Sunday, October 2, 2011

Women In Jazz - Yesterday & Today

Written by Azizi Powell

It has become a custom for persons who have been added to closed facebook groups to post "Thank yous" on that group's page. In that spirit, the other day one newly added member of the "Jazz Warriors Official Group" wrote on that group's facebook wall:
"Gentlemen,thank you for allowing me to be a part of an historic movement in the history of Jazz in this country!"

A female member of that group promptly responded with the comment: "(member's name), there are ladies in the camp also :)"

Shortly thereafter, that man posted this comment (the caps are probably for emphasis and not shouting)


And though I also was a new member of that group, I couldn't resist the opportunity to post this comment that "Yeah, us ladies can be gentle too - and we can also be fierce!"

With that exchange in mind, and as a means of expanding and deepening my knowledge of this subject, I took some time earlier today to browse the internet to find websites on women in Jazz.

Among the websites that I found were: WAER (radio station 88.3 [music, news, and NPR from Eastern New York]
Voices of the Century:50 Greatest Female Jazz Vocalists! Chosen by our members, listeners and staff. (1999)
#1 on that list is Ella Fitzgerald

** Women in Jazz

Kalamazoo Gazette

** Black Women Musicians In Seattle Washington 1920-1955

** Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture (a review of the book Black Women and Music: More than the Blues Edited by Eileen M. Hayes and Linda F. Williams. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007. 261 pp.

and 30 Fierce Women Of Jazz From Yesterday and Today
(#1 on that list is Mary Lou Williams and Ella Fitzgerald is listed as #2).

It should be noted that I wasn't aware of that "30 Fierce Women Of Jazz" website when I wrote my comment on the Jazz Warriors Official Club facebook page
that ladies [in jazz] can be both gentle & fierce. Life is full of coincidences like that.

There's a lot of quotable quotes and long excerpts that I found of interest in those websites, but just encourage folks to visit the above listed sites. And in summation, I'll share one quote from Black Women and Music: More than the Blues:
Racism, sexism, classism, colorism, ageism, and stylism" all still play frequently contradicting but stifling roles [for women in the music industry](p.66).

Representative of jazz female artists from yesterday & today, it gives me great pleasure to share two videos of pianist & composer Mary Lou Williams and two vidoes of mult-instrumentalists, vocalist, and composer Esperanza Spalding.

Mary Lou Williams - A profile

Uploaded by dnworks on May 4, 2010

032out2010 Mary Lou Williams 01
(Mary Lou Williams- Jazzy Women 1978)

Uploaded by RareJazzVideos on Nov 5, 2010



Esperanza Spalding - Jazz Ain't Nothin But Soul - Austin Limits 2009 -.avi

Uploaded by falara4351 on Jun 30, 2011

Esperanza Spalding - "Ponta de Areia"

Uploaded by mistermister668 on Jul 4, 2011


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1 comment:

  1. I just want to mention that Mary Lou Williams was raised in the same Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania neighborhood of East Liberty that i've lived in for decades.


    Esperanza Spalding grew up in Portland, Oregon. She won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards (2011), making her the first jazz artist to win the award.

    And-in case you are wondering-that list of 30 Fierce Women in Jazz listed Esperanza Spalding as #6.