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Terri Lyne Carrington: Trailblazer, Advocate and NEA Jazz Master

Updated March 24, 2023 at 11:19 AM ET

In her more than 40 years behind the drum kit, 2021 NEA Jazz Master Terri Lyne Carrington has built a reputation as one of the most dynamic instrumentalists, bandleaders and composers in jazz. But before she became an in-demand musician, she was a kid growing up outside of Boston, swinging behind the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson.

"She grew into the business with friendships with the masters that you can't believe," says her father, Sonny Carrington, who raised his daughter around legions of jazz legends as the founder of the Boston Jazz Society. Before she turned 25, his daughter had landed gigs with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Stan Getz. Today, she's reached legend status herself. "For me, at this stage, I feel like it's all about the work," she says. "Everything I do is focused, on some level, with a mission."

On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll hear music that encapsulates Terri Lyne Carrington's wide-ranging sound as she joins Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Ravi Coltrane, the late Geri Allen and more on the bandstand. We'll also hear from her mentors, friends and collaborators — including Hancock, Spalding and Jack DeJohnette — as we trace her rise as a consummate drummer, tenacious producer and dedicated advocate for gender justice in jazz.


PDX Jazz Festival:

Terri Lyne Carrington, drums; Ravi Coltrane saxophone; Esperanza Spalding, bass.

Detroit Jazz Festival:

Terri Lyne Carrington, drums; Wayne Shorter, saxophone; Esperanza Spalding, bass; Leo Genovese, piano.

SF Jazz:

Terri Lyne Carrington, drums; Geri Allen, piano; Esperanza Spalding, bass.

New Standards Vol. 1:

Terri Lyne Carrington, drums; Kris Davis, piano; Linda May Han Oh, bass; Matthew Stevens, guitar; Nicolas Payton, trumpet; Ravi Coltrane, saxophone; Elena Pinderhughes, flute

Set List:

  • "Very Special" [excerpt] (Duke Ellington)
  • "Miss Ann" (Eric Dolphy)
  • "Sonnymoon For Two" [excerpt] (Sonny Rollins)
  • "Midnight in Carlotta's Hair" (Wayne Shorter)
  • "Fall" (Wayne Shorter)
  • "Respected Destroyer" (Brandee Younger)
  • Special thanks to Alex Donovan from PDX Jazz.


    Sarah Geledi and Sarah Kerson, writers and producers; Katie Simon, consulting editor; Ron Scalzo, episode mix; Music Engineers: Patrick Springer (PDX Jazz Festival); Timothy Powell and Marshawn Robinson at Metro Mobile (Detroit Jazz Festival); Masanori Yura and Maya Finlay (SF Jazz); Suraya Mohamed, project manager; Keith Jenkins, vice president of visuals and strategy at NPR Music. Gabrielle Armand and Anya Grundmann, executive producers; Christian McBride, host.

    Copyright 2023 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    Sarah Geledi left her job in advertising in Montreal to pursue a career in music in New York City. She fulfilled that mission, producing content for the JAM Festival at WBGO, segments for The Checkout, and programs for WWOZ and PRI's Afropop Worldwide. She also served as a producer for NYC Winter Jazzfest before landing the "job of her dreams," producing radio for Jazz Night in America.
    Sarah Kerson