Sun ra arkestra angels and demons at play

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By Stef

" To Women " is the title of a track of the recently reviewed duo album of Eve Risser and Kaja Draksler, two women who have coloured our musical universe in the past few years, with their personal and visionary approaches to their music and instrument. I wanted to add my comments on Joëlle Léandre's plea for more gender diversity and openness to more adventurous music with regard to the French "Victoires du Jazz" awards.

But before going into the gender debate, let's take a step back. Let's give a little perspective on bias.

This is my personal opinion. And it is true of any selection of art material. Earlier this year, the BBC produced a list with the 100 greatest comedies of all time . I am not a film critic, but anybody going through this list will immediately notice that its perspective is extremely narrow. With the exception of Jacques Tati and Pedro Almodovar, all these movies are coming from the US or the UK. Even if the US and the UK are great movie countries, this cannot be correct. There are at least another 100 movies from other countries that could figure on the list. What is the problem? The makers of the list are all Brits, and the likelihood that they have seen only English movies is much higher than the movies of let's say Emir Kusturica,  Jûzô Itami, Alfonso Cuaron, Bruno Dumont, Roberto Begnini, Anders Thomas Jensen, Aki Kaurismäki, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and many others. 

So a lot of worthwhile information is not shared because the authors of the list are not even aware of what's happening out there, because they're culturally biased. They have a very narrow perspective from which to judge the world. It's the same with the Best Books of the year lists which are coming up in many newspapers. If you trust the The Guardian's list  of the 100 best novels ever written, 83 of them were written in English. This cannot be! This is impossible. By any measure. 

This is the same narrowness of perspective that we're fighting against. The editors of these lists are themselves blind to what determines their choices. They think they can judge in all honesty about movies and novels, unaware that they've missed some wonderful movies and books in other languages. Anybody looking at this list from outside the US or the UK will notice that this is almost by definition impossible. It is the narrow perspective of people living in their own narrow world evaluating a topic that is much vaster, and probably more interesting, than they are living in. Most people are blind to the biases of the group they belong too. And if the BBC and The Guardian already suffer from it, you can guess what lesser media will produce. It is extremely difficult for the dominant perspective to even reflect on this, and accept that there is a bias.  

Music, luckily, is less language sensitive. Yet the same thing happens, in terms of gender, in terms of geography. The ideal for us would be to throw our net as wide as possible and capture any kind of music, from any part of the world that fits with our exploratory and adventurouss tastes, and that we have the time to listen to it all and then to evaluate in earnest. In reality, we have a bias to listen with more attention to musicians we know, because we have seen them perform, because we have met them, because we have heard of them more than about others. As a result, proximity and familiarity will cloud judgment. 

We want to overcome these biases, and we welcome anybody to challenge us. Open ears also means to be open to sounds beyond what is expected, and cherishing the wonderful diversity of music that is out there. But broadening your own perspective takes effort. It requires a willingness to listen, a willingness to listen to what is outside your usual habitat. 

The amazing thing with the French "Victoires du Jazz" awards in question is that France has good musicians, both male and female, and some of them are really trend-setters today. 

Here is a list of all the women musicians we wrote about this year (and I may have missed some) and the list of musicians from whom we received music or saw perform without reviewing. 

When you look at the list, it is almost impossible that not one single woman would figure on the list of best albums of the year. Suppose that we came up with a list of European white males between 40 and 50 years old, something would be terribly wrong. I'm sure it won't. 

Here's "To Women". 

Women musicians reviewed during the year

Jaimie Branch
Susana Santos Silva
Alexandra Grimal (France)
Lina Allemano
Lotte Anker
Fiona Lee
Ikue Mori
Sylvie Courvoisier
Okkyung Lee
Maria do Mar 
Maria Radich 
Satoko Fujii
Kaja Draksler
Eve Risser (France)
Marina Džukljev
Mette Rasmussen
Mary Halvorson
Kate Gentile
Laura Cannell Sylvie Courvoisier
Elisabeth Coudoux
Magda Mayas
Marta Zapparoli
Ina Sagstuen
Natali Abrahamsen Garner
Rachel Musson
Lisa Mezzacappa
Silvia Bolognesi 
Mazz Swift
Emmanuelle Waeckerlé
Maya Homburger
Paula Shocron
Zena Parkins
Aine O'Dwyer
Eva Lindal
Catharina Backman
Carin Blom
Sofia Jernberg 
Tomeka Reid
Svetlana Spajic
Dragana Tomic
Isabelle Duthoit (FR)
Viv Corringham
Kris Davis
Joëlle Léandre (FR)
Angélica Castelló
Marcela Lucatelli
Angelica Sanchez
Jessica Kenney
Vilde Sandve Alnæs
Inga Margrete Aas
Gunda Gottschalk
Julia Robert 
Agnès Vesterman
Biliana Voutchkova
Irene Kepl
Sara Schoenbeck
Vanessa Rossetto
Nora Krahl 
Maria da Rocha
Carmen Rothwell
Julia Úlehla
Heather Leigh
Nicole Mitchell
Aki Takase
Ingrid Laubrock
Joana Gama
Yoko Ikeda
Aya Naito 
Jane Ira Bloom
Cristina Abati
Ig Henneman
Sylvaine Hélary (FR)
Sophie Bernado
Fanny Lasfargues
Pauline Oliveros
Anna Webber
Patricia Brennan
Dina Maccabee
Myra Melford
Geri Allen
Renée Baker
Elisabeth Harnik
Lauren Newton
Christine Abdelnour
Not (yet) reviewed

Ada Rave  
Airelle Besson (FR)
Alessandra Novaga  
Angharad Davies
Ann Noel  
Anneleen Boehme
Aude Romary (FR)
Audrey Lauro
Anat Cohen
Beatrice Dillon  
Camille Emaille  (FR)
Camille Thurman  
Céline Bonacina (FR)
Christine Wodrascka (FR)
Dana Jessen
Diane Moser
Ellen Andrea Wang
Ellen Arkbro  
Els Vandeweyer
Eva-Maria Houben  
Franziska Baumann
Géraldine Laurent (FR)
Monika Brooks  Laura Altman Hanna Paulsberg
Hélène Breschand (FR)
Hélène Labarrière (FR)
Irene Aranda
Lucia Martinez
Ingrid Schmolliner
Irene Kurka 
Izabela Kałduńska
Josephine Davies
Julia Reidy
Karoline Leblanc
Kate Carr
Kate Mohanty
Kathleen Tagg
Sarah Bernstein
Christina Stanley
Tara Flandriau
Lea Bertucci
Linda Catlin Smith
Linda May Han Oh
Maria De Alvear
Maria Merlino
Marianne Tilquin (FR)
Marta Sanchez
Martina Verhoeven
Miya Masaoka  
Moniek Darge
Natalia Kamia
Natalia Mateo
Natasha Barrett
Mimi Solomon
Olivia Block
Paula Shocron
Prune Becheau
Rosalind Hall
Judith Hamann
Fay Victor
Sarah Davachi
Sarah Hennies
Sarah-Jane Summers 
Silke Eberhard
Sophia Domancich (FR)
Sophie Agnel (FR)
Sophie Alour (FR)
Susanne Abbuehl
Tania Chen
Vanessa Rossetto
Yannick Peeters
Yoko Miura

Alison Blunt
Hannah Marshal
Ute Wasserman
JD Zazie
Andrea Neumann
Marylyn Crispell
Annette Krebs
Anna Kaluza
Liz Allbee

Here, risk-taking—be it in the form of harmonic and rhythmic deconstructions of pop music or fighting for gay rights in less than hospitable surroundings—was a central topic of conversation amongst those artists, musicians and curators whose work is more than just a way to make a living. But what is artistic risk? Is it being unafraid to embrace improvisation and play wrong notes? Is it channeling a unique musical voice that teeters between brilliant and embarrassing?

In 1934 Blount was offered his first full-time musical job by Ethel Harper—his biology teacher from the high school, who had organized a band to pursue a career as a singer. Blount joined a musicians' trade union and toured with Harper's group through the US Southeast and Midwest . When Harper left the group mid-tour to move to New York (she later was a member of the modestly successful singing group the Ginger Snaps ), Blount took over leadership of the group, renaming it the Sonny Blount Orchestra. They continued touring for several months before dissolving as unprofitable. Though the first edition of the Sonny Blount Orchestra was not financially successful, they earned positive notice from fans and other musicians. Blount afterward found steady employment as a musician in Birmingham.

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Sun Ra Arkestra Angels And Demons At PlaySun Ra Arkestra Angels And Demons At PlaySun Ra Arkestra Angels And Demons At PlaySun Ra Arkestra Angels And Demons At Play