Regina Carter, Female Jazz violinist

Violinist Regina Carter, originally from Detroit, is a highly original soloist whose sophisticated technique and rich, lush tone took the jazz world by pleasant surprise.

Regina’s talent, determination and capacity for hard work were evident at an early age. She had a passion for music and music education, and the support and encouragement of her family.

The younger years

Growing up, Regina was exposed to a variety of music.She started playing the piano at the age of two and switched to violin at four. Her early influences were mainly classical music. She performed with the Detroit Civic Symphony. “People are only used to hearing violin in European classical music or country music,” Carter once said. She proved to audiences that the violin is capable of playing many types of music—from Latin to Rhythm & Blues.
Regina attended Detroit’s prestigious Cass Technical High School. Upon graduating, she departed for the new England Conservatory of Music, only to return to Michigan to join the all-female jazz quartet Straight Ahead.

In 1994 she started her solo career. She had already been doing session work in the city and sought to make the move permanent. Regina began working with Max Roach, the String Trio of New York, and the Uptown String Quartet before recording her self-titled debut recording on Atlantic in 1995.

Regina left Atlantic for Verve in 1998 and recorded two more outings under her own name, the last of which, Motor City Moments, is her finest session. In 2001, Carter recorded a duet session with Kenny Barron, which has been universally acclaimed for its lyrical qualities and stunning range of dynamics and harmonic invention.

Role models and Mentors

Regina’s role models were mostly male: classical violinists Itzhak Perlman and Yehudi Menuin; jazz violinists Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty and Stuff Smith, and jazz giants like saxophonists Charlie Parker and Ben Webster, and trumpeter Clark Terry. Her mother was her earliest mentor; another was Detroit trumpeter-jazz instructor Marcus Belgrave.

The Jazz wives, the forgotten jazz legends

Talking about female jazz icons everyone knows Billie, Sarah, Aretha and Nina. But there is a large group of Jazz Ladies who worked very hard but aren’t that well known. I am talking about the woman behind the musicians. Who run their husbands bussinesses, took care of their families and were their every step of the way. Let’s talk about Nellie, Lorraine and Lucille. The women behind the Jazz legends Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins.


Lorraine Willes ( Gillespie) wife of Dizzy Gillespie

Lorraine Gillespie -Willes

The couple met in 1937 when Gillespie was playing with the Teddy Hill Orchestra in Washington, and they married three years later in Boston, Marion “Boo” Frazier, Dizzy’s cousin, told The Record of Bergen County.

Lorraine Gillespie was born in Long Branch and grew up in New York City. She worked in a chorus line at the Apollo Theater in Harlem as a teen, and had a tap-dance school in Queens, where the couple first lived.

The trumpeter and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie, who died in 1993, often praised Lorraine, his wife of 53 years, for her financial skills. ”Lorraine knows how to handle money,” he said. ”Without her, I wouldn’t have a quarter.”

Dizzy always gave her credit for keeping him in line and making sure that the Bussiness got taken care of. No way it could have been easy for her, but she did it.


Nellie Monk

NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 1963: Jazz musician Thelonious Monk and his wife Nellie pose for a portrait in November, 1963 in New York City, New York. (Photo by David Gahr/Getty Images)

Nellie was the  prime supporter and muse of the troubled genius, Thelonius Monk. Nellie was amazing. She stuck with Monk through very tough times, basically held his hand as he traveled the world which he was clearly very uncomfortable doing.

Nellie Smith was born in 1921 in St. Petersburg, Fla. She and her family moved to New York City early in her life, first to Brooklyn and then to the San Juan Hill area of Manhattan, west of Lincoln Center, where Monk’s family lived. When she was about 14, she met Monk, who was three years older, on the neighborhood basketball court.

The Monks were together from around 1947 until his death in 1982. She provided financial as well as emotional support, working as a seamstress during World War II in a factory and sporadically making clothes thereafter for her husband and for friends. She never became Monk’s manager as such, but she collected money from promoters, paid musicians, made sure band members had airline tickets and even helped Monk get dressed.

 Lucille Rollins


Mrs. Rollins became her husband’s manager in 1971 strictly by defauled. Sonny trusted no one else to do the job. She helped persuade him to resume performing and recording after one of his periodic hiatuses. Long recognized by jazz critics as an important and influential musician, he went on to enjoy a new degree of commercial success, thanks largely to her career guidance. A decade later, when Mr. Rollins began producing his own albums, she became his co-producer of his last three albums.

Even before that Lucille had become Sonny’s proxy at playbacks and mixdowns because Sonny couldn’t stand listening to his own recordings.

These jazz ladies  were not simply muses who inspired their husbands’ creative passions or housewives relegated to the background of their spouses’ public lives. Rather, they became a significant social and economic force in the jazz world and thus were far ahead of their time.