1

Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz by Chris Becker

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz
Chris Becker
332 Pages
ISBN: # 978-0692543603
Beckeresque
2015

Houstonian writer and composer Chris Becker had a labor of love in mind when he set out to assemble his Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz. What may have begun as a collection of interviews, morphed into a tautly-rendered history of jazz against a backdrop of America's decaying history of racism and sexism. What is special about this book is that it comes along at its appropriate time. It is not too early to be fully appreciated as timely, as opposed to "ahead of its time" and it is not too late to be fully taken for granted. Its premise states the obvious: women's contribution to jazz (and all art) has always existed and has not only become more evident as we have lost the trappings of religious and secular patriarchy but have increased quantitatively because of that (completely necessary) loss. And that is all of the social commentary I have for this review.

Becker interviews a wide cross-section of female jazz musicians, covering an impressive dissemination of demographics. Surrounding this almost clinically-sound distribution of talent, Becker has raised succinctly-stated perimeter in which to place these musicians, more brightly illuminating their individual, group, cultural contributions. He begins with a brief history of jazz before veering into the contribution of women, and with his Texas-sized literary lasso, wrangles issues like rock and roll, the women's liberation movement, the growth of jazz education, and global influences. He addresses the newer business models of artist-run labels and crowdfunding projects, as well as evolutions in contracts, all spearheaded by women, that have (hopefully) changes the face of music funding and distribution forever.

A popular perception of women in jazz have them orbiting the centers of vocals and piano. In his survey, Becker included interviews with 10 vocalists and 6 pianists (I am including those who do both in one or the other. While the spirits of Billie Holiday and Mary Lou Williams loom large in this book, many more instruments are represented. In particular, women reeds-players have multiplied in the past 30 years revealing such talent as the well-established Jane Ira Bloom that Oklahoma-cum-New Yorker Sharel Cassity. Throw in the pan-inclusive Mindi Abair whose viral career has benevolently metastasized to all genre, that the conversations with Becker gets lively.

Rather than mention the Dee Dee Bridgewaters and Cheryl Bentynes of this group, I would opt for continuing to highlight some of the other musicians included here. Of note, Becker did not have to stray far from home to find vocalist Jacqui Sutton or saxophonist Alishia Pattillo as they share with him one of the most vibrant jazz communities in the south in Houston. Sutton, a Floridian, put together her "garage" jazz band at the age of 50, producing very provocative music while the international Aussie-by-way-of-the-far-East Pattillo enters things with an impressive academic record and catholic musical palette. Their approaches to music are muscular, vibrant, and unique. Sutton and Pattillo well represent the rich background provided by women musicians in jazz.

Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz was a necessary book to be written because, many times, the obvious absolutely escapes our over-sized monkey brains. In the field of creativity it is, paradoxically, our similarities and differences that inform the art we make. Removing uninformed bias and prejudice, and replacing that with a generous appreciation of our different and vitals offering is what will produce justice.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene Book Reviews Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 29, 2017
Read David Bowie: Behind the Curtain Book Reviews David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 20, 2017
Read The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966 Book Reviews The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Soul Jazz: Jazz In The Black Community, 1945-1975" Book Reviews Soul Jazz: Jazz In The Black Community, 1945-1975
by James Nadal
Published: July 7, 2017
Read "Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hell's Angels and The Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day" Book Reviews Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hell's Angels and...
by Doug Collette
Published: September 24, 2016
Read "Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight" Book Reviews Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight
by Chuck Koton
Published: December 4, 2016
Read "The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1965" Book Reviews The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1965
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 11, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.