London celebrations

Airelle Besson – London Jazz News

Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, launched by singer Nicky Schrire. The initiative aims to create an online resource for jazz musicians who work with children, those considering parenthood, and jazz industry figures who work with and hire parent musicians. The insight of the musicians interviewed for this series provides valuable emotional, philosophical and logistical information and support readily available to all. “Mothers In Jazz” highlights the very specific role of being both a mother and a jazz musician.

Airelle Besson is a trumpeter and composer who is both a sought-after side-woman and a famous conductor in France and beyond. In 2015, she received the Django-Reinhardt Prize from the Jazz Academy and the Victoires du Jazz in the category “French Instrumental Revelation of the Year”. Throughout her career, Airelle has been a valued member of various high-profile artist-led bands, most notably in Charlie Haden and Carla Bley’s Liberation Music Orchestra in 2006.

She is currently on tour with Rhoda Scott Lady All Stars and leads her own quartet. Airelle was artist in residence at the Cité musicale-Metz for 2020-2021, where she created a new classical-jazz program with the Orchester National de Metz. In 2022, she is one of seven jazz musicians to be named to the rank of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture (link to the report below). Airelle lives in Paris with her three-and-a-half-year-old child.

Airelle Besson. Photo © Sylvain Gripoix

London Jazz News: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received for balancing/juggling motherhood and career?

Airelle Besson: Efficiency. Do only the essentials. No time for “superfluous” activities.

LJN: Your top tip(s) for other moms in jazz:

A B: Being a mother is (one of) the best events of your life. Dark. The organization follows naturally. I think it’s good to become a mother when you feel ready, it takes a lot of time and energy. Of course, only good time and good energy!

LJN: New born equipment tips for trips/tours/concerts:

A B: I am not traveling with my daughter on tour. Sorry, no advice for this.

LJN: What surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining committed to your professional pursuits and ambitions?

A B: Well, it’s possible to do both – be a parent and a professional. You have to be really organized, have a good family circle, friends and babysitters!

LJN: What boundaries have you set for yourself as a mom in jazz (could be related to travel/touring, daters, personal settings, childcare decisions, etc.).)?
A B: Ha, that’s a good question! Well, I don’t do long tours anymore, that’s for sure. I don’t like being away from home or my child for a long time. I miss her too much. As she is very young, I don’t want to miss any of her growth and development. Or as little as possible anyway. After a concert, I always go home by the first trains or flights.

Airelle’s latest album “TRY!” presents his quartet with Isabel Sörlng, Benjamin Moussay and Fabrice Moreau, and was released on Besson’s own Papillon Jaune label in 2021.

CONNECTIONS: Artist’s website

LJN News article about the awards ceremony earlier this year

Interview with Alex Dutilh (in French)