Guest in May 2020
This morning, the 2nd day of January 2018, Dawn Norfleet, Ph.D. wrote:
Once again, some folks are criticizing Mariah Carey’s NYE performance in below-freezing weather. (I say the following not as an MC fan specifically, but as one who thinks about the realities of a changing instrument amidst increasingly rigid and unrealistic expectations of pop audiences.) My question is: how do uber-stars cope with voices and bodies that mature? At nearly 50, it must be difficult for MC to deal with audiences’ super-high expectations that will probably get increasingly harsher and more unrealistic as she gets older. Contemporary pop songs highlight vocal calisthenics of the singer and don’t seem to have much wiggle-room for maybe not hitting those runs or those big notes that catapulted singers into uber-stardom if the planets don’t align that night. So much at stake: uber-stardom yields uber-paychecks.
So the best mature vocalists do the best they can with what they have, vocally and songwise. Jazz stars who started their careers as teens had to adjust their repertoire, singing styles, range, and approach to the realities of their instrument as the ravages of touring, big notes at all costs, and life wore on their voices. Sarah Vaughan adjusted, and so did Ella Fitzgerald. Digital studio magic ill-prepares pop audiences for even an extraordinary voice like Mariah’s for change and adjustment. Many were not forgiving of Whitney Houston’s voice, in her last years. I wonder what will happen to Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and other post-90s vocalists in the future. I wish MC and the rest of them well, and that they can find ways to keep using their natural gifts in healthy ways that still move people. (((Thank God for the forgivingness of Jazz! I wouldn’t want the pressure of always competing with my 19-year old voice.))) I hope MC continues to train her audiences in dealing with real vox humana, rather than lip-synching. BTW – I think she got through her 2nd song more successfully. Kudos to her for pushing forth. ~ Dawn Norfleet, Ph.D. Musician and Educator
On a personal note, I began my singing career at 4 years old at the RKO Lowe’s Theater on Sutphin Boulevard and Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, New York, under the tutelage of my mother, Charlotte Galloway Cartwright, and my dance teacher, the illustrious Bernice Johnson, wife of famed saxophonist Budd Johnson. The first song I sang on stage was Somebody Loves Me in English and French. What attracted me the most was the bright footlights. Those lights lit something up inside of me at that very tender age and I went on to rock stages until November 2014, a month before my 68th birthday.
I had the fortune of being in the Jazz world, surrounded by great musicians like Freddie Hubbard, Cecil McBee, Gerald Price, Shirley Scott, Sonny Stitt, Philly Joe Jones, Count Basie, Sun Ra, Trudy Pitts, Mr. C, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Durham, Oliver Jackson, Dr. Lonnie Smith (not Lonnie Liston Smith), Lou Donaldson, Bertha Hope, Kim Clarke, Dotti Anita Taylor, Nicki Mathis, George Benson, Quincy Jones, George Cables, Cindy Blackman, Artie Simmons, Bernard Samuels, Giovanni Mazzarino, Nello Toscano, Oracio Maugeri, Paolo Mappa, Angelo Unia, and so many more who touched my lives in miraculously musical ways. I traveled on five continents in 20 countries, singing my brand of jazz and blues. The joy I experienced as a vocalist and composer is documented in my memoir – In Pursuit of a Melody (2006).
With regard to uber stars like Mariah Carey, I believe it is important to constantly reinvent yourself and manifest new and exciting experiences throughout your life. The word ‘star’ has tripped up many talented artists. But turn it around – rats – and it can bring you way down. The indignation suffered by Whitney Houston had nothing to do with her singing ability and everything to do with her ability to reinvent herself.
I always taught my students to recognize the importance of being present for the audience. You can sing by yourself in the shower. But when you step on stage, it is to be there for the audience. However, uber stars tend to go one of two ways:
My solution to the age-old problem of ageism while being a performer was to create a new reality – I went back to school and earned a doctorate in business. However, too many musicians believe they know everything they need to know by the time they reach 60. Most have no financial plan for living until they are 90. Lionel Hampton could not walk across the stage to his vibraphone, even though, after being pushed there in a wheelchair, he played his proverbial ass off.
I did not want to drop dead on a stage. After 63 years of performance, with a couple of years off for good measure, I decided I’d sung Misty, Take the A Train, and Tenderly quite enough! Lucky for me, my daughter, Mimi Johnson, followed in my footsteps, giving me plenty of opportunities to live vicariously through her. Mimi took it one step further and formed an online TV station – www.mjtvnetwork.info – (MJ = Mimi Joan).
Mimi made me an actor in two of her sitcoms, presented me on her talk show The Arts Reporter, featured my books on MJTV HOME SHOPPING BROADCAST, and my recipes on Genius Cooking! This was reinvention at its best because I was doing it, my daughter was.
Eleven years ago, I manifested Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a non-profit organization with the mission of promoting and advocating for women musicians, globally! Today, we have 326 members with 172 women musicians! We have six CDs of women’s music and we are embarking on several performance projects in 2018 with our musicians. Visit our website and join us at www.wijsf.org
The point is that Mariah Carey and all the other uber stars have an opportunity to reinvent themselves and manifest something great that can carry them through their later years. Their path may not be like mine. But they can use their artistic ingenuity to develop something special that can help others, while they are helping themselves to cope with the aging process. At 70, all I can think about is the fun I’m going to have getting to 80.
Life is a canvas. Be an artist and paint your life! ~ Dr. Diva JC
By Dr. Joan Cartwright
Jazz journalist Lara Pellegrinelli’s recent article Women in Jazz: Blues and The Objectifying Truth (2017), commiserated on the marginalization of women musicians in the Jazz/Blues genre, stating that the cultural assumption is that women are merely the passive vessels for male sounds (Pellegrinelli, 2017).
In response to Pellegrinelli, Terri Lynn Carrington said: When I started teaching and hearing the stories of the young women at the college, . . . I realized just because my experience was not the same as theirs, I am a part of this community and have to work toward or fight for change in any possible way that I can. I feel great ownership in this art form and know that I belong here, and want my female students to feel the same way.
In a Huffington Post article, Carrington wrote, “On issues of racism and sexism, there can be impatience from progressives, expecting that after all this time everyone should just know better and stand on the correct side of consciousness” (Carrington, 2017). She continued with, “feminizing or masculinizing music can be counter-productive. The studying, composing, and performing of music should be gender neutral, and I think the greatest musicians are musically ‘gender fluid’.”
I do not agree with Carrington’s statement because I have found few Jazz musicians, and certainly even fewer Classical musicians, who are willing to push forward music composed by women musicians. My fortune was that Freddie Hubbard recorded my composition Sweet Return in 1983 on Atlantic Records. Even though his half-German wife, the publisher, did everything in her power to stop the progress of this album because she felt there was something romantic between Freddie and me, which there was not, that composition made it into the Freddie Hubbard Song Book, much to my surprise. Since then, I have had no other opportunities to get my music performed or recorded by any gender fluid musician, even though I have gifted several male musicians, band leaders, and arrangers with my song book.
In Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (1970), Frank Kofsky expounded on the words of Professor Archie Shepp, an articulate spokesperson for African-Americans. Shepp said, “the United States is culturally backward because white Americans have been unwilling to give credit to African-Americans as innovators of jazz, which he refers to as American realty – total reality.” Shepp contends that whites “think they have a right to jazz instead of being grateful for jazz as a gift that the Negro has given.” He said even white Americans in the jazz world “deny that jazz is first and foremost a black art created and nurtured by black people in this country out of the wealth of their historical experience” (Cartwright, 2009, p. 56).
For three centuries or more, white men have used the physical and cultural production of Africans in America to enrich themselves and their families while white women reaped the benefits in silence. White men raped African women, continually, producing a whole new group of people who were sold regardless of their relationship to their white fathers. The transition from cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane to jazz and blues as a money-making venture was as smooth as Smooth Jazz! Festivals and clubs around the world raked in millions of dollars while disowning the very people that the music came from. White musicians and educators dot the halls of conservatories and universities where jazz is taught by rote just like the classical music that issued from European concert halls.
Now, this – white women are complaining that they are marginalized in the world of Jazz. What a surprise. These same white women and their foremothers never found it odd that the music that spoke of freedom for Africans enslaved in America has become the popular music of today, without the input of African musicians. A survey of jazz educators will result in a very low number of African professors at universities with Jazz Departments. Professor Archie Shepp at Amherst, Dr. Larry Ridley at Rutgers, Dr. Karlton Hester at UCLA San Diego, Dr. Linda Williams at Southern University, and the handful of African-descent professors at Berklee – Terri Lynn Carrington, Patrice Rushen, and the late Geri Allen do not comprise a long list of instructors that teach the music that actually came out of their communities.
Do white people have a right to perform and teach Jazz and Blues music? This question is moot since white people believe they have a right to appropriate EVERYTHING FROM EVERYBODY and that no one should ever say anything about it in the negative. Well, my book A History of African-American Jazz and Blues (Cartwright, 2009) discusses how The Music was appropriated, packaged, commercialized, and serendipitously stolen from its originators. Besides the theft of the publishing royalties of great composers like Duke Ellington by publishers like Irving Mills, who managed Duke’s band for 13 years because African musicians could not belong to ASCAP or manage themselves outside of TOBA, Jazz and Blues musicians of African-descent were exploited in every way possible.
Of course, like cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane crops, Jazz and Blues were new crops that white men felt entitled to exploit to their personal benefit. Musicians of African descent had no choice because they were barred from owning anything that they produced in the United States. Most prolific musicians died pennilessly and their families rarely benefitted from their cultural production. The following excerpt attests to that fact.
The financial pressures were exacerbated by another familiar pressure which had afflicted jazz musicians right from the start of the music – their reliance on the largely white businessmen who ran the clubs, record companies, management and booking agencies, and, most significantly, music publishing. The shaving of bands’ fees by clubowners and agents, and the practice of managers and agents adding their names to the publishing rights of tunes – and thereby claiming a share of their often lucrative proceeds – had begun early in jazz (Duke Ellington’s manager, Irving Mills, is a famous example, and while Ellington himself was never slow to claim a co-credit on works instigated by his sidemen, at least he had a musical hand in them) and, according to Dizzy, had grown no better by the time of the bebop era.
People with enough bucks and foresight to invest in bebop made some money. I mean more than just a little bit. All the big money went to the guys who owned the music, not to the guys who played it. The businessmen made much more than the musicians, because without the money to invest in producing their own music, and sometimes managing poorly what they earned, the modern jazz musicians fell victim to the forces of the market. Somehow, the jazz businessman always became the owner and got back more than his fair share, usually at the player’s expense. More was stolen from us during the bebop era than in the entire history of jazz . . . (Mathieson, 1999).
So, for white women to declare that they are barred, unfairly, from making a living in the Jazz scene is ludicrous. White men have maintained control over the cultural production of Africans and they have no intention of relinquishing that control. The rub is that African men will embrace white women musicians far more readily than they will women of African descent with a few exceptions like Dexter Gordon and Melba Liston. However, Regina Carter and Teri Lynn Carrington managed to eke out a place in The Music for themselves and their art.
But most women of African descent who appeared on the Jazz scene, until recently, were shoved in a corner, rarely to be heard from. Some of the most profound of those women were Vi Redd, Jeannie Cheatham, Dorothy Donegan, and Trudy Pitts. Other talented musicians, like Shirley Scott and Hazel Scott, found favor because they had notable husbands – Shirley and Stanley Turrentine and Hazel and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Today, Mimi Jones, Shirazette Tinnin, Lakecia Benjamin, Camille Thurman, Jazmin Ghent, Gail Jhonson, Karen Briggs, and Esperanza Spaulding are making some headway.
Meanwhile, white women are courted by musicians of African descent with valor and pleasure. For instance, Christian McBride partnered with Diana Krall and Prince endorsed Candy Dulfer (and the two white women in his band). Perhaps, white women can pay to gain credibility by recording and performing with African-American musicians, while women of African descent cannot make that monetary layout.
As far as sexual harassment is concerned, what is it that white women do not understand about the sexual energy of white men who raped African women during slavery, while their white wives languished in plantation mansions? Today, white men are being called out in great numbers for sexually harassing women in the workplace. This is their modus operandi. Is that to say that African men do not rape and sexually harass? Heaven’s no. It is the nature of man to hunt women like prey.
My career as a Jazz/Blues vocalist and composer spanned 50 years. I remember several instances when I was targeted by male musicians. However, I was able to extricate myself from the situation or rationalize why that happened. One white man told me to take my clothing off. When I refused, he told me I would never be anything but a secretary. I asked him to call me a cab and went on to have a charmed career, performing in 20 countries on five continents, without ever taking my clothes off for one single opportunity to perform or record.
Maybe I am a very strong woman with principles that do not allow me to cave into the taunting of males. One of my band members suggested that I engage in fellatio with him in a closet at a New Years’ Eve gig that I hired him for. I did not speak to him for two years after that and I never hired him again. Women have recourse. Sniveling about sexual harassment without speaking out about it means nothing. It’s a man’s world only because women allow it to be that.
Women fail to create camaraderie amongst themselves. For 10 years, I have been the director of a non-profit organization that promotes and advocates for women musicians. It is like pulling teeth to get women to support this organization. They think that supporting Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. detracts from who they are. Women are not joiners or supporters unless they think they will get something from an organization. They expect me to be their agent, to get them gigs, to promote them even though they refuse to pay $50 dues per year. That’s insane.
I spent the last six years writing my dissertation Women in Jazz: Music Publishing and Marketing. My research showed that women lack sufficient business skills to succeed in the monstrously competitive world of Jazz. Most women musicians resign themselves to teaching rather than concentrating on branding, networking, teamwork, negotiation, and accounting. Few are adept at writing grant proposals to win financial awards to produce and perform original music.
Then, there are those that know my organization exists but minimalize it because I am not a white woman. Well, Blues and Jazz came from the experience of African women and men in America, and just because white musicians think they own it, they never will. They may play all the riffs and copy all the solos of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Marylou Williams, Hazel Scott, Melba Liston, and other prolific Jazzwomen but they will never understand the burden that led to the expression of the Blues and, subsequently, Jazz.
White people harm each other – yes – but the harm they did to Africans in America was counteracted by the Blues and Jazz and they can never understand the full meaning of that because they are unwilling to give credit to African-Americans as innovators of jazz, which [Shepp referred] to as ‘American realty – total reality.’ As Shepp contended, whites ‘think they have a right to jazz’ instead of being grateful for jazz as a ‘gift that the Negro has given.’ He said even white Americans in the jazz world ‘deny that jazz is first and foremost a black art created and nurtured by black people in this country out of the wealth of their historical experience’ (Mathieson, 1999).
Carrington, T.L. (2017). Sexism in jazz: Being agents of change. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sexism-in-jazz-agents-of-change_us_58ebfab1e4b0ca64d9187879
Cartwright, J. (2009). A history of African-American jazz and blues. FYI Communications, Inc. (www.lulu.com/spotlight/divajc)
Cartwright, J. (2017). Women in Jazz: Music Publishing and Marketing. FYI Communications, Inc. (www.lulu.com/spotlight/divajc)
Mathieson, K. (1999). Giant steps: Bebop and the creators of modern jazz, 1945-65. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books
Pelligrinelli, L. (2017). Women in jazz: Blues and the objectifying truth. Retrieved from https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/2017/12/12/women-in-jazz-blues-and-the-objectifying-truth/#comment-5707
Dr. Joan Cartwright is a Jazz/Blues vocalist, composer, and author of books on Jazz and Blues and Women in Jazz and Blues. She is the founder of Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes and advocates for women musicians, globally! www.wijsf.org
Freddie Hubbard is an icon! He recorded my tune SWEET RETURN (1983) and put it in his Song Book making me historical (herstorical). I sat at the feet of Miles, Diz, Buhaina, Shepp, Yusef, Rahsaan, McCoy, and Ron Carter, learning all I could about the art of improvisation. I sat with Helen Morgan 3 years before she shot Lee. I AM JAZZ!
I’ve been in conversations with Ella, Betty Carter, Irene Reid, Ruth Brown, Abbey Lincoln, and Dorothy Donegan. I was THERE at the Blue Note, Slugs in the Far East (Village) with Lee Morgan, Buhaina, Miles, Frank Foster, Charles McPherson, Bill Hardman and Joe Lee Wilson, Village Gate, at the Galleon (Bronx), and the Village Vanguard with Lou Donaldson, Dr. Lonnie Smith who recorded my first demo tape with me that got me gigs all over the European continent. Ellington’s bass player Aaron Bell first listened to my tune “Loneliblue” and said the musicians would love playing it.
In Philly, Gerald Price taught me composition and piano, and in New York, Barry Harris was my teacher on piano and vocals. Budd Johnson was my babysitter from 4-8 years old. Milt Hinton (The Judge) was my cousin’s Godfather and he got me my first gig in Berne, Switzerland, at Marion’s Jazz Room, in 1990. I sat on Jay McShann’s lap and asked him to marry me. I proposed marriage to Quincy Jones just before I interview him for my Master’s Thesis, The Cultural Politics of Commercial Jazz, in 1993, which explained why I had to go to Europe (1990-1998) to make a living. In July 2013, I gave my book A History of African American Jazz and Blues to Quincy with the interview I did of him in 1993, 20 years earlier, in the exact same building – Stravinsky Hall, in Montreux, Switzerland [photo].
I AM Jazz!
I am the Chronicler of this music. While everyone else was PLAYING, I was documenting it. I met Quincy Troupe, co-writer of Miles’ biography. I penned lyrics to A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, TUNE UP, BLUE BOSSA, and BESSIE’S BLUES and sang them all over Europe, the East Coast of the USA, and in China and Japan. I Am the female Jazz Messenger, who sang on Jazzmobile with Buhaina, Frank Foster, Frank Wes, George Coleman, and Charles McPherson. The first person to take me on the road was Philly Joe Jones, who took me to Baltimore to perform with Shirley Scott, Arthur Harper (bass), and Sonny Stitt, in 1978. I AM the only woman in the world with a Jazz and Blues Song Book that I submitted to the Guinness Book of Records.
Google me – www.joancartwright.com. But, more importantly, I am the foremost authority on Women in Jazz and Blues and I will not be quieted about the role of women as the Mothers of the Blues and the innovators of Jazz. That’s why, in 2007, I founded www.wijsf.org to promote women musicians, globally! That’s why, since 2008, I’ve interviewed over 200 women composers at www.blogtalkradio.com/musicwoman
That’s why I created the Jazzwomen Directory that features 90 women musicians that most musicians, let alone people, do not know about and I put 40 of them in my book Amazing Musicwomen that I taught over 10,000 students (3-12 grade and college) in the U.S., Switzerland, Sicily, China, and Japan about.
I AM JAZZ!
READ my books:
Regarding an article posted on a UK Blog – THERE ARE NO GOOD JAZZ GIGS, I would like to address some of the comments in this article:
1. The huge increase in the number of jazz festivals over the last decade as proof that it’s not nearly as bad as some people would have you believe. D C Dowell of www.apassion4jazz.net says that the number of jazz festivals has increased tenfold over the last decade and www.jazzfests.net has over 1,000 jazz festivals listed for Europe alone. MOST OF THESE SO-CALLED JAZZ FESTIVALS USE THE WORD “JAZZ” TO KEEP THE COST OF INSURANCE LOW. THEN, THEY BOOK ARTISTS THAT ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING JAZZ ARTISTS – THEY ARE R&B, ROCK, REGGAE ARTISTS – BUT THE WORD JAZZ IS USED TO ATTRACT A MATURE AUDIENCE. IF THEY SAID IT IS A R&B OR ROCK FEST, THE INSURANCE WOULD BE SKY HIGH.
2. Much of the jazz musician’s malaise probably stems from his own experiences – playing an endless round of background music gigs where he is largely ignored or at conservative venues where he feels obliged to play standards in a mainstream style. These gigs often form the majority of his performing life and venues that actively promote jazz seem to be depressingly few in number. THE MAJOR PROBLEM IN THIS COUNTRY AND IN EUROPE IS THAT JAZZ IS A “HE/HIS” GENRE – A GOOD OLE BOY CLUB. WOMEN PAY 53% OF THE TAXES ON THE PLANET BUT WOMEN’S MUSIC REAPS ONLY 1-5% OF THE $27.5 BILLION IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AND FROM PUBLIC FUNDING. THIS IS A HUGE IMBALANCE. I SEE GREAT OPPORTUNITY IN THIS AS THE FOUNDER OF A NON-PROFIT THAT PROMOTES WOMEN MUSICIAN’S – www.wijsf.org
3. Going to jam sessions is the only ‘self-promotion’ that they do. They’re clinging to a hopelessly old-fashioned paradigm of the music business and are doomed to failure and frustration if they refuse to change. THE JAM SESSION IS WHAT HAS KILLED NOT ONLY THE JAZZ SCENE BUT THE MUSIC SCENE. OPEN MICS WITH HIP HOP AND RAP ARTISTS HAS MADE IT SO THAT ENTERTAINERS (I DO NOT CONSIDER HIP HOPPERS AND RAPPERS MUSICIANS) PERFORM FOR FREE. CLUB OWNERS HAVE GOTTEN USED TO THE PARADIGM THAT THEY DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR ENTERTAINMENT BECAUSE OF THE DESPERATION AND EGO OF THESE AMATEURS WANTING TO GET UP ON A STAGE TO DISPLAY THEIR SO-CALLED TALENT, LEAVING PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED MUSICIANS OUT IN THE COLD. ORIGINALLY, JAM SESSIONS TOOK PLACE IN THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING, AT ONE OR TWO CLUBS, AFTER THE MUSICIANS GOT OFF FROM WORK. TODAY, THE JAM SESSION IS THE GIG, WITH THE BASSIST AND DRUMMER GETTING PAID (MAYBE) AND OTHER MUSICIANS AND VOCALISTS COMING UP ON STAGE TO DO A SONG OR TWO. IT’S PUT MOST MUSICIANS IN THE POVERTY CLASS.
This is so true. Why not have Hollywood donate some money to some Native Americans, who can produce some films about how they triumphed as well.
The whole scene in this country is detrimental to the health of all of us. Mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Stop your frikken movies.