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.

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