An all-women jazz band playing songs about women—this is a CD whose time has surely come. Pianist Ellen Rowe has duly put together a collection of original songs lauding her gender.
She says: “Each piece on this album is a tribute to women heroes of mine in disciplines ranging from music to social justice, environmental advocacy, sports and politics… the many amazing women who have had a profound influence on me. This album is a celebration of their courage, tenacity and grace.”
She opens with “Ain’t I A Woman?” Appropriately, this is a hymn to the “unsung heroines of the civil rights movement.” They include Septima Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, Mary Bethune Cook, Daisy Bates and the Rev Dr Pauli Murray. Rowe claims the research she did on them writing this piece has made her a better person.
“R.F.P (Relentless Forward Progress)” honours women distance runners. “The Soul Keepers” pays tribute to the late, great pianist and composer Geri Allen, Rowe’s colleague at University of Michigan for many years, who was in turn a great admirer of Mary Lou Williams. “I attempted to combine Mary Lou’s boogie-woogie style with some of Geri’s angular harmonies,” says Rowe.
She wrote “The First Lady (No, Not You Melania)” shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, in tribute to Michelle Obama, “the epitome of class and grace.”
“The Guardians” honours Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey for their work on behalf of endangered species. “Game, Set and Match” is a tribute to tennis stars Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.
Musically, there’s a lot to interest jazz fans of both genders here… some of whom may like to work out differences between the approach of female and male players, the traditional critical yardstick when judging women jazz musicians.