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Pernille Bevort: Cowboys and Girls

By Published: January 27, 2009
AAJ: As a saxophonist you have your own voice, which in this day and age is something of an achievement, and maybe the only influence I detect, and that's more in a compositional way, in terms of phrasing less than in terms of sound, is Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter

PB: I have listened to him also, very much, in a formative period of my life. I've listened to him quite a lot, his phrasing, his way of writing, his seams, his sounds. Sure I have, I've been there too.

AAJ: You are also a vocalist, there are a couple of interesting vocal tracks on Playground + 1; how important is singing to you?

PB: That's a good question; I guess I started singing because I started a bigger group where I had four horns and in the beginning. I worked with other singers to sing my songs, but I figured when I sat there composing, and wrote all the lyrics, I had some feeling for these tunes and I wanted them sung more straight-ahead—the stories in my tunes should be sung in a relaxed way, not so complicated. You know, when I used other singers to sing my tunes sometimes I didn't really recognize my tunes. I also made a recording which I called Radio Bevort where I sing all the vocal tracks myself, and in a way I liked it and I started performing live with singing, but I don't do it so much in the quintet.

AAJ: Who are your singing models?

PB: Well of course I've listened to Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
, and then I've listened to Sidsel Endresen. Then here in Denmark we have Josefine Cronholm who made a recording with Django Bates
Django Bates
Django Bates
she's from Sweden originally but she lives in Denmark now. I'm totally aware that I'm not a jazz jazz singer, I'm not Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
I'm just Pernille trying to tell my own story. I don't see myself in front of a big band as a jazz singer.

AAJ: You are involved in the organization IMPRA; tell me something about IMPRA. What is the idea exactly?

PB: IMPRA was started in Sweden. It started in 2006 and they did so because they saw when they looked around at the music business, within the rhythmic scene, that there were so few females, especially playing instruments and composing and they wondered how can that be so, and why is it so Let's gather, let's talk about, let's put some focus on this issue, and in a way they have succeeded so far in that once in a while they set up concerts with female instrumentalists, workshops and so on, and focus on this.

One school in Sweden called Fridhem Folkhogskola has made a special year for female students that prepares them for the conservatory so that they can study a year together and alone, without all the boys. They have had success with that. We don't have that kind of thing in Denmark, but we got inspired by this Swedish initiative and started the Danish IMPRA in the spring of 2008

When I started studying, and when the Sophisticated Ladies started, it seemed like the percentage of female instrumentalists was increasing and we thought maybe we were at the beginning of something and that it would be more equal in the coming years—not that it has to be fifty-fifty, I don't think it will ever be, but maybe it will be twenty five per cent, or thirty percent—but it has gone the opposite way actually.

We did a little research on the conservatories and those places for rhythmic music and we saw that this year when they had to apply, when they went to the auditions to enter, only 1.3% who applied for these auditions in Copenhagen were female instrumentalists. We have other rhythmic conservatories in other parts of the country and there we found that there were none at all; no female instrumentalists applied, and we think this is a pity because it means that there are so many stories that we will never hear.

AAJ: What do you put this down to, Pernille? Why do you think there are so few women applying for auditions in the music conservatories?

PB: I think in a way that to convince women that it is a possibility takes a bit more than it does for men, I think there is a point there. And another point is the media; here in Denmark we used to have, and felt the responsibility, to show people a variety of things in the media, but it seems that everything goes more and more towards business thinking, and it has become more and more this concept of "Star for a Night," I don't know what you call it, we have all these shows on television where they all stand in a—line and the best amateur in whatever field gets chosen—the best amateur tap dancer, or singer or whatever, but in the media the only thing that female gets presented for within rhythmic music is as singers. It's the only option you are shown.

You don't see female instrumentalists, so it seems that it is not presented a s a possibility for young females, and I guess that is a problem because you need to feel that it is a possibility at fifteen or whatever so that you continue playing. Because they do play, but they seem to stop again.

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