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Voyagers Making Headway in Male-Dominated Jazz World


By virtue of being the leader of the all-female big band Maiden Voyage, saxophonist Ann Patterson has become an unofficial representative of women in jazz.

Patterson, a multi-reed player who holds master's degrees in music performance and music education, is suited to the role. She takes tough questions head-on and delivers straight answers.

Asked whether women play jazz as well as men, Patterson first bristled, then responded, "I don't believe that sex has anything to do with one's capability to play jazz."

On the subject of why there are fewer female jazz players than male, Patterson said, "Women haven't been encouraged to be jazz players. And because there weren't a lot of women as role models, it didn't occur to female musicians like myself early on [in our lives] that women did this."

Asked about the acceptance of women in the jazz world, Patterson said she believes things are getting better. "In my own experience, I actually get called because whoever's hiring specifically wants a woman because having one is interesting or because they're consciously trying to give a woman a chance."

Patterson said that giving women a chance was the idea that launched Maiden Voyage in July 1980. "The band was a supportive environment for women musicians who wanted to work on jazz and big-band playing," she said. "The band was also intended to help the situation for women by giving them an outlet, showcasing people like trumpeter Stacey Rowles, and to provide work."

Just back from a brief tour of Japan, Patterson, who lives in Venice, will be appearing with the group Tuesday at the Moonlight Tango Cafe in Sherman Oaks. Other members include a crew of well-knowns--Rowles, Betty O'Hara, Ann King--and lesser-knowns--Linda Martinez, Sharon Hirata, Christy Belicki--who range in age from 17 to 70, and who play with decided conviction and verve.

"I feel proud and honored that they work with me," said Patterson, who is shopping for a label to release some tracks she has self-produced. "There are some great musicians in that band, and we play together really well. It's really thrilling to play in an ensemble where people are really listening to each other. It's a powerful thing."

At the Moonlight, Patterson's group will play originals and standards arranged by women--Nan Mishkin, Kathy Rubbico, O'Hara--as well as men--Bobby Shew, Tom Kubis, Brad Dechter. The material goes from straight-ahead swing to Latin and, said Patterson, "one shuffle rock tune."

"The band was good in the mid-'80s," said Patterson, "but there were certain types of charts I wouldn't play because we didn't do them well. Now there's no limit. The musicianship is better, and so is the soloing capability. Overall, the band swings harder."

Like most big-band leaders, Patterson makes her living elsewhere: working in Etta James' Roots Band, making ad-hoc casuals and occasional studio calls and jazz gigs. "The band is not my life," she said, "but it reflects my life. I try to do it when I can."

* Ann Patterson's Maiden Voyage, with vocalist Rick Michael, plays 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Moonlight Tango Cafe, 13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. $13 cover for 7:30 p.m. show, $9 cover for 9:30 p.m., $9.95 food or drink minimum. (818) 788-2000.

Short Takes: Pat Bass, a veteran vocalist with a rich timbre to her voice and a relaxed feeling to her interpretations, teams up with vibrant pianist Karen Hernandez for an evening of standards from 7 p.m. to midnight Wednesday at Monteleone's West (19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana; no cover; without dinner, $9.95 food/drink minimum, [818] 996-0662).

* Singer Lisa Nobumoto also dishes out tasty numbers backed by her husband, pianist George Gaffney, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday at Chadney's (3000 W. Olive St., Burbank; no cover, one drink minimum per show, [818] 843-5333). On Saturday at Chadney's is Barbara Peris, a singer who arrives from Denver with advance acclaim.

* If your weekend music plans lean toward instrumentals, check out Cecilia Coleman's superb quintet, delivering originals with zest and feeling from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday at Jax (339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; no cover, no minimum; [818] 500-1604).

* And if you want to hear two unheralded but first-rate trumpeters, look up Bob Summers and Jack Coan, playing, respectively, Friday and Saturday, 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., at Monty's Steakhouse (5371 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills; no cover, no minimum; [818] 716-9736).

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