April 2011 DownBeat Magazine Complete Interview by John Ephland
1) In your work as a professional musician, how have you viewed the changing nature of women in jazz? I think there is much less of a gender gap now! Women players are generally seen as just as smoking as the guys. Younger men are way more receptive to women and barely even take notice of a difference. In fact they enjoy the diversity!
2) To what extent do you even think about gender as a topic of conversation in jazz?
I feel that the critics and older generations of men have trouble seeing women musicians as MAJOR important figures in jazz. In in the elite jazz press…the most important major publications such as Downbeat and the NY Times often make it clear in their reviews of women’s projects that they don’t take women seriously at all as innovative or important figures in jazz. In the online blogging community- the press seems much more open and fair minded.
3) As a leader, how have you considered your artistic choices when it comes to players? (Has gender entered in at any time?)
I did a project called Room of One’s Own and each song was dedicated to a specific woman artist…so…for that project I chose Cindy Blackman,Tracy Wormworth,Regina Carter,Maria Sneider, and also Terri Lyne Carrington for the CD and various formations of my touring band.
Lately..I have used many females on bass in my trio projects-mostly due to their supportive nature and grounded bass style…Nicki Parrott, Maeve Royce, Tracy Wormworth all have a special groove.
4) Thus far in your career, what achievements would you point to that you are most proud of?
Pride isn’t a great idea-but through the grace of the universe my most recent trio with Omar Hakim and Solomon Dorsey on bass is a huge achievement and advancement of my artistry at the piano! I’m very excited about this group!
Also-working closely with Wayne Shorter on Highlife and touring with him was a life goal and stepping stone that put me in the Miles Davis lineage and for that I am eternally grateful to him as that is a high honor for me!!I continue to hope that my projects utilize the gifts that Wayne gave me in terms of harmonic and compositional knowledge.
Mike Mainieri and Steps Ahead opened the door for my entire career and everything I have is from that gig!
Playing with Peter Gabriel-the voice of the century was an emotional experience that opened up my heart playing and I will never forget that!!!
5) In a related vein, when did you realize you had finally “made it,” had considered yourself a bona fide member of the jazz community? When I was working on Highlife…Wayne asked me to choose between one harmonic sequence and another and I realized that for him to even ask me my opinion was the highest compliment he could give me… he also said I reminded him of Coltrane-probably because I was such a hard worker-he made me feel very appreciated and encouraged.
Also When I was a little younger and Mike Mainieri hired me for Steps Ahead and I got to be in a band that had such greats as Omar Hakim, Marcus Miller, Eddie Gomez, Steve Gadd, Eliane Elias etc…so that was my first time in the big leagues!
Lenny White and Victor Bailey always made me feel welcome and encouraged my growth as a player and leader.
6) Also in a related vein, has gender discrimination ever been something you’ve had to deal with, and was it something that gave you pause about considering a career in jazz?
I was told by a Boston teacher that I should work to be 3x as good as a man and I would make it in jazz!…That being said –I believe that music is a spiritual experience and your mind must be always open to that! Consider the law of attraction-if you think that you will be discriminated against- you will start to attract all sorts of horrible situations…conversely if you feel comfortable with yourself you attract supportive people who respect you. This has been my experience. IF I am centered and confident –I will find myself working with really awesome people who honor me as a woman and who hire me for my playing! Even the reviews are powerfully supportive and magical! Through meditation we can rise above the mundane earthly ego based fears! It is also very important for women in jazz to have a sense of humor and not lose their sense of deep feminine power! Keep the sexy in jazz! The Yin and Yang can be very powerful in a band.
April 2011 DownBeat Magazine