Joy Lapps pays tribute to empowering women with new album Girl in the Yard

Pannist and composer Joy Lapps has announced her latest release Girl in the Yard, her fifth as a leader and first full-length album of exclusively original music.

With a diverse array of stylistic influences, Girl in the Yard pays tribute to the women in Lapps’ life — known and unknown — who have helped develop her mastery of the steelpan and supported her success in the steelpan movement.

“The process of composing and recording this album became an exploration of how I’m able to show up in the world because of the women, especially in my community, who have supported me,” Lapps says.

Lapps’ core ensemble on Girl in the Yard features guitarist Elmer Ferrer, pianist Jeremy Ledbetter, drummer Larnell Lewis, and electric bassist Andrew Stewart, the latter of whom served as co-producer. Additional contributors include Michael Shand, Courtenay Frazer, Rob Christian, Eric St-Laurent, Colleen Allen, Eddie Bullen, Rosendo Chendy Léon, Andy Narell, Elizabeth Rodríguez and Magdelys Savigne of OKAN, and Lapps’ sisters Shaquilla Alexander and Asha Lapps.

Paying tribute to women with her music has been a years-long creative process for Lapps, emerging just before the birth of her son in 2017.

“It’s something that grew on me more and more,” she says. “As a part of my master’s research, I attempted to map out the tradition of steelpan in jazz by looking at the discography. I don’t think I have more than one woman’s name on that list from the early ’60s.”

Blending elements from West African music, Afro-Caribbean music, samba and vintage radio hits, Girl in the Yard spotlights lyrical improvising, rhythmic discourse and cinematic songwriting. “I think about how I want the listener to feel,” says Lapps, who had been listening to selections of meditation and chanting throughout the latter portion of the recording process.

In 2021, Lapps participated in JAZZ.FM91’s inaugural Discover Women in Jazz program and co-led the Christmas concert as part of our Sound of Jazz concert series.

For Lapps, this new album reflects and epitomizes her identity as a community artist and creative womanist. She has worked with multiple arts organizations in a capacity that highlights both women in music and the steelpan as an instrument, and she’s a recipient of the Dr. Alice E. Wilson Award from the Canadian Federation of University Women and the HUTTers Phenomenal Woman Award for Leadership in Community Arts. Through her work on and off the bandstand, Lapps aims to support and bring more awareness to women’s contributions to help foster greater representation.

“There’s way more women in the panyard now than there was traditionally,” she says. “We belong in spaces of leadership, of creativity and arranging, and we belong in positions where we can really mold and shape the culture of the space. And we have been doing that.”

Lapps’ four previous albums include How Great Thou Art (2004), Make a Joyful Noise (2006), It’s Christmas Time (2007) and Morning Sunrise (2014).

Here’s the track listing:

  1. Lulu’s Dream
  2. Josie’s Smile
  3. Breathless
  4. Juliet Blooms
  5. Morning Sunrise
  6. Eyes of Amerralys
  7. Serena
  8. Juliet Blooms (Reprise)
  9. Sharifa The Great
  10. Granny’s Pan
  11. Fly (Intro)
  12. Fly
  13. Josie’s Smile (Reprise)

Joy Lapps’ Girl in the Yard will be independently released on July 8, 2022.

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