I think you basically hear music in your head…
Terri Lyne Carrington
In 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts was started by Congress as an agency that provides funding and support to the creative arts in the United States, through grants, projects, events, and partnerships. In 1982, the NEA Jazz Masters was established as the highest award given to jazz artists. It’s awarded to those legends of jazz who have made tremendous contributions to the art form, and it’s an award voted on by the public, including peers. Since 1982, 161 awards have been given. Of those, 24 are women in the field. This week, we’re going to learn about a few of the fierce females who have achieved this amazing honor.
Terri Lyne Carrington (1965 – )
Among the 2021 NEA Jazz Masters is drummer, composer, educator, and producer, Terri Lyne Carrington. At the age of 10, she had already started her professional career drumming and was a regular drummer for Clark Terry! After she was heard jamming with Oscar Peterson, she was offered a full scholarship to Berklee at the age of 11! She has toured and recorded extensively, but, more recently, she’s been very focused on helping and inspiring new generations of musicians. Since 2007, she’s been a professor at Berklee, where she is the founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz & Gender Justice, which focuses on gender equity in the jazz field. Throughout her career, she’s worked with a number of jazz greats, and her musical projects are inventive, including re-imaginings of classic works and mixing a range of genres.
In 2011 she released The Mosaic Project, a collaboration of all female jazz powerhouses, including Dianne Reeves, Esperanza Spalding, Cassandra Wilson, Ingrid Jensen, Geri Allen, and many more, which won a Grammy for best vocal jazz album. Here is Carrington talking about that album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
In 2013, she released Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue, which was a reimagining of Money Jungle, by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. That album received a Grammy for best jazz instrumental album. From that album, here is “Very Special”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
*You can celebrate ALL the 2021 NEA Jazz Masters next month when the 2021 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert takes place on April 22nd, at 8 p.m. ET. It’s a free event and will be streaming. Learn more: https://www.sfjazz.org/
Toshiko Akiyoshi (1929 – )
The 2007 class of NEA Jazz Masters includes pianist, composer, and bandleader Toshiko Askiyoshi, who was born in Manchuria and then moved to Japan after WWII. A piano student, she was introduced to jazz by listening to records and fell in love. In order to play piano, she took a job playing in a dance-hall band, as she had no piano at home. In 1952, while he was touring Japan, she was discovered by Oscar Peterson and began her career.
In the mid-1950’s, she moved to the States to attend Berklee, where she was the first Japanese student to study there. In the early 1970’s, she started a big band with her husband, saxophonist and flutist, Lew Tabackin, where she arranged and composed. Her composition skills have been compared to those of Duke Ellington, and she intertwines Japanese themes into jazz structures.
Here is the title track from her 1975 album Long Yellow Road: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Dorothy Donegan (1922 – 1998)
In 1992, pianist, vocalist, and educator Dorothy Donegan was named a NEA Jazz Master. Donegan was a classically trained pianist, who was discovered by the great Art Tatum when she was playing in bars in her teens. He took her under his wing, and she became his protege. A few years later, she became the first African-American to perform at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall at age 19! She did a concert of “jazz meets classics.” She was a piano virtuoso, with a flamboyant performing style – she would dance, move, stand, make faces! Because of this style, she was often referred to as a lounge entertainer, known for her live shows, where she’d play a wide range of music, catching the audience off guard. By her peers, she was known for her chops and was intimidating to other musicians, which led to her often performing solo or with a trio.
See her in action playing live at White House in 1993: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Cleo Brown (1909 – 1995)
In 1987, Cleo Brown (1909 – 1995) became the first female instrumentalist to become an NEA Jazz Master. A pianist and vocalist, Brown toured around the country with Decca Records, playing vaudeville shows, from the 1930’s – 50’s. She was compared to having a style similar to that of Fats Waller, known for her stride playing and boogie woogie style. She led bands and had her own radio show, but in later life, she turned more to her religion, writing and performing hymns under the name C. Patra Brown.
From her earlier days, here she is performing “Breakin’ in a New Pair of Shoes”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
During her boogie woogie performance days, Dave Brubeck played during intermission for her shows and credits her for being an influence to him. He wrote “Sweet Cleo Brown” as a tribute to her: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
The CJO out & about
You can catch the CJO at some upcoming events (from the comfort of your sofa).
Friday, March 19th at 7:30 p.m.: The CJO will be performing at the Maplerock Jazz Festival.
- There WILL be a limited number of FREE tickets.
- All seating is reserved, to meet social distancing guidelines, so tickets are needed.
- Tickets will be available only at the campus store. People can order by phone and pick them up before the concert or get them in person at the campus store. The phone number is 419-289-5336.
- The concert will ALSO be live streamed on the CJO’s Facebook page!
Friday, March 26th at 8:00 p.m.: The CJO Little Big Band will be back at the Bop Stop.
Tune in for the livestream, featuring Eddie Bacchus and Cecil Rucker!
You can help bring jazz to students!
We believe that we connect through music and that jazz has the power to bring many cultures together.
With your generous help, we can continue to educate and inspire new generations of jazz lovers through our Educational Outreach activities.
To learn more & donate: http://bit.ly/CJOSpringFwd
Or text “CJO4NEO” to 44-321