FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s cover article for The New York City Jazz Record‘s August 2021 issue.
New York City native Camille Thurman has been making an impact on the jazz world for the past decade as both as a tenor saxophonist/flutist and vocalist. She is the first female member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) and is ascending into jazz stardom with infinite grace and creativity. Thurman can be heard on her own recordings for Hot Tone Music and Chesky as well on albums by the JLCO, Dianne Reeves, Mimi Jones, Rachel Eckroth, Jerome Jennings, Shirazette Tinnin and Michael Olatuja. Among the honors she has received are runner-up in the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award, Fulbright Scholars Cultural Ambassador Grant and Chamber Music of America Performance Plus Grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
As with all the other musicians working to readjust and bounce back from the isolation of the pandemic, the past year-plus has not been easy or linear for Thurman. “The toughest thing that I had to overcome was being still,” said Thurman. “As musicians we’re always moving, we’re always working on projects, especially as freelance artists, we’re always creating, figuring out how to make it work and how to present and where to present it. The pandemic kind of put everything to a halt and made all of us try to figure out what was really important, but also made us think about what we’re actually doing and reevaluating the things we do that keep us busy and the meaning behind it.” Continue reading “Artist Feature: Camille Thurman”
FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s cover article for The New York City Jazz Record‘s July 2021 issue.
79-year-old pianist, vocalist, composer and visionary improviser Amina Claudine Myers is admirably active, continuing to nurture her artistic musical skills as if time was never a factor and utilizing every moment as an opportunity to evolve.
he could be considered an improvisational matriarch simply on the merit of her ability to cultivate and inspire great works of music with a positive and intuitive nature. One does not have to be a woman to be matriarchal; this archetype can be honed by being consistent, trustworthy and reliable in communitybuilding and offering those around them a loving environment. “I grew up in the country in Arkansas. I didn’t appreciate where I grew up until I became an adult. I was exposed to fruit and vegetables from gardens and picking fruit off the trees, riding my grandfather’s horse bareback. The people in Blackwell, Arkansas were about love. That’s something that has kept me going. The people would come together and the women were canning and quilting. There was a lot of love in Blackwell. That has inspired me to be where I am today,” says Myers.
Myers started studying piano at four years old. “My great uncle started me on music and I started taking piano in the nearest town from the white Catholic nuns who gave me lessons when I was a girl.” Myers is most known for her involvement, years later, with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a groundbreaking collective of creative artists springing to life in Chicago in 1965. It was through connecting and performing with members of this community that she found her improvisational footing, one which has never wavered since her early days with the organization. Continue reading “Amina Claudine Myers: A Lifetime of Love”
FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s review for The New York City Jazz Record‘s July 2021 issue.
Within the first few moments of delving into the musical landscape of Jaimie Branch’s FLY or DIE LIVE, even the most adept listener can mistake the masterfully produced live album for a serenely tailored studio recording. It takes time to adjust and embrace the realization, leaving one with a morsel of envy for the crowd who were able to experience Branch’s music washing over them like gentle waves of a sonic river without any form of distance and barrier.
FLY or DIE LIVE was recorded in Zürich, Switzerland in January 2020, less than two months before the world was stopped in international lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can hear the confidence of Branch’s band, playing without fear or any semblance of anxiety, a marker of the past and the freedom of a pre-pandemic live performance. Continue reading “Jaimie Branch’s FLY or DIE LIVE Review”
FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s June 2021 article for Jazz Journalist Association
New & Diverse Voices on Jazz highlights recent published reviews, feature articles, op-ed, historical and analytical non-fiction works by women, among others.
Jennifer Lucy Allan and Kira Grunenberg have written strong, observational pieces on the late multi-instrumentalist/composer-improviser Don Cherry and Argentine vocalist Roxana Amed, respectively. Both are ambitious writers, who have the ability to convey layers of information and the complex backgrounds and musical intentions of their subjects. They keep themselves out of the writing, never spewing too much of their own tastes and opinion, yet their writers’ voices and affinities for the musicians are stealthily intertwined in every sentence. Continue reading “New & Diverse Voices on Jazz: Peerless trumpeter, Argentine singer by Jennifer Lucy Allan, Kira Grunenberg”
FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s June 2021 article for New York Amsterdam News
It has been announced that new music from the iconic musician and godmother of spiritual jazz, Alice Coltrane will be released July 16. The album, entitled “Kirtan: Turiya Sings” will feature nine new devotional songs that will share unheard music with Coltrane on voice and organ. There has never been a recording with the artist in this stripped-down musical fashion. Most of Coltrane’s recordings featured her harp and a number of different instruments and musical collaborators such as Carlos Santana and Pharaoh Sanders.
This specific collection of music was recorded in 1981, and though it has never been heard from the masses, the original recordings of these musical offerings were exclusively released on cassette tape for her followers who lived on her ashram (a place of devotional worship and study). In 2004 Alice Coltrane’s son came across mixes of this music that he had never heard before where she is just singing and playing the Wurlitzer organ. Ravi, the producer of “Kirtan: Turiya Sings,” felt that this music needed to be shared with the world. Continue reading “Impulse! releases unheard music from Alice Coltrane”
FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s May 2021 review for New York City Jazz Record.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, composer Lauren Lee began to rethink and reconstruct songs meant for her trio, gathering freshly composed repertoire and old songs, which manifest on her third album, The Queen of Cups. This solo vocal and piano album consists of half original music and half reimagined standards that stem from Lee’s intricate imagination and distinct compositional style. One of the most enticing components is the esoteric title. This mystical tarot card archetype is that of a being who wades deeply within her emotions and flows in the watery depths of her empathic and caring behavioral projections.
The Queen of Cups sits on a throne reigning alone, which lends insight into the metamorphosis of trio music into a solo effort. Lee performs her sparse pieces, personal lyrics and unique scatting technique with confidence and quietly crisp production. Opener “Cognition” offers rich piano, which rings and sonically glows against voice. Lee does not sing lyrics, but instead creates romantically somber melodies. Continue reading “Lauren Lee’s The Queen of Cups”
FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s March 2021 essay for Jazz Journalists Association.
I’ve previously posed several questions regarding the relevance and presence, or lack thereof, of the feminist voice and women’s lens in jazz criticism. Engaging in an introspective and theoretical discourse with the jazz community and within ourselves as writers is one of the most important activities one can do in order to create a framework for impactful and lasting change.
Nonetheless, it would be irresponsible to leave this conversation floating in a realm of thoughtful ideology, without offering some form of solution-based analysis that would assist in creating concrete opportunities for growth, inclusiveness and advancement. These proposed solutions are nothing more than building blocks for writers, editors, publishers, and thinkers to consider in formation of their own ideas and tactics to create more equality within the jazz criticism community.
Before going on, I have one more question to express: Is it the responsibility of male writers and gatekeepers to lead the change we all seem to agree is needed? Or should it be women writers who organize themselves to create the environment in which we want to work and operate?
I believe the answer is both.
Feminist organizing, as with any movement, takes experience and humane strategies. Not everyone has the background needed to bring marginalized people together to create change, but those that do should utilize the knowledge we have in our community-oriented toolboxes to support those who are willing to learn and contribute. Continue reading “Feminist Jazz Journalism, Now! Part 2: A solution-based analysis”
FJR founder, Jordannah Elizabeth’s feature for uDiscover Music’s editorial series, Black Music Reframed.
The harp has long been a part of classical music. Mozart used it, memorably, in his Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, and the composers of the Romantic Era in Europe featured it heavily. The instrument invokes images of the gentry in music salons or angels among clouds. It wasn’t until centuries later that the harp would be transformed from a solely orchestral instrument to an elegant fixture in the world of jazz. The woman responsible for this innovation is Detroit-born jazz composer, Dorothy Ashby, who released her groundbreaking debut album, The Jazz Harpist in 1957, introducing the world to an entirely new sound and use of the stringed instrument.
Ashby was already well versed in jazz composition and performance before she became a recording artist. Her father, guitarist Wiley Thompson, hosted jam sessions at their house in Detroit with local jazz musicians. Ashby earned her chops by sitting in and playing piano. She continued to study the piano at Cass Technical High School, Detroit’s historical magnet high school that boasts graduates like Donald Byrd, Regina Carter, Zeena Parkins, and Geri Allen. In Cass Tech’s music program she had the opportunity to explore many instruments, one of which was the harp. The school’s Harp and Vocal program was – and still is – esteemed throughout the music world, and Ashby’s eventual teacher was one of the best, a woman named Velma Fraude. “[Velma] was a bit of a pill, but she was a really amazing teacher,” remembered Zeena Parkins in an interview with Pitchfork in 2010. “You had to fall into line, but if you decided to go with her, you really learned how to play the instrument.” Continue reading “Feature ~ Dorothy Ashby: Pioneering Jazz Harpist”
Dear readers, writers and artists,
Thanks so much for engaging with Feminist Jazz Review in its very early stages. During this Spring and unprecedented time of COVID-19, I felt that it was important to begin taking steps to create a platform and support system for people who I think have been underrepresented throughout music history: women in jazz.
Right now, we are preparing to officially launch in Summer/Fall 2020.
We will be publishing new articles and writing before our official launch, so please check the site frequently and feel free to send your music, pitch ideas and share your thoughts about what you’d like to see on this site.
I am here to listen and give as much energy as I can to sharing and uplifting the voices of women, femme and female identified jazz musicians, composers and producers.
I’m excited to go on this journey with you.
Thanks for reading.
Founder and Executive Editor
Feminist Jazz Review
Amirtha Kidambi is a composer, there’s no denying that at this point in time. But there was a time where this talented musician and intellectual had to break through gender stigmas and discouragement when it came to her studying composition as a young woman. She and I talked for nearly an hour, so this interview is a small portion of the ground we covered, but it is an important subject where we talk about the reality of the subconscious lack of inclusiveness in jazz and classical education.
Feminist Jazz Review does not exist to be divisive, but there are stories to tell about the reality of women and female-identified beings experiences. In retrospect, Kidambi happens to have noticed the nuances of gender roles in music education when she tried to double-major in vocals and composition.
Kidambi’s work as the bandleader of Elder Ones and leader of the vocal quartet Lines of Light along with many other successes that allow Amirtha to enjoy a respected career came with diligence, perseverance and self-education to become the composer and educator that she is today. Feminist Jazz Review supports and encourages music education. We also support and encourage women in jazz to open up and tell their truths so that we can make more inclusive spaces for the next generation.
Let’s start from the beginning. As a young person, when did you first find yourself wanting to be a composer?
Composition did not happen when I was young. There are reasons for that. I wasn’t trained in Western music when I was young because there was no money [to pay for them]. I got all my training in public school. I was in choir and play in concert band in high school, I took every music class that was available. So, I did learn how to basically read music.
I went to college and double majored in vocal performance and composition initially and was sort of discouraged from studying composition because my theory wasn’t that great study later than other composers because there wasn’t much money coming from an immigrant family that took time to build up [financially] to where they are now, the middle class lifestyle.
Do you think that it’s common for women to be discouraged from focusing on composition?
Yeah, I think [in my experience], it was subconscious. I had a pretty awesome theory teach, but I there’s an idea that theory and analysis are the be all and end all of being a composer. Continue reading “Amirtha Kidambi Talks Gender and Composition”