Friday, May 20, 2011

Night One of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival

If you weren't at last night's Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival (Thursday, May 19), I'll let you know what you missed! Actually, I know you weren't there, because I didn't see you there.

The evening began with a moment of silence for the late Billy Taylor who was the founder of the festival in 1996. His big glasses and big grin were always such a beautiful thing to see each year. He was truly missed.

Overall, the evening went from cool to HOT! Mistress of ceremonies was Dee Dee Bridgewater. The evening was being taped for her Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater on NPR. Too bad it wasn't being taped for Sophie's Parlor! I noted to my friend Susan that I had personally interviewed six of last year's performers for my show. So far I haven't arranged anything, but it's on my personal to do list.

The first set was performed by the Jamie Baum Septet. Jamie is a New York City-based jazz flutist who had composed all of the numbers we heard. Besides the effervescent Linda Oh on bass and the composer/leader Jamie Baum, the other performers in the septet were men. I have this wish for more of the performers to be women at this festival, but that's just what I hope to see! The compositions were complex, I admire musicians who are able to perform at that level, especially when there are mis-steps during the performance. [This paragraph was edited, based on feedback from the artist.]

Then, we had the distinct pleasure to watch JaLaLa - a sparkly trio of singers: Janis Siegel and Laurel Masse (founding members of Manhattan Transfer), joined by Lauren Kinhan. Guess how their name was formed - LOL! We did enjoy this set, that was quite reminiscent of the past: Andrews Sisters'esque tight harmonies, Johnny Mercer songbook, Doris Day, and a killer rendition of Queen's Killer Queen. Everyone had a good time here: the performers and the audience!

The capstone of the evening was the HOT Tia Fuller. Dee Dee warned us before she came out that she would bedazzle us, and Boy, did she! She was poured into a golden one-strapped mini-dress and wearing a pair of the highest golden heels I've ever seen. Her saxes were as shiny as she was! Her group was composed of the husband and wife pair of Luis Perdomo on piano and Miriam Sullivan on bass, and her own brother-in-law Rudy Royston on drums. Her sister would have been on piano, but was unable to make it that night. She made a better effort of showcasing the women performers, by including Sheherezade Tennan (not sure of the name) at the drums and even more not sure of the name on the alto saxophone. This set made the joint jump with engaged musicians (only Luis used sheet music), who laughed and smiled and showed appreciation for each others' efforts. It was fast, it was slow, we laughed, we cried. A perfect ending of the evening, as I walked away with the saxophone melody in my mind.

Tomorrow evening is a tribute to Abbie Lincoln with some amazing women on stage. I can't wait!!!


Jamie said...

Dear Sophie,
I'm sorry that you felt so little respect and appreciation for my music. I dare say that while, yes my band was reading my music...I wonder if you have ever seen a big band where all of the musicians had the music memorized? I also perform in small group bands, in fact I co-lead a group doing the music of Jaki Byard, one of my former teachers, and with short tunes like the ones Tia played. In that case it is of course common to memorize the music. Perhaps you didn't understand that I am using the septet like a small big-band and am trying to create some new ideas and textures. And FYI, Taylor Haskins has played with me in my band since 1999 as has Jeff Hirshfield. On another note, I don't usually write back about comments, and certainly you have a right to your opinion and taste, I guess I just get tired of reviewers trashing something and making assumptions about something that they aren't into. I would think you would be supportive of the diversity of women and how hard we work to try to be artists. I'm sorry you felt compelled to need to do that! I must also say that I knew Billy Taylor, in fact he interviewed me the last time I played at the Kennedy Center and I am quite sure he would have been offended by your attitude as he was very open minded and supportive of all musicians, white or black, man or woman and encouraged musicians to find their personal voice, no matter what style, especially being appreciative and respectful of their honest commitment to the music.
Jamie Baum

Anonymous said...

Your critique of Jamie Baum's Septet set at the Women's Jazz Festival clearly magnifies your ignorance about what her music is about. I have her last two recordings. I was there and it seemed like the musicians were very serious, playing what was very challenging music, they all seemed to be very focused. It's fine not to like something, everyone is entitled to their opinion but why for instance would you make the distinction about the men in her band being white. It is my opinion (based on your writing) that you don't know that much about modern composition but the fact that you are a woman has nothing to do with it.

Heleeene said...

I really appreciate the comments back on my post. I know I am showing my lack of experience with jazz composition, but I do want to learn more. It was eye-opening to see the wide variety of performances over the three nights. I can TRULY appreciate the complexity of Jamie Baum's compositions; I will listen again with a different perspective.

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