Accomplished educator, composer and pianist Ellen Rowe is proud to bring together an ensemble of nationally-lauded female jazz artists on her new project Momentum – Portraits of Women In Motion. Due to be released on January 28th, this eight-track collection of original material features Rowe on piano alongside saxophonists Tia Fuller, Virginia Mayhew and Lisa Parrott, clarinetist Janelle Reichmanon, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, trombonist Melissa Gardiner, bassists Marion Hayden and Marlene Rosenberg and drummer Allison Miller. Each composition on Momentum – Portraits of Women In Motion is a tribute to and musical portrait of several iconic female figures across the sectors of music, sports, social justice, environmental advocacy and politics. Rowe draws deserved recognition to her heroes with arrangements orchestrated for varying sizes of chamber jazz ensembles, from quartet to octet.
Amidst their touring schedule, this collective intends to collaborate with young female jazz students from all across the country. Rowe wants to give students the opportunity to play with her band and believes that by doing so, the young musicians will benefit greatly from this mentoring dynamic. The Ellen Rowe Octet will also host discussion groups devoted to issues of gender and sexuality in order to foster dialogue and empower these talented young women. Rowe enthuses, “while all of us move freely between male-led, female-led and mixed bands, it is a powerful experience to be together with other talented women and I’ve come to realize that many young women jazz musicians never get that experience, one that can prove to be life-changing for them”.
Momentum – Portraits of Women In Motion opens with “Ain’t I A Woman” – a hymn that remembers all of the unsung heroines of the civil rights movement including women like Septima Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, Mary Bethune Cook, Daisy Bates and Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray. While “R.F.P. (Relentless Forward Progress)” was composed in honor of the great distance runners Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meghan “The Queen” Canfield Laws and Gunhild Swanson, “Game, Set and Match” pays tribute to Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. Both ladies fought endlessly for equal pay for women tennis players and led the way for future gay and lesbian athletes. Rowe remembers her dear friend and University of Michigan colleague, the late great pianist Geri Allen on “The Soul Keepers”. Reminiscent of both Allen’s stylings and that of one of her most significant influential figures, Mary Lou Williams, the track combines Mary Lou’s boogie-woogie style with some of Geri’s angular harmonies.
Drawn to folk-rock music, in addition to classical and jazz, from a young age, the pianist displays her appreciation for Carole King and Joni Mitchell, their melodic and harmonic sophistication and their powerful lyrics on “Anthem”. Referring to Michelle Obama as “the epitome of class and grace” as well as a very powerful role model for young women everywhere, the fifth track off the album, “The First Lady (No, Not You Melania)” was written immediately after Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017. While “The Guardians” is Rowe’s heartfelt tribute to two of the staunchest protectors of animal rights and their environments, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, the album is brought to a close by a solo piano piece, “Song of the Meadowlark” – a composition which fondly remembers the composer’s mother. Having written the tune in Ucross, as well as been honored a residency at the Ucross Foundation, Rowe gifts this album closer to the Wyoming non-profit organization.
With the support of her talented ensemble, Rowe brings attention to the amazing women who have had a profound influence on her and celebrates their courage, talent, tenacity and grace on Momentum – Portraits of Women In Motion.
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