PLEASE NOTE, THE LIVE CONCERT RECORDING DATE IS TUESDAY, MARCH 26TH NOT FEBRUARY 21ST.
HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHO THE WOMEN BIG-BAND LEADERS ARE? HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT WHY YOU DON’T HEAR ABOUT WOMEN BIG-BAND LEADERS? HAVE YOU EVER IMAGINED THAT JAZZ MUSIC, IN THE 21ST-CENTURY, STILL HAS MOSTLY MALE MUSICIANS AS BANDLEADERS?
I am so excited to share with you, that my next recording project is designed to make a contribution toward changing this historical omission, and filling a void.
What is the project about? Creating a woman-led big band live recording, preserving the big band tradition, and supporting jazz gender justice.
THE LIVE CONCERT RECORDING IS SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 26TH AT 7:30 PM. YOU CAN ATTEND BY CHOOSING THE PLEDGE OF $25 FOR THE CONCERT ALONE, OR $65 TO SUPPORT THE PROJECT AND ATTEND THE CONCERT.
The resulting project will be a full album, commercially released, a video of the live recording and photography from the rehearsals and recording. This project employs 20 musicians, and a dozen music and music business professionals, employs four generations of renowned veteran musicians, as well as emerging and student musicians.
Who loves big band music? Lots of people do! And I had no idea of the particular attraction many people have of the songs, the culture and the musicians who play big band music. I LOVE big band music!! The power, the excitement, the range of emotions embodied in 20 musicians, all playing their hearts out together! There is nothing quite like it. And, I learned there is a huge community of people who LOVE big band.
WHY Big Band?! Well, this NY Times' recent article tells us why big band is experiencing a re-emergence. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/arts/music/jazz-big-band-revival.html
As a nod to the great women bandleaders who were singers, this recording is my way of paying tribute. It is a little- known fact that many women bandleaders were mostly heralded as “just singers” but were actually the CEOs of the big bands that toured in the 30s, 40s and 50s. From the all-women led bands like the International Sweethearts of Rhythm to women performers who led all-male or mixed gender bands like Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Ina Rae Hutton, and Blanche Calloway (Cab Calloway sibling), the list of women fronting big bands is long and compelling.
WHY THIS RECORDING MATTERS
But, where are the women-led big bands now!? Women are leading big-bands – you just don’t hear about it often. In the NYTimes article above for instance, those featured and discussed are mostly men (they include one woman instrumentalist). But the singers who front bands are not often looked at as bandleaders, especially if they front big bands. Did you know that Ella Fitzgerald was the official bandleader of the Chic Webb Orchestra after his death. It is often assumed that one of the men in the band is the musical director or bandleader (making the musical decisions) but it often isn't so!
Big band music is integral to the history of jazz, and I believe it is a tradition worth saving - especially re-creating a narrative of a women-led big bands and big bands that have women instrumentalists! This recording is about inclusiveness and seeks to debunk the long history of all male bands, male bandleaders, male composers and arrangers. For this project, the knowledge, the access and the resources are spread across age, gender, culture and ethnicity. Women’s voices are important in the jazz recording history. Why? Because women contribute to the shaping of culture. Without a woman’s perspective our stories about humanity are one-sided.
I've always wanted to record with a big band and this is our chance to make history together. However, the challenges of managing the recording of a big band - the costs of paying 20 musicians alone stops many people from doing a project like this.
I have convened a group of four generations of talented men and women musicians from some of the best jazz musicians performing today. What we will achieve is a recording and live concert experience with the power and sultriness of big band jazz, with some of the hippest musicians around. I'm fortunate that I was able to engage Branford Marsalis' engineer, Rob "Wacko" Hunter (who also engineered my Chronicles of a Butterfly album release and who has won Grammy awards as an engineer and producer) to be our engineer for this project!
The music: great jazz composers who also led bands like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, John Coltrane, Betty Carter, Dizzy Gillespie and others are featured. The arrangements? Superstar arrangers, and newcomers! Some are written by two North Carolinians; the Kinston, NC born saxophonist/educator Brian Horton and Johnston County’s Maurice Myers. Also featured are several arrangements from GRAMMY nominated jazz arranger/trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and renowned jazz pianist/composer Stanley Cowell. Other arrangements are written by pianist/singer Lydia Salett Dudley and myself. In September 2018, I had a big band concert in Durham, NC. What an amazing moment!! Just thinking about it gives me chills (check it out in the video snippets above). That concert performance was for a sold-out crowd and we received a standing ovation!
It has been seven long years since my last album, I Love Myself When I’m Laughing released in 2011! It was also the year that I married my husband Fred Hammonds and became a step-mom and grandma. So much has happened since then...
Since 2005 I have had the great privilege to help train the next generation of jazz singers and instrumentalists as an Assistant Professor, Jazz Studies at North Carolina Central University' Department of Music. It has been a humbling journey. And you know what I learned that surprised me the most? My students are watching my journey to take clues about what their journey could hold. As much as the thought of how daunting the idea of a big band record for this project scares me, I have to move forward with inspired courage. Amidst my busy teaching schedule and working on my doctoral degree, I neglected to focus on making recordings. I miss you, and I'm ready to sing for you!! I’ve been doing a lot of writing and performing in several countries over the past few years. I'm ready to start recording my next album. I want to be an example for my students that women are courageous, and are successful entrepreneurs in jazz. I want to show that we can be a music CEO: create opportunities for other musicians, generate income; foster experience for music professionals, and contribute to the jazz discography. This project has many objectives, and overall will prove that we can rewrite the jazz narrative to include leadership by and inclusive of women! This is where you come in.. .
The Game Plan
We’re officially kicking off my Kickstarter Campaign - For The Love of Big Band, The Album. I will make a record in the same way I’ve always made records—using the best musicians, the best engineers and recording in the best locations available. The record will be recorded like my Chronicles of a Butterly recording which was produced by Branford Marsalis, “live” in an old historic church in Durham, NC where I live. This old historic church, the Hayti Heritage Center has a rich history to the community in which it is surrounded – an important historical legacy where business leaders from Black Wall Street would meet and plan for future generations. It is a cultural treasure and historic landmark, and acoustically superior to almost anyplace I’ve ever performed or recorded.
The only difference with this recording is that we are choosing to enlist the “power of the people” to fund my CD.
For my past couple of releases, the budget for simply producing and manufacturing my records has been around $20,000. And then my record label invests thousands more in marketing and promotion. When I was on an indie label for my earlier releases, these dollar amounts were nearly doubled.
So what I’m reaching out to you for, is to enlist your support so that we can make a great album with this great group of musicians I’ve amassed, awesome arrangers and a spectacular engineer in an acoustically superior location.
Now all we need is you to reach our goal!
WHY WE NEED YOU
Making a record can vary, and producing a record with a big band - 20 - 25 musicians is really reaching for a big vision. To give you an overview of how much we'll have to spend to make this project a success, here is just an overview:
Musicians $25,000.00 (includes fees, lodging, travel, meals)
Location/Venue $1000 (discounted by Hayti in support of project)
Mixing & Mastering $2,000.00
CD manufacturing @ 2000 $4,000.00
Graphic Design & Photography $1,250.00
Videography & Editing $2,500.00
2 day Piano Rental**, Piano Moving & Piano Tuning $1,000.00
**Piano rental discounted from Paul Hopper/Hopper Piano
Ground Transportation for transporting recording equipment* $200.00
*Recording equipment donated by Branford Marsalis!
Radio Promotion $3,800.00
Project Assistants $1,000.00
Reward Fulfillment $3,000.00
Kickstarter Campaign Ask: $28,500
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE EXCEED OUR GOAL?
Stretch Goal of $50,000. If we raise more than our goal, we can keep going! If we reach our Stretch Goal, all that we raise will go toward marketing and promotion, original video content and tour support. Reaching funding beyond the core needs will also allow us to provide opportunity to go out into the community and reach young people with jazz education workshops about big band tradition and youth jazz concerts in schools. This tour support will allow me to do shows in more places and that means I’ll get to meet you out there on the road. All of the funds we raise will go right back into engaging with you, the supporters.
Incentives and Rewards
I think we’ve compiled a cool list of items and experiences to fund this project. Check them out!! I am particularly excited about the house concerts and song commissions! I would love if you can join me at the live recording concert, and look forward to meeting your friends and family, whether at the recording, or if you have us come to your home to perform a house concert!
As a Chicago born-and-bred gal, music has always been core to my personal and family life. This year marks my 20-year anniversary of making records!! My first recording made in 1998 was released commercially and was titled Spirit Child, finally released on J Curve records in 1999. I have been really fortunate to have dedicated folks who stuck with me from indie labels and supported my foray to my own record label, Zenzalai Music. I am so frickin’ grateful for my audience and my dedicated followers! We have accomplished so much together, now it is time to make some new memories!
This is a whole new chapter of my life and career. I can’t thank you enough for your support!
Lenora (Zenzalai) Helm Hammonds
Risks and challenges
Making a recording can be a harrowing process. No matter if the weather prevents travel on the day of the recording, or illness of key musicians or personnel, we have to prepare for whatever happens. I am 100% committed to making sure I get this product completed and in your hands. I am known for being relentlessly persistent, so no matter what, our project will come to fruition and we can enjoy the fruits of your pledges to us, and the great music we will make for you. Thank you again for your support!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)