Jazz Caliente: The Women Of Latin Jazz

Dec 9, 2016

Female instrumentalists of all types have been part of jazz since its inception, but for many of them getting recognition and acceptance has been a long, hard road.  Even more so with Latin jazz, it seems. Times and attitudes do change, albeit slowly.  

Here are three talented, dedicated, and creative women making their mark in Latin jazz, and serving as mentors and inspiration for an upcoming generation:

Flutist and soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett is based in Toronto, but has traveled to Cuba with her trumpeter husband Larry Cramer for over 30 years to collaborate with Cuban musicians.  Her latest project, the band Maqueque, is a collection of young, energetic conservatory-trained women who also have plenty of Afro-Cuban music tradition in their upbringing.  "Maqueque" means the energy of a young girl's spirit.  We'll hear "El Chivo" from Maqueque's latest CD "Oddara" on Saturday Jazz Caliente this week.

Brazilian pianist and singer Eliane Elias grew up in a musical family in Sao Paulo.  She started on piano at age seven, and by the time she was twelve, she was transcribing solos from the masters of jazz.  Moving to New York, she was part of the groundbreaking group Steps Ahead.  Don't be fooled by the breathy vocals and the sexy shoes; this woman is a strong and formidable pianist.

Rebeca Mauleón has a huge portfolio as a musician, bandleader, composer, producer and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She's the author of two essential books on the forms and instrumentation of Latin jazz and salsa, and she's a professor of Latin American/Afro-Caribbean music, jazz/Latin piano and composition at City College of San Francisco, and a guest lecturer at U.C. Berkeley and Mills College.  Recently she also took the job of director of education at SFJAZZ.  

I had the great pleasure of watching Rebeca mentor a student group and provide Latin jazz guidance to high school band directors at a Jazz Education Network conference.   She clearly loves her work.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.