Jessica Davis, the Seattle jazz vocalist and instigator of the first ever Seattle Women in Jazz Festival, introduces herself on Facebook with the following quote: “By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with.” (Duke Ellington)
It’s that kind of rebel yell with which Davis has sounded the call for women jazz artists of the Northwest to spread their music in a variety of Seattle venues April 26 to 28. Langley jazz pianist and singer Maureen Girard is on the bill.
To celebrate, Girard decided to host her own homage to women of jazz and welcomes a roster of women to perform at her House Concert Series at 88 Keys Piano Studio and Performance Space in Langley before the festival in April. She starts with her own sold out show tonight, the Maureen Girard Trio, which includes Thomas Marriott on brass and percussionist Brian Kirk.
Davis said she got the idea from a friend in Washington, DC who started a women in jazz festival there.
“I got to thinking that we should have something like that here. There are a lot of talented female jazz artists here who deserve to be recognized, as well as a rich musical history, and this is a great opportunity to highlight that, as well as inspire others,” Davis said.
Girard, who attended Cornish College of the Arts back in her student days said she has sentimental reasons for wanting to perform in Seattle.
“I am extremely happy and honored to be included,” she said.
But she is also particularly excited to highlight the women performers who will play on the island at her studio in Langley, including jazz pianist Karin Kajita and vocalist Emily McIntosh in October, jazz vocalist Gail Pettis in November and jazz vocalist Sue Bell in February.
“I am very excited about having these women come out for several reasons,” Girard said.
“The music industry is dominated by men, especially instrumentalists. I worked in night clubs for 10 years before I began my teaching career, and one of the highest compliments that I could get, as an instrumentalist was to hear, ‘You sound like a man.’ That meant that my playing was so strong and full that it sometimes surprised people,” she said.
Girard said she had several experiences with people who might have been hearing her play while not in her line of vision, outside the lounge perhaps, and who would come into the lounge after dinner and tell her how surprised they were to see that it was a woman performer.
Other women artists, Girard said, have related similar experiences.
Women jazz artists most likely grew up listening to all the great men of jazz. But it is a good bet to say they were inspired to do what they do today and carry on the great American tradition of jazz music from all the women they heard and still hear today.
Here are just a few: Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Mildred Bailey, Ethel Waters, Carla Bley, Nina Simone, Betty Carter, June Christy, Alice Coltrane, Cassandra Wilson, Helen Humes, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves, Carmen McCrae, Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington and, well, the list is too long to name them all here.
“Women in jazz have achieved the highest levels of professionalism in the art and sometimes still aren’t on the “first call” list,” Girard said.
“I think that the women mentioned above and many more have paved the way for things to change; for women to be thought of as the competent, professional artists that they are. It’s important for us to mentor younger women coming up, and to continue to present women in jazz for them to see and hear; to get ideas about what they may become, whether or not they pursue a career as a professional musician,” Girard added.
The point is women jazz artists rock, so check out the schedule at 88 Keys and at the festival and bring a girl.
Visit Girard’s website to see the schedule.
Visit this link to find out more about the first annual Seattle Women in Jazz Festival in April on the Facebook page.
Girard said that plans are also in the works for a workshop for women and girls in jazz, so keep an eye out for that.
For more information or to make reservations for the House Concert
(At top, jazz vocalist Gail Pettis comes to 88 Keys in Langley in November.)