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Women in Jazz – Celebrating International Women’s Day 2011

Norma Winstone, one third of the Three Voices Project

In celebration of the 100th International Women’s Day, on March 8th 2011, Guest Editor Fran Hardcastle instigated and commissioned pieces from the women writers and interviewed some of the leading figures behind the scenes who are contributing to the liveliest period in the British jazz scene since the 1960’s.

Fran Hardcastle introduced Women in Jazz with Here Come the Girls

-Bassist Ruth Goller wrote about her experience of the scene

Lisa Gee Wrote about the audience and about the dearth of women writers (other than here…)

Esther Bennett wrote about the Jam Scene

Georgia Mancio previewed the Three Voices Project featuring Norma Winstone (photo above)

Fran Hardcastle previewed Dee Dee Bridgewater at Ronnie Scott’s

Sarah Ellen Hughes previewed the SouthBank Centre’s Women of the World

We also ran profiles of/ interviews with four influential Women Behind the Music

-Christine Allen

-Sue Edwards

-Yots K

-Lee Paterson


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15 replies »

  1. Jesusssss, same old same old sameold dams! Always the vocalists! If you have to do the OAPs err Kathy Stobbart???
    What about Issie Barrett, Nikki Yeoh, … actually I cant be bothered with this…

  2. Having only received 100% positive comment on our Women in Jazz special until now, it is helpful to be brought back to earth. I thought Fran did a BRILLIANT job with it.

    Features about Nikki Yeoh and Issie Barrett are a good idea. Thanks. Did you enjoy the piece from Ruth Goller?

    I'd love to know: was starting the day with this really good whinge therapeutic for you?

  3. Please look around at the many jazz courses and band, find interview and feature the young women instrumentalists who are less than 40 some as young as 15! Start at Junior Jazz at the RAM go to the Guildhall, check out the Jams. Avoid the Vocalists. Listen Listen and Listen. Its real hard but we need the support we are good musicians. If it makes you look at other British female jazz musicans other than vocalist and those over 60, then i am glad I posted.

  4. Yes it Is a good thing that you posted! Thank you. I'd be interested to hear more about these ideas, so feel free to email.

    Apart from the unavoidable fact that there are sensitivities and legal issues in drawing attention in on people still below the age of 18 which have to be respected..you make a good point!

  5. Hi, I think it's great that you're featuring women behind the music and the articles have been really well written.

    I'd like to point out a few things to those who commented above if I may:
    1. Norma Winston is a “musician” and her instrument is voice. She is the vocalist of choice for so many highly regarded musicians in the UK i.e.Kenny Wheeler.
    2. The comments are a bit ageist. There's rarely a mention of age when it comes to men in jazz so come on girls…put yer claws back in.
    3. Of the other profiles for this feature, only one, Yots, is a singer and again that's her instrument and she is definitely an activist and also works for Jazz Services.
    4. The features are based on women in London (“LondonJazz” – clue is in the title) and have highlight 5 women behind the music there which is great. If those above want to shout about what's happening in their areas, and they most definitely should, then get onto Jazz Services, Jazz UK and Jazzwise and ask them to do a regular feature on women. These are national organisations and you need to put pressure on them if you want anything to happen.

    None of the women featured above blow their own trumpets in terms of what they do within the UK jazz scene. They just get on with it. It takes a feature like this to highlight a small proportion of them. So what I'd suggest is; get active and shout loudly about women all over the UK doing great things within our vibrant, multi gender jazz community.

    Cathie Rae
    Jazz Development Officer
    Scottish Jazz Federation
    (Also on the board of Jazz Services, Chair of Jazz Services Touring Panel and on the MU Jazz Committee)

  6. Thank you all for your comments, all taken on board. Thank you Cathie for pointing out other publications – Jazz UK (supported by Jazz Services funding) and Jazzwise. My main purpose of the day was to highlight work by female writers – female writers represent, for whatever reason, a disproportionately small percentage of regular contributors to other UK jazz publications. Again, see Lisa Gee's article. This may be because few female writers approach other publications. Or it may be because of a different point of view when approaching the music. I can't provide an answer for this but I was keen to invoke a discussion on the matter.

    In response to the first anonymous poster – we featured an article from bassist Ruth Goller (in her 20s I believe) and Esther Bennett also featured guitarist Nora Bite in her post on the London Jam Scene (Nora is also in her 20s). I think you'll find of the Women Behind The Music that the majority of the women covered are far below 60! Either way – what on earth does their age matter? If we had focused on men in jazz – would you have questioned their age?!

    I did invite coverage on some more female instrumentalists (of varying ages) but time constraints of our busy volunteer writers prevented this from happening. As Lisa Gee may have also mentioned – we did try to gigs from female jazz instrumentalists happening in London around the time of International Women's Day but unfortunately, none were listed. Nor were there any recent album releases that we had not previously covered. A point in itself.

  7. You misunderstand my comments as I was being brief. Let me try again. A few years ago my friends and I sat down and went through numerous articles on Jazz in London and noted that every time they refered to an up and coming musician it was a “Young Man”. However practically everytime they referred to an up and coming female musician it was a Vocalist – never a female trumpeter or saxophonist or heaven forbid a drummer. In fact only on one occasion did it refer to a British female instrumentalist the jazz pianist Nikki Yeoh.
    There is a tendency to promote men regardless of whether the promoter is male or female.
    There is a tendency to disregard younger females who actually play an instrument.
    There is a tendency to trot out Norma Winstone (or Cleo Laine) without even bothering to look at other female British jazz instrumentalists – I am not disrespecting Norma I have done a masterclass with her and her contemporary Kenny Wheeler
    What I am trying to say is that there are sooo many other women who play Jazz Trumpets, Saxophones, bass, etc. I actually think this was a wasted opportunity not to promote younger, other, women. That it is far too easy to refer to Norma and Kenny like Jazz royalty “Oh who can I write about hmm Norma and Kenny, that should do it”. That in itself is ageist if not just plain lazy writing from women writers.
    Why on eaerth should we be writing to Jazzwise Jazz services etc about featuring women. They should be following good practice and be self-crictical and question their repetitive same old same old mantras,in particular the women who work in those organisations should have picked up on ommissions. It is very remiss that they have done so very little to promote jazz women in the 21st century. What a wasted opportunity on women International Day.
    How many of those managers and women behind the scenes give young women a chance or have us on their books? Go for it! Promote us we are surprisingly good and yes there are a lot of us in London. No wonder so many of us just give up and end up teaching or head to the States.
    Yes I do know that the voice is an instrument, my sister is a singer.

  8. Err I was doing a gig over in Stoke Newington then..you didnt look hard enough for me and my four (4) other female compadres..so that would be Sax, Clarinet, Trombone, Keys and the vocalist *sigh*

  9. Thank you for expanding on your comment further. You are right that there are many talented female instrumentalists on the scene. This should be celebrated. I believe you will find many articles previewing and reviewing female musicians in LondonJazz. On a side note – Trish Clowes is on the Basho label, run by Christine Allen and Lee Paterson provides PR for Sol6 & Sol12 featuring several young well known female instrumentalists.

    Re the musicians performing in Stoke Newington – apologies for any omittance – I gave a cursory scour of the Jazz in London listings covering Saturday 5th to Tuesday 8th March, looking for female names amongst the musicians listed all over London. Looking now, I see that during that period there were two gigs in Stoke Newington advertised in the listings – the Al Scott Trio at Stokey Records Bar on Sunday 6th March and the House Band at Jan's Bar on Tuesday 08th March – I'm afraid I only had time to glance through each days listings and didn't have time to call all the venues that had house bands to ask the gender of the performers. Apologies if you were listed elsewhere under your names. It would have been really great to review an all female band!

  10. More women involved with the jazz scene here (and being London/Vortex-centric, I'm afraid):
    Stephanie Knibbe, who was at the Vortex and now at the Barbican, tirelessly working behind the scenes at different times for Loop and F-Ire collectives;
    Clarissa Carlyon, who took over from Stephanie at the Vortex;
    Gina Boreham who programmes voluntarily the gypsy jazz nights at the Vortex and has championed many bands, such as Dunajska Kapelye;
    the Blow The Fuse team (Alison and Deirdre);
    Christine Tobin, who programmed fearlessly the Progress Bar gigs in Tufnell Park when the Vortex was closed, and is a Vortex director.

    (No particular order, except that the order they came to mind!)

  11. The answer is to just book us some more. Whilst women still earn 67p for every £1 a man earns, I can see the need for focussed events, but you know, as I said to the guys at Ronnie's when they were talking about their week of women in jazz – just book us more the other 51 weeks, then we won't seem such an oddity.

    On another issue, young women jazz instrumentalists are not really coming to the colleges to audition for the courses. There are normally one or two but they are in the minority. Having spied some talented young women in the youth jazz ensembles, I wonder where they go when it comes to taking their education further – that's the hole in the net that needs mending.

    And they need role models. We can probably count women teaching on the Jazz courses and teaching Jazz in schools on one hand. I say probably, because I don't know for sure, so please prove me wrong! But my suspicion is that if young girls and women don't see women teaching it, they won't know that it's normal for women to play jazz and improvised music.

    Gail Brand

  12. I am a female jazz musician (instrumentalist) and teacher. I play the double bass and write for and lead my own band, The Vicky Tilson Quartet. It is really tough trying to get a break in what has been seen as a traditionally male environment. Having said that, I have found many male musicians to be very supportive of me and what I am doing – Tony Kofi himself gave me my first proper break. Women in Jazz – we are out there! It would be nice if the press could take a bit more notice of what we are doing, especially those of us trying to establish ourselves. Then perhaps we could pave the way for more upcoming talent, just as the Norma Winstone's and Issy Barrett's etc have tried to do for us.

  13. I perform with and listen to some amazing female jazz musicians. Yes they are few, but more profile will help the role model situation. Josephine Davies writes amazing music and blows a storm. Charlotte Glasson is an inventive writer and joyful performer. Latin jazz has great two female pianists who immediately spring to mind – Sara Dhillon and Alexis Corker. And that's just for starters.

    Yes I'm a ubiquitous vocalist (but still a musician – thanks!) Hopefully a jazz poetry project and social justice songs help me stand out from the crowd…

  14. With regard to role models for women jazzers, it is so important for the jazz summer schools to include a larger proportion of women instrumentalist teachers…..Vicky Tilson, Nikki Iles, Laura MacDonald, Paula Gardiner, Alison Rayner, Nikki Yeoh, Annie Whitehead…. all teach and they are all influential women in jazz!!

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