you want to shake it up, Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic (Concord
Jazz, 2011) captures the essence of the title in a big way.
For her fifth album as a leader, Carrington calls on the talents of 20
musical sisters, both instrumentalists and vocalists. From the liner
notes: “As with mosaic artwork, the goal for this project is to vibrantly
connect colorful pieces together to create something integral, using
thoroughly composed song forms, some abstract improvising, and also the
human voice – to create sharp shapes, with blurred edges.”
Seldom does a recording meet such a goal so effectively, diversely and
beautifully. From Carrington’s arrangements of the Beatles’ “Michelle” and
Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful,” to the originals, “Wistful” and “Crayola,”
penned by Carrington and Esperanza Spalding, respectively, this set is as
good as it gets, giving the listener some straight jazz instrumentals as
well charming vocals.
Gretchen Parlato sings the a cappella introduction to “Michelle,” quickly
giving way to Carrington, pianist Geri Allen, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and
an uncredited bassist. The song is clearly a group effort, but each
individual has plenty of space to step out front.
“Echo,” written by Bernice Johnson Reagon,” begins with the spoken word by
social activist Angela Davis. Carrington adds percussion and vocals.
Dianne Reeves is lead vocalist for this emotionally powerful piece. “The
brother you lynched / a few years ago, the sister you raped / just the
other day,” she sings, summing up these and other tragedies as echoes of
the past. Contributing musicians areJensen; AnatCohen, soprano sax; Sheila
E., percussion; and Patrice Rushen and Helen Sung, piano and keyboards
Other women involved in the project are Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendryx,
Carmen Lundy, Mimi Jones, Chia-Yin Carol Ma, Hailey Niswanger,
TinekePostma, Shea Rose, Linda Taylor and Cassandra Wilson. Spalding is
the only bassist listed, but the notes only credit her for two songs. And
the liner isn’t clear about which saxophonist – Cohen or Postma – is on a
given track. It’s a minor inconvenience to the average listener, but on a
project that celebrates the contributions of these women to music in
general and jazz specifically, it’s a glaring oversight. On the plus side,
the liner does have mosaic photographs of all.
Mosaic goes for it, providing a spending mix of structure and
improvisation, stirring in a little sultry blues, fusion, be-bop and other
Nominated for a Grammy herself, Carrington has been a part of several
other Grammy-nominated projects. Her career began in the 1980s, when she
broke onto the national seen as house drummer for the Arsenio Hall show.
Since then, she has established herself as a lead artist as well as a
session player for a wide assortment of artists and genres. A very short
list includes Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Hiram Bullock, Herbie
Hancock, Jimmy Haslip and George Duke.