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Maryland Events Highlight Women Jazz Artists: Concerts And Panel Discussion Celebrate Women's History Month


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From its earliest days, women have played key roles in jazz. Vocalists Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday are legendary singers who exhibited a high level of musicianship. They mastered the technique of their instrument (the voice), learned their music thoroughly and were skilled improvisers like any other band member.

Many more talented women have contributed to jazz as instrumentalists, composers, and bandleaders. Lil Hardin Armstrong Armstrong (1898-1971) was a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, singer and bandleader whose music is still being recorded today! Mary Lou Williams 1910-1981) had a brilliant career as a composer and arranger, working with the likes of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman and mentoring many (male) jazz icons. Before her death in 2013, pianist, radio host and jazz advocate Marian McPartland won a national audience. Today, acclaimed composer and bandleader Maria Schneider is a leading advocate of musicians’ rights in the digital age.

In observance of Women’s History month, Montpelier Arts Center Director Sonya Kitchens, Annapolis jazz impresario Elana Byrd and world music presenter Paula Phillips of Jazz Beyond Borders join forces to present four events. Three terrific concerts celebrate women in jazz and a panel discussion notes achievements, gives encouragement and takes a real time reality check on what it means to be a successful woman in jazz in 2017.

March 17 Concert

Philadelphia based vocalist Kristin Callahan is featured with the Thad Wilson Quartet at Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel. Raised in Western Maryland, Callahan began her career by singing in high school musicals. She has since performed with leading instrumentalists in numerous East Coast cities. The young singer’s mesmerizing voice exudes charm and elegance as she delivers traditional jazz in great style. Allyn Johnson on piano, Blake Meister on bass and John Lamkin III on drums join trumpeter Thad Wilson. The show begins at 8:00 p.m. Call Montpelier Arts Center at 301-377-7800 or visit instantseats.com for tickets.

March 24 Concert

New York saxophonist Laura Dreyer also performs at Montpelier Arts Center. Known widely as a saxophonist, flutist and composer, she leads a top-flight quartet of international recording and performing artists in a program of New York-flavored Brazilian jazz. Dreyer has headlined at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, and the Syracuse Jazz Festival. In NYC, she has appeared at Blue Note, Cornelia Street Cafe, Birdland and Zinc Bar. Raised in the San Francisco area, she frequently tours the West Coast and performs in Brazil.

Dreyer was a founding member and contributing arranger for the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, playing lead alto and tenor with them for six years. Her Montpelier band features pianist Tim Murphy and Rio-born rhythm players Leonardo Lucini and Alejandro Lucini. Enjoy beloved Brazilian jazz classics and Dreyer’s own original contemporary Brazilian jazz compositions. She is known for her authentic renditions of Brazilian instrumental styles and her catchy, lyrical melodies.

March 26 Panel Discussion and Reception

“Women in Jazz: From Classrooms to Careers” is a free and informative and fun event at Montpelier from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Explore the unique path of girls and women aiming for careers in jazz–the challenges they face, careers they can attain and what it takes to succeed. Panel moderator and contributor Candy Shannon is on the Howard University faculty in the School of Communications and host and producer of WPFW’s “The Morning Brew–Friday Edition.” She’ll share her vast experience in TV and radio.

Laura Dreyer is also on the panel. She broke into the San Francisco and New York music scenes when there were very few female jazz instrumentalists, especially on her instrument. Shannon Gunn of D.C.’s all-women jazz orchestra, Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes, will discuss the different ways girls and boys are taught and their different learning styles. Gunn is trombone player and graduate of the George Mason University Masters in Jazz Studies program. A leading regional jazz artist, she will also take part in the Washington Women in Jazz Festival with a March 2 concert at the new venue Republic Restoratives on New York Avenue.

Who should attend the panel discussion? High school, college and career women and other gifted young musicians are invited. Teachers will benefit from learning different ways to help young women rise to their highest potential. Panelists will also discuss patterns of career development in the jazz profession. Expect an informative and sometimes humorous program. Meet performing artists and key power brokers who work behind the scenes at the reception. Make friends, ask questions and network! Montpelier is located just 20 minutes from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and half an hour from Annapolis. Parking is free and easy.

March 26 Concert

Vocalist Marianne Matheny-Katz presents “Rebirth of the Cool” at O’Callaghan Annapolis Hotel as part of a series hosted by respected Annapolis impresario Elana Byrd. One of Baltimore’s most accomplished singers, Matheny-Katz has performed in the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, New Jersey Jazz Festival, Patterson Park concerts, Artscape, Blues Alley, the Eubie Blake Center, Germano’s, The Carlyle Club and many other venues. Her 2014 CD Somewhere in Paradise received significant national airplay and critical praise. She is co-founder of Jazzway 6004, named by DownBeat as one of the finest house concert venues in the country.

Her band includes pianist Vince Evans, saxophonist Craig Alston, bassist Tom Baldwin and drummer Eric Kennedy. Her program focuses on the years 1959 through the 1960s, which were part of the cool jazz era. Enjoy works by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Burt Bacharach and others. Call 410-269-0777 for reservations or visit instantseats.com.

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