One of the many highlights of the 40th Detroit Jazz Festival was a freewheeling conversation in the Talk Tent between three charismatic female vocalists. The eldest, 91-year-old Sheila Jordan (still a mere 90 at the time of this interview), is a Detroit native who burst onto the New York scene in the ’50s, struggled through several subsequent decades, then finally achieved broader recognition as a senior citizen, part of a delightful second act that continues to this day. Dee Dee Bridgewater, 69, grew up in Flint, Mich.; her talent and ambition as both an artist and an entrepreneur have been an inspiration to countless others for nearly 50 years. The baby of the trio, 25-year-old Veronica Swift, doesn’t have as much of a Michigan connection, but she’s been making waves aplenty with her confidently poised 2019 Mack Avenue debut album Confessions. An edited transcript of their discussion, moderated by music writer Veronica Johnson, follows. Thanks to the Detroit Jazz Festival for allowing us to transcribe and publish it.
Veronica Johnson: I want to start off with a question that’s been a hot topic when it comes to this genre—what do you think about the state of women in jazz now? Do you think there’s no longer a need to discuss gender equality in jazz, or are there still strides that need to be made when it comes to women being in jazz?