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Nine Women In The Room: A Jazz Musicians’ Roundtable

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Monday November 01, 2010

From NPR

Nine Women In The Room: A Jazz Musicians’ Roundtable
By: Tom Cole

Over the summer, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington brought together some pretty high-profile musicians from all over the world to record The Mosaic Project: pianists Geri Allen, Helen Sung, and Patrice Rushen; bassists Esperanza Spalding and Mimi Jones; percussionist Sheila E.; woodwind players Anat Cohen and Tineke Postma; trumpeter Ingrid Jensen; violinist Chia-Yin Carol Ma; flutist Hailey Niswanger; and vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Carmen Lundy, Nona Hendryx, Patricia Romania, and Gretchen Parlato. Activist and author Angela Davis even contributes spoken word to one track.

You may have noticed they’re all women. That was both the point of the session — and not the point.

After a full day of recording, eight of the musicians sat down with Lara Pellegrinelli for a conversation on the topic of women in jazz. They shared some of their own experiences and discussed the media, the music business, audience, mentors, and role models. But Carrington eventually broke in with a request: could they stop talking about gender issues and talk about the music?

The conversation illustrates some of the tensions in being a woman in jazz. At the same time that these players seem ready to celebrate the obstacles they’ve overcome, they say that the music itself comes first — it doesn’t care if you’re black or white, young or old, male or female. Could it be that this conviction, central to jazz, has made it difficult for women to speak up about the prejudice they’ve faced, as much as it has given them the faith that they will be heard?

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