Brittany Anjou


Brittany Anjou photo courtesy of the artist


The music career of Brittany Anjou is a multi-directional tale of overcoming obstacles and tough-it-out persistence. It is not unlike the jazz stories of many musicians who leave their hometowns to pursue the jazz life in New York City. The recent visit in Marchof the now Gotham-based pianist/vibraphonist to her native digs in Seattle was the first for her since 2019, before the pandemic shutdown. She was in town to lead a quartet for a performance at the Seattle Jazz Fellowship and two dates in Vancouver. Teaming up with fellow bi-coastal musician Jessica Lurie and Seattleites Matt Jorgensen and Kelsey Mines, Anjou utilized the mini-tour to present an amalgam of her two very different projects in both jazz and punk.

Anjou’s Seattle story includes her time in Scott Brown’s storied program at Roosevelt High School. The 2002 grad found herself buried in a piano depth chart that included current jazz piano superstar Aaron Parks and the formidable Brian Kinsella. The situation prompted her to take up the vibraphone to gain a spot in Brown’s nationally acclaimed juggernaut, studying with Seattle vibraphonist Susan Pascal.

Her sojourn to New York was next, studying with vibraphone icon Stefon Harris and earning a degree in jazz performance from New York University. Along the way, her piano studies continued, as did a fascination with Ghanaian master xylophonist Bernard Woma, which led to studies in Ghana. This period was, in essence, a time of gathering for Anjou, melding together a multi-faceted musical personality.

Anjou’s time on the New York scene has seen her perform jazz in a variety of ensembles, as well as the formation of her punk band, Bi TYRANT. In 2019, she released a highly regarded recording on the Seattle-based Origin Records label. Enamigo Reciprokataj, meaning “reciprocal love” in the international Esperanto language, is clearly in the piano trio lineage. The album received high marks in DownBeat and All About Jazz reviews.

In the midst of all this activity in New York, Anjou accepted a position as director of jazz and piano at the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre Music School in Kuwait from 2018 to 2020. The experience added non-Western context to her creative palette and gave her an opportunity to sharpen her skills as an educator.

The pandemic shutdown of 2020 was a time of reflection and self-evaluation for many. In Anjou’s case, her whole purpose was to understand the struggles and pitfalls of freelance musicians in NYC and articulate those fears. She did so via dissertation, but most importantly, she researched and earned a master’s in music psychology, education, and well-being with merit from the University of Sheffield. In working to obtain a degree to teach, her research data on NYC musicians during the pandemic helped the New York state legislature to approve a $200 million grant for independent art workers in 2022. She currently serves on the steering committee of the fair pay advocacy group, Music Workers Alliance. “It’s opened my eyes to how much work is required for legislation to get changed. That’s what really needs to get done,” she observes.

Her studies focused on a deep dive into music development in the first fourteen years of life, performance psychology and cognitive load memory retrieval. They revealed the impact of fair pay to musicians as a mental health crisis, the ever-evolving issue of gender justice in jazz, and the devaluation of Black music.

Anjou is currently in the process of recording a new album with New York producer Martin Bisi. The musical premise is the same as her current tour: fusing her jazz and punk projects and writing lyrics for issues she feels passionate about. She plays piano, organ and vibes, with Lurie joining on baritone saxophone and flute. Drummer Laura Cromwell, guitarist Rich Bennett, and bassist Mary Feaster round out the cast.

Jazz music has always been about change and social relevance. It acts like a conduit of revolution, in terms of sound and social justice. Anjou is an agent of change in that sense, a strong female presence in an art form that has traditionally been male-dominant. In blending musical intelligence with social conscience and an activist mind, she is shedding light on a clearly pronounced path forward.



Posted on

May 29, 2024