Terri Lyne Carrington Drums to a Different Beat

Marching to a different drummer is Teri Lyne Carrington and her Grammy-winning CD "The Mosaic Project." Photo Credit: Tracey Love
Marching to a different drummer is Terri Lyne Carrington and her Grammy-winning CD, "The Mosaic Project." Photo Credit: Tracey Love

You know you’re a power player in the music industry when you’re able to pull in heavyweights like Dianne Reeves, Sheila E., Dee Dee Bridgewater, Geri Allen and Cassandra Wilson to believe in what you do and collaborate on a particular project you’ve had your eyes set on for a long time.

These are not just talented musicians to drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. They’re also her friends whom she decided to call on to work with her on the Grammy-winning “The Mosaic Project.” By being in the business for as long as she has, the 46-year-old Carrington has worked with some of the best in the music business.

Carrington put out her first album back in 1989, when she was hitting her stride at the young age of 23, recording “Real Time Story” with the likes of Grover Washington Jr., Carlos Santana, Patrice Rushen and Gerald Albright on the Grammy-nominated CD.

Carrington has also worked with legendary jazz musicians Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau and David Sanborn.   The talented producer and vocalist made some serious noise when she was picked up as the house drummer on the popular “Arsenio Hall Show,” and later on the Quincy Jones variety sitcom, “VIBE.”

During the time that she released “Real Time Story,” to when she put together “The Mosaic Project, her fifth album recording, Carrington has developed enough ties and built up enough clout with fellow musicians to be able to add A-list talents to her projects.

A lot of Carrington’s ability to attract headliners to work with her has to do with her brilliance as a top-notch drummer. Some of it has to do with her introduction into the music business. Sometimes linage has everything to do with it. Her father, Sonny Carrington, was a saxophone player and presided over the Boston Jazz Society. Grandfather Matt Carrington was a noted drummer himself, jamming alongside jazz icon Fats Domino and others.

Carrington said by being great musicians themselves, her father and grandfather laid down the musical foundation for her.

“I don’t think it would have been the same for me if I had not come from that type of background,” Carrington said in a phone interview with News4usonline.com.

Terri Lyne Carrington brings her drumsticks to the 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival. Photo Credit: Tracey Love

That may be a bit of humility coming from Carrington. When it comes to unadulterated talent, Carrington doesn’t have to take a backseat to anybody when it comes to laying it down with the sticks. At the tender age of 11, Carrington had already secured a music scholarship at Berklee College of Music. Berklee College of Music is a world-famous institution known for rolling out Grammy-winning alumni like peanut butter lay on jelly.

Carrington is in good company when folks like Jones, Roy Hargrove, Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Hornsby and Esperanza Spalding come from the same talent assembly line smorgasbord.  Los Angeles will get an up close and personal experience with skills of Carrington this weekend when she jams at the 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl.

Carrington said she is pretty amped up about doing the Playboy Jazz Festival this year.

“I’m very excited,” Carrington said. “It’s a very big deal. I’m extremely excited.”

Carrington is also ecstatic about being able to work with some of the best female musicians around that participated on “The Mosaic Project,” a 14-song CD that she describes as sounding like “more of a jazz record.”

Nona Hendryx and Gretchen Parlato also add their vocal talents to Carrington’s all-star lineup on her latest CD.

“If I had tried to do something like this in the past – like when I started playing 25 years ago – I might have felt limited by the pool of available musicians,” she says. “But now there are so many talented women whom I’ve been playing with anyway – not just because they’re women but because I love the way they play. So it has become easier to do a special project that celebrates the artistry and the musicality of these women.”

In her appreciation for the contributions to music that her A-list team on “The Mosaic Project” brings, Carrington said the CD is about paying respectful homage to these women.

“There are a lot of great women,” Carrington said. “Over the years they were vocalists…Nowadays there are more instrumentalists. It’s good to encourage women to play whatever instruments they want to play. It’s not that many female band players…There are a lot more drummers now, but it’s not utopia. It is still male-dominated. But I kind of have that work in my favor.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1119 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.