It must have been some cosmic joke that the inauguration of Donald Trump was followed, in short order, by Black History Month and, now, Women's History Month (to which we dedicate this issue). In the past these celebrations have been filled with inspirational stories of obstacles overcome and rights won, looking backwards at a dark history. Yet the ascension of a bigot and misogynist to the highest office and the bigotry and misogyny he has unleashed across the country make it clear that the history of blacks and women—as well as other oppressed groups whose progress is in jeopardy—is still being written. The question is by whom? Jazz is but
a part of art and art is but a part of life but written into the DNA of jazz is struggle, whether against American racism, Latin American authoritarianism or European nationalism. The irony is that these month-long celebrations will continue in April when Jazz Appreciation Month competes with Confederate History Month. Wonder which Trump will tweet about...
The centennial of Ella Fitzgerald's birth is not only a chance to recall her contributions to jazz but also an opportunity to reflect upon the state of the country in 1917 and the strides made by blacks and women and other minorities over the past hundred years. How tragic then all that movement is now under serious threat. Where will the country be next year, much less in a hundred? That is a question we must answer with action.
On the Cover: ELLA FITZGERALD
By Andrew Vélez; photos by William P. Gottlieb
Among her contemporaries Sarah Vaughan was capable of velvety swoops, Betty Carter had audaciousness that commanded awe and Billie Holiday was a powerhouse of emotion. But Ella Fitzgerald—with her near-three-octave range combined with flawless technique and instinctive musicianship—was a wonderful and rare interpreter who could perfectly run down a lead sheet yet be among the signal improvisatory musicians in jazz. Fitzgerald tributes are at The Cutting Room Mar. 5th, Schomburg Center Mar. 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Varis Leichtman Studio Mar. 11th and The Apollo Theater Mar. 23rd.
Interview: SHERRIE MARICLE
By M.J. Lester; photo by Garth Woods
Sherrie Maricle is a drummer whose musical education began with the clarinet. Eventually she moved on to her first love, the drums, and began playing professionally in her native Buffalo with bassist Slam Stewart. Maricle earned a BA in music from SUNY-Binghamton and both an MA and a Doctorate in jazz performance from NYU, where she also held the position of Director of Percussion Studies. Maricle directed Saturday jam sessions at The Village Gate from 1987 until its closure in 1993 and in 1987 began guest-performing and leading small groups with Peter Appleyard. In 1992 she began her work with the newly formed DIVA Jazz Orchestra, which she leads. DIVA Jazz Orchestra is at Dizzy's Club Mar. 31st-Apr. 2nd.
Artist Feature: NICOLE MITCHELL
By Robert Bush; photo by Michael Jackson
Nicole Mitchell is at the vanguard of the flute virtuoso continuum demonstrated in the '60s by Eric Dolphy and extended by James Newton (with whom Mitchell studied). Her first college mentor was John Fonville at UC San Diego, whom she recalls as "an amazing teacher. His creative path had a great impact." Her personal favorites range from the envelope-pushing Robert Dick on one end to the soul-jazz pioneer Bobbi Humphrey on the other. Mitchell is at National Sawdust Mar. 29th.
Encore: KALI Z. FASTEAU
By Clifford Allen
Creative improvised music is, quite naturally, an area of open exploration but that openness, while it allows many activities to coexist within the artform, also gives rise to situations in which artists escape broader notice. Kali Z. Fasteau, a multi-instrumentalist, composer and label owner (Flying Note) is just such a figure.
Lest We Forget: DOROTHY FIELDS
By Alex Henderson
Dorothy Fields was one of Tin Pan Alley's most prolific lyricists, penning the words to numerous standards in the '20s-40s. While Fields had a strong connection to Broadway, Hollywood and popular music, her lyrics have received a considerable amount of attention by jazz vocalists over the years. A tribute to Fields is at 92nd Street Y's Lyrics and Lyricists series Mar. 18th-20th.
Record Label Spotlight: HARBINGER
By Donald Elfman
The essence of Harbinger Records is, say its founders, "The Great American Songbook—in particular songs of stage screen and cabaret." The writers, the performers from classic to contemporary and the tradition of musical theater from whence timeless melodies and lyrics come define the label's reason for being. Artists performing this month include Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano at Neue Galerie Mar. 16th and Birdland Mar. 19th.