Here Come the Women
The history of jazz music is very male, and for women it's hard to chip into that nostalgia which fuels commercial music festivals, the decades of a male-dominated industry.
The Huffington Post recently ran an article asking why women made up half the attendees at music festival but the on stage numbers tell a different story, and The Daily Telegraph asked "Where Are All the women headlining music Festivals”.
A recent picket outside the San Fransisco Jazz Centre was staged to draw attention to the fact that Wynton Marsalis' renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has never hired a permanent female instrumentalist since its founding in 1988.
Aberdeen Jazz Festival is bucking that trend - headliners include:
Winner of the acclaimed 'Best Jazz Vocalist in Scotland' award at the 2013/14 Scottish Jazz Awards, Ali Affleck leads two bands -'Vieux Carré' and 'The Copper Cats' - and presents a new trio project at this year's Festival. With a repertoire that ranges from the 1920s to the 1950s with many standards from the Great American Songbook and traditional New Orleans Blues, Ali maintains a refreshing authenticity that nods true to the evocative and slightly cheeky attitude of the early ‘Jazz Age’, when Dixieland and ‘Hot’ Jazz were in very much vogue.
She has been running her 'Speakeasy Sessions' in both the UK and USA for over a decade and she is also a Lindy Hop and Balboa dancer. Pitch perfect, passionate, expressive, unique, refreshing, swinging and above all, totally unpretentious.
Canadian singer, trumpeter, and songwriter Bria Skonberg is described by The Wall Street Journal as one of the “most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation.” Recognized as one of “25 for the Future” by DownBeat magazine (Summer 2016), Skonberg is newly signed to Sony Music Masterworks’ OKeh Records, and has recently released her debut LP, simply titled BRIA.
Noted as a Millennial “Shaking Up the Jazz World,” according to Vanity Fair, Skonberg is a self-described “small town girl” from Chilliwack, British Columbia. While in university she juggled working every weekend, traveling to festivals and shows, plus cramming in schoolwork - all while on the road. When not traveling for her own gigs, she was building up her stage-show chops with Dal Richards, Vancouver’s King of Swing. Playing at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver capped off this exciting period, with Bria featured at the Paralympics opening ceremony. In 2015, a year after her second album, Into Your Own, was released, Skonberg received the Jazz At Lincoln Center Swing! Award.
To date, Bria has performed at some 100 festivals worldwide. She is the co-founder of the New York Hot Jazz Camp and New York Hot Jazz Festival. Further accolades include Best Vocal and Best Trumpet awards from Hot House Jazz Magazine (2014-15), Outstanding Jazz Artist at the New York Bistro Awards (2014), a DownBeat Rising Star (2013-15), and a nominee for Jazz Journalists' Association Up and Coming Artist (2013).
Connie has been recognised as one of the finest Blues singers in the UK today. The winner of “Best Female Vocalist Uk” no less than five times has earned Connie her place in the Gallery of Greats, alongside Alexis Corner and Eric Clapton to name just two. Her incredible stage presence and powerful vocal have also been recognized overseas as she was twice voted “European Blues Vocalist of the year” by the “Blues Trophies Awards” Pride of place is her award from the people of Liverpool for “Performing Arts”....and is still being nominated.
Performing in over 30 countries, Connie has wowed audiences in Europe and from Moscow to LA. Some of the more memorable occasions included: In New York at the famous “Bitter End” Recording at “Cotton Row” Studios Memphis, with the great Teenie Hodges known for his work with Al Green, whom Connie later met at his church. And of course singing at BB Kings Club, Beale Street, not to mention singing on Hollywood Boulevard. Then, there was Glastonbury. But most of all for Connie has to be touring UK with the late, great BB king, culminating in a show at the world famous Royal Albert Hall London. Connie herself said “Nervous? I was both nervous and ecstatic at the same time! Not only was I on stage at the Albert Hall, but BB King was listening backstage!”
Eno Williams is lead singer and composer of the band Ibibio Sound Machine. Born in London, Williams grew up in the Ibibio region of south-eastern Nigeria, a mainly Christian culture where she got to know not only highlife, but also Nigerian gospel music, and many varieties of African and Western pop. With a sensational voice, Eno's charisma and stage presence evoke those of Grace Jones. Many of her lyrics are in the Ibibio language, telling traditional tales with an enticing blend of morality and humour.
When asked about the meaning of the song 'Woman of Substance' from her debut album, Eno says: "I grew up in a family of women, and this song's referencing the women in my life – my mum, my grandma, my aunties, my sisters – but then also on the flipside it's referencing a role I played a while ago. I played a girl who was sold into slavery, in a story done by Eve Ensler, and her story just blew my mind, how she was able to come out of her trial and still hold her head up, triumphant. It was quite inspiring to hear stories like that… that is a woman of substance."
Ibibio's recenlty published track ‘Give Me a Reason’ asks, “Why should girls be denied the right to education, and why should people in general not be free to be who they want to be in their life?”
Koko-Jean Davis, born and bred in Maputo, Mozambique, now living in Barcelona, is the lead singer of one of the most referenced soul bands of Spain, The Excitements, and now has her own side project Koko-Jean & The Tonics. After debuting with their first album The Excitements (Penninman Records) in 2010, the band and their whirlwind front woman have taken Europe by storm with their Rhythm and Blues that pays tribute to the pure and classic soul of the 60s, Memphis, Detroit, Stax Sound.
Koko-Jean Davis has gained a renowned reputation for her charisma, her sexy rocknroll attitude, and her hypnotising stage moves during her electrifying live shows. No wonder this petite Soul Diva is too often compared to the young Tina Turner and The Ikettes, Etta James, Sugar Pie deSanto. Sensual and sassy, with roaring voice that will send you shivers down your spine with the blues and wanna jump and shout with joy when it comes to soul music. Don’t be fooled by her tiny figure, short dresses and high-heels, Ms. Koko-Jean Davis is a force of nature to be reckoned with when it comes to entertainment.
Marisha Addison and Morag McCall
Marisha and Morag have been charming audiences for many years and present their own band at this year's Festival, with a classy concert at the Carmelite Hotel on Sunday night. The singing duo will also be joining Pauline Black on the Saturday evening, for the special Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert.
The biggest project in the Festival Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert with two jazz big bands, a choir, soloists and tap dancers has be pulled together by Pauline Black.
Pauline has worked as a music education lecturer at the University of Aberdeen since 2012 and she is Programme Director of the BMus (Hons) Education programme and Performance Coordinator in the department. She has over twenty years teaching experience in secondary schools and prior to taking up this University post she was Faculty Head (Expressive Arts) at Harlaw Academy in Aberdeen City and music network co-ordinator for Aberdeen City schools. With a particular interest in working with music technology, Pauline has developed new SQA Music Technology courses from their outset, expanding provision in the school and increasing much interest in the subject.
Pauline has extensive experience working with school instrumental ensembles, in particular samba bands, jazz ensembles and junior concert bands and she continues to work on a weekly basis with the Aberdeen City Instrumental Music Service, leading the Youth Jazz Band. In September 2016 Pauline was part of the Aberdeen City team receiving a Will Michael Jazz Diploma in recognition of showing an outstanding commitment to jazz education.
Seonaid Aitken in Rose Room who are joined by saxophonist Laura Macdonald; Seonaid is an award-winning violinist, vocalist, pianist and composer/orchestrator from Fife. She specialises in Gypsy Jazz, though her career includes 16 years with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera and performances in Country/Bluegrass and traditional Scottish/Irish Folk styles.
Currently the Honorary President of the Glenrothes Amateur Musical Association, she also enjoys sharing her knowledge of musical theatre and performance as a judge for the Frisson Foundation’s Primary School Glee Challenge held across Scotland.
After touring the world with dancing fiddle show Barrage, Seonaid is now settled in Glasgow and is much in demand as a session recording artist, arranger and jazz musician and has recently debuted as a presenter on BBC Radio Scotland's show ‘The Jazz House’.
Jazz on the Green gets in on the act too, featuring Jill Benzies and Cindy Douglas as well as saxophonist Helena Kay.
Perhaps it’s because the team putting the Festival together is female, perhaps its due to the fact that young players see female role models on stage and think – well I could do that too!
We strongly support women in music and hope to see many more joining the jazz scene in the years to come.
So here's a toast to all the women out there - happy International Women's Day!
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