Written by Grant Jackson from NPR
For this 2006 episode of Piano Jazz, trumpeter Ellen Seeling brought her longtime collaborator and the assistant director of the Montclair Women’s Big Band, saxophonist Jean Fineberg, as well as New York drummer Allison Miller.
Seeling hails from Waukesha, Wis., near Milwaukee. She originally wanted to play drums and violin, but eventually settled on the trumpet; her father, who had also played trumpet, was a jazz buff. Seeling’s early years were filled with the music of the big bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, as well as the bebop and modern jazz of Dave Brubeck and Charlie Parker.
Seeling attended Indiana University, where she became the first woman to receive a degree in jazz studies. After graduating, she moved to New York and began performing and recording with a diverse array of musicians, including Luther Vandross, Sister Sledge, The Temptations, trombonist Slide Hampton, saxophonist Paquito d’Rivera and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band (today known as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra).
Along the way, Seeling met saxophonist Jean Fineberg and the two formed a jazz fusion band, Deuce. The group held together after Seeling and Fineberg made a cross-country move to the San Francisco bay area in 1989. In addition to performing with Deuce, Seeling gigged in local jazz and blues bands and backed high-profile touring acts like Phoebe Snow and Patti LaBelle.
In 1998, Seeling put together the Montclair Women’s Big Band, based in the village of Montclair near Oakland, Calif. Seeling hoped to create visibility for talented female jazz players in the San Francisco area, as well as provide a space for these musicians to network. Their first album was a self-titled release in 2005.
Seeling currently teaches jazz trumpet at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as the Jazzschool in Berkeley. In 2009, Seeling founded and co-directed the country’s first annual Girls’ Jazz & Blues Camp at the Jazzschool, featuring a women’s faculty from the Montclair Women’s Big Band.
Originally recorded on June 22, 2006.