Today's topic is black women who were big band leaders and jazz musicians. Often, these ladies are not remembered in Jazz history because of racism and sexism. Women vocalists were popular, but women who played instruments...not so much. Black women's bands did not receive any television exposure and hardly any other kind of exposure. So, here is my tribute to them:
1) Anna Mae Winburn and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm: Originally from Mississippi, the band started in 1937 when Laurence C. Jones, founder of Piney Woods Country Life for poor and orphaned children, organized an all-girl band. Eventually, the band went on to have a professional career with a large African-American following throughout the black theatre circuit and on military camps in the US and Europe. This band not only included black women musicians, but also included, White, Indian and Chinese women. In 1948, the band disbanded and sadly not many people, even today, have not heard of this group.
Lady Be Good
DVD on These Ladies
2) Mary Lou Williams: Born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs on May 8, 1910 in Atlanta, Georgia, Mary was a Jazz painist, composer and arranger. She had taught herself to play piano and became a professional as a teenager. Having worked with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, she made her big breakthrough in the 1930s with Andy Kirk's Dark CLouds of Joy big band. Mary was billed as "The Lady Who Swings the Band" because of her skills. Later, she worked with other Jazz artists, like Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie. Her music ranged from Free Jazz to Hard Bop to Swing to Gospel.
Jazz At Lincoln Center Tribute
3) Valaida Snow: Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1904, Snow gained popularity in Shanghai and Europe, but not in the US. She was known as the "Queen of the Trumpet, "but also could play several other instruments, like the saxophone, cello, bass, violin and clarinet as well as sing and dance. Snow also played in Louis Armstrong's band and given the name "Little Louis." One of her most famous songs is "High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm," and finally in 2007, Mark miller published a book on her life named after her hit.
The Mood That I'm In
You're Driving Me Crazy
Queen of the Jazz Trumpet
I Wish That I Were Twins
Until the Real Thing Comes Along