It’s a strange feeling: Hearing the change, and knowing things will never be the same. Terri Lyne Carrington has completely thrown away the “jazz rule book” with her new CD, The Mosaic Project. This new CD is full of startling, beautiful, tough, controversial, sexy, healing music that challenges people’s perceptions about what constitutes jazz, along with other preconceptions that they may have a harder time dealing with.
The Mosaic Project’s first and most obvious aberration from the standard is that all twenty-one musicians playing and singing on it are women. Not one man. No testosterone, baby. The distaff have taken over. And that’s probably the greatest element of this brilliant artistic endeavor; along with the fact that, even though this is a largely R & B-inflected CD, the music is as complex and swinging as the most difficult contemporaneous bebop-styled performances.
The names of the artists onboard should give you some idea of the quality involved. Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Geri Allen, Dianne Reeves, Ingrid Jensen, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Cassandra Wilson are just some (!) of the talented musicians on this project. And it’s not just the quality of the musicians that makes The Mosaic Project so essential. The subject matter of the songs makes you stop and wonder if women really have achieved equal status. And, less politically, we get a look at the other circumstances that affect the Modern Woman.
Nona Hendryx both writes and sings the album’s opener, “Transformation”, an exordium that uses Esperanza Spalding’s patented basslines to underline the journey you’re about to take. And Terri Lyne herself composes and sings “Magic And Music”, a tribute to tragic pop diva Teena Marie.
Rising singer Parlato gives us a look at feminine passion in a sultry version of Irving Berlin’s “I Got Lost in His Arms”, that the songwriting master wouldn’t recognize as his own. Rather than spinning in his grave, though, he’s probably dancing. That sensuality is also heard in Cassandra Wilson’s version of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful”.
Of course, all is not fun and cuddly in the woman’s world: The great Angela Davis is heard “telling it like it is” leading into Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Echo”, sung by Denver’s own Dianne Reeves. The song tells of today’s racism just being “…nothing but echoes of the past.” Ingrid Jensen’s electronic trumpet shines here as Jensen does throught the whole album.
What else is there to say of The Mosaic Project? There are full six more compositions that would drag this review into a point-by-point explication of every powerful moment on the record. It woul be better for you, man or woman, to head on down to Twist and Shout, Denver’s best independent record store, and let you hear jazz’s sea change yourself.