Ladies First

Where are the Ladies?

I’ve been on a personal campaign for several months focusing on one subject in particular but not limited to that one subject exclusively. It’s a common topic of discussion that I have with my students and friends which concerns an issue that plagues the music, not necessarily from the perspective of the performers (but then, again, perhaps it does…) and sometimes influences the choices that the musicians make in performance and programming. However, unlike many issues that are of importance to the music community at large, this one has a simple and clear solution.

On a few occasions, I’ve openly vented from the bandstand at a few of my shows about how difficult it sometimes can be for me and my mostly male band to play for rooms that are exclusively populated by males. One of the most startling images that I’ve ever had while performing was one time when I was playing a ballad, attempting my best to be tender, honest and emotive – only to finish my solo, open my eyes to witness a room full of beards, hairy legs, unclipped toenails and several pairs of old-ass Birkenstocks and sandals worn by a room full of dudes. With the exception of the wait staff, there wasn’t a single woman to be seen anywhere in the place. The images AND the moment were equal parts startling, horrifying and overwhelmingly discouraging. And, as this had happened so frequently in the past, I felt obligated to take action and address it.

I felt it necessary to end the tune early and picked up the microphone and asked, to no one in particular, “We sincerely appreciate your patronage and support, but does anyone in the house have any females in their lives who would enjoy an evening of live, improvised music? Are there any women in your lives that you could POSSIBLY have asked to accompany yourselves here in an effort to bring some balance to this gender-disppoportionate audience?  Perhaps a landlady, Mother, sister, female cousin, bag lady, roomate, friend – with or without benefits, maybe even an EX, ANYONE! We’re trying our best up here, but this boy’s club mentality has to end now! It’s a tall order for anyone to expect us to perform non-testosterone- infused music for a room full of scruffy guys all night”.




In short, I’ve spoken to a number of friends, most of whom are all in accord that the one-sided gender imbalance (where patronage is concerned) is one condition that has helped to prevent the music from moving forward. Many male musicians are hopelessly preoccupied with “flexing and profiling for their boys” instead of engaging in artful storytelling or attempting to reveal the less testosterone-driven aspects of their character. During performances, some musicians proceed as if it is not considerd masculine to be fragile, sensitive or to employ a broader pallette of dynamics in their work. This type of thinking and performing, along with the lack of a strong female presence at concerts, has done a great deal of harm to the general perception of the music at large and is detrimental to it’s image and it’s ability ot be more universally accepted. 

So guys, please bring a date. Go Dutch, if necessary. Just bring SOMEONE sometimes other than your “bud”. Of course we have no problem playing for whomever will support us, but our ability to express ourselves would be fully realized if we had the support of both sexes.








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9 Responses to Ladies First

  1. St. Paul says:

    Funny, but so true.

  2. Jake Hansen says:

    well most girls i know would rather go to some other show besides jazz, truthfully i’m happy as long as i’m not going to see metal, screamo, or rap. most girls i know will only go to a show if its a band or artist they already know well and that’s the big reason teenagers only really go to auditoium shows (only every couple of years), and plus the fact that almost every other venue in the united states is a bar of some kind luckily there are a few bars (there’s a lot in nebraska) that create all-ages shows, and i know some of my friends have gone to those

  3. Greg Osby says:

    Thanks for your comments, Jake. Perhaps it’ll take patrons of music like yourself that are somewhat more open minded who could possibly serve to introduce the females that you mentioned to the particulars of jazz appreciation. We all know that they won’t attend the concerts voluntarily, so exposing them to some alternative listening occasionally could mix things up a bit?

    The all-age issue is an important one for sure. All of the clubs in NY have minimum age drinking policies but do not prohibit non-drinkers from attending shows, particularly if they are accompanied by someone who is responsible. Some clubs back in the day used to have “peanut galleries” where underage fans could enjoy sets of live music but were restricted to drinking juices, sodas and milkshakes. The revival of this policy would do wonders in terms of luring a younger demographic back to jazz shows.

  4. Rick Louie says:

    I think, in NY, it depends on the venue. There are plenty of females hip to jazz at places like Tea Lounge in Brooklyn, and even sometimes (though, depending on who’s playing) at 55 Bar and Smalls. There are always females at Fat Cat but thats not exactly the best place to watch (or play).

  5. amr e. says:

    wow it seems to be agreat subject keep on going i hope to see more from you

  6. Terry H. says:

    Isn’t the problem you describe a subset of a larger problem with the state of the profession: there is a disproportionately small number of women in the field of jazz at all, and so no wonder so few women listen. Greg: hire two or three women in your band and see if the demographics of your audience changes.

  7. Greg Osby says:

    Terry H. Perhaps you don’t know my history. I’ve always been equal opportunity. I’d had an amazing female vocalist in my band for the past 3 years (Sara Serpa) and had Terri Lyne Carrington on drums with us all last week at the Village Vanguard.

    I’ve always had talented women in my bands and recordings. Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington, Michele Rosewoman, Renee Rosnes, Camille Gainer Jones, Megumi Yonezawa, Sara Serpa, Bemshi Shearer, Cassandra Wilson, Amina Claudine Meyers, Fusako Yoshida, Tracy Wormworth, Glenna Powrie, Haruko Nara, Marlene Rice, Nioka Workman, Judith Insell and several more.

  8. Wow! How sad, I have seen performers every where in this large city I live in and never have I heard this type of crybaby mess, bro. you are on stage where so many of us go nuts to get to and when we do we do our thing for who ever shows up, and then give them all we got, Ive never seen a guy with balls so tiny as to get on a mic and cry to the people like its there fault that your band dosen’t have any female followers thats some real mess, I just performed this past week and we had so many women there that we couldn’t stop spinning around to thank them for there complements nope Im not bragging Im just wondering, why? any musician can’t find women to visit a show or a performance location that dosen’t have women visitors there even befor the band arrives, I did a show once when I was a kid no one came to but that was because the guy that booked it was already known for being a prick and he knew there more than likely wouldn’t be a turn out and that we were to green to check the spot out first. But never again, what the heck dude don’t do that again to yourself I won’t even stoop so low as to give you advice on how to get women to show up because I know any man has to have a clue on that one Im just going to say don’t be that way you have to be a better man than that come-on man.

  9. Jayn Pettingill says:

    This is the first time I have ever heard an artist of your stature mention this topic: it’s wonderful to see this fact addressed. Two brief facts about myself: I am female and I am a jazz instrumentalist. I used to go to jazz and improvised music shows a lot and was often the sole female in attendance. Or, if it was a more “traditional” billing, such as Shirley Horn, there would be women there but more often as dates. As an aspiring musician I was seeking to find a community within the audience I was attending a show with–if that makes sense. People with whom I could talk about the show; parse out what was going on with the compositions, with the band, with technique of the players. Often, I ended up feeling like the one woman who walks into a car parts store–guys notice you and kind of write you of as a) being lost or b) you won’t know what you’re talking about. So yeah, getting women into an audience to hear this music; to begin a discourse about this music; to feel that they are a “part” of the process from being initiators to receivers of this music–is really very important. Thank you for bringing this up. I enjoyed reading your post about this–and as always–have always loved what you do musically.

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