Terri Lyne Carrington

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Terri Lyne Carrington is a Grammy-winning drummer, percussionist, composer, bandleader, and producer. Her signature and often-emulated funky drumming style has been applied to many different settings, from jazz and soul to rock, blues, and crossover classical music. She is among the first significant female drummers in jazz. After beginning her recording career with bassist Rufus Reid’s trio, she released Real Life Story, her Grammy-nominated leader debut, in 1989. She spent the next 12 years as one of jazz’s most in-demand drummers. After leading 2002′s Jazz Is a Spirit, she began working regularly in that capacity. In 2011, she issued the Grammy-winning The Mosaic Project that straddled jazz and R&B with an all-star band of women players and singers. The following year she won a Grammy for Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue. In 2015, she issued Mosaic Project: Love and Soul, and in 2019, with new band Social Science and a dozen guests, she released the politically themed The Waiting Game. Showcasing songs by women composers, Carrington earned yet another Grammy Award for 2022′s New Standards, Vol. 1.
Born in 1965, Carrington grew up in Medford, Massachusetts in a musical family with a mom who played piano and a dad who played jazz saxophone. Her grandfather was also a jazz drummer. It was his drum kit that Carrington began playing at seven-years-old, quickly developing into a musical prodigy. Gigs followed, including a notable appearance alongside Clark Terry at the Wichita Jazz Festival when she was just ten years old. Around the same time, she earned a full scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, studying with drummer Alan Dawson and impressing many veteran jazz players. It was during this period that she recorded an unofficial debut, TLC & Friends, which featured her father, Sonny Carrington, as well as Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, and George Coleman.
Moving to New York City in the early 1980s, she began to get gigs with local musicians before gaining enough attention to warrant another move, this time to California, where she was seen by millions on a nightly basis as a member of the band on The Arsenio Hall Show and worked with Wayne Shorter’s late-’80s band. She released her debut recording as a leader, Real Life Story, on Verve Forecast in 1989, picking up a Grammy nomination in the process. Into the ’90s, Carrington continued working steadily, playing and recording with luminaries like Patrice Rushen, Dianne Reeves, Mulgrew Miller, and Herbie Hancock, among many others.
At the turn of the century, her second solo album began to take shape and was eventually released in 2002 as Jazz Is a Spirit. Two years later, she delivered Structure, featuring the similarly funk- and post-bop-inclined saxophonist Greg Osby. In 2007 she accepted a professor’s appointment at her alma mater, the Berklee College of Music.
Carrington returned in 2009 with More to Say...Real Life Story; it featured an all-star lineup of guests including George Duke, Everette Harp, Kirk Whalum, and Walter Beasley, and then up-and-coming trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. In 2011, she released The Mosaic Project, which spotlighted several vocalists — including Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, and Dee Dee Bridgewater, among others — and was played by an all-female band. She won a Grammy for the set in 2012 for Best Jazz Vocal album.
After years of being haunted by the 1963 album Money Jungle, from the trio of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach, Carrington decided to record her own radically reworked version with bassist Christian McBride and pianist Gerald Clayton. Her album also featured guest performances from trumpeter Clark Terry, trombonist Robin Eubanks, saxophonists Tia Fuller and Antonio Hart, and vocalist Lizz Wright. In addition to the original set’s tracks, Carrington added some of her own tunes to the mix. Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue was released by Concord in February 2013.
She circled back to her ever-evolving Mosaic Project for 2015′s Love & Soul. The 12-song set showcased an entirely new female band, as well as a large host of vocalists who included Ledisi, Wright, Chaka Khan, Chante Moore, and Valerie Simpson. Carrington spent three years working with a new band to realize her next project for Motema Music.
For the 2018 opening celebration of the Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice, Carrington asked her students to select and perform songs from the famed jazz Real Book — a compilation of lead sheets or scores of jazz standards — written solely by women composers. She was shocked to discover it included only one. As an activist as well as an educator and musician, she has continually advocated for inclusivity in order to raise the profiles and voices of women, trans, and non-binary people in jazz. Over the next four years Carrington assembled New Standards (published by Hal Leonard, September 2022) a book of 101 jazz compositions written by women.
She also founded Terri Lyne Carrington & Social Science. The band was comprised of pianist/keyboardist Aaron Parks, guitarist Matthew Stevens, multi-instrumentalist Morgan Guerin, vocalist Debo Ray, and MC/DJ Kassa Overall. The large ensemble recorded the double length set entitled The Waiting Game. Released in November 2019, its compositions confronted a wide spectrum of social justice issues.
In September 2022, the Candid label released Live at the Detroit Jazz Festival, an archival date from the 2017 event. Led by Wayne Shorter (that year’s artist in residence) the quartet included Carrington, Esperanza Spalding, and pianist Leo Genovese. A week later, Candid issued New Standards, Vol. 1, which found the drummer interpreting 11 woman-composed tunes from her New Standards book. Along with her core band, featuring pianist Kris Davis, bassist Linda May Han Oh, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and guitarist Matthew Stevens, the album featured a star-studded guest list that included Ambrose Akinmusire, Melanie Charles, Ravi Coltrane, Val Jeanty, Samara Joy, Julian Lage, Michael Mayo, Elena Pinderhughes, Dianne Reeves, Negah Santos, and Somi. New Standards, Vol. 1 was named Best Jazz Instrumental Album at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards in 2023. That same year, she re-released her rarely heard 1981 debut, TLC & Friends, recorded just after her 16th birthday. ~ Thom Jurek