Sounds Heard: Terri Lyne Carrington—Mosaic

Purchase:

Mosaic
by Terri Lyne Carrington
(Concord Jazz)
Performers:
Terri Lyne Carrington: drums/perc/voice
Geri Allen: piano/keyboards
Dee Dee Bridgewater: voice
Anat Cohen: clarinet/bass clarinet/soprano
Angela Davis: commentary
Sheila E.: percussion
Nona Hendryx: voice
Ingrid Jensen: trumpet/flugelhorn
Mimi Jones: bass
Carmen Lundy: voice
Chia-Yin Carol Ma: violin
Hailey Miswanger: flute
Gretchen Parlato: voice
Tineke Postma: saxes
Dianne Reeves: voice
Shea Rose: voice
Patrice Rushen: piano/keyboards
Esperanza Spalding: bass/voice
Helen Sung: piano/keyboards
Linda Taylor: guitars
Cassandra Wilson: voice

When I am old, I would like to form an all-female salsa band, and we will tour the world, performing in senior citizen homes everywhere. A girl has to have something to look forward to in her later years, right? Well, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, who is by no means an old lady and has been playing since an incredibly young age, is not waiting around to form her “dream team.” With her latest CD, Mosaic, she has assembled a jaw-dropping lineup of musicians who happen to all be female, including Cassandra Wilson, Esperanza Spalding, Nona Hendryx, Tineke Postma, Sheila E., Geri Allen, and many others. The intention of the project, as the liner notes describe, is to “comment on historical, current and appropriately feminine themes with the intent to offer an informative, enjoyable listening experience, driven by creativity and consciousness.” It’s not just for girls, though—the music, which is firmly rooted in jazz but touches upon numerous other styles such as funk and hip-hop, speaks just as strongly as one might expect from any world-class lineup of performers.

Several of the compositions on Mosaic were written and/or arranged by Carrington, such as “Magic and Music”, “Mosaic Triad”, and “Insomniac”, while other tunes were penned by different members of the project. Accordingly, each song is musically distinctive, and literally has it’s own voice since Carrington handpicked a singer for every one. The very first track, “Transformation”, hooks you immediately. Written and sung by Nona Hendryx, this funky opener highlights saxophonist Tineke Postma and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, who contributes a solo on flugelhorn that reaches some searingly high notes. The sparkling mix, which allows for all the parts to be clearly heard, such as Linda Taylor’s electric guitar track that peeks out from the background at just the right moments, is typical of the entire recording. Gretchen Parlato sings unusual and intimate versions of Irving Berlin’s “I Got Lost In Her Arms” and “Michelle” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, which follow one another without pause.

“Echo”, with the most direct and politically charged message, is intended to serve as the cornerstone for the recording. It is written by Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey In The Rock fame, and features a spoken-word text written especially for the song by civil rights activist Angela Davis. Carrington is quoted in the press release as saying that the song is a tribute to Reagon’s influence and friendship.

“Unconditional Love” by Geri Allen opens with a mambo rhythm played on congas, processed with a bizarre yet compelling tinny reverb, while bassist Esperanza Spalding sings a winding, wordless melody that pairs nicely with the solo saxophone lines that accompany her. Spalding also sings on her own “Crayola”, which is perhaps the most original, quirky tune on Mosaic, with its rapidly contorting melodic lines.

Terri Lyne Carrington is a fantastic, strong drummer with a penchant for asymmetrical meters, as one can hear in “Soul Talk”, with its loping 11/4 bass line. Apparently this tune caused a bit of angst for vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, who states in the video below that she had a terrible time getting the changes straight. In the end, the arrangement sounds like it was a piece of cake to perform, and Bridgewater sums things up with the statement, “That’s what Terri Lyne does to you. She will take you places you think you can’t go—she’ll challenge you.”

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