ACTIVISM NEVER DIES
The Grammy-winning legendary drummer, composer, producer Terri Lyne Carrington is the artist in residence this year at EFG London Jazz Festival. Having released her latest epic duo album “Waiting Game” just recently, she’s all geared up for an inspiring 3-day adventure in London rehearsing with UK artists, performing Waiting Game with her core band from US, experimenting around UK jazz and contemporary sounds with Emma-Jean Thackray, Soweto Kinch, Ayanna-Witter Johnson and Truemedous and meeting the audience with an intimate conversation about her musical journey.
EFG London Jazz Festival’s programming Director Pelin Opcin had a chance to chat to Terri before her visit... Here is a hint what is expecting us in this much awaited residency: immaculate musicianship, stimulating interactions and sublime music burning with “never ending activism”
Pelin Opcin: You’ve been actively touring in the festival circuit mainly with producing exclusive tours such as Sing the Truth, being a part of all-star ensembles or even as behind-the-scenes producer and performer in certain collaborative projects.
We now feel privileged to have you in focus as especially immediately after the release of “Waiting Game”. How do you think these collaborations contributed to your music and how did you choose the artists to interact with?
Terri Lyne Carrington: When I am leading my own projects, I always think about who sounds best on the music and arrangements. Mostly calling upon former musical relationships - musicians whom I’ve known and worked with in the past and musicians who I meet on different occasions who surprise and inspire me...
Continuous research of music on digital platforms and finding about other genres really helps. At Berklee, I bring guest artists to classes and I try to blur the lines between genres. Similarly, I try to blur those lines with guest artists in my musical collaborations. My Mosaic Project LOVE and SOUL is a good example of how these relationships and the familiarity we have for each other really helped to shape the music. This mutual respect and understanding makes it easier to work together, allowing them to bring their own voices into the project.
PO: Having worked with so many different artists, being the musical director of so many different projects, being a professor at Berklee and backing up loads of other musicians you have been the mentor to so many artists. Who can you name as a mentor or a positive influence in your own music career, especially from women around you?
TLC: Because I started so young, I have experiences from a young age that brings a musical equity with many of the people that are older than me. Angela Davis, she is a generation older than me, and my close friend. Dianne Reeves is like a big sister to me and we met when I was a kid, and have grown in the industry together. Jack Dejohnette’s wife Lydia DeJohneter and McCoy Tyner’s wife Aisha Tyner fall in that category as well. Also Bernice Johnson Reagon from Sweet Honey in the Rock.
PO: Social Science will open up to different dimensions with UK musicians’ performances. How do you envisage working with guest musicians who haven’t play in the album before? Is it going to be a more of an experimental performance or will they be chipping in your already composed works?
TLC: A little bit of both, my idea is to play a couple of compositions of mine from the record, also for each guest to perform one of their own songs. The guests will come off and on, and everybody will get together probably towards the end. I feel like there will be a universal sound from all of our contributions that will come through. The special thing with this performance is, there will also be words and lyrics with guest musicians like Truemendous and Ayanna, with themes that are connected to Social Science messages.
PO: How do you think the first set, Waiting Game, will differentiate from the second set, Experiments in London, where we’ll have the UK artists, saxophonist Soweto Kinch, cellist and singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson, trumpet player Emma-Jean Thackray, rapper and Truemendous?
TLC: The biggest difference between them is first one will be more instrumental, more of the jazz sound, which jazz-heads would enjoy I hope! The second one will hopefully be something that jazz-heads would enjoy too, but with guest artists, it will be more open to different communities. Some people really like words and lyrics and signing, and some people really like instrumental music. I always try to blend those things in a way that works in my shows.
PO: Not just Social Science tackling social injustice, you have a lot of other projects where social and political issues are the underlining theme.
The gender equality, especially in jazz is also something you are questioning…
TLC: There is so much I can say about this. I initiated “Jazz Without Patriarchy,” but actually the idea behind it is more like “society without patriarchy”.
We start with our own microcosms, jazz, and our own issues in communities that we live in. When we can have “jazz without patriarchy,” we’ll know that we are closer to a “society without patriarchy,” or maybe that will mean that we will already have a society without patriarchy when it penetrates jazz, but I’m not sure if that will truly happen in my lifetime.
But what is important is the pursuit of it– it is not always about the result and coming to an end, but the pursuit of ideals. Activism never dies. We can see that we had a huge era of activism in 60’s and 70’s and today we are still dealing with same things. Though we can see a dramatic change between now and then, still, we are definitely not there yet. Racism still exists, so, activism never stops. Gender equity and gender justice will always be something to pursue.
There are other areas that are further ahead. For instance when I was a kid, being a female doctor wasn’t as common but now I can see as many female doctors as male doctors. Our industry needs to catch up in the same way.