Terri Lyne Carrington: The Long Road
And she is still growing as a drummer, influenced by everything around her. "Jack [DeJohnette] was definitely my biggest influence," she says of her approach to her instrument. "All the masters. All of them. But the one I keep returning to now, especially now that I'm teaching, is Roy Haynes. To me, he really changed things. Without Roy, there would be no Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette, who are people that also changed things. He's still out there. He's just a modern, modern, modern thinker. I still want to think like Roy Haynes. When I try to analyze what he's doing, he's really encompassed everything in his style. Analyzing him is a great teaching tool."
Carrington is at a point where she's always being called upon for her drumming abilities. But also, she has done production and songwriting collaborations with artists such as singers Gino Vannelli, Peabo Bryson, Reeves and others, including the song commissioned by the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games, "Always Reach for Your Dreams," that featured Bryson. This past April 19, she was musical director for a benefit concert at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., honoring Chaka Khan, Dionne Warwick and Valerie Simpson.
"The way I do it is kind of crazy," she said about wearing the hat of producer. "I'm in that world with Dianne [Reeves] right now. It's a different kind of record for her. I love it. It's like directing. Creating a vision that you share with the artist, and making all the right calls to try to make it happen. I think drummers make good producers. At least it seems like they have. Narada Michael Walden, Phil Collins, Lenny White. Different drummers have produced a lot of great music over the years. I think we have a natural instinct for it, somehow. You're controlling the arc and the shape of a band and a song. A song and a band are only as good as the drummer, in most cases. We're used to being in the driver's seat."
Carrington is in the driver's seat for a career that involves improvised music and segues into other styles that she enjoys. As for jazz, she says it's a music "that is ever evolving. I like all the different elements people are blending with it. When I go back and listen to [trumpeter] Miles Davis' classic quintet, to me, that style of music is never going to get better than that. I don't feel the need to do it, or listen to some of the young people trying to do that. I appreciate it when people do pay homage to the past like that. But I think it's beautiful how musicians have grown and evolved and developed with the influences of other styles. There's good and bad in everything. You just choose what you like. There's a lot more to choose from. I'm not stuck on any particular way it should or shouldn't be."
A life in music is a road that's always changing. It's a road that is not without its quick turns, accidents and maybe a bridge that might be temporarily impassable. Carrington continues to meet the challenges.
"It's funny, because I'm a teacher," she reflects. "My students, in their 20s, don't quite understand. I see it in some of them. But I want to look at them and say, 'It's a long road. You have at least another 20 years before you may even know who you are. Everybody's not like that, but a lot of us are."
Terri Lyne Carrington, Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord Music Group, 2013)
Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society (Heads Up International, 2012)
Terri Lyne Carrington, The Mosaic Project (Concord Music Group, 2011)
Terri Lyne Carrington, More to Say (Real Life Story: Next Gen) (Koch Records, 2009)
Grace Kelly, Mood Changes (PAZZ Productions, 2009)
George Duke, In A Mellow Tone (Bizarre Planet Entertainment, 2006)
John Patitucci, Sketchbook (GRP, 2006)
Tineke Postma, For the Rhythm (215 Record, 2005)
Terri Lyne Carrington, Structure (ACT Music, 2004)
Terri Lyne Carrington, Jazz is a Spirit (ACT Music, 2004)
Wayne Shorter, Alegria (Verve, 2003)
Cassandra Wilson, Glamoured (Blue Note, 2003)
Greg Osby, Invisible Hand (Blue Note, 2000)
Michele Rosewoman, Quintessence (Enja, 2000)
Herbie Hancock, Gershwin's World (Verve, 1998)
Danilo Perez, Panamonk (GRP, 1996)
Dianne Reeves, Quiet After the Storm, (Blue Note, 1995)
James Moody, Moody's Party (Telarc, 1995)
Robin Eubanks, Different Perspectives (Polygram 1991)
John Scofield, Flat Out (Gramavision, 1989)
Terri Lyne Carrington, Real Life Story (Polygram, 1989)
Wayne Shorter, Joy Ryder (Columbia, 1988)
All Photos: Courtesy of Terri Lyne Carrington