Monday, November 4, 2019
Interview ‘We do what we can and hope it has a ripple effect’
Jazz musician TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON explains to Chris Searle why themes of social justice in the Trump era inform her latest album
TOP US jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, who’s played and recorded with some of the most luminous figures of post-war jazz including Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, is about to release Waiting Game, a new album by her band Social Science.
It’s to be launched in Britain at two concerts during the London Jazz Festival at Kings Place on November 15 and 16.
As a girl in Boston Carrington grew up “in a house where jazz was on all the time,” she says. “I started on alto sax and moved to drums at seven, when I lost my first set of teeth. I listened to and played jazz but loved R ’n’ B too.”
She was inspired by the master drummers and “I met them and hung out with them all because my dad, a musician like my grandfather, knew them all, particularly Papa Jo Jones.
“I sat in with Max [Roach], Art [Blakey], Roy [Haynes] and Buddy Rich got me my first endorsements.” Her first professional gig was with the Duke Ellington trumpeter Clark Terry and at 18 she began to play with him regularly.
The great drummer Roach, who campaigned tirelessly through his music for civil rights, was a major influence. “I found Max’s work inspiring,” she says, “as well as all of the other musicians who focused on social justice.
“I’ve never been able to separate my music from my being — not so much about my drumming, as much as it is about my writing and production.”
Another inspiration has been her “good friend” Angela Davis, who wrote the sleeve notes of her epochal album Jazz is a Spirit and whose voice contributed to another, Mosaic.
“Echoes of the past are always reverberating in the present,” she says.
“Resistance is a big part of our history and a part of the spirit of jazz itself. We are channelled from our ancestors and evolving from a past that never leaves us, although the foundation of anything I offer musically is the sum total of whatever I am or whatever I’m feeling at any given moment.”
Profoundly contemporary and musically mature, Waiting Game is a album which alerts its listeners in its lyrics that “complacency has a price” in the age of Trump.
“How long can freedom wait/ Before we hear it ring?” it asks and its track titles — Trapped in the American Dream, No Justice (for Political Prisoners) or the heavily ironic Pray the Gay Away — make its themes explicit.
“We have to comment truthfully on what we feel and what we experience,” she declares. “Others will identify with that and find it inspiring, yet others will be disturbed.
“It will serve as a reachable moment for some. So we do what we can and hope it has a ripple effect. These issues are universal, so citizens of many countries can identify with them.”
Go and hear her with Social Science and be prepared to be provoked, moved and inspired.
Waiting Game is released on Motema Records. Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science play Kings Place in London on November 15 and 16, box office: kingsplace.co.uk.