Monika Herzig: A Portrait of a Hero

Hrayr Attarian By

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MH: As I mentioned above—even though there is definitely a trend towards inclusion, I have accumulated my fair share of prejudices, assumptions, lost opportunities and stories from colleagues and students that are often not told in public out of fear to lose credibility and career opportunities. For the same reasons, I'd rather not mention specific examples.

AAJ: What made you approach these particular eight musicians who joined you on your recording Sheroes?

MH: This is already the second project with the all-female ensemble. The first one—The Whole World in Her Hands—was my attempt of gathering a host of musicians that I always admired. As the unit started touring a core group of six evolved with Jamie Baum, Reut Regev, Leni Stern, Jennifer Vincent, and Rosa Avila. Throughout our journeys together we also became very close friends and cheerleaders for each other. Ingrid Jensen was able to join us at several occasions and Mayra Casales and Ada Rovatti were amazing additions to round out the sound. I love the sound of our touring unit with the flute and trombone frontline—super fun to arrange for.

AAJ: Why did you choose to include particularly "The House of the Rising Sun" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" on the Sheroes album?

MH: Both of these songs work well for our mission—an ode to the lost women and an encouragement to keep climbing. And they just worked out really well in terms of arrangements. Even Valerie Simpson, the writer of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" expressed how she enjoyed the unique treatment of her song.

AAJ: Were all the compositions, both yours and the other artists,' written expressly for this project?

MH: They were not necessarily written for this specific project but they exemplify each writer's compositional and musical voice, which is also a mission of the project. Reut did write her song during one of our tours specifically for this group. We were able to tour extensively prior to the recording and thus were able to refine the music and create our unique arrangements. I really enjoy having all the compositional voices contribute in addition to the instrumental voices—it creates a wonderful showcase for these amazing musicians.

AAJ: Are you planning anymore recordings with this band?

MH: Oh yes, I love this group—the studio projects were very expensive due to the large size of the ensemble and the superstars involved. With my oldest kid starting college and another one following soon, I'm hoping to do a live recording next to streamline the process and also capture the energy of the group on stage. Also, documentary filmmaker Kay D. Ray, who also produced the documentary Lady Be Good has been documenting our journey and will be touring an initial cut of the upcoming film at film festivals over the upcoming year.

AAJ: And lastly can you tell us a bit about your upcoming tour? When and where will you be performing?

MH: Right now I'm in Europe performing several dates with The Time Flies and recording a new album—we'll be in Baku July 17/18 and in Germany: July 21 Trochtelfingen, July 22 Tübingen. The Sheroes will be at the Dobbs Ferry Summer Music Series in Tarrytown, NY on August 22. We also have a tour booked with the group in October with stops in Bloomington, IN (October 25), the Bop Stop, Cleveland, OH (October 26), Blu, Akron, OH (October 27), Blues Alley, Washington, DC (October 29), Charlottesville Jazz Society, Charlottesville, VA (October 30) and Rite of Swing Jazz Café, Temple University, Philadelphia (November 1)—hopefully more dates to come.
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