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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Support for Joëlle Léandre - To Women

By Stef

"To Women" is the title of a track of the recently reviewed duo album of Eve Risser and Kaja Draksler, two women who have coloured our musical universe in the past few years, with their personal and visionary approaches to their music and instrument. I wanted to add my comments on Joëlle Léandre's plea for more gender diversity and openness to more adventurous music with regard to the French "Victoires du Jazz" awards.

But before going into the gender debate, let's take a step back. Let's give a little perspective on bias.

This is my personal opinion. And it is true of any selection of art material. Earlier this year, the BBC produced a list with the 100 greatest comedies of all time. I am not a film critic, but anybody going through this list will immediately notice that its perspective is extremely narrow. With the exception of Jacques Tati and Pedro Almodovar, all these movies are coming from the US or the UK. Even if the US and the UK are great movie countries, this cannot be correct. There are at least another 100 movies from other countries that could figure on the list. What is the problem? The makers of the list are all Brits, and the likelihood that they have seen only English movies is much higher than the movies of let's say Emir Kusturica, Jûzô Itami, Alfonso Cuaron, Bruno Dumont, Roberto Begnini, Anders Thomas Jensen, Aki Kaurismäki, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and many others. 

So a lot of worthwhile information is not shared because the authors of the list are not even aware of what's happening out there, because they're culturally biased. They have a very narrow perspective from which to judge the world. It's the same with the Best Books of the year lists which are coming up in many newspapers. If you trust the The Guardian's list of the 100 best novels ever written, 83 of them were written in English. This cannot be! This is impossible. By any measure. 

This is the same narrowness of perspective that we're fighting against. The editors of these lists are themselves blind to what determines their choices. They think they can judge in all honesty about movies and novels, unaware that they've missed some wonderful movies and books in other languages. Anybody looking at this list from outside the US or the UK will notice that this is almost by definition impossible. It is the narrow perspective of people living in their own narrow world evaluating a topic that is much vaster, and probably more interesting, than they are living in. Most people are blind to the biases of the group they belong too. And if the BBC and The Guardian already suffer from it, you can guess what lesser media will produce. It is extremely difficult for the dominant perspective to even reflect on this, and accept that there is a bias.  

Music, luckily, is less language sensitive. Yet the same thing happens, in terms of gender, in terms of geography. The ideal for us would be to throw our net as wide as possible and capture any kind of music, from any part of the world that fits with our exploratory and adventurouss tastes, and that we have the time to listen to it all and then to evaluate in earnest. In reality, we have a bias to listen with more attention to musicians we know, because we have seen them perform, because we have met them, because we have heard of them more than about others. As a result, proximity and familiarity will cloud judgment. 

We want to overcome these biases, and we welcome anybody to challenge us. Open ears also means to be open to sounds beyond what is expected, and cherishing the wonderful diversity of music that is out there. But broadening your own perspective takes effort. It requires a willingness to listen, a willingness to listen to what is outside your usual habitat. 

The amazing thing with the French "Victoires du Jazz" awards in question is that France has good musicians, both male and female, and some of them are really trend-setters today. 

Here is a list of all the women musicians we wrote about this year (and I may have missed some) and the list of musicians from whom we received music or saw perform without reviewing. 

When you look at the list, it is almost impossible that not one single woman would figure on the list of best albums of the year. Suppose that we came up with a list of European white males between 40 and 50 years old, something would be terribly wrong. I'm sure it won't. 

Here's "To Women". 

Women musicians reviewed during the year

Jaimie Branch
Susana Santos Silva
Alexandra Grimal (France)
Lina Allemano
Lotte Anker
Fiona Lee
Ikue Mori
Sylvie Courvoisier
Okkyung Lee
Maria do Mar 
Maria Radich 
Satoko Fujii
Kaja Draksler
Eve Risser (France)
Marina Džukljev
Mette Rasmussen
Mary Halvorson
Kate Gentile
Laura Cannell
Sylvie Courvoisier
Elisabeth Coudoux
Magda Mayas
Marta Zapparoli
Ina Sagstuen
Natali Abrahamsen Garner
Rachel Musson
Lisa Mezzacappa
Silvia Bolognesi 
Mazz Swift
Emmanuelle Waeckerlé
Maya Homburger
Paula Shocron
Zena Parkins
Aine O'Dwyer
Eva Lindal
Catharina Backman
Carin Blom
Sofia Jernberg 
Tomeka Reid
Svetlana Spajic
Dragana Tomic
Isabelle Duthoit (FR)
Viv Corringham
Kris Davis
Joëlle Léandre (FR)
Angélica Castelló
Marcela Lucatelli
Angelica Sanchez
Jessica Kenney
Vilde Sandve Alnæs
Inga Margrete Aas
Gunda Gottschalk
Julia Robert 
Agnès Vesterman
Biliana Voutchkova
Irene Kepl
Sara Schoenbeck
Vanessa Rossetto
Nora Krahl 
Maria da Rocha
Carmen Rothwell
Julia Úlehla
Heather Leigh
Nicole Mitchell
Aki Takase
Ingrid Laubrock
Joana Gama
Yoko Ikeda
Aya Naito 
Jane Ira Bloom
Cristina Abati
Ig Henneman
Sylvaine Hélary (FR)
Sophie Bernado
Fanny Lasfargues
Pauline Oliveros
Anna Webber
Patricia Brennan
Dina Maccabee
Myra Melford
Geri Allen
Renée Baker
Elisabeth Harnik
Lauren Newton
Christine Abdelnour
Not (yet) reviewed

Ada Rave 
Airelle Besson (FR)
Alessandra Novaga 
Angharad Davies
Ann Noel 
Anneleen Boehme
Aude Romary (FR)
Audrey Lauro
Anat Cohen
Beatrice Dillon 
Camille Emaille (FR)
Camille Thurman 
Céline Bonacina (FR)
Christine Wodrascka (FR)
Dana Jessen
Diane Moser
Ellen Andrea Wang
Ellen Arkbro 
Els Vandeweyer
Eva-Maria Houben 
Franziska Baumann
Géraldine Laurent (FR)
Monika Brooks 
Laura Altman
Hanna Paulsberg
Hélène Breschand (FR)
Hélène Labarrière (FR)
Irene Aranda
Lucia Martinez
Ingrid Schmolliner
Irene Kurka 
Izabela Kałduńska
Josephine Davies
Julia Reidy
Karoline Leblanc
Kate Carr
Kate Mohanty
Kathleen Tagg
Sarah Bernstein
Christina Stanley
Tara Flandriau
Lea Bertucci
Linda Catlin Smith
Linda May Han Oh
Maria De Alvear
Maria Merlino
Marianne Tilquin (FR)
Marta Sanchez
Martina Verhoeven
Miya Masaoka 
Moniek Darge
Natalia Kamia
Natalia Mateo
Natasha Barrett
Mimi Solomon
Olivia Block
Paula Shocron
Prune Becheau
Rosalind Hall
Judith Hamann
Fay Victor
Sarah Davachi
Sarah Hennies
Sarah-Jane Summers 
Silke Eberhard
Sophia Domancich (FR)
Sophie Agnel (FR)
Sophie Alour (FR)
Susanne Abbuehl
Tania Chen
Vanessa Rossetto
Yannick Peeters
Yoko Miura

Alison Blunt
Hannah Marshal
Ute Wasserman
JD Zazie
Andrea Neumann
Marylyn Crispell
Annette Krebs
Anna Kaluza
Liz Allbee


Gennaro Z. said...

in the list of all the women musicians you wrote about this year, it seems that it's missing (if I'm not wrong) the Italian bassist Silvia Bolognesi and the American violinist Mazz Swift, members of the group HEAR IN NOW with Tomeka Reid.

Stef said...

Thanks Gennaro for spotting this omission. Now rectified!

cifelius said...

There is under Lisa Mezzacappa, look better...ciao

Gennaro Z. said...

Dear Stef, it is always a pleasure to give you my little contribution to the free jazz blog!

Unknown said...

Often there is behind great man as great woman. Although the arranger of Edward Vesala’s music Iro Haarla don’t need her late husband’s name. She is a great musician as herself.

munimula said...

Elisabeth Harnik
Alison Blunt
Hannah Marshal
Ute Wasserman
JD Zazie
Andrea Neumann
Marylyn Crispell
Annette Krebs
Anna Kaluza
Liz Allbee said...

Nice statement Stef!..... vocalist, lauren newton

Stef said...

@Lauren .. I missed this one. Now added :-)

@munimula ... I listed only the musicians reviewed this year, and indeed, Elisabeth Harnik is part of those. I will add the other names to the list of "not reviewed" ... although we have not received new material this year on which these female artists figured (that I'm aware of at least).

FrankyHoule said...

Some Canadian women;

Peggy Lee
Nicole Rampersaud
Christine and Ingrid Jensen
Nicole Lisée
Lisa Miller
Meredith Bates
Diane Labrosse
Joanne Hétu

There are many more great contributors to Canadian Jazz and improvised music that never get written about partly due to this “narrowness” or net not cast broadly by the media. All of the names above are dynamic, well documented artists in our midst...

François Houle

Lee said...

@Stef and @munimula — I'm working on a review for Dialogues with Strings, which features Trevor Watts, Veryan Weston, Alison Blunt, and Hannah Marshall. It came out late in the year, and the review will probably go up in January.

FrankyHoule said...

It’s Nicole Lizée, not Lisée...

vortex said...

saxophonist/improviser Christine Abdelnour is missing from the list?

Stef said...

@vortex ... again, we only added the musicians we reviewed or received music from in the course of this year. Otherwise the list would be very long. But indeed we reviewed a concert by Christine Abdelnour earlier this year, so I'll add her to the list.

munimula said...

Ok. Thank you!

Han-earl Park said...

Please add Caroline Pugh whose imaginative navigations between the intelligible and the evocative was reviewed this year as an part of both Sirene 1009 and Kuramoto Synchronization.

Anonymous said...

This is great, and thank you for standing in solidarity and highlighting the important work that women do on the creative music scene. I am curious though, out of the all male review team listed on this site, are there any women contributors that have recently written or reviewed for this blog? I'm only asking, because as female guitarist and improviser who regularly performs on the scene myself, I find myself more aware of other women musicians actively performing only because other musicians and music fans like to mention names or introduce them to me. My network of women peers has grown exponentially because of this. I find that there are plenty of women performing and composing out there but are not made aware of in certain circles because we just don't know about them. If this could hold true by bringing more women writers and critics into the fold, then maybe the role of women on the music scene can be normalized and gender and art won't have to be compared....because at the end of the day, it is the ultimate goal here.

Stef said...

Hi Anonymous, you are absolutely right. We have been looking for women contributors to our blog for many years. We have had one woman reviewer, once, many years ago. We are very conscious about our lack of diversity. So if you - or anyone else for that matter - are interested, please let us know.

MJG said...

Worthwhile statement. Well said Stef, since the early days this blog has always seemed to be a lot better than other sources in representing the work of female musicians. In this spirit maybe you could now revisit your recent review of The Dorf that could all to easily be interpreted as rather cheap stereotyping of "shrill" voiced women response to this music?

FrankyHoule said...

A few more names;

Cat Toren
Marilyn Lerner
Lina Allemo
Tiina Kiik
Lee Pui Ming
Vicky Mettler
Julie Houle
Émilie Girard Charest
Christine Duncan
Germaine Liu

Chris Monsen said...

Anna Högberg, previously reviewed on your site (and by yours truly elsewhere) was active in several settings this year, among them Dog Life, and so deserves a mention. Her cohorts in Attack, Elsa Bergman and Lisa Ullen also released or participated on new albums in 2017. Anja Lauvdal of the wonderful trio Moskus a times strayed a bit further from the jazz idiom in the year that was, but was nevertheless participated on three (if I'm not mistaken) releases. Irene Schneider released yet another great duet album in 2017. And we could continue adding name for hours.