From its earliest days in the first decades of the 20th Century, jazz music has owed much of its sound, development, and popularity to the work of women artists like Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Lil Hardin, Billie Holiday, Mary Lou Williams, and Alice Coltrane. The designation of “Women’s History Month” in March leads us naturally to look back at the cadre of incredible women who have contributed to the music through its 100+ years of evolution. Alternatively, in celebrating Women’s History Month, take a look at these exciting new releases from two young women who are drawing on the rich history of their predecessors and paving the way for jazz to thrive into the future.
Cécile McLorin Salvant has been lauded for her expressive vocals, with an uncanny ability to delve deep into the meaning and subtle nuance behind the lyrics of standards both old and new. She delivers rich, new interpretations of those tunes, revitalizing those well-worn songs for modern listeners. Having won Grammy Awards for both her 2018 and 2019 releases and the recipient of a Macarthur Genius Grant in 2020, you won’t want to miss her latest effort, Ghost Song, just released on Nonesuch Records. Drawing on the work of legendary song interpreters like Billie Holiday, Betty Carter, and Leonard Cohen, on Ghost Song she deploys her incredible depth of technique on a program of her own original compositions, chock full of wonderful poetry. Known for her incredible ability to mine and channel the essence of a song, this new album displays a new side of this thrilling young artist.
Also released just this month, Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana releases an impressive new debut on renowned label Blue Note Records. A graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music and winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, this Blue Note debut 12 Stars (Aldana’s fifth album as a leader) is all about process. “Embracing everything I hear, everything I play – even mistakes – is more meaningful than perfection.” Rooted in that exploratory jazz ethos, Aldana’s music reflects the influence of greats like Charlie Haden and Dewey Redman. At the same time, her own melodic, improvisational, and collaborative concepts look towards a means of music-making that is ever more inclusive and expansive. 12 Stars points to exciting new horizons in jazz.
Check out Ghost Song and 12 Stars this month on Jazz 93.5 as we celebrate Women’s History Month with these thrilling young artists. You can hear these and more on programs like Great Ladies of Jazz (Sundays, 6:00 PM), Off the Record (Sundays, 5:00 pm), New Generations of Jazz (Mondays, 8:00 pm), and Voices of Jazz (Sundays, 7:00 pm).