|The Jazz Ambassadors – Andrea Vicari is second from the right|
Alison Beck Writes…
A special London Jazz Festival gig deliberately featuring an all-female line-up: how does that make you feel? Not bothered? Thrilled? Sceptical? Or are you thinking “Oh, it’ll just be a load of female vocalists backed by male instrumentalists”?
One thing’s for certain: it’s a startlingly unusual prospect. And this could turn out to be – in many ways – the most interesting gig of this year’s London Jazz Festival.
Andrea Vicari and Janette Mason are the curators and joint MDs of the Women in Jazz show, and Andrea spoke to me about the project:
Alison Beck: How did you go about choosing your line-up? Did you want to go for a mixture of established women and up-and-coming artists, or was it based more on people you thought would get a kick out of playing together?
Andrea Vicari: The band was put together by myself and Janette. We discussed female artists that we had either enjoyed playing with or had a strong reputation. Oh yes and who were excellent players!
AB: What was the motivation behind setting up a special gig featuring female jazz musicians? What do you hope the gig might achieve?
AV: Our hope is that it will highlight female jazz musicians during a high profile festival. The Hideaway is run by a woman, and I think she is aware of the gender imbalance in this field of music – and so she was very supportive when Janette Mason suggested the gig. The gig may attract an audience who are interested in seeing an all-female line up – it should be seen as a band of role models.
AB: Is this the first time there has been a gig of this kind in the London Jazz Festival?
AV: I can’t say really. I’m sure there have been gigs led by women but maybe not all in one band!
AB: As a woman in jazz yourself, I’d be really interested to hear a little about your own experiences on the scene – positive or negative…!
AV: On the positive side I suppose I’m more of a curiosity (being female and playing jazz) and so this can give you an edge when you approach promoters. On the negative side, you can feel as though you have to prove something, as many people’s perceptions of female jazz musicians is that they are not quite up to the level of men’s playing. The simple reason for this has been that there are simply not the numbers of women playing jazz professionally – which means statistically there will be less outstanding female jazzers. I suppose our gig is also doing something to dispel this view.
AB: What kind of music can the audience expect on the 10th?
AV: The music will feature many members of the band including our vocalist Natalie Williams. She sings jazz and soul so this is the angle we’ve taken. There are a few originals and some arranged standards; the general idea is a band with energy, drive and excitement.
Alison Beck: Can you point readers in the direction of any other gigs or collectives featuring jazz women musicians (in London or elsewhere) that you know of?
Andrea Vicari: Esperanza Spalding is playing at the Southbank during the London Jazz Festival on November 15th – and look out for Nikki Isles, Zoe Rahman and Liane Carroll who are all performing at various venues during the Festival period. The Jazz Ambassadors, also an all-female group, is playing at The Hideaway on December 6th; the line-up will feature many of the same musicians (myself included) with vocalist Paola Vera. And if readers are interested in collectives, the Jazz Warriors have just started an all-female jazz workshop, which is taking place at the South Bank on a monthly basis.
Women in Jazz is at The Hideaway Jazz Club in Streatham on Saturday 10th November and will feature Yolanda Brown on tenor sax, Sophie Alloway on drums, Julie Walkington on bass, Laura Jurd on trumpet, Andrea Vicari on piano/keys, Janette Mason on piano/keys, Annie Whitehead on trombone, and special guest vocalist Natalie Williams.