It happened again recently, for the umpteenth time. Monika Herzig found herself at a club in Berlin, Germany, when musicians offered an open invitation for a jam session.
Herzig approached some of the players.
“Do you have any notion of what you intend to sing?” they asked her.
The German native never has been a vocalist, but is one of the more polished and better-known jazz pianists in Indiana and beyond. Yet, time and again, male jazz musicians who meet her rarely figure she could be like them — partly because there still are so few recognized, leading female jazz artists, Herzig said.
“Once guys see and hear you start playing, then the whole dynamics change,” Herzig said with a laugh.
The veteran instrumentalist brings her “A Tribute to Women in Jazz” concert series to Columbus’ Harlequin Theatre inside FairOaks Mall at 7 p.m. Saturday. Accompanying her for such estrogen empowerment will be something of an all-star band.
It consists of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, one of the most in-demand jazz trumpet players worldwide; sax player Amanda Gardier, who plays with groups all over Indianapolis; drummer Hannah Johnson, pursuing a degree in jazz studies from Indiana University; and bassist Hannah Marks, one of four bass players selected nationwide to attend the Dave Brubeck Institute summer program in 2014.
The set list will include some of Herzig’s original work, plus jazz arrangements of pop artist tunes ranging from Lorde to Amy Winehouse. Herzig’s commitment to such shows aims to give girls and young women musical role models — something that hardly existed at all in jazz when she began music pursuits.
“Things seem to be getting a little better,” she said, speaking from her office at Indiana University, where she is a senior lecturer in the school of Environmental and Public Affairs (she formerly taught at IU’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music).
Harlequin founder and operator Robert Hay-Smith, a bass player who frequently has performed alongside Herzig, has long been impressed with her gift and much more.
“She is a joy to be with, and has no delusions of grandeur,” Hay-Smith said. “She’s incredible and a phenomenal musician — and yet she has tremendous humility.”
But she can muster boldness when necessary. Her passionate promotion of these concerts, including one today in Bloomington and one Friday in Indianapolis, is meant to dovetail with March as National Women’s History Month. She’s still working to see segments of a somewhat-younger crowd at such performances.
“It usually seems to be adult women who like the female empowerment while enjoying a girls night out,” Herzig said. “But I think it’s kind of sad that the regular jazz lovers I see elsewhere do not often show up at these concerts.
“I think when those people see our posters, maybe they think, ‘This is going to be cute, but we know it’s not the real jazz,’” she said.
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What: Pianist Monika Herzig and an all-female band presenting “A Tribute to Women in Jazz.” The evening also will feature Columbus North High School’s 25th Street Jazz ensemble.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: The Harlequin Theatre inside FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St. in Columbus.
Tickets: $15 advance at the venue, $20 at the door for adults, $10 at the door for students.
Information: 812-343-4597 or theharlequintheatre.com.