Ladies instrumentalists additionally needed to take care of the usually hostile angle of male musicians and jazz critics who had bother taking them severely. That was mirrored in a 1938 Downbeat journal article titled “Why Ladies Musicians Are Inferior.” The in any other case distinguished New Yorker jazz author Whitney Balliett wrote in a 1964 function about pianist-composer Mary Lou Williams that she’s the exception to different girls jazz musicians whose short-lived careers he attributed to “the feminine’s lack of the bodily tools and poise wanted to blow, beat and slap devices just like the trumpet, bass and drums.”
Properly the perfect rebuttal to such sexist feedback is to go to the video. This clip options some highlights from director Judy Chaikin’s extremely really helpful 2011 documentary The Women within the Band concerning the struggles feminine jazz musicians needed to face. On the 3:51 mark there’s a clip from the Fifties TV present Stars of Jazz by which the patronizing host Gene Norman asks pianist Marian McPartland if she ever thought it was a handicap “making an attempt to make a occupation of being a jazz pianist as a lady.”
For a few years, girls in jazz loved essentially the most success in sure circumscribed roles—as singers and/or pianists.
That’s mirrored within the illustration of ladies recipients of the Nationwide Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Awards, the nation’s highest jazz honor which was launched in 1982. (Observe: The award is meant as a fellowship for dwelling jazz artists.)
Of the 161 Jazz Masters thus far, solely 24, or about 15%, are girls, and three of them are non-musicians acknowledged as advocates for the music. Sixteen of them are completely singers and/or pianists, three are primarily acknowledged as a arrangers and composers, and solely two are non-pianist instrumentalists (trombonist Melba Liston and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington).
The primary feminine instrumentalist to be honored as an NEA Jazz Grasp was Cleopatra Brown (additionally a vocalist) in 1987. She was a boogie-woogie and stride piano participant who changed Fat Waller as pianist on the New York radio station WABC. She largely retired from music in 1959 to grow to be a nurse.
Right here is her 1935 recording of “The Stuff Is Right here And It’s Mellow”—the rhythm part options drummer Gene Krupa of Benny Goodman’s band.
Brown is credited as being an early affect on Dave Brubeck, who performed throughout intermissions of her exhibits. Brubeck later paid tribute to her with a solo piano composition “Candy Cleo Brown.”
LIL HARDIN ARMSTRONG
The custom of feminine jazz pianists is a wealthy one which goes again to the early years of jazz in New Orleans. Pianists like Candy Emma Barrett and Billie Pierce started their careers within the Nineteen Twenties and would later go on to carry out with the Preservation Corridor Jazz Band beginning within the ‘60s.
Piano was the respectable instrument of alternative for younger girls, and generally their formal musical coaching surpassed that of many male musicians. Such was the case with Lil Hardin Armstrong, who exemplified the adage “Behind each nice man is a good girl.”
She graduated from Fisk College in Nashville, and moved together with her household to Chicago. She was performing with cornetist King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, when he despatched for a younger cornetist from New Orleans named Louis Armstrong to affix his band. She gave Armstrong a makeover to make him not look so “nation.”
Armstrong and Hardin obtained married in 1924. She assisted Armstrong in studying classical music, inspired him to be extra assertive, and finally pushed him to go away Oliver’s band later that yr. She was the pianist on the primary recording classes of Armstrong’s Sizzling 5. She helped write down the preparations and composed such tunes as “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue.” Armstrong’s Sizzling 5/Sizzling Seven classes (with Earl “Fatha” Hines later filling the piano chair) are thought of among the many most influential recordings in Twentieth-century American music.
She would later kind her personal huge band. Her divorce from Armstrong was finalized in 1938. She died of a coronary heart assault at age 73 whereas enjoying “St. Louis Blues” at a tribute live performance to Armstrong in Chicago in August 1971, a month after the jazz legend’s dying.
Like many feminine jazz artists, Valaida Snow got here from a musical household, and started stealing the present at age 5 as a member of her father’s efficiency troupe. She was a singer, dancer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist, however she was finest often called a trumpet virtuoso.
She was nicknamed “Little Louis,” and Armstrong himself referred to as her “the second finest trumpet participant” on this planet after himself. W.C. Useful, the Father of the Blues, named her the “Queen of the Trumpet.”
Snow by no means made a industrial recording as a trumpeter within the U.S., however she did file dozens of sides in European studios, together with what turned her signature track, “Excessive Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm.”
Snow was an even bigger star abroad than within the U.S., and he or she’s credited with serving to unfold the jazz craze throughout Europe. Whereas dwelling in Europe, she was touring in Denmark when the Nazis occupied the nation. She spent 10 weeks in custody in Danish prisons run by the Nazis, and eventually left the nation in 1942 on an American ship despatched to rescue refugees as a part of a prisoner change.
She by no means recovered bodily or emotionally from the expertise, and did not regain her former success. She died in 1956 in relative obscurity.
MARY LOU WILLIAMS
Mary Lou Williams was hailed as “one of many biggest swing pianists of both intercourse” as a featured soloist within the Kansas Metropolis-based band Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Pleasure within the Nineteen Thirties. However she was much more than a “girl pianist.” It was her work as a composer and arranger that helped the band obtain nationwide success. Right here’s one of many songs she wrote, organized and carried out with the band:
Williams quickly discovered herself in demand as an arranger and composer by a number of the high bandleaders of the Swing Period, together with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman. In 1937, Goodman recorded her boogie-woogie tune “Roll ‘Em.”
However Williams’ adventurous musical spirit continued to evolve past the Swing Period. Within the mid-Nineteen Forties, she earned a fame because the “Mom of Bebop.” Her condo turned a gathering place for musicians corresponding to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Pianists Bud Powell and and Thelonious Monk introduced their compositions to her to evaluation. She started writing bebop tunes herself, together with “In The Land of Oo-Bla-Dee” for Gillespie’s band.
In 1945, she additionally wrote the prolonged 12-part “Zodiac Suite,” one of many first fashionable jazz symphonic compositions. Right here is Half 4 “Most cancers” of the “Zodiac Suite” that includes tenor saxophone legend Ben Webster.
In 1954, she transformed to Catholicism and took a hiatus from performing for a number of years, establishing the Bel Canto Basis to assist musicians combating dependancy. When she returned to performing, she started writing jazz-influenced sacred music, together with a mass, “Music for Peace,” later often called “Mary Lou’s Mass” when it was choreographed by Alvin Ailey for his dance troupe.
She even carried out a two-piano live performance in 1977 at Carnegie Corridor with free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor in 1977.
In her profession, trombonist Melba Liston needed to persevere and overcome most of the obstacles confronted by girls jazz instrumentalists, paving the way in which for girls in jazz roles aside from vocalist or pianist. Interviewed by author Linda Dahl for the e-book Stormy Climate, a historical past of ladies in jazz, Liston noticed, “I needed to show myself like Jackie Robinson.”
Liston, who grew up principally in Los Angeles, was one in every of a handful of feminine musicians to carry out with all-male bands within the Nineteen Forties. She carried out with tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon’s small combos, Gerald Wilson’s huge band, and the Depend Basie Band.
When Dizzy Gillespie invited her to affix his bebop huge band as a trombonist and arranger within the late Nineteen Forties, it didn’t sit properly with a number of the different band members who wished to see one in every of their buddies be part of the band. Liston recalled in Dahl’s e-book that the band members informed Dizzy: “You despatched all the way in which to California for a bitch.”
However Gillespie had requested Liston to carry alongside at the very least two of her preparations, which he requested the band to play.
“And naturally they obtained about two measures and fell out and obtained all confused and stuff,” Liston recalled, “And Dizzy stated, ‘Now who’s the bitch. Dizzy was actually one thing. So after that I used to be all people’s sister, mama, auntie.”
However experiences like touring the Jim Crow South with Billie Vacation in 1949 and dealing for little cash, proved disheartening. She took the primary of a number of hiatuses in her musical profession within the Fifties to take a clerical job for a number of years with the Los Angeles Board of Training.
She would later come again to Be a part of Gillespie’s band on State Division-sponsored excursions in 1956 and 1957 and shaped her personal all-female quintet. She then carried out for a number of years with Quincy Jones’ touring band.
Right here’s Liston performing with Quincy Jones’ band in Switzerland in 1960.
Liston turned a sought-after arranger, even working for some time for Motown Information. However she was finest identified for her on-and-off partnership for almost 40 years with pianist Randy Weston, arranging compositions (principally his personal) on lots of his albums.
THE INTERNATIONAL SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM
This all-women swing band was in a league of their very own. It was the primary built-in all-women band within the U.S. Pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines referred to as them the “first freedom riders” as a result of they broke the Jim Crow legal guidelines by touring the South by bus and performing onstage collectively. Additionally they had a secret weapon to idiot the native sheriffs: The white members of the band used make-up to darken their complexions to cross as black.
The band was principally unknown to white America however loved an enormous following amongst African People. That’s as a result of they solely carried out at venues such because the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., that had been predominantly for Black audiences.
The band was shaped in 1937 and its authentic members attended the Piney Woods Nation Life College, a boarding highschool for African American kids in rural Mississippi. A lot of the band’s members had been orphans. Initially often called the Swinging Rays of Rhythm, the band first started touring to boost cash for his or her faculty.
In 1941, the band changed into an expert act, broke its connections with the varsity, added new members corresponding to trumpeter Ernestine “Tiny” Davis and saxophonist Vi Burnside, and have become the Worldwide Sweethearts of Rhythm. A lot of the musicians had been black, however the band additionally included Latina, Asian, Puerto Rican, and Native American members.
Vocalist Anna Mae Winburn had led an all-male band In Omaha, however when most of the musicians had been misplaced to the draft, she accepted an invite to grow to be the bandleader of the all-female swing band.
Right here’s a short historical past of the band that was ready by the Piney Woods College in 2011 for Jazz Appreciation Month.
And boy might these women swing:
After World Battle II ended and male musicians returned, the Worldwide Sweethearts of Rhythm discovered it tougher to get bookings and disbanded in 1949.
Trumpeter and vocalist Ernestine “Tiny” Davis was one of many huge band’s high soloists. Louis Armstrong even tried to rent Davis for his band for far more cash, however she wouldn’t go away the all-women band.
After the band broke up, Davis shaped her personal all-women band the Hell Divers which included drummer Ruby Lucas, her life associate for greater than 40 years. Within the Fifties, the 2 girls opened their very own membership in Chicago referred to as Tiny & Ruby’s Homosexual Spot, a well-liked venue for gays and lesbians.
Tiny and Ruby turned cultural icons for the homosexual rights motion. That is an excerpt from a 1987 documentary by Greta Schiller and Andrea Weiss, Tiny and Ruby: Hell Divin’ Ladies.
Clora Bryant referred to as herself a “trumpetiste” and got here of age within the Nineteen Forties when she fell in love with the brand new bebop type, and was the one feminine trumpeter to play with each Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Trumpeter Gillespie thought of her his protege, and gave her one in every of his mouthpieces. Interviewed within the documentary Trumpetistically, Clora Davis, Gillespie stated: “She has the feeling of the trumpet. The sensation, not simply the notes.”
She had earlier been a member of the Worldwide Sweethearts of Rhythm in its latter years and later joined one other all-women band, the Queens of Swing.
She turned a mainstay of the Los Angeles jazz scene, however she was largely handed over by the music trade. She made just one album as a frontrunner in her profession—Gal with a Horn in 1957. However the label’s producers demanded, regardless of her objections that she additionally sing in addition to play trumpet on the eight tracks.
In 1988, Bryant wrote a letter to Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev, saying she hoped to grow to be “the primary woman horn participant to be invited to your nation to carry out.” A yr later she turned the primary feminine jazz musician to tour the Soviet Union.
Pianist and vibraphonist Terry Pollard was lively on the Detroit jazz scene, however was one other of these feminine jazz artists who was missed. She loved her greatest success within the mid-Fifties when she was found by vibraphonist Terry Gibbs and toured and recorded together with his band. She recorded her first album as a frontrunner in 1955, and a yr later gained Downbeat journal’s New Artist award. However shortly after releasing her first album as a frontrunner in 1956, she mainly retired from a full-time music profession to boost her household and principally carried out within the Detroit space.
Pollard was an inspiration to younger Detroit-area musicians. Pianist Geri Allen, profiled lately in DK by Denise Oliver Velez, stated in an NPR interview that it was “a breakthrough second for me” when she heard Pollard enjoying with Gibbs. Allen stated she was impressed “seeing her and the way fierce she was. She commanded the bandstand in a approach that I’ll always remember.”
Pollard put collectively an all-female septet to carry out alongside trumpeter Clark Terry’s all-male septet on the 1954 album produced by the famous jazz author Leonard Feather: Cats vs. Chicks: A Jazz Battle of the Sexes.
Appropriately on the Irving Berlin tune, “Something You Can Do (I Can Do Higher)” from the musical Annie Get Your Gun, the soloists from every band sq. off. The male musicians all had lengthy, profitable careers; almost all the ladies didn’t.
Pollard gave a really outstanding efficiency when she appeared with Gibbs on The Tonight Present hosted by Steve Allen in 1956. Simply think about the historic context—this look was solely a yr after Rosa Parks refused to provide her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
On the primary tune, “Gibberish,” Pollard principally accompanies Gibbs on vibes. However watch what occurs on the second tune, “Now’s the Time,” on the 2:30 mark when the 2 play a duet on the vibraphone with Allen sitting in on piano. After which at 3:39, Pollard playfully pushes Gibbs to the facet so she will play by herself.
So let’s pay tribute to those jazz girls who blazed a path for his or her sisters to observe.
As the ladies’s motion took maintain in society within the late ‘60s and ‘70s, girls in jazz started enjoying a extra seen function. Ladies’s jazz festivals sprung up in Kansas CIty, New York, and in Washington, D.C., on the Kennedy Middle. And extra alternatives emerged as jazz education schemes had been established at universities throughout the nation.
The April 30 Worldwide Jazz Day All-Star World Live performance featured feminine jazz artists from all over the world: saxophonist Melissa Aldana (Chile), trumpeter Ingrid Jensen (Canada), pianists Amina Figarova (Azerbaijan) and Junko Onishi (Japan), and vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Andra Day, Veronica Swift, and Roberta Gambarini (Italy).
Everyone seems to be welcome to put up feedback and clips of their favourite girls jazz artists previous and current.
Editor’s be aware, Might 4, 2021: This story and lead picture have been edited to evolve with the Each day Kos stylebook.