Jazz Spring welcomes three great female jazz musicians this year

Ida Nielsen & Band, Festival Theatre, 3 May 2019, Friday, 8 pm
Jane Monheit and the Budapest Jazz Orchestra, Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, 4 May 2019, Saturday, 8 pm
Tia Fuller’s Diamond Cut, Festival Theatre, 5 May 2019, Sunday, 8 pm

Jane Monheit and the Song Book

Jane Monheit was born in New York to a father who played the banjo and the guitar, and a mother who sang. The little girl also developed an interest in music, and her mom showed her records of singers whom she liked and whom her daughter imitated with a surprising enthusiasm and talent. Jane’s most relevant memory of this age is are the works of Ella Fitzgerald, especially the Song Book albums.

What exactly are the Song Book albums? Even though my own mother liked tol isten to them around 2000, I just realized that I haven’t ever checked out their story and cultural relevance in the past almost 20 years. So here it is: Ella Fitzgerald recorded eight albums between 1956 and 1964, with diverse orchestras, jazz bands and musicians cooperating on each. Most of the songs come from the Great American Song Book which collects pop and jazz hits from the 1920s to the 1950s.

(c) Matthew Holler

For Jane Monheit, the Song Book became kind of a Holy Book: in an interview, she calls Fitzgerald’s albums of this kind „biblical”. As a child, these were the songs that captured her most from the great singer’s many kinds of works, as these are popular and often covered. She could easily learn them and create her own variant. Then, during her studies of music at college, Jane learned professional ways of jazz, all the technical toolkit she already mastered around the age of 20. Nowadays she claims that the 1957 Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book is her favourite, because this is the least pop-like and the most jazz-like, giving most space for improvisation and creative musical ideas. Or at least her mind thinks so. In her heart, however, there might be a special room for all Song Book albums, and she can always go back to them if she, as Rilke would point out, needs a sip from the bottomless well of childhood.

tIn 1998, she was runner-up at the Thelonious Monk Song Contest. A year later she received her degree, and another year later she published her first album. After nine „orchestral” ones, she released Home in 2010 which was written on her small jazz band and opened the door for simpler, more intimate concerts. Apart from playing jazz, she has been touring around with songs taken from the Great American Song Book, she was jury and mentor at a contest organized by the Great American Songbook Foundation in 2013, and she also juried the 14. Independent Music Awards in 2015, giving a helping hand to lots of early career musicians. Her newest, 12. album has the title The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald, and it was being published in 2016, around the 20. anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s death.

From sidekicks to soloists: Ida Nielsen and Tia Fuller

It is worth visiting not only Jane Monheit’s concert in the first week of May. Two other ladies are also going to play at the Jazz Spring concert series, and they have an interesting thing in common in their career. Both worked ont he sides of great stars for years, and now they can see them as successful soloists on stage.

Bassguitarist Ida Nielsen had been already well-known in her profession when Prince invited her to his bands The New Power Generation and 3rdeyegirl. Nielsen attended tours for six years until the singer’s death in 2016. Her song SHOWMEWHATUGOT was hand picked by Prince on a toplist ont he music platform Tidal. Back then, none of them knew that soon she is going to release an album, containing this song, in the memory of Prince. She is concentrating on her solo career since; although she likes to remind fans how much she learned from the singer, nowadays she is clearly popular on her own right.

Saxophonist Tia Fuller finished her musical studies in the end of the 1990s. Shortly after than, she became a member of Beyoncé’s all-female tour band. She not only supports the singer but also had her great moments as a band soloist, like the time she played for then-president Barack Obama in the White House. We can also hear her like this on the DVDs Beyoncé Experience and I Am… Yours.

(c) Jerris Madison

Apart from Beyoncé, she also cooperated with other musicians in the last couple of years, like Terri Lyne Carrington or Esperanza Spalding, and she’s also teaching at the Berklee College of Music. Her newest album from 2018 is called Diamond Cut – maybe also referring to the many influences and musical cooperations that helped her to a successul solo career with many popular concert tours.