10 Female Jazz Musicians You Need To Know

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Though all too often confined to the role of chanteuse, over the past 100 years many female jazz instrumentalists have made noteworthy contributions to the genre through their commitment to musicianship. We line up 10 of the best, from early pioneers like American pianist Mary Lou Williams, to contemporary talents like Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana. Toshiko Akiyoshi Born in Manchuria in 1929, legendary Japanese bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi began playing the piano at the age of six. However, it wasn’t until her teens that she first heard jazz – a record by American pianist Teddy Wilson – and fell in love with the sound. After coming to the U.S. to study at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, Akiyoshi’s career took off. In the 1970s she began incorporating Japanese elements into her sound – a unique contribution to jazz that she is still recognized for today. Akiyoshi was the first woman to be named both “Best Composer” and “Best Arranger” in the DownBeat Magazine Readers’ Poll and was honored with the prestigious NEA Jazz Masters Award in 2007.

1Terri Lyne Carrington

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Widely hailed in jazz circles as one of the best contemporary jazz drummers around today, Terri Lyne Carrington has had an illustrious music career spanning some 30 years. She began learning the drums at the age of seven and was eventually awarded a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music, where she would later be appointed professor. Her touring career has included working with such legends as Herbie Hancock and Al Jarreau, while her recording career includes two Grammy Award-winning works – The Mosaic Project, a collaboration with a myriad of female jazz artists that scooped “Best Jazz Vocal Album,” and her most recent release Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue, which won the “Best Jazz Instrumental Album” in 2013.

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