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Female Jazz Guitarists
When thinking Jazz guitar, names like Djamgo, Charlie, Wes, Joe, Pat, John, George come to mind. But why not Emily, Susan, Monnette, Margaret, Amanda, Mary, Mimi, Joyce, Deirdre and Sheryl? These are just some of the great Female Guitarists in Jazz!
Don't be so surprised, the ladies play all instruments and all styles so finding female Jazz guitarists to listen to will not be as hard as you think. In addition, just like Jazz itself began as a convergence of styles, modern Jazz continues to combine and connect elements of folk, World, Rock, Blues, Latin and even Classical music.
Over the decades I have been involved in music I have played with many female musicians but when it comes to the guitar most ladies guitarist play Folk, Country, Ballads or Rock. And in the genre of Rock, ladies are more likely to be seen sitting behind a piano or organ. In the Folk and Country genres perhaps flute or violin. In my town there is a lady who plays upright bass in a Bluegrass band, I have seen them and she is great!
Ladies Playing Jazz
It takes a lot of work to learn any musical instrument so all music lovers should be happy that others invest significant parts of their lives so we can just sit back and enjoy a tune or two. Jazz, as a musical genre, has a dedicated following but like other musical styles there are sub-categories which often revolve around the instrument of the main player or composer. This article will showcase nine female Jazz guitarists so that if you love Jazz music, guitar music or female artists then you will enjoy reading and learning about this selection of gifted musicians. And if you are not a jazz lover yet, why not check out these ladies and download something new to your playlist!
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In Memory of Emily Remler
The most pioneering female Jazz guitarist is the late Emily Remler who played a wide variety of Jazz styles such as Be-Bop, Harp Bop, Standards and Fusion. She was born in New York City in 1957 and started playing the guitar at age ten. That's young for anyone, but the advantage is that by the time you reach your teens you really have a lot of experience on the guitar but as an overall musician.
She attended the Berklee College of Music in the mid 1970s where it all came together for her in Jazz. Graduating at 18, Emily then began her professional career as a Jazz guitarist. She played, toured and recorded at a fast pace but unfortunately she began using drugs and her life ending at the age of only 32 in 1990 while on tour in Australia.
She left a legacy that a lady can play guitar as well as any man and be recognized in the Jazz world as "top shelf."
Emily Remler - Tenor Madness / 1989
Contemporary Female Jazz Guitarists
The world of Jazz guitar is represented by a wide range of playing styles and this is now different when it comes to female musicians. Standards, Be-Bop, Latin, Electronic and Fusion are often merged and mixed in varying ways as musicians explore and grow.
The following group of ladies will expose you to a wide array of contemporary Jazz interpretations. Remember that for each one I am highlighting only one of many albums so you can invest some time learning the discography of each.
From Pittsburgh, PA, Sheryl began playing Rock guitar at the age of thirteen. Her interests changed after hearing the sounds of the great Wes Montgomery. She attended the Berkley School of Music in Boston and is both an in demand performer and contemporary educator of Jazz music.
From England, Deirdre plays mainstream Jazz with The Deirdre Cartwright Group. She is also a regular contributor and host on BBC television. Deirdre Cartwright delivers the goods with straight ahead Jazz!
Joyce is a self taught musician and plays a number of instruments. With a background in World Percussion, she uses polyrhythmic motifs in her Jazz music. She has been nominated for many Jazz awards including Oasis Best Female Artist of the Year. She is based out of San Francisco, California.
A top notch educator as well as composer and performer, Mimi is the Chair of the Guitar Department and instructor at the Jazz school in Berkeley, CA. As one of the top Jazz guitarists worldwide she reminds some of the great Joe Pass. Ms Fox also composes orchestral and film scores which is another very difficult part of the music business. Mimi began playing drums at age 9 and the guitar at age 10. I just like her name, but Mimi Fox lays down some awesome Jazz!
An incredibly active modern Jazz guitarist, Mary studied at Wesleyan University and appeared on the NYC Jazz scene in 2002. She not only leads several groups (duo. trio, and quintet), is a member of several avant garde ensembles. Mary has played alongside many other famous musical artists from Jazz and Rock.
Along with being a performing Jazz guitarist, Amanda is an educator with the National Guitar Workshop and New School University. She holds an M.A. from The City College of New York. She currently performs with a quartet, "Deathblow," an improvisational group, and the Jazz quintet "Playdate."
Margaret is a Toronto, Canada based Jazz guitarist who enjoys World, Folk, Blues along with Jazz. Originally interested in Folk music, she made it into Jazz through the Newgrass genre but now features a slightly more aggressive sound.
From Philidelphia, PA Monnette began playing guitar at fifteen and went to both the Berkley School of Music in Boston and Temple University in Philidelphia. Her influences range from Folk to Fusion Jazz. She is involved in children's education projects and performs with various sized groups. She also specializes in "Ladies Night Out' Jazz events.
This German guitarist began playing at age seven with a nylon stringed guitar. She had trouble because of her small size and stopped playing. At age nine she tried steel stringed guitar and began lessons. Her instructor encouraged her to try an electric guitar and subsequently moved into Jazz. Along the way she expanded into becoming a composer and bandleader. Susan returned to playing the nylon stringed guitar but with a MIDI pickup which lets her play any sound she wants via the computer based MIDI controller. Her overall trademark is a softer acoustic sound.
There you have an overview of nine female Jazz guitarists to expand your Jazz horizons and your collection. I know when I began investigating female Jazz guitarists I thought I might find four or five, so if you are surprised there are at least nine top line female Jazz guitarists then you are not alone.
Keep these ladies in mind as you search for great Jazz music or events in your area.
I leave you with this, "An Unexpected Turn" The Sheryl Bailey 3
© 2012 Robert Zimmerman