Blue notes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am

Jazz drummer and percussionist Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project has been some time in gestation. For years, she says, people have been suggesting that she make a collaborative album with an all-female group of players.

But only recently has she felt that she could pursue the idea without compromising her musical values. 'If I had tried to do something like this in the past - like when I started playing 25 years ago - I might have felt limited by the pool of available musicians. But now there are so many talented women whom I've been playing with anyway,' she says.

Carrington is a first-call session player and has collaborated with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Stan Getz, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Cassandra Wilson, Clark Terry and Dianne Reeves, among others. She has toured and recorded as a solo artist and, before the release of Mosaic Project, had four albums to her name as a leader. Wilson and Reeves are renewing their association with her for this album. Others include Esperanza Spalding, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Sheila E, Nona Hendryx, Geri Allen, Patrice Rushen, Taiwanese violinist Chia-yin Carol Ma, and US-born Chinese pianist Helen Sung. Activist Angela Davis has a speaking role.

'Everything about this recording is about making a larger picture out of many various elements,' says Carrington, who produced the 14-song set. 'I assembled several friends ... to help me create the big picture. For, as talented as each of them are as individuals, when I put them all together, I have a much greater musical story.'

Singer Hendryx, pianist Allen, bassist Spalding and Carrington herself all contribute compositions. Others come from sources as diverse as Irving Berlin (I Got Lost In His Arms), Al Green (Simply Beautiful), Sweet Honey In The Rock (Echo) and The Beatles (Michelle).

It is a strong set, perhaps her best to date, and very much a collaborative effort. Her drumming is fundamental to much of the music, but not over-prominently mixed. The jazz and pop elements of the music are also well balanced.

'There's one part of me that's kind of a jazz head who likes complex, thought-provoking melodies and harmonies,' she says. 'And then there's another part of me that really likes funk and pop and things that are accessible.'

Take Three

Albums featuring the percussive talent of Terri Lyne Carrington.

Joy Ryder (1988, Columbia): Carrington provides the drums on a fine set from long-time friend and collaborator Shorter. Rushen, Allen and Reeves also feature.

Real Life Story (1989, Verve): The percussionist's solo debut with an all-star cast - including Shorter, John Scofield, Carlos Santana, Don Alias and Grover Washington - attested to the esteem in which she was already held by established jazz artists. Rushen and Reeves also contribute.

Purple (2003, ACT): French-Vietnamese guitarist Nguyen Le's jazz tribute to the music of Jimi Hendrix features Carrington's drumming. Le will perform during the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival in October.