz scene in the 40's and 50's with the Stan Kenton Band. If you like those great old jazz classics no one sings them better than Diane Krall.
One of my favorite artists for as long as I can remember is the vocalist, Diane Schuur. She can always bring a smile to your face. She makes every song sound special even the old standards you have heard a million times.
If there was one instrument that women dominated in jazz it was the piano. Here is the great Dorothy Donegan. She never enjoyed the popularity of Marian McPartland and Mary Lou Williams but she was definitely in the same class.
The group is Dutchess. It's Amy Cervini, Hilary Garner and Melissa Stylianou. It's that big band sound from the 40's that the Pointer Sisters rose to fame on. It's your mother's music and its still good stuff. Join the Jazz Club it's free and it keeps you in the jazz loop.
The Brazilian vocalist, Eliane Elias, has a new CD, Dance of Time. She seldom sings in English but you still get the message. It's a cool, smooth sound with a Latin beat. Here she is in concert in English singing an old standard.
A group of stellar artists including Patti Austin, Cassandra Wilson, Andra Day, Lizz Wright and Ledisi came together at the Apollo for a concert celebrating the 100th birthday of Ella Fitzgerald. Its now a CD called Ella 100 Live at the Apollo. Here's a look at the lady herself in a concert from the 60's.
Verve Records has released a new Ella Fitzgerald album called, "The Lost Berlin Tapes." Ella's appearance in Berlin in 1960 was considered one of her finest musical moments. One reviewer said, "Fitzgerald was to singing what Yo-Yo Ma is to the cello. Here she sings her hit song of the time, her version of "Mack the Knife."
Stormy Monday is one of the most enduring Blues songs around. Every blues singer in the world has recorded it among the best being T-Bone Walker, Bobbie Bland, BB King and her royal highness of blues, Etta James. Unfortunately with the virus its hard for the eagle to fly on Friday.
Here is Detroit's own Gayelynn McKinney with her band McKinney Zone. Best know as Aretha's drummer, she has been around for ages doing good work. It you like jazz with an R&B topping she's your girl. Always on her game.
Here is Geri Allen on piano, Esperanza Spalding on bass and Teri Lyne Carrington on drums. What else is there to say. This speaks to how far women have come in jazz music when they need no introduction.
The pianist Hiromi Uehara only uses her first name, Hiromi, but its enough for you to remember this extraordinary musician from Japan. She play the piano like it is a cardio-vascular exercise and she will get your heart racing too. Her playing as been described as "rumbling intensity and generous restraint."
If there is one instrument that women musicians are calling their own its the sax. The younger players like Tia Fuller, Melissa Aldana and Lakecia Benjamin and getting all the buzz but let's not for forget the bar was set by the veteran, Jane Ira Bloom, on soprano sax. She recently was named the best of the year on the sax by Downbeat Magazine. She is a jazz treasure.
Youth is not usually associated with jazz where most of the major artists have been around a long time. One of the best young vocalists on the scene is the talented Jazzmeia Horn who has on more than one occasion has been compared to Betty Carter.
As female musicians move away from the piano as the instrument of choice many are turning to the sax and finding great success. While the music critics seem to favor Grace Kelly and Melissa Aldana who are absolutely a treat, I think the crowd favorite is the smooth jazz of Jessy J.
I have very mixed feelings about white Blues singers. I have a hard time taking them seriously. But like everything else in the world there are exceptions. Joanna Connor has been singing the blues forever and I always get a sense she knows what she's talking about. .
There are not a lot of women bands on the jazz scene but the quality of those that exist make up for the quantity. Among the most popular and enduring all female groups in Jazz in Pink, led by the exciting violinist Karen Briggs.
Keiko Matsui has been at the top of her game for years and shows no signs of letting up. She is one of the few women musicians who have achieved the status of "headliner." She is also the leader of the pack of a group of extraordinary Asian women pianists who are over the top.
It is seldom that you see a mixed band that is led by a female. More often females form same-sex bands because they feel excluded by male musicians. A wonderful exception is the U.K. afro-jazz band Kokoroko. The band is led by Sheila Maurice-Grey on trumpet with an all-female brass section of Richie Seviwright on Trombone and Cassie Konishi on sax. We have always assumed that the best female jazz artists are in the U.S. Well it simply isn’t so.
They say you can tell a musician has arrived by who they play with. If that's the case then pianist Kris Davis is clearly here to stay as she is appearing on the scene with the best female musicians in the buisness. A very avante-garde style not for the smooth jazz crowd but marking her mark.
It's hard for a female bass player not to find herself in the shadow of Esperanza Spalding, but that's not the case with Linda Oh whose star always shines bright. Here she is with another bright star, Melisa Aldana on sax.
Maria Grand at 27 years old, has become a fixture on the NY jazz scene. The tenor saxophonist style has been called "leery and elusive," but this hasn't stopped her from attracting an audience that finds her sound new and innovative.
When you think of female band leaders you usually think of Maria Schneider and her mostly male orchestra. However, you might want to shift focus and starting associating big bands with Sherrie Maricle and her Diva Jazz Orchestra which is made up of a fine collection of women musicians whose sound takes you back to the days when big bands reigned.
The days of the jazz big band and memories of Basie and Ellington are behind us with few exceptions. One of those exceptions is conductor and composer, Marie Schneider, whose big band reigns supreme on today's jazz scene. Check her out and check out her new CD, "Data Words."
When I think of women trombone players there are so few the one that usually comes to mind is the late great Melba Liston. However, I will now add Mariel Bildsten to my thoughts. She has a new CD called, Backbone. She's a New Yorker who makes the rounds as a side-woman with various bands. Here she is with her sextet. Keep her in your jazz thoughts.
Percussionist Marilyn Mazur is known for her consistent dedication to offering the audience an outstanding performance. She is not as well known as some drummers but loved by those that know her music.
Over the years I have listened to composer/guitarist Mary Halvorson and I have yet to understand what I am listening to. That aside she is considered one of the most progressive modern jazz artists of the day. Her music has been called anti-guitar and avant garde and any number of things that still don’t describe it. I thought I would let you give it a try and see what you think.
There is a famous photo of 57 of the greatest jazz musicians in front of a Brownstone in Harlem taken in 1958. Only three are women. One of them is the pianist Mary Lou Williams. Her career spanned almost her entire lifetime and her jazz legacy will last forever. Here is is with Oscar Peterson in the 80's.
Stevie Wonder took “The Sunshine of My Life” and made it his song but before Stevie did it Morgana King killed it. White jazz singers get a bad rap but that certainly does not apply to this singer who was one of the few soprano voices in jazz. She had one big hit, the movie song, The Taste of Honey, but she is a keeper. No jazz collection is complete without Morgana King.
Here is a glimpse of female jazz royalty. The trumpeter, Ingrid Jensen, with Terri Lyne Carrington, Esperanza Spalding, Helen Sung and Tineke Postma. Jensen is the gold standard for women trumpet players.
One of the most exciting female jazz bands on the scene today comes from the UK in the form of the glorious NERIJA. Seven women from London with a new and fresh afro-based sound. Each group member has their own distinct identity but the one we are probably the most familiar with across the pond is the tenor sax player Nubya Garcia. This group is considered to be at the forefront of a major musical movement in London.
Among the albums re-released last year was Nina Simone's Fodder on my Wings. It was overshadowed by a re-release of the Lost Berlin Tapes by Ella Fitzgerald but it is still worth a mention. Here's Nina doing the title song.
You know you have arrived when you make the front page of the New York Times art section. Kudos to Nubya Garcia who for sometime has been the most prominent female jazz musician from the U.K. Now that recognition has spread to the U.S. Her new CD is call, "Source." She is also a member of the fabulous all female band Nerija.
Feels like old-school Monday. If the actress Mae West had been a jazz singer she would have been Peggy Lee. Always dressed like she was on her way to Vegas with a smooth and cool style that defined the word laid back. She was always a better jazz singer than she got credit for being.
Most artists die and over time their music becomes a fading memory. However, there are those whose musical footprint is so deep they will always seem current and relevant. On that short list of vocalists is the never-to-be-forgotten Phyllis Hyman.
You don't have to be famous to be great. Rachel Price has been around a long time and she gets better with each passing moment. Diana Krall, who is a big star, immediately comes to mind since they are both white vocalists but this babe holds her own and maybe even more.
Rachelle Ferrell is not what you would call a jazz superstar but with her 6 octave range she has a super fan base that hangs on to her every word. She has become a permanent fixture on the contemporary jazz scene.
Some artists are so associated with a particular instrument that when you name the instrument they come to mind like trumpet equals Miles and sax equals Coltrane. When you hear the word violin you instantly think Regina Carter, recognized as the genius of the jazz violin.
Some musicians are like old friends, they are always around and they never fail to please. That can certainly be said for pianist Renee Rosnes who I first heard back in the 80's. She is still keeping the jazz flame alive and well and her music seems to get better as time passes.
Pianist Satoko Fujii has been described as "an improviser of rumbling intensity and generous restraint." Sometimes she plays the piano like a drum or plucks the strings like a harp. She is among a small group of very innovative female Japanese pianists who bring their own unique sound to jazz.
For years Sharel Cassity has appeared on all the rising stars lists in jazz. This talented horn player who easily moves from the sax to the clarinet to the flute deserves to be on any list of respected musicians.
Gone but certainly not forgotten. Here is the wonderful Shirley Horn, singer and pianist extraordinaire, singing the title song from her 1992 album, voted best of the year by jazz critics, Here's to Life.
Several years ago I was having dinner and heard this singer on the system and asked the waiter who she was. It was Stacey Kent. I've been a fan ever since. If you don't know her you should. She's always at the top of her game.
Susan Alcorn has a new CD called "Pedernal." You may not know her because she plays a pedal steel guitar and her music is what one reviewer called, "iconoclastic, ambientish." The same could be said of the music of Mary Halvorson who is on guitar. Here to a new experience.
Jazz Times Magazine has a feature this week on the pianist Sylvie Courvoisier who is like an old friend that you don't think about a lot but is always a constant reliable presence. She is a staple in straight-ahead jazz and an important part of the music scene.
For the first time ever the Downbeat Critics poll has awarded the jazz artists of the year 2020 award to a female musician. It's drumer, Terri Lyne Carrington. Downbeat editor, Bobby Reed, described her as a musician, producer, educator and amazing force in the jazz community. She also won album of the years and best jazz group. Here she is with her band Social Science.
Tierney Sutton and Ann Hampton Callaway - Vocalists
Sometimes you feel like talking to your old friends. It's the same with jazz when you listen to those vocalists you've heard a thousand times before and you get that warm comfortable feeling that everything is still good. Here are two "old friends" who never disappoint, Tierney Sutton and Ann Hampton Callaway.
The violinist Tomoko Omura has a new CD called, Branches Vol. 1, where she musically interprets Japanese folk tales. Here she is doing something easier to follow, Midnight Sun, with her group called, The Post Bop Gypsies. She is totally cool.
If you were concerned that the great female vocalists of the past could never be replaced worry no more. Meet 25 year old Veronica Swift, she scats, she loves bebop and she is wonderful. She is a rising star you should add to your collection.