Looking to Transform Culture

< Back

Friday January 25, 2019

From DownBeat Magazine

Terri Lyne Carrington Looks to Transform the Culture
By: Suzanne Lorge

What would jazz without patriarchy sound like? It’s a provocative question’“and one that drummer Terri Lyne Carrington seeks to answer.

Patriarchy, a hot-button word in and of itself, is not a topic that often comes up in jazz circles. The omission has puzzled Carrington, given that jazz musicians were at the forefront of political activism during the civil rights era in the States.

‘Why is [jazz] so ass-backwards when it comes to gender?’ she asked. ‘Racial justice mattered to many of the people who created this music because it was affecting them directly. And gender justice may not be as important to the men at the helm of this genre. But all of these [justice issues] are interconnected. I don’t see how you can be concerned about racial justice and have no concern about gender justice.’

[…] By her own admission, though, Carrington’s experiences as a female musician have been different from those of the young women who study at Berklee today. Her father was a drummer and saxophonist; she started playing saxophone at age 5 before switching to drums. Later, she took private lessons. At 11, she attended Berklee on scholarship. As a preteen, she was working professionally and had her union card; she’d jammed with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and pianist Oscar Peterson, and received mentorship from saxophonist Wayne Shorter, drummer Jack DeJohnette and producer Quincy Jones. Because of her precocity and the benefits of tutoring during her formative years, Carrington was able early on to claim a professional spot in the male-dominated jazz scene, a spot most female musicians are denied at any age.

‘It’s not that I liked being seen [as one of the guys], it’s more that I felt accepted being seen that way,’ she said. ‘I didn’t feel that I wasn’t accepted by that community. I saw it as the way’“the primary, maybe only way’“to have a career. To make sure that you play as well as the next guy.

‘For me, that meant that I had to embody everything that I’d heard in jazz, which also meant that [I was] embodying the male aesthetic in some way. … That’s not just about playing louder and faster and busier. It’s about a sense of ownership in the music. Meaning, this is my music as much as it’s the next person’s music. It’s as much my music as it was for the great jazz innovators. … I feel that way as strongly as any other person who’s ever played [jazz]. I have ownership in it, and I have a stand in it, authentically.’

Read more here