Monday, November 16, 2015

Now Available for Purchase! Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz



Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz is NOW AVAILABLE purchase from CreateSpace and Amazon.

The book is also available for purchase in Houston, TX at the Jung Center of Houston bookstoreCasa Ramirez FOLKART Gallery, and Brazos Bookstore.

This has been a long journey. Over three years of interviewing musicians, transcribing and editing the interviews, working with two copy editors, as well as a great designer. The final product looks amazing; 320 pages, 42 photographs, including the stunning cover image of pianist Connie Crothers, a 25-page introduction, and introductions to each of the 37 interviews.

Thank you for the support.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz released November 16, 2015



Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz, a collection of interviews with 37 female musicians of all ages, nationalities, and races and representing nearly every style of jazz one can imagine, was released November 16, 2015.

You can purchase the book via Amazon or CreateSpace.

The interviewees, including Terri Lyne Carrington, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Eliane Elias, Anat Cohen, Helen Sung, Diane Schuur, Ellen Seeling, Val Jeanty, Carmen Lundy, Mindi Abair, Cheryl Bentyne, Jane Ira Bloom, Sharel Cassity, Connie Crothers, Jane Monheit, and Sherrie Maricle, speak about their earliest experiences playing music, the years of practice and study required to become a professional musician, and what it means to be a jazz musician in the 21st century. The 320-page book includes a 25-page history of jazz, as well as introductions to each interview, to provide helpful context for readers who are unaware of the contributions by women to the development of this music.

"In the years since the arrival of the 21st century, jazz has evolved into a truly cross-generational, multicultural musical art form that is assimilating an unprecedented array of musical styles and techniques. At the same time, the male-dominated paradigm that has defined the historical narrative of jazz is no more. Women are shaking up the music industry while the general public is becoming much more aware of the contributions female musicians have made to the art of jazz since its inception. Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz documents this profound evolution." — Chris Becker

Review copies, interview requests: beckeresque at gmail dot com

"At long last, an in-depth recognition of the female contributions to jazz.  As Dr. Billy Taylor said about the lack of awareness of female musicians: ‘If it isn't written down, it didn't happen.’ Now everyone will know that it did happen and continues to happen. What a great gift to the history of women and music." — Judy Chaikin, director of the award-winning documentary The Girls in the Band

“This is a truly welcomed work to be added to the annals of jazz’s oral histories. Chris Becker shows great care, respect and benevolence for women artists, too often ignored, who have contributed much to creation of this music and who continue to push the genre forward by all means necessary.” – Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, journalist and director-producer of But Can She Play?: Blowin’ The Roof Off Women Horn Players and Jazz

"Finally, a comprehensive HERstory of jazz music! Each of the women interviewed in this book have created strong musical identities while operating under the radar for far too many years. Thanks to Chris Becker, the world can discover the inner workings and creative lives of these fine, deserving jazzwomen. This book is a riveting read . . . an exciting journey into the mind of female genius." — Rachel Z., composer, keyboardist (Steps Ahead, Larry Coryell, Wayne Shorter, Peter Gabriel)

Front cover star: Connie Crothers
Photograph by Peter Gannushkin

Women In Jazz: The Interviewees
Mindi Abair
Saxophones
Cheryl Bentyne
Voice
Jane Ira Bloom
Soprano Saxophone
Samantha Boshnack
Trumpet
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Voice
Terri Lyne Carrington
Drums
Sharel Cassity
Saxophones
Anat Cohen
Clarinet, Saxophones
Jean Cook
Violin
Connie  Crothers
Piano
Eliane Elias
Piano, Voice
Ayelet Rose Gottlieb
Voice
Lenae Harris
Cello
Val Jenty
Electronics
Jan Leder
Flute
Jennifer Leitham
Double Bass
Carmen Lundy
Voice
Sherrie Maricle
Drums
Jane Monheit
Voice
Jacqui Naylor
Voice
Aurora Nealand
Saxophones, Clarinet
Iris Ornig
Double Bass
Alisha Pattillo
Tenor Saxophone
Roberta Piket
Piano
Cheryl Pyle
Flute
Nichole Rampersaud
Trumpet
Sofia Rei
Voice
Patrizia Scascitelli
Piano
Diane Schuur
Voice
Ellen Seeling
Trumpet
Helen Sung
Piano
Jacqui Sutton
Voice
Mazz Swift
Violin, Voice
Nioka Workman
Cello
Pamela York
Piano
Brandee Younger
Harp
Malika Zarra
Voice


About the Author
Chris Becker has written about all styles of music for several print and online publications, including Culturemap Houston, Houston Press. All About Jazz, and Sequenza 21. He is also an active composer of music for dance, film, and mixed-media installations.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

Introducing Carmen Lundy (Excerpted from "Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz")

With the help of a wonderful copyeditor and a wonderful proofreader, I am pulling together over 350 pages of interviews and introductory material for what will be my first book, entitled Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz. We're taking our time to make sure the book is nothing less than spectacular, and there is still much work to be done. In the meantime, I would like to share with you some excerpts from the book. Each interview will be presented in a straightforward, Q&A format, so that the reader can "hear" each musician's story in her own words.

I hope you enjoy these previews of what will be a truly expansive, entertaining, and in-depth look at jazz and the musicians, specifically women, who are taking the music into the future.

Carmen Lundy (singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist)

Singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and visual artist Carmen Lundy is one of the first musicians I interviewed for this project. At the end of our conversation, after I turned off the digital recorder, I mentioned that I was stuck on trying to come up with a title for the book, and that Women in Jazz just wasn’t going to cut it. She told me she believed the title of the book would come out of one of the interviews, that somebody was going to say something and it would be apparent that that was the perfect title. Of course, she was right. The title would come from my interview with drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington, who quoted Duke Ellington’s definition of jazz as “freedom of expression.” The complete title came together via a brainstorming session with writer and musician Michael Veal, and I made a mental note I would have to tell Carmen that her prediction had come true.

I am not surprised Lundy has a gift for clairvoyance. Many musicians do. There is an otherworldly, sometimes visionary quality to Lundy ’s lyrics and music, as well as the production that surrounds her distinctive voice. On her track “Requiem for Kathryn” from her 2009 album Solamente, a self-produced album of “demos” on which Lundy plays every instrument, her sparse, wordless vocal somehow speaks to both the sadness and hope for deliverance that comes when someone close to you has passed.

Lundy ’s formal musical education began at the University of Miami in the early 1970s, a time when jazz instruction in a college or university setting was a relatively rare thing. But despite not having a prescribed, well-worn academic path placed before her, it is apparent from this interview that Lundy always had a vision for herself and for her future as a musical artist.

“I don’t know if it’s fortunate or unfortunate for me to find that there’s this definition of a jazz singer as ‘someone who sings songs from another time,’ ” says Lundy. “It’s similar to what we’ve done with the classical singer, where what defines you is the repertoire of another century.”

Lundy describes herself as “multi-repertoire,” a description that’s more than accurate when considering the breadth of her artistry and musical résumé. She composes much of the repertoire she sings, and at the time of this writing, has written or co-written over 80 songs. She also composes and produces music for film and television, has acted on stage, is a visual artist, and conducts jazz clinics for singers and instrumentalists across the country. Lundy certainly fits the mold of a traditional jazz singer, but at the same time manages to upend any and all definitions of that term.


Introducing Anat Cohen (Excerpted from "Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz")

With the help of a wonderful copyeditor and a wonderful proofreader, I am pulling together over 350 pages of interviews and introductory material for what will be my first book, entitled Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz. We're taking our time to make sure the book is nothing less than spectacular, and there is still much work to be done. In the meantime, I would like to share with you some excerpts from the book. Each interview will be presented in a straightforward, Q&A format, so that the reader can "hear" each musician's story in her own words.

I hope you enjoy these previews of what will be a truly expansive, entertaining, and in-depth look at jazz and the musicians, specifically women, who are taking the music into the future.

Anat Cohen (clarinetist, saxophonist, composer)

From its very beginning, jazz, sometimes called “America’s classical music,” has drawn upon musical influences from around the globe. At the turn of the 20th century, dance music from Havana found its way into the syncopated rhythms of ragtime and the compositions of Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin, and W. C. Handy. However, Cuban rhythms, each with its own clave pattern, were distinct from the triplet feel (or “swing”) that was a defining characteristic of jazz. Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s 1947 collaborations with Cuban conga maestro Chano Pozo embraced these two distinct rhythmic approaches by layering “swung” and “straight” eighth notes to create the earliest recorded examples of Afro-Cuban jazz. In the decades after those first Afro-Cuban cuts, musicians continued to experiment with wild new hybrids of music that incorporated influences not only from Cuba and other South American countries, but from across Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Japan, and Indonesia.

And the debate as to what is or is not jazz continues! Even today, there are plenty of musicians who are quick to define jazz as “music that swings,” period, end of story. Music that does not swing is “world music” or “fusion” or any other number of alternately named genres. Perhaps what is more important is, as Moroccan singer Malika Zarra says in her interview for this book, “to be able to identify where things are coming from, and not be superficial.”

Israeli-born clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen’s earliest experiences playing jazz were in the Jaffa Music Conservatory ’s New Orleans band, playing clarinet parts and the written solos from arrangements of recordings by the Original Dixieland Jazz (also “Jass”) band. In her interview, she describes how she fell “in love with the feeling of swing, which gave me so much joy and still gives me so much joy.” She would eventually continue her studies in the U.S. at the Berklee College of Music where she met students from other countries who, like her, were studying American jazz, but were missing their native homes.

“(Students) from South America, they started missing home,” says Cohen. “So they started to bring their folkloric elements into jazz. I started playing music for people who were writing music . . . that incorporated Brazilian, Argentinean, and Venezuelan rhythms. My rhythmic world just opened up because of that.”

In performance and on recordings, Cohen plays tunes in a thoroughly syncopated, classic New Orleans style, such as her slow-drag take on “La Vie en Rose” from her album Claroscuro, as well as classic and newly composed music built on Brazilian, North African, and South American rhythms.

Her latest recording, Luminosa, even includes an acoustic arrangement of electronic and experimental hip-hop artist Flying Lotus’ “Putty Boy Strut.”

“Jazz is world music,” says Cohen. “It’s an American art form that started here, but it welcomes all of these influences.”

Cohen welcomes these influences and, like many musicians interviewed in this book, is creating a truly global and multicultural form of jazz. And she’s only just getting started. . . .


Anat Cohen: Claroscuro - Long EPK from Anat Cohen on Vimeo.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

. . . and the copyediting continues . . .


Excerpt from my interview with saxophonist and composer Jane Ira Bloom from my forthcoming book, Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz
CB: How does the music you make now relate to jazz? What’s your connection to jazz music’s history?
JIB: Well, I think of it in the most primary way. I value the musical decision making that I make in the moment as a result of having studied and immersed myself in the Afro-American music tradition as well as many others.
But the thing that makes it so very intimately connected to some of the earliest players of that music is that I give value to what I think of musically in the moment. I give improvisation as much credence in my musical thought as the ideas that I write down, and that’s a very important difference. That really is the heart of it.
We can talk about rhythm, and melody, and all those things but at the heart of it is being an improviser. That’s the best answer I can give you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

REMINDER: Wednesday, April 29, Party and Protest to Support Blind Auditions for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra



A reminder! On Wednesday, April 29 at 6 p.m., on the sidewalk outside the Jazz at Lincoln Center Gala, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th Street, NYC, JazzWomenand Girls Advocates​ will be hosting a party and protest to support blind auditions and open job postings for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In its 28 years of existence, the JaLC has never had a permanent woman player.

This type of activism is exactly what is needed to instigate major changes in institutionalized gender discrimination. Even if you’re not in NYC, please consider sharing this flyer so people are aware of this protest.


Right now, you can tune in to WNYC Radio​ to hear Brian Lehrer's​ interview trumpeter and JazzWomen and Girls Advocate Chairperson Ellen Seeling about the evening’s rally. (Ellen is one of the 37 musicians I interviewed for my forthcoming book, Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz

Wish I could be there! 

Here is the flyer for this important rally:




Saturday, April 11, 2015

April 29 Party and Protest to Support Blind Auditions for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

On Wednesday, April 29 at 6 p.m., on the street in front of Lincoln Center (NYC), Jazz Women and Girls Advocates will be hosting a party and protest to support blind auditions and open job postings for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In its 28 years of existence, the JaLC orchestra has never had a permanent woman player.

This type of activism is exactly what is needed to instigate major changes in institutionalized gender discrimination. Obviously, we still have a long way to go, and trumpeter, bandleader, educator and Jazz Women and Girls Advocates chairperson Ellen Seeling is not afraid to point out this fact. 

Check out the event flyer below by clicking on it, and please share widely. Thanks.