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Roxy Coss on Jazz Sheroes

Saxophonist recommends seven cuts from women in jazz who have inspired her

Roxy Coss (photo by Desmond White)
Roxy Coss (photo by Desmond White)

In creating my new album, The Future Is Female, I’ve thought a lot about women and the role they play in the lineage and trajectory, the past and future, of society and of jazz. It’s made me realize how little I still know about the women in the music. If I’m a part of this musical lineage, I need to know who paved the way for me. Some of these artists changed jazz—not just for women, but changed it, full stop—and some took fearless political stands that have allowed me to even exist in this music.

Nina Simone
“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”
Silk & Soul (RCA Victor, 1967)
Last year, when I was working on my album, I learned Nina’s version of this for a project at Jazz at Lincoln Center called Let Freedom Swing, where we teach kids about jazz and American history. The lyrics are still very relevant and timely; those issues continue to be issues for people who aren’t of the straight-rich-white-hetero-male norm. The song speaks to me deeply, and this performance is flawless.

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