What’s on Your Playlist? Terri Lyne Carrington

December 1, 2011

Terri Lyne CarringtonAcclaimed drummer, producer, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington has been an in-demand artist and musical collaborator for nearly three decades.

After stints with the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Lester Bowie in the ‘80s, Carrington gained widespread recognition – even outside the confines of the “jazz world” – towards the end of that decade as the house drummer for the groundbreaking and hugely popular “Arsenio Hall Show.”  In addition to releasing her own Grammy-nominated debut CD (Real Life Story), she also received a Grammy nomination as a producer for Diane Reeves’s disc, That Day, and performed on Herbie Hancock’s Grammy-winning album, Gershwin’s World.

In July of this year, Carrington released The Mosaic Project (Concord Jazz).   The 14-song collection celebrates the contribution of female performers to modern jazz, with performances from the likes of Esperanza Spalding, Nona Hendryx, Dianne Reeves, Sheila E., and Cassandra Wilson, among others.

Terri Lyne received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Berklee College of Music, in 2003 and is currently on staff at the school as a professor.

1.  Lizz Wright – “A Lover is Forever”

“Slayed” – best word to describe how I feel when I hear her sing this song. If I didn’t understand, I did by the time the song was over. What a rich, deep tone with so much body. Music is sound and vibration and about relaying a message. And that is what touches our soul, which is why I guess I am partial to (and envious of) vocalists.   This goes straight to the heart, but also the subconscious. I want to be able to play every stroke on the drums with that same commitment, depth and beauty, like so many “roots” singers, from Mahalia Jackson to Lizz. I will work on that the rest of my life.

2.  Miles Davis – “All of You” from My Funny Valentine

Classic, brilliant, hip, soulful, and urgent. Thank you, Tony and gang. Many lessons in this one. I hear something different every time. There is something about a turnaround, to me, that says a lot about a musician, how they express themselves in this four-chord outline, how much freedom they feel and comfort in something that plays itself. Tony’s restraint and maturity on this is incredible, let alone all the other brilliant playing on this. Great jazz is timeless, sounds fresh as if it were recorded yesterday. I listen in amazement at the perfection of the quarter note.

3.  Maxwell – “Stop The World” from BLACKsummers’ night

I think when I take my analytical mind out of listening to music, it boils down to how the chords, melody, and groove hit me – and in some cases lyrics, like this one. I think we all want the world to stop at some point, so we can let go, love, and be loved. This is universal. I really dig Maxwell. And this track fondly reminds me of  “the king” of these kinds of sexy grooves – Prince.

4.  Nona Hendryx – “Oil On The Water” from Mutatis Mutandis

A commentary on “How we take more from the world than we need” and on “The human flaw – desire and greed,” from her new CD that speaks on political and social issues. I’ve been vibin’ with this track because it embodies how Rhythm and Blues used to be recorded and produced. You go in the studio, cut songs live – with vocalist – and call it a day, so everyone has to come with the goods. Nowadays some jazz recordings aren’t even done that way anymore. Her voice is so soulful and really makes you listen to what she’s saying. And when you only have guitar, bass, drums, and Rhodes on a track, the song (as well as the singer and players) has to be really strong. Old school for life.

5.  Q-Tip – “Blue Girl” from Kamaal the Abstract

Makes me wanna say, “Hey!” and step as if I were at a smooth club, or super cool house party. Q-Tip has a way of melding the old and the new, so a track like this makes you think about Roy Ayers, Herbie, Patrice Rushen, the N.Y. Queens crew, and music at a time where extended jazz solos could be in R&B music. Unfortunately, now most of the harmony, melody, and rhythm have been stripped out of dance or popular music. Q-Tip is intelligent and his musical palette is wide and he really knows how to do “vintage” right.

6.  Teena Marie – “Cassanova Brown” from Emerald City

A friend and a talent I respect and admire. Honest, dedicated, purposeful and every note was heartfelt. I like this track because it was her way of doing jazz and she revered all the greats in jazz as well as R&B, and you can hear it in this song that she wrote. She uses her full range. I love the low notes. And her phrasing is amazing on this. Most talented one, gone too soon, R.I.P.

7.  Kurt Rosenwinkel – “Heartcore” from Heartcore

Edgy, raw, compelling, melodic, adventurous, unpredictable.  I love the production quality of this entire CD. It sounds modern, yet possesses the perfect blend of meticulous composing/arranging and “home recording vibe.” But it is the combination of the high-level compositions, great playing, and non-traditional jazz production style that won me over. Mark Turner and Kurt playing unison melodies sound like a new instrument. The change in feel at the end, as well as the synth textures, transports me. Would love to hear more like this, but different, of course.

8.  Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette – “If I Should Loose You” from Standards, Volume 2

For me, it’s a perfect, personal improvised dance of three – how they follow each other, how they are free within the given set of boundaries of the standard, finding a way to make it sound like they are writing the tune as they go. I have always been inspired by Jack, his musical choices, and his level of openness. He sounds like a tap dancer to me on the brushes. The human spirit really comes through in everything he plays. I just wish I could press the mute button on Keith’s “vocalizing.”

9.  Roy Haynes – “Matrix” from Now He Sings, Now He Sobs

I always find it amazing to hear the same thing over and over again and never grow tired of it. Maybe this is partially what defines brilliance. I’ve been listening to this track for nearly 30 years and have learned so much about ride cymbal playing from this it. I make sure all of my students listen to it as well. And I saw Roy live not too long ago and he still plays with an unparalleled enthusiasm. He is an idol of mine.

10. Duck Ellington – from the Baby Loves Jazz series

I have a 5-year-old who loves Duck Ellington and sings along with the solos! Gotta love that. And what a great way to expose jazz to our babies! But the music is not played down in any way. Ali Jackson is the voice of Duck Ellington and the drummer and listening to him play on these vignettes is a reminder to me of why and how I got the “jazz bug” when I was young. They reference Monk and Coltrane and have a little bit of rap on there too.  I highly recommend to those with children (and even those without)!

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