over the years, i've noticed far less women listen to, or play jazz than the men folk. if there is a woman in a jazz band ( or rock/pop band for that matter ) they are by far more often vocalists than anything else.
   just look at the contributors in here. how many of them are women? i'd say 5% would be an overestimate.
   why would this be? jazz really isn't like football.
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because girls like to dance and it hasn't been possible to dance to jazz since before wwii.
because they get cranky after playing 2 or 3 songs?
not rare, just a minority.  we always had about 20% girls in our jazz bands back in high school.  i think it's just a matter of musical tastes and interests.  women are most likely to play piano... but at most of the jazz workshops i've been to over the past 10 years or so, female players are well over 20%, and play all different instruments -- there are a lot of bassists, drummers, and trumpet players.
the female players are out there, but i have found that men just don't notice them because they aren't male.  true.
speaking as a woman, i can't begin to tell you how many times i have felt invisible.  one example:  another woman and myself were on a shuttle bus along with about 5 male musicians going to a jazz workshop.  one guy kept asking the driver, "how come there aren't any women at these things?"
stuff like this happens all the time.  they can't even see us.
you hear guys saying things about no women playing jazz, and they're standing right in the middle of a jazz festival with women playing jazz right in front of them.  invisible, i say.
these must not be the guys you are talking about, but believe me, they exist.
and if casparus is so interested in listening to women jazz players, he could easily do a tiny bit of research and start listening.  the list is huge.
oh, and casparus, i missed part of your post.  there are lots of other jazz boards that have a much higher percentage of female posters -- the aebersold forums, for example.
this board happens to be a bit of a boys' club.
historically the enviornment that profesional musicians work in has never been very attractive to women.  ie the enviorment that we work in  
.. the dressing roos, the cars, the stages are typically dirty stinking rat infested cum stained places that only men like.  i dont think there are less women working in music now than before.  i think if anything the conditions have got better and there are more women as a result of it.
another thing is...  if you have not noticed... for the most part women are far more intelligent than men.  for the most part they figure out the rather obvious fact that the life a musician is a sordid life of misery with few rewards, many dismal dark defeats.  they are smart enough to see that if you are lucky and somehow you go to one of the best music schools ie berklee or julliard and pay just as much as it would cost to go to harvard when you get done you will be lucky to make as much money as the least successful mentally challenged high school drop outs.
and well why do i so often feel like i have to teach the obvious here.
um... if you are a girl
why play an instrument when you can play with your self?
mike--i think most people who play do so for personal enjoyment, not with aspirations of playing professionally. yet i see relatively few women interested in either listening to, or playing jazz. and yes they tend to want to dance or sing before rolling up their sleeves and begin to improvise with that juicy locrain mode.
i'll never forget when i first started playing piano also new a kid a few years younger than i who took up guitar.  he was a little more vocal about his thoughts than i was.  we were both pretty well off surburban white kids.  we were trying to jam a little one day with no success at all... neither of us had a  clue yet.  he said something about picturing himself up on a stage like peter framptons singing "show me the way!"
i who got started because i was totally taken by the music of coltrane suddenly realized i pictured myself becoming a devotly religious black man who had given up drugs and mastered jazz like no one before him.
   my point is that even though many may not have aspirations of playing profesionally i think there are these fantasy led underpinings motivating the beginings of many a musical endeavor.
    just as a little postscript my friend never became peter frampton nor even played him in a cover band.  i am still a white man and have never become particularly religious though i can play a lot of coltranes compositions and have done so on stage and i have had my share of drug experiences though none really became an addiction unless you count ciggarettes which i did finally beat.
"why are women players rare?"

i think the answer can best be answered by other women.  why don't we invite a few and get their opinion?

why are women players rare?"

i think the "question" can best be answered by other women.  why don't we invite a few and get their opinion?

sorry about the previous post...my fingers were out one or two keystrokes ahead of my brain cells.

good point even in the relatively clean enviornment of this forum the only woman i am aware of is cynbad.... are there others?
there is kai, and there is pianogirl (sandra), and probably several others who lurk but don't really post much.
i still don't believe that female jazz players are as rare as you think they are.  go to some jazz workshop and see what i mean.
if you are just referring to professional musicians, i think mike made some very good points about it being a very tough life, and a lot of women feel they would have to choose between family/personal life and having a career as a performing musician.
some great jazz musicians who are women:

joanne brackeen
geri allen
ingrid jensen
joni mitchell
karrin allyson
lynne arriale
carla bley
jane ira blume
terri lyne carrington
regina carter
eliane elias
esperanza spalding
erica von kleist
hiromi uehara
grace kelly

and many others
tierney sutton
jessica williams
rachel z
abbey lincoln
diana krall
dee dee bridgewater
diane reeves

speaking of women in jazz, check out this terri lynne carrington set.  ridiculous.  my friend lawrence is on piano.
joy harjo too and  
how could you forget marianne mcpartland?
oh unquestionably there has been greats ... as long as we are going to list them my personal favorite of all time is nina simone ... she constantly just knocks me right off my feet.  
   but the original post by casparus was making an observation that mayber there has been a decline in recent years i think.  besides terri lynne carrington and a few remarkalbe bass players that i have noticed around and diana krall....    hm  i don't know   maybe maybe not.
i think it's because in general, women are smarter than men - i thank the ones that lower themselves to mix with we men players :)
or maybe it is because to be in the music business they have to lower themselves to the point of playing with men.
you know that keeps me from gigging a lot of the time too.
i've got it!! i know why women players are so rare!  
it's all about biology. you see, humans and birds are the only creatures on the planet that create music. as any ornithologist will tell you, it's mainly the males who do all the fancy singing because they want to attract a mate. same with us humans. this desire to want our music to be heard is hard-wired into our brains. admit it guys, we love it when we can impress the ladies, right?
and the winner is....


(but what about the women players? hmmm...)
i think there are a lot of female jazzers out there, but we don't see them as much at jam sessions and other competitive style situations probably because of the differences in how women and men respond to the world.  here's an interesting article:

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what about mary lou williams? renee rosnes? diana krall? amina claudine myers?

historically, it's true there have been far fewer female 'key' players. however, i think there are far more these days. i'm often asked to name contemporary female players during my jazz piano classes in london (which include about 30% women on average). here's a partial list of some of the fine (professional) women players currently working in the uk:

andrea vicari, zoe rahman, meredith white, kate williams, jenny carr, sara dhillon, nikki yeoh, frances knight, lianne carroll, janette mason, nikki iles, hilary cameron... i could go on!
i took the opportunity to survey this topic with a few of my female compatriots and here is what they told me in order of importance and total responses: (non-scientific survey)  

1. women musicians are in love with their voices and feel it's the perfect instrument to convey emotions. many female jazz instrumentalist use their voice as a second instrument.

2. during the golden age of jazz (1920's to 1960's) "proper" ladies were expected to get married and raise a family, not pursue a career in jazz music.  

3. any woman's single-minded devotion necessary to gain proficiency in music, particularly jazz, and more extraordinarily, instrumental jazz was considered weird and bohemian by the then male-dominated society.

4. women instrumentalist hear music in micro tonal burst! one respondent actually informed me she can hear pitches between semitones, and try to play that way.

"to say the least, item. 4 blew my mind! when i tried to extend the discussion of this topic a bit further, my friend summarily shut down and told me to go listen to the music of geri allen, mary lou williams, marian mcpartland, alice coltrane, violinist regina carter and other top female jazz instrumentalist and hear for myself - if i could. (i think she became peeved when she thought i wasn't taking her seriously)."

more on the subject thread can be found at:
npr's jazz profiles: women in and  jazz, part 1 and 2

  interesting findings, to be sure. i watched a fascinating youtube with regina carter and two other violinists playing some real wild harmonies. this claim that women are hearing tones between semi-tones would account for the large porportion of female vocalists to players, as the voice is not a tempered instrument--and nor are violins.
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