Thursday, March 16, 2017

Women's History Month: Women in Jazz



International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Women in Jazz

Jazz was formed by several threads in Southern American music, threads that were the purview of male musicians.  Many of the developments in early jazz took place in bars and brothels -- places where women from good families just shouldn't go!  Despite the domination of men in jazz, a few women took their place alongside men in the early years, sometimes as their spouse, too.  Lil Hardin married Louis Armstrong, for example, but continued her own career after their divorce.

In the 1920s dance "orchestras" became popular, leading to the famous big bands of the 1930s and 1940s.  Few of these organizations hired women except as singers.  Especially during World War II, jazz vocalists fronting big bands would be a woman or an all-female group. "All girl" bands were  novelty acts but were also an outlet for many talented women.   The most famous were e the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

For interviews and performances watch The International Sweethearts of Rhythm documentary via kanopy.com.  (Log in required from off campus)

Ella Fitzgerald
In the 1950s, jazz returned to its roots in small ensembles and improvised soloing, leaving aside the smooth melodic pop songs with big band backing that dominated in the 1940s. The new style, bebop (or "bop") celebrated instrumental virtuosity, for the most part scat singing -- using nonsense syllables in place of words for improvisation, gave vocalists an equal footing in the new style.  Both men and women excelled at this type of singing.  Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan were among the most famous singers of scat.
displacing vocal jazz and the women who sang it.  Soon, though,

Jazz has continued to evolve along with society, and now there are more women than ever performing and recording professionally.  Check CDs by these artists from the Music Collections:

Instrumentalists:
Regina Carter

Toshiko Akiyoshi
 (piano)

Regina Carter (violin)

Alice Coltrane (saxophone)

Marian McPartland (piano)

Maria Schneider (big-band leader)

Hazel Scott (piano)

Esperanza Spalding (bass)

Mary Lou Williams (piano)


Singers:
Diana Krall

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Betty Carter

Ella Fitzgerald

Billie Holiday

Diana Krall

Madeleine Peyroux
Lee, Peggy

McRae, Carmen

Madeleine Peyroux


Dianne Reeves

Diane Schuur

Nina Simone

Cassandra Wilson
Sarah Vaughan

Washington, Dinah

Brenna Whitaker

Cassandra Wilson



For more about women in jazz, check out these books:
Jazzwomen: Conversations with Twenty-One Musicians
ML395 .E572 2004

Swing Shift: "All-Girl" Bands of the 1940s, by Sherrie Tucker
ML82 .T83 2000

Madame Jazz: Contemporary Women Instrumentalists, by Leslie Gourse
ML82 .G69 1995

Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen, by Linda Dahl
ML82 .D3 1984



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