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Friday July 27, 2018

From Stereogum

Ugly Beauty: The Month In Jazz – July 2018
By: Phil Freeman

Earlier this month, I went to Newark to meet violinist Regina Carter. She was in town to serve as artistic director of an all-female jazz residency, put together by NJPAC. She, saxophonist Tia Fuller, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and a large faculty of teachers took students from 14-25 through a weeklong immersion program of individual lessons, small ensemble work, trips to jazz institutions in the area (the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark is a major research hub; anyone who’s written a serious book on jazz has doubtless spent many hours in their archives), and even lectures about the music industry. The goal is not just to help these singers and players improve their technique, but to give them a more well-rounded picture of how to be a jazz musician, whether that means learning to arrange a composition, to structure an improvisation so it has flow and meaning, or to figure out how to market yourself in the 21st century. It’s a lot like the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls, but with an added veneer of professionalism, since they’re assuming that the students want to pursue professional careers in jazz.

In that regard, Carter is an excellent role model. She’s built a career that’s lasted since the late Eighties, starting out with the all-female quintet Straight Ahead before making her solo debut in 1995. She’s made albums for Atlantic, Verve, and currently releases her work through Sony. But this is crucial: In 2006, she won a MacArthur fellowship, the so-called “genius grant,” which gives the recipient $500,000 over five years, no strings attached, and that’s allowed her a degree of independence few musicians have. She now produces her own music—her latest album, Accentuate The Positive, is a collection of tunes associated with singer Ella Fitzgerald—and licenses it to labels, rather than signing traditional contracts. She runs her own show, managing her own career, and that’s exactly the kind of example up-and-coming female jazz artists need to see.

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