Interview: Sharel Cassity on Elektra, Gender in Jazz Instruction, and her Favorite Albums

Sharel Cassity performs this week at Dizzy's as part of the Generations in Jazz Festival.

News | Sep, 6th 2016

When adventurous saxophonist and composer Sharel Cassity performs this Wednesday, Sept. 6, at the Generations in Jazz Festival, she'll be convening her new band Elektra for the first time at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. We spoke to Cassity about the band's electrified background, the jazz legends that mentored her, and the albums that changed her life.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: For your show, there’s a focus on grooves and electric bass. Why did you start this project?

Sharel Cassity: I looked at it as a way to expand my palette. There’s a lot of music that I don’t get to play that relates to society today. I wanted to create music that relates to the time we’re in in a way that reaches people without sacrificing the art.

JALC: Why the name Elektra?

SC: Because it’s an electric bass group and it has a lot of women musicians in the group.

JALC: Your band has had a rotating cast of musicians so far. What are you looking for in its composition?

SC: I’m looking for people who are able to play not only straight-ahead jazz but pocket and groove and different styles of music. People that are very flexible musicians. With that comes diversity and everyone brings to the table what they do best.

JALC: Do you think there’s a need for increased mentorship for aspiring female jazz musicians?

SC: We need female mentors for young girls AND boys. We need both genders to see and be inspired by women as well as men, so that there's more respect and admiration for women as part of the music. I also feel many educators still don't naturally consider girls as successful prospects in jazz so they aren't as supportive, strict, or mentoring with them as they are with the boys. And I feel the male students also sense that from an early age. It would also be nice if we could stop stereotyping instruments as male or female instruments, especially in the early educational years.

JALC: Who are your mentors?

SC: Jimmy Heath, James Moody, John Lee, Vincent Herring, Ingrid Jensen, Antonio Hart, and Victor Goines.

JALC: Albums that changed your life?

SC: A Love Supreme by John Coltrane and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

JALC: If you could form a super group of five musicians, alive or dead, who would they be?

SC: Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride, Brian Blade, Woody Shaw, and myself.

Don't miss Elektra's performance! Reserve your seats now.

read more

This September, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola will once again host the Generations in Jazz festival, showcasing living legends and up-and-coming stars like Jimmy Heath, Dave Holland, Marilyn Maye, Ben Wendel, Joanne Brackeen, and Joey Alexander.

read more

Learn more about tenor saxophonist Julian Lee, who'll be hosting Late Night Sessions at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola for the entire month of September.


Duke Ellington

The Essential Ellington: How Duke Ellington Changed Jazz Forever

Nobody in the history of jazz expressed himself more freely; or with more variety, swing, and sophistication than Duke Ellington. Listen to our playlist of essential Ellington recordings and find out how he changed jazz forever.

read more
Nina and Nat

And the Inductees Are… Your Choices for the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame

Find out who the three 2018 inductees into the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame are! All three made an indelible impact on America's music and influenced millions in the process.

read more
Ahmad Jamal - Photo by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Another 10 Essential Jazz Albums

Here's a list of 10 more must-have classics for to round out your collection of jazz records.

read more
Thelonious Monk at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival with his children, T.S. and Boo Boo.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Thelonious Monk, by His Son T.S. Monk

Celebrate Thelonious Monk’s Centennial by getting to know the legend through his son’s memories.

read more
Chick Corea - photo by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Chick Corea: Five Essential Albums

Chick Corea is one of the most influential figures in jazz and one of the greatest living jazz pianists. In advance of his trio’s July 4 performance in Highland Park, IL, at the Ravinia Festival alongside the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, here are five essential albums from his discography.

read more
Wynton Marsalis performs on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Celebrating Spaces and The Abyssinian Mass with Colbert on The Late Show

Wynton Marsalis appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to perform with Jon Batiste, Stay Human, and acclaimed dancer Lil Buck. Check out video and behind-the-scenes content from their performance.

read more

10 Essential Jazz Albums

New to jazz and don't know where to start? With many artists and extensive catalogues of music, a new jazz listener can feel intimidated. We're here to help! Check out our list of 10 albums to get you started on your jazz journey and introduce yourself to some of jazz's great artists.

read more

A Visit to Clark Terry

On December 7, 2014 the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra drove 8 hours on an off day to play for Clark Terry on his 94th birthday. Victor Goines, James Chirillo, Ted Nash, Vincent Gardner, and Walter Blanding recall the day and the impact that Clark had on jazz.

read more


Ornette Coleman

The Department Store Painting that Inspired Ornette Coleman and 5 Other Interesting Facts About His Life

Ornette Coleman led a life as fascinating as his music. Read up on some interesting facts about this jazz legend!

read more
Joe Temperley, by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Notes from the Road: Remembering Joe Temperley

Before his passing in May, Joe Temperley spent 29 unforgettable years as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's baritone saxophonist and its beloved elder statesman. Between performances on their recent mini-tour of Canada, several JLCO members shared their memories of Temperley, who left behind an indelible legacy and a whole lot of stories.

read more

6 Underappreciated Jazz Artists You Should Check Out

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, so we thought we'd celebrate by delving into the careers of a handful of underappreciated jazz artists. Explore the careers of six musicians who deserve more accolades and learn the best places to start with their discographies.

read more