Mothers in Jazz

Mothers In Jazz (16): Airelle Besson

Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, started by vocalist Nicky Schrire. The initiative aims to create an online resource for working jazz musicians with children, those contemplating parenthood, and jazz industry figures who work with and hire musicians who are parents. The insight of the musicians interviewed for this series provides valuable emotional, philosophical and logistical information and support that is easily accessible to all. “Mothers In Jazz” shines a light on the very specific role of being both a mother and a performing jazz musician.

Airelle Besson is a trumpeter and composer who is both a sought-after side-woman as well as celebrated bandleader in France and beyond. In 2015, she was awarded the Django-Reinhardt Prize from the Académie du Jazz and the Victoires du Jazz in the “French Instrumental Revelation of the Year” category.  Throughout her career, Airelle has been a valued member of various groups led by prestigious artists, notably in Charlie Haden and Carla Bley’s Liberation Music Orchestra in 2006.

She is currently touring with Rhoda Scott Lady All Stars and leading her own quartet. Airelle was artist-in-residence at the Cité musicale-Metz for 2020-2021, where she created a new classical-jazz program with the Orchestre National de Metz. In 2022, she was one of seven female jazz musicians to be appointed to the rank of  Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Minister of Culture (link to report below). Airelle lives in Paris with her three and a half year-old child.

Airelle Besson. Photo © Sylvain Gripoix

LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?

Airelle Besson:  Efficiency. Doing only the essential. No time for “superfluous” activities.

LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:

AB: Being a mother is (one of) the best events in your life. Go for it. Organisation follows naturally. I think it’s good to become a mother when you feel you are ready-it takes a lot of time and energy. Though of course only good time and good energy!

LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:

AB: I don’t travel with my daughter on tour. Sorry, no tips for this.

LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?

AB: Well, that it is possible to do both-be a parent and a professional. You need to be really organised, and have a good family circle, friend circle, and baby-sitters!

LJN: What boundaries have you set for yourself as a mother in jazz (could be related to travel/touring, riders, personal parameters, child care decisions, etc.)?
AB: Ha, that’s a good question! Well, I don’t go on long tours anymore, that’s for sure. I don’t like to be away from home or from my child for a long time. I miss her too much. As she is very young, I don’t want to miss any of her growth and development. Or as little as possible anyway. After a concert I always come back home on the earliest trains or flights.

Airelle’s latest album “TRY!” features her quartet with Isabel Sörlng, Benjamin Moussay and Fabrice Moreau, and was released on Besson’s own Papillon Jaune label in 2021.

LINKS: Artist website

LJN News story on the Awards ceremony earlier this year

Interview with Alex Dutilh (in French)

Categories: Mothers in Jazz

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