Glenna Powrie

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Although she can handle straight-ahead settings, the New York-based electric keyboardist/acoustic pianist Glenna Powrie has preferred to devote much of her time to playing and composing fusion, jazz-funk,…
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Although she can handle straight-ahead settings, the New York-based electric keyboardist/acoustic pianist Glenna Powrie has preferred to devote much of her time to playing and composing fusion, jazz-funk, and crossover jazz. Powrie is not a native New Yorker; the Canadian improviser was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, but she moved to the Big Apple in 1985 to further her career as a musician/composer. Many jazz-oriented artists who move to New York from other cities work as sidemen in hard bop or post-bop groups and play a lot of Tin Pan Alley standards -- even if they ultimately want to play original material and focus on fusion or avant-garde jazz, some may go the straight-ahead route to get their foot in the door. Powrie, however, did not want to confine herself to the bop/standards formula. She was interested in playing original material, and unlike all of the "Young Lions" who longed to follow in Wynton Marsalis' footsteps, Powrie was not a purist or a bop snob. Her keyboard playing (which combines jazz with rock, funk, and pop) was influenced by fusionists like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Joe Zawinul, and her composing has been influenced by Corea's Return to Forever, Weather Report (the band that Zawinul co-led with saxophonist Wayne Shorter in the '70s and '80s), the Yellowjackets, and the Brecker Brothers (among others). One of the people who Powrie worked with after arriving in New York in 1985 was drummer Jack DeJohnette, who hired her to play with his band Special Edition. Another musician she worked with in the Apple was saxophonist Greg Osby, who produced her debut album, Asha. In 1989, Powrie signed with Muse and recorded Asha, which was released the following year. Although the New York-based Muse was best-known for straight-ahead bop and post-bop, Asha is a fusion effort that finds Powrie joined by producer Osby on alto and soprano sax, Kevin Eubanks on electric guitar, Tracy Wormworth or Darryl Jones on electric bass, Eugene Jackson on drums, and Mino Cinelu on percussion. Powrie plays no acoustic piano on Asha -- strictly electric keyboards and synthesizers -- and she wrote all of the material herself. Unfortunately, the Vancouver native only had a one-album deal with Muse, and no more Powrie albums were released in the '90s. When the year 2000 arrived, she was still a one-album artist -- and her supporters were sorry that her only album had gone out of print after a few years. Nonetheless, Powrie remained active on the New York scene and was still playing and composing in the early 2000's.