When Lina Allemano first started playing trumpet professionally, she was a young lady in need of a male chaperone – specifically, her dad. A jazz fan himself, Allemano père would chauffeur his 15-year-old around to Latin clubs in her native Edmonton. “He’d stand there the whole time with his arms crossed – he’s a pretty big guy – looking very imposing and making sure that everything was going to be OK,” she remembers with a laugh.
Fifteen years later, Allemano (Mus Bac Perf 1997) is taking care of herself. She has created her own band, the Lina Allemano Four (three of the members met while studying music at U of T). She was nominated for the 2004 National Jazz Awards Canada in both individual and group categories, has played across the country and her band released its first CD, Concentric, in September 2003. Allemano is rapidly establishing herself as one of the country’s top young trumpeters and is one of a growing number of women in jazz. “I think there are more and more of us,” she says with optimism, claiming she hasn’t felt like a novelty or experienced any roadblocks because of gender. “But I play with a group of women who are 10, 20, 30 years older than me and they’ve had a completely different experience.” Discrimination and sexual harassment were unfortunately once routine in the smoky jazz underworld. “I think they’re happy when I tell them that we don’t really have those problems any more,” she says.
Women, in fact, dominate jazz today: top sellers include such internationally known artists as Diana Krall and Norah Jones. Allemano’s ethos may be more rarefied (more Miles Davis) but she nonetheless pays gracious tribute to the Krall/Jones school. “I think that what those people do is very good, it’s of high quality. It’s maybe not as artistically interesting as some other music. But in the long run, I think it’s good if people get exposed to anything that’s jazz-based.”