Reinvention and manifestation

This morning, the 2nd day of January 2018, Dawn Norfleet, Ph.D. wrote:

Once again, some folks are criticizing Mariah Carey’s NYE performance in below-freezing weather. (I say the following not as an MC fan specifically, but as one who thinks about the realities of a changing instrument amidst increasingly rigid and unrealistic expectations of pop audiences.) My question is: how do uber-stars cope with voices and bodies that mature? At nearly 50, it must be difficult for MC to deal with audiences’ super-high expectations that will probably get increasingly harsher and more unrealistic as she gets older. Contemporary pop songs highlight vocal calisthenics of the singer and don’t seem to have much wiggle-room for maybe not hitting those runs or those big notes that catapulted singers into uber-stardom if the planets don’t align that night. So much at stake: uber-stardom yields uber-paychecks.

1mariah gettyimages-630748842_master [Photo:]

So the best mature vocalists do the best they can with what they have, vocally and songwise. Jazz stars who started their careers as teens had to adjust their repertoire, singing styles, range, and approach to the realities of their instrument as the ravages of touring, big notes at all costs, and life wore on their voices. Sarah Vaughan adjusted, and so did Ella Fitzgerald. Digital studio magic ill-prepares pop audiences for even an extraordinary voice like Mariah’s for change and adjustment. Many were not forgiving of Whitney Houston’s voice, in her last years. I wonder what will happen to Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and other post-90s vocalists in the future. I wish MC and the rest of them well, and that they can find ways to keep using their natural gifts in healthy ways that still move people. (((Thank God for the forgivingness of Jazz! I wouldn’t want the pressure of always competing with my 19-year old voice.))) I hope MC continues to train her audiences in dealing with real vox humana, rather than lip-synching. BTW – I think she got through her 2nd song more successfully. Kudos to her for pushing forth. ~ Dawn Norfleet, Ph.D. Musician and Educator

Lauderhill Jazz Jam - jc1On a personal note, I began my singing career at 4 years old at the RKO Lowe’s Theater on Sutphin Boulevard and Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, New York, under the tutelage of my mother, Charlotte Galloway Cartwright, and my dance teacher, the illustrious Bernice Johnson, wife of famed saxophonist Budd Johnson. The first song I sang on stage was Somebody Loves Me in English and French. What attracted me the most was the bright footlights. Those lights lit something up inside of me at that very tender age and I went on to rock stages until November 2014, a month before my 68th birthday.

I had the fortune of being in the Jazz world, surrounded by great musicians like Freddie Hubbard, Cecil McBee, Gerald Price, Shirley Scott, Sonny Stitt, Philly Joe Jones, Count Basie, Sun Ra, Trudy Pitts, Mr. C, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Durham, Oliver Jackson, Dr. Lonnie Smith (not Lonnie Liston Smith), Lou Donaldson, Bertha Hope, Kim Clarke, Dotti Anita Taylor, Nicki Mathis, George Benson, Quincy Jones, George Cables, Cindy Blackman, Artie Simmons, Bernard Samuels, Giovanni Mazzarino, Nello Toscano, Oracio Maugeri, Paolo Mappa, Angelo Unia, and so many more who touched my lives in miraculously musical ways. I traveled on five continents in 20 countries, singing my brand of jazz and blues. The joy I experienced as a vocalist and composer is documented in my memoir – In Pursuit of a Melody (2006).

With regard to uber stars like Mariah Carey, I believe it is important to constantly reinvent yourself and manifest new and exciting experiences throughout your life. The word ‘star’ has tripped up many talented artists. But turn it around – rats – and it can bring you way down. The indignation suffered by Whitney Houston had nothing to do with her singing ability and everything to do with her ability to reinvent herself.

I always taught my students to recognize the importance of being present for the audience. You can sing by yourself in the shower. But when you step on stage, it is to be there for the audience. However, uber stars tend to go one of two ways:

  1. They overstep the boundary of being human and lose sight of who they really are and what their purpose is: Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, to name a few.
  2. They lose themselves in trying to save humanity: Michael Jackson, Prince, Jesus Christ (Superstar), Nina Simone, Tupac Shakur, John Lennon.

My solution to the age-old problem of ageism while being a performer was to create a new reality – I went back to school and earned a doctorate in business. However, too many musicians believe they know everything they need to know by the time they reach 60. Most have no financial plan for living until they are 90. Lionel Hampton could not walk across the stage to his vibraphone, even though, after being pushed there in a wheelchair, he played his proverbial ass off.

I did not want to drop dead on a stage. After 63 years of performance, with a couple of years off for good measure, I decided I’d sung Misty, Take the A Train, and Tenderly quite enough! Lucky for me, my daughter, Mimi Johnson, followed in my footsteps, giving me plenty of opportunities to live vicariously through her. Mimi took it one step further and formed an online TV station – – (MJ = Mimi Joan).

diva jc last manMimi made me an actor in two of her sitcoms, presented me on her talk show The Arts Reporter, featured my books on MJTV HOME SHOPPING BROADCAST, and my recipes on Genius Cooking!  This was reinvention at its best because I was doing it, my daughter was.


Eleven years ago, I manifested Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a non-profit organization with the mission of promoting and advocating for women musicians, globally! Today, we have 326 members with 172 women musicians! We have six CDs of women’s music and we are embarking on several performance projects in 2018 with our musicians. Visit our website and join us at

The point is that Mariah Carey and all the other uber stars have an opportunity to reinvent themselves and manifest something great that can carry them through their later years. Their path may not be like mine. But they can use their artistic ingenuity to develop something special that can help others, while they are helping themselves to cope with the aging process. At 70, all I can think about is the fun I’m going to have getting to 80.

Life is a canvas. Be an artist and paint your life! ~ Dr. Diva JC




Now this!

Now, this!

By Dr. Joan Cartwright

Jazz journalist Lara Pellegrinelli’s recent article Women in Jazz: Blues and The Objectifying Truth (2017), commiserated on the marginalization of women musicians in the Jazz/Blues genre, stating that the cultural assumption is that women are merely the passive vessels for male sounds (Pellegrinelli, 2017).

In response to Pellegrinelli, Terri Lynn Carrington said: When I started teaching and hearing the stories of the young women at the college, . . . I realized just because my experience was not the same as theirs, I am a part of this community and have to work toward or fight for change in any possible way that I can.  I feel great ownership in this art form and know that I belong here, and want my female students to feel the same way.

In a Huffington Post article, Carrington wrote, “On issues of racism and sexism, there can be impatience from progressives, expecting that after all this time everyone should just know better and stand on the correct side of consciousness” (Carrington, 2017).  She continued with, “feminizing or masculinizing music can be counter-productive. The studying, composing, and performing of music should be gender neutral, and I think the greatest musicians are musically ‘gender fluid’.”

I do not agree with Carrington’s statement because I have found few Jazz musicians, and certainly even fewer Classical musicians, who are willing to push forward music composed by women musicians.  My fortune was that Freddie Hubbard recorded my composition Sweet Return in 1983 on Atlantic Records.  Even though his half-German wife, the publisher, did everything in her power to stop the progress of this album because she felt there was something romantic between Freddie and me, which there was not, that composition made it into the Freddie Hubbard Song Book, much to my surprise.  Since then, I have had no other opportunities to get my music performed or recorded by any gender fluid musician, even though I have gifted several male musicians, band leaders, and arrangers with my song book.

In Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (1970), Frank Kofsky expounded on the words of Professor Archie Shepp, an articulate spokesperson for African-Americans. Shepp said, “the United States is culturally backward because white Americans have been unwilling to give credit to African-Americans as innovators of jazz, which he refers to as American realty – total reality.”  Shepp contends that whites “think they have a right to jazz instead of being grateful for jazz as a gift that the Negro has given.”  He said even white Americans in the jazz world “deny that jazz is first and foremost a black art created and nurtured by black people in this country out of the wealth of their historical experience” (Cartwright, 2009, p. 56).

For three centuries or more, white men have used the physical and cultural production of Africans in America to enrich themselves and their families while white women reaped the benefits in silence. White men raped African women, continually, producing a whole new group of people who were sold regardless of their relationship to their white fathers. The transition from cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane to jazz and blues as a money-making venture was as smooth as Smooth Jazz! Festivals and clubs around the world raked in millions of dollars while disowning the very people that the music came from. White musicians and educators dot the halls of conservatories and universities where jazz is taught by rote just like the classical music that issued from European concert halls.

Now, this – white women are complaining that they are marginalized in the world of Jazz. What a surprise. These same white women and their foremothers never found it odd that the music that spoke of freedom for Africans enslaved in America has become the popular music of today, without the input of African musicians.  A survey of jazz educators will result in a very low number of African professors at universities with Jazz Departments.  Professor Archie Shepp at Amherst, Dr. Larry Ridley at Rutgers, Dr. Karlton Hester at UCLA San Diego, Dr. Linda Williams at Southern University, and the handful of African-descent professors at Berklee – Terri Lynn Carrington, Patrice Rushen, and the late Geri Allen do not comprise a long list of instructors that teach the music that actually came out of their communities.

Do white people have a right to perform and teach Jazz and Blues music? This question is moot since white people believe they have a right to appropriate EVERYTHING FROM EVERYBODY and that no one should ever say anything about it in the negative.  Well, my book A History of African-American Jazz and Blues (Cartwright, 2009) discusses how The Music was appropriated, packaged, commercialized, and serendipitously stolen from its originators.  Besides the theft of the publishing royalties of great composers like Duke Ellington by publishers like Irving Mills, who managed Duke’s band for 13 years because African musicians could not belong to ASCAP or manage themselves outside of TOBA, Jazz and Blues musicians of African-descent were exploited in every way possible.

Of course, like cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane crops, Jazz and Blues were new crops that white men felt entitled to exploit to their personal benefit.  Musicians of African descent had no choice because they were barred from owning anything that they produced in the United States. Most prolific musicians died pennilessly and their families rarely benefitted from their cultural production. The following excerpt attests to that fact.

The financial pressures were exacerbated by another familiar pressure which had afflicted jazz musicians right from the start of the music – their reliance on the largely white businessmen who ran the clubs, record companies, management and booking agencies, and, most significantly, music publishing. The shaving of bands’ fees by clubowners and agents, and the practice of managers and agents adding their names to the publishing rights of tunes – and thereby claiming a share of their often lucrative proceeds – had begun early in jazz (Duke Ellington’s manager, Irving Mills, is a famous example, and while Ellington himself was never slow to claim a co-credit on works instigated by his sidemen, at least he had a musical hand in them) and, according to Dizzy, had grown no better by the time of the bebop era.

People with enough bucks and foresight to invest in bebop made some money. I mean more than just a little bit. All the big money went to the guys who owned the music, not to the guys who played it. The businessmen made much more than the musicians, because without the money to invest in producing their own music, and sometimes managing poorly what they earned, the modern jazz musicians fell victim to the forces of the market. Somehow, the jazz businessman always became the owner and got back more than his fair share, usually at the player’s expense. More was stolen from us during the bebop era than in the entire history of jazz . . . (Mathieson, 1999).

So, for white women to declare that they are barred, unfairly, from making a living in the Jazz scene is ludicrous.  White men have maintained control over the cultural production of Africans and they have no intention of relinquishing that control.  The rub is that African men will embrace white women musicians far more readily than they will women of African descent with a few exceptions like Dexter Gordon and Melba Liston.  However, Regina Carter and Teri Lynn Carrington managed to eke out a place in The Music for themselves and their art.

But most women of African descent who appeared on the Jazz scene, until recently, were shoved in a corner, rarely to be heard from.  Some of the most profound of those women were Vi Redd, Jeannie Cheatham, Dorothy Donegan, and Trudy Pitts.  Other talented musicians, like Shirley Scott and Hazel Scott, found favor because they had notable husbands – Shirley and Stanley Turrentine and Hazel and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.  Today, Mimi Jones, Shirazette Tinnin, Lakecia Benjamin, Camille Thurman, Jazmin Ghent, Gail Jhonson, Karen Briggs, and Esperanza Spaulding are making some headway.

Meanwhile, white women are courted by musicians of African descent with valor and pleasure.  For instance, Christian McBride partnered with Diana Krall and Prince endorsed Candy Dulfer (and the two white women in his band).  Perhaps, white women can pay to gain credibility by recording and performing with African-American musicians, while women of African descent cannot make that monetary layout.

As far as sexual harassment is concerned, what is it that white women do not understand about the sexual energy of white men who raped African women during slavery, while their white wives languished in plantation mansions?  Today, white men are being called out in great numbers for sexually harassing women in the workplace.  This is their modus operandi.  Is that to say that African men do not rape and sexually harass?  Heaven’s no.  It is the nature of man to hunt women like prey.

My career as a Jazz/Blues vocalist and composer spanned 50 years.  I remember several instances when I was targeted by male musicians.  However, I was able to extricate myself from the situation or rationalize why that happened.  One white man told me to take my clothing off.  When I refused, he told me I would never be anything but a secretary.  I asked him to call me a cab and went on to have a charmed career, performing in 20 countries on five continents, without ever taking my clothes off for one single opportunity to perform or record.

Maybe I am a very strong woman with principles that do not allow me to cave into the taunting of males.  One of my band members suggested that I engage in fellatio with him in a closet at a New Years’ Eve gig that I hired him for.  I did not speak to him for two years after that and I never hired him again.  Women have recourse.  Sniveling about sexual harassment without speaking out about it means nothing.  It’s a man’s world only because women allow it to be that.

Women fail to create camaraderie amongst themselves.  For 10 years, I have been the director of a non-profit organization that promotes and advocates for women musicians.  It is like pulling teeth to get women to support this organization.  They think that supporting Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. detracts from who they are.  Women are not joiners or supporters unless they think they will get something from an organization.  They expect me to be their agent, to get them gigs, to promote them even though they refuse to pay $50 dues per year.  That’s insane.

I spent the last six years writing my dissertation Women in Jazz: Music Publishing and Marketing. My research showed that women lack sufficient business skills to succeed in the monstrously competitive world of Jazz.  Most women musicians resign themselves to teaching rather than concentrating on branding, networking, teamwork, negotiation, and accounting.  Few are adept at writing grant proposals to win financial awards to produce and perform original music.

Then, there are those that know my organization exists but minimalize it because I am not a white woman.  Well, Blues and Jazz came from the experience of African women and men in America, and just because white musicians think they own it, they never will.  They may play all the riffs and copy all the solos of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Marylou Williams, Hazel Scott, Melba Liston, and other prolific Jazzwomen but they will never understand the burden that led to the expression of the Blues and, subsequently, Jazz.

White people harm each other – yes – but the harm they did to Africans in America was counteracted by the Blues and Jazz and they can never understand the full meaning of that because they are unwilling to give credit to African-Americans as innovators of jazz, which [Shepp referred] to as ‘American realty – total reality.’  As Shepp contended, whites ‘think they have a right to jazz’ instead of being grateful for jazz as a ‘gift that the Negro has given.’  He said even white Americans in the jazz world ‘deny that jazz is first and foremost a black art created and nurtured by black people in this country out of the wealth of their historical experience’ (Mathieson, 1999).


Carrington, T.L. (2017).  Sexism in jazz: Being agents of change. Retrieved from

Cartwright, J.  (2009).  A history of African-American jazz and blues. FYI Communications, Inc. (

Cartwright, J. (2017). Women in Jazz: Music Publishing and Marketing. FYI Communications, Inc. (

Mathieson, K. (1999). Giant steps: Bebop and the creators of modern jazz, 1945-65. Retrieved from

Pelligrinelli, L. (2017).  Women in jazz: Blues and the objectifying truth. Retrieved from

Dr. Joan Cartwright is a Jazz/Blues vocalist, composer, and author of books on Jazz and Blues and Women in Jazz and Blues. She is the founder of Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes and advocates for women musicians, globally!


Jazzwomen Directory

To date, 96 women are listed in our Jazzwomen Directory


Feel free to click on the links, watch the videos of our Amazing Musicwomen Presentation, and please share with others.

Join our global organization that promotes women musicians:


Listen to the archives of over 275 podcasts with women composers:


Listen and purchase our 6 CDs of women composers:



Music – Work or Play

jcbahamas7aMusic: Work or Play?
By Professor Joan Cartwright
[March 25, 2016] Most musicians begin their careers at four or five years old and continue until they die. Does the term play effect people’s thinking about what musicians really do? Does the action of playing music mean that musicians do not work?

In my 40-year career as a vocalist and songwriter, I have run into stone walls getting to the next level. I started singing at a theater in Jamaica, New York, at the age of four. By eight, I was a headliner in the annual Bernice Johnson Dance Recital. Mother doted on my Shirley Temple curls and my outfits of shiny tinsel and crinoline-lined, lacy dresses, not to mention the ballet, tap, and interpretive costumes my parents paid for.

I studied piano with a woman whose name is long forgotten. But her stern face never encouraged me to learn. I was 27 when I met Gerald Price, the musician whose demeanor catalyzed my growth as a vocalist, pianist, and composer. My harp teacher, Caliope Proios, with whom I studied for two years, listened to my life stories as she showed me the difficulties of changing pedals and string fingering.

In the seventies, my formal education involved music, but I dueled my B.A. with Communications, a new department, separate from English. Television production fell under this banner, with radio, journalism, marketing and advertising, while The Medium is the Message (1964) by Marshall McLuhan led me to do everything to get the message out that I am a musician and I have something to say.

For the first 10 years of my career, I was paid to do what I love – sing. But I was told that singing for free at benefits was good ‘for exposure’ by a singer friend. However, I decided that we would get more exposure standing on a corner, taking our tops off than performing at benefits. Finally, I told people, “I can do it, but I cannot ask musicians to work for free.”

After all, I worked (or played) with grown men and women who had children to feed and bills to pay. Every doctor and lawyer has pro bono cases in their filing cabinet that comprise less than 10% of their case load. But a musician, who plays for a living, is invited to perform at benefits at the ratio of three benefits to one gig. This had to stop and I was the only one who could stop it.

In 1990, I traveled overseas to sing in Switzerland, where I was treated with dignity. Europeans do not see musicians as people who play. Music is work. So, I was paid well and given lots of respect. When I returned to the States, in 1996, people treated me better than before I took the step across the big pond. I determined that musicians must leave the comfort of their homeland in order to be appreciated at home.

Ten years later, I had completed a five-month tour of Asia, and people in Atlanta, who never thought of me as a professional before, seemed to take me more seriously. In China, I worked at two clubs, where I did not make as much money as I did in 1990. Musicians’ pay always reduces, while the cost of living rises. That is ridiculous. People think musicians do not pay bills. After all, they spend their lives playing instead of working like other people.

The truth is that musicians do the job that doctors and lawyers cannot do. In one hour, musicians heal hundreds, even thousands of people. The right song keeps a couple from divorcing or pushes them to see that they are not right for each other, saving thousands of dollars of legal deliberation.

Music permeates the planet, bringing joy to all who hear it. People enjoy a concert more than they do a hospital stay or sitting in law office. Yet, they will pay doctors and lawyers extortionate fees and squint, when they get a high quote for a band of four or five adults to perform at a wedding or office party, where they will be enjoying themselves because of the music!

I am befuddled at what people will pay for and what they want to get for free. Learning music is not free. You pay for lessons. You pay with your time to practice. You continue to learn more music. You must stay in front of the pack in order to be seen, heard, and appreciated. Producing music is not free. Studio time is extremely costly. Paying musicians to perform your music is expensive, even if they are your friends. Mixing and mastering music is expensive (up to $100 per song). Duplicating CDs, producing videos, and marketing music runs into the thousands. But getting paid for a gig can be the hardest part of a musician’s job.

Finally, unlike most professionals, there is little in the way of retirement or insurance funding for musicians, who do not belong to the Musician’s Union, which few musicians either can or will afford. Musicians give joy to others throughout their lives and, unless they have a hit song or record, they have very little income to fall back on in their old age. Most die destitute, leaving little inheritance for their spouse and offspring.

It is uncanny. What brings people the most pleasure, rarely sustains those who create it. But the beat goes on and, somehow, musicians find venues where they can keep the music

playing. (918 words)



McLuhan, M. (1964). The medium is the message. Understanding media: The extensions of man. Retrieved from


Diva Joan Cartwright is an internationally-known vocalist, composer, and author of 11 books. She holds a BA in Music/Communications from LaSalle U, in Philadelphia, PA; an MA in Communications from FAU, in Boca Raton, FL; and is a doctoral candidate for a DBA in Business Marketing online at Northcentral University, in Prescott Valley, AZ. Since 1997, Joan has been the CEO of FYI Communications, Inc. and, since 2007, her non-profit, Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc. with 304 members promotes women musicians, globally. In 2016, WIJSF released its 6th CD of the music of women composers. Joan hosts an online radio show, MUSICWOMAN, featuring women composers at Joan’s personal CDs are Feelin’ Good (1995) and In Pursuit of a Melody (2005). She owns MJTV Network with her daughter Mimi Johnson and she is actor in the sitcoms Last Man and The Siblings produced at In 2014, Joan was honored in Atlanta, GA, as the first Lady Jazz Master. In 2016, she was honored as one of the Top 25 Women of Color in Business and Leadership by Legacy Magazine. She has two children (Michael Serrano and Mimi Johnson), five grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. She is retired from music performance and resides in Sunrise, Florida. Currently, Joan is a professor of Speech Communications as Southeastern College in West Palm Beach, Florida.


Diva JC Online:


Travel and Earn

Dear WIJSF Members,
As you know travel is a large part of what many musicians do. Personally, I’ve performed on 5 continents in 16 countries. With 196 countries on the planet, that leaves 180 countries for me to visit.  Places I’d like to return to are Athens, Greece, Taormina, Sicily, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Capetown, South Africa. Also, I plan to visit Tahiti, Santorini, Greece, Fez and Marrakesh, Morocco, and Barbados.
I am now in my 60s, not many clubs, festivals or jazz societies are reaching out to me. But my wanderlust continues.  So, I am now a Referring Travel Agent (RTA) with my own home-based business at, where I just booked my hotel room, when I went to Birmingham for the Steel City Jazz Fest, where I met our member Gail Jhonson with Jazz in Pink on June 7-8. I made a commission on that booking, which is something I NEVER received, since 1990, when I began touring.
When I joined the travel biz in March, I paid $249, plus $50 a month for my website.  Starting on Monday, July 14, YOU can join my team for $99, and you will not pay for the website until October 1 and, if you bring 3 people on to your team, you will pay $0 for your website as long as they remain active.  Check out my blog –
WHY have your own travel site? Go to this link and see what you like best about it.
By the way, our immediate past Vice President Lydia Harris introduced me to Lucretia Daniel, who is our Travel Director.  Lucretia became a member of WIJSF on June 1, 2014. She supported our organization the same way I supported her organization. Now, we are planning a Women in Jazz event at Sandals all-inclusive resort in Turks & Caicos in 2015.
As all the musicians in WIJSF know, living on a musician’s income can be extremely challenging. We all must supplement our income, somehow.  So, I encourage you to go to and, if you see something that interests you, respond to this email or call me at the number below and THANK YOU for supporting women musicians, globally. 
1fyitravel-us-bizJoan Cartwright, Executive Director
(276 members, 148 musicians, 51 men)
FYI TRAVEL, Referring Travel Agent
Support women musicians!


Of course Jazzmen are dynamic.  So are Amazing Musicwomen!

jazzmen womeninjazz

Freddie Hubbard is an icon!  He recorded my tune SWEET RETURN (1983) and put it in his Song Book making me historical (herstorical). I sat at the feet of Miles, Diz, Buhaina, Shepp, Yusef, Rahsaan, McCoy, and Ron Carter, learning all I could about the art of improvisation. I sat with Helen Morgan 3 years before she shot Lee. I AM JAZZ!


Joan Cartwright, Freddie Hubbard, Jerry (owner of Allotria in Munich, Germany) Jeff Chambers, lady, Ronnie Matthews circa 1993

Image       Image

I’ve been in conversations with Ella, Betty Carter, Irene Reid, Ruth Brown, Abbey Lincoln, and Dorothy Donegan. I was THERE at the Blue Note, Slugs in the Far East (Village) with Lee Morgan, Buhaina, Miles, Frank Foster, Charles McPherson, Bill Hardman and Joe Lee Wilson, Village Gate, at the Galleon (Bronx), and the Village Vanguard with Lou Donaldson, Dr. Lonnie Smith who recorded my first demo tape with me that got me gigs all over the European continent. Ellington’s bass player Aaron Bell first listened to my tune “Loneliblue” and said the musicians would love playing it.


Joe Lee Wilson and Joan Cartwright, Brighton, England


With Lou Donaldson at Jazz Inn, London, UK



Joan Cartwright and Dorothy Donegan, Marian’s Jazz Room, Bern, Switzerland (1996)


Abbey Lincoln and Joan Cartwright, Montreux Jazz Festival (1993)


Joan Cartwright and Betty Carter, IAJE Conference, El Paso, TX, 1993

In Philly, Gerald Price taught me composition and piano, and in New York, Barry Harris was my teacher on piano and vocals. Budd Johnson was my babysitter from 4-8 years old. Milt Hinton (The Judge) was my cousin’s Godfather and he got me my first gig in Berne, Switzerland, at Marion’s Jazz Room, in 1990. I sat on Jay McShann’s lap and asked him to marry me. I proposed marriage to Quincy Jones just before I interview him for my Master’s Thesis, The Cultural Politics of Commercial Jazz, in 1993, which explained why I had to go to Europe (1990-1998) to make a living. In July 2013, I gave my book A History of African American Jazz and Blues to Quincy with the interview I did of him in 1993, 20 years earlier, in the exact same building – Stravinsky Hall, in Montreux, Switzerland [photo].

I AM Jazz!


With Quincy Jones, Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, at Claude Nobs’ Chalet, 1993

I am the Chronicler of this music. While everyone else was PLAYING, I was documenting it. I met Quincy Troupe, co-writer of Miles’ biography. I penned lyrics to A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, TUNE UP, BLUE BOSSA, and BESSIE’S BLUES and sang them all over Europe, the East Coast of the USA, and in China and Japan. I Am the female Jazz Messenger, who sang on Jazzmobile with Buhaina, Frank Foster, Frank Wes, George Coleman, and Charles McPherson. The first person to take me on the road was Philly Joe Jones, who took me to Baltimore to perform with Shirley Scott, Arthur Harper (bass), and Sonny Stitt, in 1978. I AM the only woman in the world with a Jazz and Blues Song Book that I submitted to the Guinness Book of Records.

JoanCartwrightSongBook               jc-historybook

Google me – But, more importantly, I am the foremost authority on Women in Jazz and Blues and I will not be quieted about the role of women as the Mothers of the Blues and the innovators of Jazz.  That’s why, in 2007, I founded to promote women musicians, globally! That’s why, since 2008, I’ve interviewed over 200 women composers at

amazing_musicwomen_softcover   amazing_musicwomen_hardcover

That’s why I created the Jazzwomen Directory  that features 90 women musicians that most musicians, let alone people, do not know about and I put 40 of them in my book Amazing Musicwomen that I taught over 10,000 students (3-12 grade and college) in the U.S., Switzerland, Sicily, China, and Japan about.


Hear me SCAT!

Joan Cartwright and Dizzy Gillespie, Sunfest, West Palm Beach, FL 1985

Joan Cartwright and Dizzy Gillespie, Sunfest, West Palm Beach, FL 1985

READ my books:

In Pursuit of a Melody by Joan Cartwright  In Pursuit of a Melody


Symposium on Women in Arts

These points people need to be aware of:
  • Women benefit from 1-5% of public funding of the Arts. WIMUST Report
  • Women pay 53% of the taxes on the planet but make 64-75 cents on the dollar men make
  • Women contribute 93% of their income to their families. Men contribute 43% to their families.
  • Of 134 NEA Jazz Master Awards since 1982 with a $25,000 honorarium, only 15 women received this award
  • Lilly Ledbetter’s Fair Pay Restoration Act, signed by Pres. Obama in 2009 does not include women musicians
This is the interview that I talk about why I founded Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc.
Check out these women, also:
  1. Girls In The Band a film by Judy Chaikin interview on my show MUSICWOMAN Radio
  2. Ellen Seeling, Montclair Women’s Big Band (CA) See this video I made of interview on KCBS with Ellen Seeling:
  3. Dotti Anita Taylor former President of IWJ (NY)
  4. Nicki Mathis, founder of The Many Colors of Women (Conn.)
  5. Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, filmmaker
  6. Patricia Adkins-Chiti, President of Fondazione Adkins-Chiti: Donne in Musica and photos of women composers in Europe last July 2014 at the WIMUST Conference
  7. See the WIMUST Report
On May 2, in Atlanta, I will be honored as the Lady Jazz Master @
(PLEASE VOTE FOR ME as composer and for our 4th Compilation CD at this link:


Blues Women: First Civil Rights Workers


The African voice inspired instrumentalists.  Vocalese was a dialogue between vocalists and instruments.  Each person had an individual sound and instrumentalists imitated the voice’s cries, growls, moans, slurs, whispers, shouts and wails.  Blues was the element of American subculture created by enslaved Africans, singing European music.  Considered crude by classical listeners, Blues liberated singers from precise pitch and calculated rhythms of European music.  Black singers emerged from Spirituals and Blues to develop Jazz.  Their free-spirited songs delivered messages of liberation, signaling to Africans in America that they could be free.  Blues women were the first civil rights workers because their songs symbolized liberty in its rawest form by tapping into the human spirit.  Angela Davis recounted Marx and Engles’ observation that art as “a form of social consciousness [awakens] . . . those affected by it to . . . transform their oppressive environments” (Davis, 1999).  Blues were popularized by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (Columbus, GA, September, 1882 – December 22, 1939), The Mother of the Blues (Cartwright, 2008, p. 9).  A spokesperson for black people, she was a hero to them.  She recorded hundreds of songs on Paramount, putting that recording company on the map.  The most popular Blues singers established a rapport and rhetoric with the crowd.  Ma Rainey took Bessie Smith under her wing and Blues tradition developed as one followed another.

This book Amazing Musicwomen has lots of information about Billie HolidayElla FitzgeraldDinah WashingtonMarian McPartland, Peggy Lee, Toshiko AkiyoshiAlberta Hunter, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and other Musicwomen. Musicwoman Radio and Musicwoman Magazine tell the stories of Amazing Musicwomenwho paved the way for vocalists, song stylists, singers, composers, and instrumentalists. Their songs are from The American Song Book that includes original songs like Alberta Hunter’s “Downhearted Blues”, “Handy Man”, and “Rough & Ready Man” plus songs of Broadway composers of the early 1900s, Duke Ellington, Billie Strayhorn, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Fats Waller, and Broadway composers Michel LeGrande, Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach and Isaac Hayes. [NOTE, after Alberta Hunter, the absence of women composers. Who were they? Does anybody know?] OK, Barbra Streisand, Carol King, Carly Simon, Roberta Flack, and who else?

Buy the book

Buy the download


Cartwright, J. (2008).  Amazing Musicwomen.  FYI Communications, Inc.

Davis, A.Y. (1999).  Blues legacies and black feminism. New York: Random House.

©2014 Joan Cartwright, M.A.