Sam Boshnack Quintet’s second album, Nelly Bly Project (Artists Recording Collective) is an illustrative and evocative musical portrait of a hero that Boshnack has admired since a young age. Bly was a 19th-century daredevil feminist and journalist who worked within extreme confines to achieve great things for both the subjects she covered (including mental health and prison facilities), and for women in her field. The album moves between the narrative and abstract, creating an imaginative world that channels Bly’s groundbreaking spirit.
What the press is saying:
“Fresh, smart, and bold describe Samantha Boshnack’s Nellie Bly Project. Inspired by the pioneer female American reporter from the late 1800s, Boshnack weaves significant quotes by the journalist into a shifting musical tapestry. Bly (aka Elizabeth Cochran) defined a true woman as “innocent, unaffected, and frank.” While Boshnack’s sound embodies more life experience than what could be described as innocent, listeners will hear an unaffected and frank approach to writing, improvising, and recording…. Boshnack’s music stretches and sings with refreshing strength.” – Steve Griggs/Earshot Jazz. Read full review.
“While no one would or should argue about the accomplishments of the journalist (Nellie Bly), Ms. Boshnack’s music is also quite impressive. The integration of words and music is well thought-out and the compositions are quite strong…. The power in her (Bly) words and deeds is the fuel for Sam Boshnack; you can hear it in every note of her ‘Nellie Bly Project’, hear it in the impressive melodies, the rhythms, the interactions, and solos of the Quintet.” – Richard Kamins/Step Tempest. Read full review
“Nellie Bly Project represents a step up in ambition from the prior, already-ambitious release by the Sam Boshnack Quintet, because Bly was a complex figure, so any accurate depiction would likewise portray complexity.That’s probably fine and good with Boshnack, who is already prone to stretch as both a composer and artist. The Quintet’s performances don’t necessarily follow conventional song structures: they flow more like an act in a play and this four act play seeks to tell the story of Bly through the moods projected in the veering harmony, rhythmic intricacy and occasional presentations of Bly’s writings whether by singing it or reciting it at critical junctures within each song.….. Sam Boshnack is an example of a growing number of women leading a resurgence of creativity in jazz.” – S. Victor Aaron/Something Else Reviews. Read full review.
“Not quite free jazz, you can hear the echoes of struggle in the music and the vibe tilts toward prevailing. A very solid listening date, this trumpeter delivers the art without being artsy. Sitting down jazz fans have something solid to sink their teeth into here.” – Chris Spector/Midwest Record. Read full review.
“Boshnack, both within ensemble playing, and skillful soloing, offers her best playing to date on trumpet, supported strongly by Castillo, Chadsey and Wood. Fleenor, a musical constant in Boshnack’s work in Seattle, plays with unconventional prowess, drawing musical, poetic, and social parallels with the composing artist. The social narrative to achieve gender equity, is still a story being told loudly, and clearly. The struggle continues, with the courageous activism of Nellie Bly still serving as a beacon of inspiration and persistence to modern “daredevil” artists such as Boshnack. Her ability to create a narrative musically, and truly educate and inspire the listener is rare, and important. It’s part of what makes music a language that unites cultures, and empowers justice. – Paul Rauch/All About Jazz. Read full review.
“There’s a large presence to this session, which is surprising given that it was created by a relatively small quintet. But given that the music here is inspired by the career of journalist and world-traveller Nellie Bly, so the fact that it’s vast in sound and scope is appropriate. Trumpeter Samantha Boshnack created a tone poem in honor of Bly, who traveled the world in a record-breaking 72 days, and the music is as daring as its inspiration. Thick harmonies and wavering melodic fragments augment a big sound that’s rich with detail and nuance.” – Dave Sumner/Bird is the Worm – “Best Jazz on Bandcamp”. Read full review
“Whether functioning in spacious or dense areas, Nellie Bly Project vibrates with raw musicality and airs a remarkable honesty in its endeavor to capture Bly’s spirit.” – Filipe Freitas/Jazz Trail. Read full review
“The overall result is an unusually compelling 35-minute suite that is strongly recommended.” – Mike Borella/Avant Music News. Read full review
Samantha Boshnack trumpet & vocal
Beth Fleenor clarinet & bass clarinet
Alex Chadsey piano & keyboards
Isaac Castillo upright & electric bass
Max Wood drums
Valerie Holt and Anne Mathews vocals (tracks 1 & 3)
Anne Whitfield spoken vocals (tracks 2 & 4)
Recorded by Floyd Reitsma at Studio Litho, Seattle, WA
Mixed by Evan Schiller at zulusound, Seattle, WA
Mastered by Ed Brooks at Resonant Mastering, Seattle, WA
Album artwork by Steven Arntson
Album design by Anne Mathews
Release Date – August 18, 2017
THE NELLIE BLY PROJECT (Premiered May 2014)
A new work by composer Samantha Boshnack – inspired by the life of daredevil, feminist, journalist & iconoclast Nellie Bly (1864 – 1922).
Listen to live recordings of three movements from the premiere below.
Expositions – This movement is about looking at Nellie’s fiery and spirited, yet persistent and intelligent personality. I have incorporated Bly quotes as lyrics here – “Energy rightly applied can accomplish anything.” At the age of 20 she responded to an extremely misogynistic article entitled ‘What Girls Are Good For’ in the Pittsburgh Dispatch. This letter impressed the editor and he requested in his column for the writer to come forward. The next day she showed up in person at the newspaper’s office and managed to push her way into a career in journalism. Her only education had been one term of boarding school. Bly went to on to be regarded by her contemporaries as “the best reporter in America.” In one of her stories Bly defined a “true woman” as- “Innocent, unaffected and frank.” These were definitely three virtues she liked to project- she committed her life to causes she believed were important even though those around her were constantly trying to “put her in her place” and make her cover topics deemed more suitable for her gender.
After One is In Trouble – this movement is about Nellie Bly’s Madhouse exposé. In 1887, Bly had talked her way into the office of Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper, The New York World, and took an undercover assignment for which she feigned insanity and investigated reports of brutality and neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. She was committed there for 10 days, experiencing atrocious conditions and putting herself in grave danger. Her reports (which were later published in book form) brought her lasting fame and caused major changes in how the City of New York cared for and diagnosed insanity. When she described her attempts to get committed she said – “It is only after one is in trouble that one realizes how little sympathy and kindness there are in the world.” She began her “lunatic” role-playing at a working class boarding house. Only one woman cared about her and tried to help her. After just one night, the police were summoned to take her away to the courthouse. The judge had her examined by several doctors, who all declared her to be insane.
72 Days – is based on Nellie Bly’s book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, in which she set out on a race around the world to beat Jules Verne’s fictional record, while the whole world watched and cheered her on. The idea for this story was hers, but she had to fight hard to make it happen because her editors did not believe it could be done. The two telling quotes I extracted from her book are – “It’s only a matter of 28,000 miles… I shall be back again” and “I would rather go in dead and successful than alive and behind time.” Once again we see Nellie being unaffected by the immense task before her and with an absolute conviction that she would succeed. The two methods of transport available to her were railroad and steamship – I have incorporated the rhythmic elements of these modes into the music as well.
All pieces performed by The Sam Boshnack Quintet featuring Samantha Boshnack (trumpet/voice), Beth Fleenor (clarinets/voice), Dawn Clement (piano/keyboard/voice), Isaac Castillo (bass/voice) and Max Wood (drums)
> Words from the Press on the Nellie Bly Project
Recording by Robb Kunz
Quintet photo by Bruce Tom