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10 Female jazz musicians you need to know

BY Sammy Stein

18th Sep 2023 Culture

4 min read

10 Female jazz musicians you need to know
In a male-dominated music industry, the rise of female jazz musicians is exciting. Here are just a few women artists you need to know 
The rise of female musicians is impossible to ignore but still, the music industry remains stubbornly male-dominated. I decided to write the book Fabulous Female Musicians, to turn the spotlight on 21 female musicians, united by music and their journeys, challenges, triumphs, and empowerment through their craft.  
Of course, there are many more than 21 fabulous female musicians, but here we look at ten you should see and hear more of.

Arema Arega 

A Cuban singer-songwriter currently living in Barcelona, Arema’s talent has seen her become an artist, an award-winning filmmaker, a designer, and increasingly recognised as an inventive and talented musician.   
Her music combines the colour and culture of Cuba with blues, funk, folk and the traditions of Ethiopia—her mother’s home country. She has worked with many artists and her soundtracks accompany her films that have won awards at festivals, including the Toronto International Women’s Festival. 

Fay Victor 

Fay Victor performs jazz, blues, opera, free improvising, avant-garde and modern classical music. She has worked across the world and collaborated with many top musicians.  
So far in 2023, she has premiered a work for the International Contemporary Ensemble, a composition for violin, and a duo bassoon piece. She has presented three new works for a telematic concert between San Diego and NYC and had a residency at the New England Conservatory. Her latest album release Blackity Black is Beautiful has received wonderful reviews. 

Lyia Meta 

A visual artist and singer with a wonderfully rich contralto voice, Lyia Meta’s tone and range have earned her recognition in a range of genres including jazz, blues, pop and country. Lyia uses operatic techniques to bring pathos and rich textures to her performances.  
She won both Best Album and Best Female Vocalist at the 2022 Global Music Awards, and Performance of the Year at the 2022 Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards.

Petra Haller 

Tap dancer Petra Haller has seen her popularity soar after her album success Shoulders I Stand On, released independently in May, with pianist Meg Morley.
She held a sold-out listening party at Metronome Café in South London and has performed with artists including Cleveland Watkiss, Xhosa Cole, Mark Sanders, Guido Spannocchi, Sam Leak, and more. Recently she performed at the Wandsworth Fringe Festival and produced, curated and performed a one-week concert series.   

Charlotte Keeffe 

From ensembles to orchestral and solo work, Charlotte Keeffe is in demand. Her potential is being recognised and she is sponsored by Serious’s Take Five Talent Development Programme.
The BBC broadcast her Right Here, Right Now quartet’s performance from this year’s Manchester Jazz festival, and her upcoming, Alive in the Studio will be released this autumn on Discus Music. Charlotte’s star is on the rise—watch for her to shine. 

Wilma Baan 

Wilma Baan is a Dutch vocalist influenced by classical and jazz music. She has performed at festivals, including the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague.  
Vocalist Claire Martin produced her acclaimed first album, So Nice, in 2021 and is producing Wilma’s upcoming album for ECN. She says of the singer, “Wilma is such a classy singer. She has great taste in everything she sings and is completely authentic and unique.”

Claire Cope 

A musician and composer based in London, Claire Cope won the John Ireland Prize at the Northern College of Music, and since then has played with many stars as well as forming her own ensemble.  
She has scored for films, performed at major festivals, and recently won a prestigious Arts Council Developing Your Creative Practice grant to compose new music for her eleven-piece band, Ensemble C, which will be recorded early in 2024. 

Emma Johnson 

An award-winning saxophonist and composer based in Leeds, Emma leads contemporary jazz band Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat. Emma won the prestigious Peter Whittingham Award to record her debut album Worry Not, released in July 2021.  
Her album Northern Flame will be released in November 2023 and is inspired by themes of light, quiet strength and resilience of Northern women, past and present. The album launches at Pizza Express’ restaurant and jazz venue in Holborn, London on November 12, 2023 and will be followed by a UK tour.  

Sue Mackenzie

A Scottish saxophone player with a distinctive style. Sue describes herself as passionate about quirky line-ups, experimenting with different sounds and textures. Already an accomplished performer and recording artist, Sue will be back in the US next year recording her second album with Multifarious—her US-based trio with cello and banjo.
She is also recording her project that premiered at the Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival and has an album coming out soon with guitarist Haftor Medboe that she describes as possibly her favourite recording so far.  

Gina Schwarz 

This bass player and composer hails from Austria and has performed in international projects as a member of groups and band leader. In 2017 and 2018 Gina invited outstanding female musicians from other countries to create an international event at the Porgy and Bess club in Vienna.
Her last three recordings were nominated for major awards, and she is one of Europe’s most sought-after musicians.  
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