Madame Jazz

Madame Jazz : Contemporary Women Instrumentalists

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Ranging primarily from the late 1970s to today's vanguard of performance jazz in the USA, this work chronicles a crucial time of transition as female jazz musicians make the leap from novelty acts to sought-out professionals admired and hired for their consummate musicianship. The author surveys the scene in the jazz clubs, the concert halls, the festivals, and the recording studios from the musicians' point of view. She finds exciting progress on all fronts, but also lingering discrimination. Long after women became accepted as writers and, to a lesser extent, visual artists, women in music faced the barrier of chauvinism and the force of tradition and habit that keeps most men performing with the musicians they have always worked with - other men. Gourse provides interviews with both rising stars and seasoned veterans, including pianists Renee Rosnes and Rachel Z., trumpeter Rebecca Coupe Frank, saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, bassist Tracy Wormworth, and drummer Terri Lynne Carrington, and enduring legends Dorothy Donegan, Marian McParland and Shirley Horn. All of the women speak about their inspiration and their commitment to pursuing the music they love. They are also frank about the realities of life on the road, and the extra dues women musicians pay in a tough and competitive field. A separate chapter offers a closer look at women musicians and the continual stress confronting those who would combine love, marriage and/or motherhood with a life in more

Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 680.39g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • halftones
  • 0195086961
  • 9780195086966

Review Text

A major disappointment from a well-known authority on jazz.Gourse (Sassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan, 1993, etc.) starts with a noble premise: that women are becoming increasingly visible in contemporary jazz, despite lingering prejudice against them as performers, particularly as instrumentalists. However, this hodge-podge, which appears to be assembled from old interviews, barely does justice to the many fine female performers whom Gourse hopes to celebrate. The book is divided into three sections. In the first part, Gourse discusses the general status of women in jazz today, jumping from player to player and anecdote to anecdote, making for at best a jumbled narrative. In part two, she profiles specific players; many of these chapters read like magazine profiles or liner notes, some several years old, with updates tacked on like Post-it notes. The final section is a catalog of women performers, some profiled in the book, some not, serving as a kind of mini-dictionary of jazz players. Despite the book's pro-female stance, Gourse manages to repeat several old myths from the male-dominated jazz press, including such whoppers as "few women play jazz guitar because it takes such strength to play" (based on two false assumptions: that women lack strength and that it takes enormous effort to play a modern, amplified guitar). And although Gourse is celebrating women as musicians who can compete head-to-head with men, she insists on describing each performer's physical attractions, as if this were a Miss Jazz America contest ("Men in the audience were particularly charmed by the slender, attractive multi-instrumentalist who could also sing" is her description of baritone saxophonist Carol Sudhalter; stride pianist Judy Carmichael is described as "a slender woman with cascades of blonde ringlets and a peaches-and-cream complexion"; even elder stateswoman Marian McPartland is complimented on "her trim figure"). Gourse fails the very women to whom she is attempting to pay tribute. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Leslie Gourse

About the Author: Leslie Gourse is a freelance writer whose books on jazz includeSassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan, Unforgettable: The Life and Mystique of Nat King Cole, and Louis's Children, an acclaimed history of jazz singing. In 1991, she received an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for a series of articles on women more

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