Pioneer jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton recalled in his last years that when he began playing in the 1890s, "the piano was considered to be a girl's instrument." It remained, until recently, almost the only option aside from singing for a female wishing to embark upon a career of jazz performance.
But the times they are a-changing. Last night at a Bliss Alley "Stars of the Future" session, several young musicians proved that not only have the sex barriers been discarded, but the age restrictions as well.
Terri Lyne Carrington is not yet 14, but if you close your eyes, you can believe you're hearing a drummer of professional stature a decade order. Growing up in a musical family in Medford, Mass., she began intensive study of the drums when she was 7.
With remarkable technique in several extended sols, she delivered fusillades of one and two-handed rolls across her snare and toms, peppered with rim shots and drenched in showers from the cymbals.
As an accompanist, Terri Lyne was more at home behind the hard-driving tenor sax of native son Buck Hill and the boppish lines of pianist John Coliani than the delicate melodic creations of Howard University student Gerri Allen.
One looks forward to following the career of Terri Lyne Carrington, for with emotional growth will come appreciation of restraint and understatement. But at this point, let's not quibble-she's got the chops and a fluency far beyond her years.
A trio for Philadelphians opened the evening. Fourteen-year-old James Lloyd at the piano displayed a varied vocabulary on "Milestone" and "C James Blues." He, bassist Cedric Harmon, both 16, have learned that the trio that works well is the one that works together.
Notwithstanding all this talent on the bandstand, several adults braved the risks and entered the fray, including two parents of the young performers, vibist Danny Harmon and tenorist Sonny Carrington.
Keter Betts, who organised the evening, long ago proved that he is a musician's musician. Last night was yet another demonstration of his virtuosity and inventiveness, both as bassist and impresario.