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Historically, female artists have not gotten the props they've deserved in jazz's male-dominated environment. Though imperfect, things have improved, thanks in part to the efforts of Billie Holiday, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, and other matriarchs who helped pave the way for a current generation of stellar voices as assembled in drummer/composer Terri Lyne Carrington's exceptional The Mosaic Project.
Carrington's world-class drumming equals anyone in the music business, enriching recordings and performances from the great Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to the eclectic sounds of guitarist Nguyen Le, while finding time to lead her own bands and music. Without a doubt, this project is her most ambitious work to date, an arduous yet rewarding labor of love that's elevated by her leadership of an all-star cast of female musicians and singers.
The opening "Transformation" sets the vibe, with its groove intellect and smoky vocals from legendary soul singer Nona Hendryx. It's followed with more funky goodness, a very unique take on Irving Berlin's "I Get Lost in His Arms," sung by one of jazz's new stars, Gretchen Parlato. There's even more to enjoy with the up-tempo remake of The Beatles' ballad "Michelle," as hard-swinging jazz melds with urban funkiness, pumped by riveting solos from pianist Geri Allen, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, and saxophonist Tineke Postma.
Like a mosaic the fourteen tracks are smaller pictures of Carrington's broader image, one that knows jazz's ancestry but speaks fluently of haunting social issues in "Echo," via spoken words from activist Angela Davis, along with Dianne Reeves adding her always classy singing. Add the heartfelt longing of "Show Me a Sign" (written by singer Carmen Lundy) and the hip hop swagger of "On The Rise (A Transformation)," featuring up-and-coming singer Shea Rose, and the set represents a continuum of sound and voice from the past, present and future.
With a roster that includes the star power of percussionist Sheila E and pianist Patrice Rushen, the talent is exhaustive and varied with memorable tracks such as Cassandra Wilson's sensual ruminations of Al Green's 1972 hit, "Simply Beautiful," the whimsical antics of "Crayola," written and performed by Grammy Award-winning bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding and featuring Helen Sung's lissome keyboards, and Carrington's own complex rock/jazz piece, "Mosaic Triad."
The Mosaic Project has no ulterior motive to show that women can do the jazz gig as well as men. That's already been proven time and again. Instead, it is a joyous celebration of outstanding female artists; a clear view of what currently exists and a hint of what's on the horizon.
Track Listing: Transformation; I Got Lost In His Arms; Michelle; Magic And Music; Echo; Simply Beautiful; Unconditional Love; Wistful; Crayola; Soul Talk; Mosaic Triad; Insomniac; Show Me A Sign; Sisters On The Rise (A Transformation).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.