Packed with a full house for the last day of their three-day long event, the Stage Door Theater welcomed an excited and engaged audience to JazzArts Charlotte‘s Women in Jazz event for Womens’ History Month. The venue set the mood perfectly with dim blue lighting and friendly ushers who made everyone feel welcomed. This show highlighted four women who are true masters of jazz, playing many jazz standards and a few original works as well. Events such as this one are vital to highlight and support overlooked musicians: in the music world and many other facets, women have often been pushed to the side, excluded, or ignored for their male counterparts. This is especially true for female jazz musicians from all walks of life, many of whom are only now being credited with their hard work in the field. Even today, when asking someone of their favorite jazz artists, it is unlikely for them to discuss a woman. This is why it is extremely important to not only have these conversations, but also to showcase the power that women bring to the jazz community.

Pianist and bandleader Ellen Rowe entertained the crowd effortlessly with her witty jokes and beautiful playing. She frequently requested questions from the audience and gave great detail on the pieces they were playing, often discussing her own reharmonizations of the pieces without “doing any harm” in her words. One of the first favorites from the show was “All the Things You Are” by Ella Fitzgerald. Rowe added her own twist on this piece by reversing the notes in the opening melody, giving this composition a very different feel. It began soft and easy, but the switch into double time gave the piece less mystery and picked up the energy.

The next work, my personal favorite from the performance, was an original titled “Surrender” by alto and soprano saxophonist Sharel Cassity. She explained that the meaning behind this piece was about surrendering to a higher power and reflecting with an open heart. This song had the audience in a relaxed and meditative state as the smooth, longing music played. Despite being a last-minute replacement, drummer Francesca Remigi didn’t miss a beat. For this work, Remigi impressively alternated between timpani mallets, drum brushes, and even a sushi stick to create the perfect blend of acoustic effects to match the quartet. The group played a few more standard jazz pieces before going into a brief Q-and-A session that gave an insightful view into each musician’s life.

The last two pieces of the night were nothing short of phenomenal. “Refractions,” composed by Rowe herself, was written with the thought of light passing through a prism. At first, I was not sure if it was possible to display such abstract feelings through music, but I was proven wrong. This gentle and slow piece made me feel like I was sitting next to a sunny window with the light pouring in on my face. Bassist Marion Hayden shone during this piece and was certainly the backbone of this tune. The last number, “The Pheonix,” also composed by Rowe, left the crowd on a happy note. This inviting tune was upbeat and full of life with driving momentum from every musician, creating a fantastic end to the set. As the piece came to an end, the audience jumped to their feet to give one last round of applause to these talented women.