First, I'd like to say that I'm honored to be featured in the June issue of JazzTimes Magazine, which also happens to be the annual Saxophone Issue. It was great to have a thought-provoking conversation about my work with the fine writer Aidan Levy. But I do want to respectfully clarify a couple of points and address a couple of misquotes for the record.
It's always a conundrum whether to talk about the issue of gender in the jazz world. In some ways, I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't. The article addresses my past group Shatter the Glass and identifies it as a "feminist jazz collective" used as a "political tool". The title was certainly intended to have a double meaning - music that could be intense enough to shatter glass and also pave the way for more female instrumentalists. The group (made up of both men and women performing my compositions) was intended to offer a role model for female instrumentalists, and an example of diversity. With a fiscal sponsorship from Fractured Atlas, we acted as a nonprofit and provided some mentoring to women. But the focus was on the music. And if being in a mixed gender group with a mission of expanding the demographics of the music signals politics in this day and age, that's a shame.
Mr. Levy and I did talk of the all-female bands that were prevalent during World War II, but I’d never heard of Thelma White and her all-girl band until I saw them mentioned in the article. I do think the International Sweethearts of Rhythm are a great example of the talented women players who have always existed in the history of the music - and they also happened to be one of the first examples of a racially integrated touring band.
Which brings me to this misquote: Manning says, "such groups tend to perpetuate a dualistic, separate-but-equal model that can undermine women in jazz at the institutional level". I want to clarify that while I DO often speak of the term "women in jazz" being dualistic by its very nature, I would NOT use the term "separate-but-equal". That term comes from our terrible history of racial segregation, and I feel it is not appropriate to use in a discussion of gender.
In reality, there's no such thing as Women in Jazz. There's the music, and the people who play it. In all fairness, Mr. Levy had some hesitation when he asked me about gender in our conversation, and I agreed to talk about it because my previous band was trying to address that (decidedly not pink) elephant in the room. I simply want to be clear about where I'm coming from and it would be lovely to just set all those elephants free.
I will say that I am very pleased that the article was presented in the Saxophone Issue, and not the annual Women in Jazz issue. Because I play saxophone. And that's what matters.