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Harry Belafonte, Rosanne Cash, Karrin Allyson Celebrate 'Centennial Tribute to Women's Suffrage': Exclusive

Shoulder to Shoulder
Doug Davis

Endea Owens, Helen Sung, Karrin Allyson, Ingrid Jensen and Allison Miller during the recording of "Shoulder to Shoulder"

Following decades of struggle, women finally won the right to vote in the United States in August 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified.

That momentous occasion and the fight leading up to it is celebrated on Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage from the Karrin Allyson Sextet. 

The album reimagines songs originally composed in the 19th and early 20th centuries to advance women’s voting rights. 

Allyson’s sextet, which includes jazz luminaries Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Mindi Abair (alto saxophone) Helen Sung (piano), Endea Owens (bass), and Allison Miller (drums), are joined by spoken word guests Harry Belafonte, Rosanne Cash, Lalah Hathaway and Sony Music evp, business affairs & general counsel Julie Swidler, who perform passages from suffragists, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Musical guests include vocalists Madeleine Peyroux, Kurt Elling and Emily Estefan, violinist Regina Carter and a choir of more than 40 women’s rights activists.

Helping shepherd the project was attorney Doug Davis, who was behind American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom, an album by the John Daversa Big Band that featured 53 undocumented Americans and won three Grammy Awards earlier this year including best large jazz ensemble. He reunites with Kabir Sehgal to produce the set and Daversa, who arranged the music on the project. 

“The American Dreamers project was the most rewarding project I have ever professionally worked on, and I wanted that feeling again,” Davis tells Billboard. “Women’s rights made sense for me to personally join my Grammy-winning colleagues to ride again in support of Karrin and her vision. The centennial of the passage of women’s right to vote recognizes the hard-fought victory in bridging the gap towards gender equality, which was the culmination of 900 campaigns over a seven-decade period. It also soberingly shows us, within the context of our current affairs and the #MeToo era, how much further we have to go to achieve true gender equality and full voter participation in our elections.”

Courtesy Photo
Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women's Suffrage

The Aug. 30 digital release, distributed by eOne, appealed to Allyson, the daughter of two politically active parents. “As a self-employed woman musician and band leader for my whole career, of course I’ve often felt the sting of inequality, and being ‘discounted,’” says the Grammy-nominated artist, who wrote two original pieces for the set. “For years I’ve felt that if we, as the whole human race, could reconcile and honestly face and fix the inequality between women and men, so many other problems would almost fix themselves … This seemingly ‘simple’ issue of voting is a right every human should have and use.”

For Sehgal, providing as full a picture as possible was the goal. "We wanted to portray the multi-decade debate that culminated in the 19th amendment, so you'll hear songs and speeches of those who supported suffrage and those who were against it,” he says. “Also, the amendment didn't go far enough, as not all Americans were able to vote. These are tensions that are explored through the repertoire. This album is very much a story, and Karrin is its story teller.”

The album’s collaborators hope to work with Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission in participating in a number of events and activities to celebrate the 100th anniversary. 

Tracklisting 

01. Preamble
02. The March of the Women
03. The Great Convention (featuring Madeleine Peyroux, Denise Donatelli)
04. Susan B. Anthony (1873) read by Rosanne Cash
05. I’ll Be No Submissive Wife
06. Frederick Douglass (1888) read by Harry Belafonte
07. Anti Suffrage Rose (featuring Veronica Swift)
08. She’s Good Enough To Be Your Baby’s Mother
09. Elihu Root (1894) read by Peter Eldridge
10. Columbia’s Daughters
11. Sojourner Truth (1851) read by Lalah Hathaway
12: Intro to The Promised Land (featuring Antonia Bennett, Emily Estefan, Kate Reid) 13. The Promised Land (featuring Pauline Jean)
14. Winning the Vote (featuring Kurt Elling)
15. Alice Paul (1921) read by Julie Swidler
16. Way Down Below (featuring Regina Carter)
17. Big Discount (featuring Rapsody)