Emily was from a hard working household, her father a meat broker and her mother in social services. She had two older siblings, a brother who became a U. Of interest, her precursor to the guitar was the piano. Friends remember her playing for hours while her parents were at work, though quite shy about playing if asked and also of spending time drawing which explains her early desires to attend design schools. Certainly there at home is where her imagination first flourished and the foundation was laid: if you apply yourself, if you search out creative ends, you will succeed. This early philosophy expressed itself throughout her career as she was undeterred by the bias and skepticism of the male dominated music business and doubters of her ability.
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Are you kidding? Now they know that I can play. But I still have to prove myself every single time. By the time she talked to Coryell, Remler had already recorded four albums as a leader for the Concord Jazz label, including one consisting solely of original compositions.
Just as her star was rising, Remler grappled with addictions to heroin and dilaudid that would threaten to eclipse her musical profile. She died of a heart attack in Sydney, Australia, on May 4, She was just 32 years old. That was the first thing that got me about her, from the first day I heard and played with her. By the time she was 10, she was using it to teach herself folk songs and music she liked on the radio. Yet at 16, when she graduated early from high school, she was planning to pursue graphic design until she was unexpectedly accepted into Berklee College of Music.
It was at Berklee that she really became familiar with jazz. The melodicism of Paul Desmond captivated her. Then came Pat Martino and, at last, Wes Montgomery, who quickly became her idol. When a teacher told her that she had bad time, she spent uncounted hours practicing with a metronome. She finished her degree at 18 and moved with Masakowski to his hometown of New Orleans. I was forced to come up to a certain level of playing.
She would push herself into situations where she had to outperform and show what she could do. Within a year, she had amicably ended her relationship with Masakowski and gone to New York.
She took something with her besides her musical gift. I even got her to quit smoking. But then I think she started playing with the more party-oriented types of groups, and it started to deteriorate. Yet it had an additional layer of difficulty for her. She landed a job accompanying vocalist Astrud Gilberto, and began introducing herself to guitarists she heard around town.
They jammed together. He signed her to record an album of her own for what was at the time a guitar-centric label. From there things moved quickly. On the strength of Firefly, Jefferson extended her contract for three additional albums. When it came time to make her third record for Concord, she had enough clout and confidence to insist that the full quartet make the date.
That progress continued with Catwalk, released in early Critics agreed. So did guitar great Larry Coryell, who heard Catwalk upon its release. They hit the touring circuits, playing international festivals as well as clubs and guitar workshops. They also had a brief romance—a new partnership augmented by the dissolution of another.
After two and a half years, her marriage to Alexander had ended in divorce. It was, perhaps, a harbinger of more difficult times to come. But to Lees in , she admitted that the drugs were a factor too—even after the fact. They were only rumors, however, and those who knew her personally were protective of her—and still are. Moses recalls finding a stash of pills in her car one night when she was driving him home from a gig.
I made it up, and I saw the bed there, and I just kinda lunged for the bed. This is from half of one? At night she worked the local clubs. She continued playing festivals and freelancing on records.
But as she kept honing her craft, she also went into therapy, hoping to beat not only her addiction but the demons that hid behind it. It seemed to be working. In the spring of , she even moved back to New York, taking an apartment in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. She had some less conventional ideas brewing as well. Remler began experimenting with the cutting-edge electronics of the day, including a guitar synth—less Montgomery than Metheny.
In , she signed a deal with Houston-based Justice Records to release her newly recorded This Is Me, an album that included her passions for the jazz-guitar tradition and for Brazilian and African rhythms, but pushed hard in the direction of crossover jazz-pop.
She never got to see where the new direction would take her. Remler was on a tour of Australia in May of when she was found dead in her Sydney hotel room. The official cause of death was heart failure, with no mention of drug involvement. The jazz world knew better. For one thing, an epidemic of opioid drug abuse has been raging in the United States since a decade after her death.
According to the U. Superstars Prince and Tom Petty number among the casualties. Perhaps even more relevant, sexism continues to thrive, as the burgeoning MeToo movement has made all too clear. There are plenty of stories circulating about other institutions, venues and bandleaders: As the hashtag suggests, nearly every woman, in and out of the music industry, has at least one to tell. There are reasons, however, for hope. If MeToo has revealed the systemic patterns of gender bias and harassment, it has also signaled increasing public awareness of them.
In May, a group of 14 female jazz musicians called the We Have Voice Collective published a code of conduct regarding professionalism, safety and nondiscrimination. Jazz organizations quickly signed on. Not incidentally, the number of prominent female instrumentalists in jazz has exploded in recent years—another encouraging sign. In , only a few names spring to mind: Chilean-born guitarist and singer Camila Meza; California-based Mimi Fox, who is recognized for her work as a solo artist and as part of the San Francisco String Trio; Mary Halvorson, an experimental and fiercely original guitarist; Leni Stern, who matches jazz and fusion influences with African music; and Sheryl Bailey, a bebop-based virtuoso who salutes Remler as one of her heroes.
Emily Remler – Bebop and Swing Guitar
She was praised by jazz guitarist Herb Ellis , who referred to her as "the new superstar of guitar" and introduced her at the Concord Jazz Festival in She recorded Together with guitarist Larry Coryell. She participated in the Los Angeles version of Sophisticated Ladies from — and toured for several years with Astrud Gilberto. She also made two guitar instruction videos.
The Rise and Decline of Guitarist Emily Remler