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Interviews

Terri Lyne Carrington: The Long Road

By Published: April 22, 2013
The approach she took to making her record was similar—for today, not a regurgitation. And it's successful. It has fresh sounds, intriguing interpretations. Bluesy and soulful and expertly carried out. Some tunes, like "Very Special," have a similar vibe to the original, though the individuality of the players carries the day. But Ellington's "Backward Country Boy Blues," introduced in 1963 by Mingus' resounding bass before Duke's heavy block chords, is a rumbling blues. On Provocative in Blue, Nir Felder's acoustic guitar and Lizz Wright
Lizz Wright
Lizz Wright
b.1980
vocalist
's exotic voice open it with a backyard country feel before it moves into a contemporary, funky groove, where the voice serenely floats over a gorgeous pocket formed by Clayton, McBride and Carrington. There are also a couple Carrington originals, like the blues and sophisticated funk of "Grass Roots," and one from Clayton's pen.

Interspersed here and there are voice-over snippets of people like Martin Luther King, Bill Clinton and others commenting on the role of money in society—basically how there are still too many have-nots and not much is being done about it. But it is a subtle part of the record. The outstanding music is what it's all about.

Carrington says that kind of money-struggle theme "goes through every time period. It's as relevant now as it was then. It will be as relevant another 50 years from now. I wasn't trying to belabor a point. I think in general the people, that are listening to Money Jungle, are people that feel that way. I didn't want to feel preachy, or preaching to the choir. It's really just a statement of things the way they are and what we all probably know and believe anyway."

Listeners will also believe in what is being put down by this outstanding band. "Christian [McBride] was always the person that popped in my head when I thought about doing it," says the drummer. "To me, he has that sound and delivery that works. He's also a contemporary musician. Interestingly too, he really enjoyed doing the date and the variety of music that is on there. He doesn't like to be in a box, thought about as just one kind of musician. He grew up playing all styles and has demonstrated that over the course of his career."

"Gerald Clayton, to me, is a young pianist that is so steeped in tradition. I don't know who else, young or old, could have played 'Switch Blade' like Gerald, paying tribute to the original and how Duke played it, but putting his own thing in there and quoting some of the lines Duke played. It's really an amazing performance. I don't know anyone who could have done that any better, as well as playing a more contemporary sounding thing. He's very modern and at the same time steeped in tradition."

They all met the goal of keeping it fresh and being themselves. "That's how I hear things," says Carrington. "I don't see the real point in trying to do something like it was done [in the past], To me, it's not a challenge, it's the way I naturally do it. The challenge is taking something that Duke Ellington wrote, putting your spin on it and feeling OK about it."

As a follow-up to a Grammy, it's a strong statement from a musician entering her prime years, as a player, composer and producer. (She's currently producing a new recording for singer Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
b.1956
vocalist
). She is proud of the Grammy, but her eyes and ears are pointed forward. "Over the course of my career it was nice to feel recognized in some way," she says of the award. "It helped me to feel validated, in a sense, as far as feeling like, 'OK. My ideas are good.' And just trying to make good art. It's encouraging."

Born in Medford, Mass., she played the drums for about two years before starting to take lessons at about age 9. Around the house, her father was playing blues and jazz like Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
1925 - 2005
organ, Hammond B3
and Jack McDuff
Jack McDuff
Jack McDuff
1926 - 2001
organ, Hammond B3
organ trios, saxophonist Gene Ammons
Gene Ammons
Gene Ammons
1925 - 1974
sax, tenor
, and James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
, Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin

vocalist
and other rhythm and blues singers. When she got the Berklee scholarship at age 11, she continued going to regular school, but once a week would go to classes at Berklee until she graduated high school.

But it wasn't all study. Her father, a saxophonist whose credits included playing with pianist Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller
1904 - 1943
piano
, knew some of the musicians on the scene over the years, among them Clark Terry. The trumpeter heard the young girl play drums and invited her to play with him at an event in Kansas. "It was the Wichita Jazz Festival. He brought me and Dianne Reeves. That's where I met her. He brought us there as special guests with his band. He had a band with Louie Bellson
Louie Bellson
Louie Bellson
1924 - 2009
drums
[drums], George Duvivier [bass], Jimmy Rowles
Jimmy Rowles
Jimmy Rowles
1918 - 1996
piano
[piano], Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Eddie
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
1922 - 1986
sax, tenor
[saxophone] and Al Cohn
Al Cohn
Al Cohn
1925 - 1988
sax, tenor
[saxophone]. We were special guests. It was great. That was really helpful to my career."


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