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Take Five With Joan Cartwright

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Joan Cartwright: World-traveled jazz/blues singer, composer, author and historian.

Instrument(s): vocals, piano.

Teachers and/or influences? Gerald Price, Betty Carter, Joe Lee Wilson, Gloria Lynne

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... At age four, when I performed in front of two thousand people with the Bernice Johnson Dance Troupe, in Jamaica, New York.

Your sound and approach to music: I found my own voice while studying with Gerald Price, however, I listened to all the great vocalists and adopted a lot of their styles - from Billie, Carmen, Sarah, Ella and Gloria Lynne.

Your teaching approach: Music theory is a must! When you know what you are doing musically, you have more confidence.

Your dream band: I have performed with some of the greatest musicians in the world, including Dr. Lonnie Smith, Pete Minger, Freddie Hubbard, Shirley Scott, Philly Joe Jones, Giovanni Mazzarino and Gianni Basso. For my current Dream Band, go to my blog at

Anecdote from the road: I had to spray Giovanni, Stefano, Paulo and Francesco with my sixty dollar bottle of Coco Chanel to keep them from aggravating the life out of me, while we drove through Italy.

Favorite venue: Since 1994, when I first performed in Sicily at the San Vito Lo Capo Jazz Festival, I have returned every other year, whether to perform with Giovanni Mazzarino's Quartet or just to visit. I love Sicily, the beach, the food, the people and especially the music!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? In Pursuit of a Melody - it's the newest release. I really love "Talkin' That Jazz." It epitomizes my goal - Jazz Meets Hip Hop

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Women in Jazz Workshop and Women In Jazz South Florida, Inc. - a non-profit dedicated to promoting women in jazz, locally, nationally and globally, through contacts, articles, interviews, newsletters, events, courses, clinics, workshops, lectures, research, history, archives, websites, film, audio and video recording, concerts, performances and recognition.

Did you know... I composed "Sweet Return" recorded by Freddie Hubbard and the 1983 Kool Jazz All-Stars, on Atlantic Records.

How you use the internet to help your career? I would be typing all day to communicate how invaluable the internet has been to my career. All you have to do is surf my site,, to see all the great musicians I am affiliated with and to see how I am documenting the lives of Women in Jazz and Jazzmen. I've been around the world to perform because of my website and e-mail.

CDs you are listening to now: Nino Tempo - Nino (Atlantic, 1993); Shirley Horn - Here's To Life (Verve, 1991); Tania Maria - Outrageous (Concord Picante, 1993); Gloria Lynne - I Wish You Love (Collectables, 2001); Alvin Queen - I Ain't Lookin' At You (Enja, 2006).

Desert Island picks: Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (Columbia/Legacy, 1969); Santana - Abraxas (Columbia, 1970); Rita Graham - Vibrations (Tangerine, 1969); Sandy Patton - Paradise Found (TCB, 2002); Geri Allen - Timeless Portraits and Dreams (Telarc, 2006).

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Too commercial; too contrived as far as who is going to be booked on festivals and at clubs.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Less competition, more respect for resident artists.

What is in the near future? On my way to China to create a jazz festival and music conference. Writing grant proposals for programming with Women In Jazz South Florida, Inc.

By Day: Website designer, author.


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