When it comes to vocals, I think they may run even. But when it comes to playing instruments, I think men win hands down -- at least, when the genre is smooth jazz. Granted, having a good arrangement, and good accompaniment, goes a long way toward having a knockout sound. But when you cut through all that, and just listen to the one instrument you're comparing -- well, the guys win, hands down.
First, guitarists. We have Joyce Cooling playing "Mildred's Attraction" (she starts playing about 23 seconds in). Now, I happen to like this tune. It's a good tune, and Cooling renders it well. I like other stuff Cooling has done -- "At the Modern" comes to mind. She obviously knows how to play guitar. But compared to Larry Carlton playing almost anything (here we're featuring "Fingerprints" and he starts about 45 second in) ... Cooling is making music; Carlton is living it. He makes a guitar come alive and sing! You would almost think his guitar is itself feeling the emotion with which he's playing it.
|Joyce Cooling, "Mildred's Attraction"||Larry Carlton, "Fingerprints"|
It's the same thing with these sax players. Candy Dulfer's "LA City Lights" is a good song -- I like it. But while she is making music, Nelson Rangell, in **"Turning Night Into Day," is making his saxophone sing, making it feel, making it a part of himself.
|Candy Dulfer, "LA City Lights"|
|Nelson Rangell, "Turning Night Into Day"|
Women play music -- men feel it, and I often wonder if that's because in our culture, men are taught to not show their emotions. Feeling them is fine -- you just can't show them; it's not manly. Letting their instruments come alive, infusing them with their own unshown emotion, letting guitar or sax become an outlet for the expression of emotion might explain the difference.
These are just small samples,but I find this happening over and over. Compare Mindi Abair's True Blue to Gary Barnacle's Northern Lights (the Jazz Masters). Compare Jessy J's Tequila Moon (who's probably the best female sax player) to Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot, David Sanborn, Dave Koz, or Najee... Compare Cooling to Chuck Loeb, Steve Laury, Pat Metheny, Brian Tarquin...
Even keyboardist Patrice Rushen, whose "Almost Home" is a favorite of mine, is on a par with -- not better than -- David Benoit, Bob James, Ramsey Lewis and Joe McBride.
I once made this case for the superiority of male smooth jazz instrumentalists in a discussion group that ran high to liberals and feminists, and was accused of "hating my gender." Not true. I just like good smooth jazz ... and the men who make it!
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**Really, really obscure factoid: Although you won't find it anywhere in the novel, Rangell's "Turning Night Into Day" is the "Our song" for Justin Adair and Briana Farrior in "Storm Surge".