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Eleanor Collins

Matriarch of Canadian Jazz

 

 

 

     photo credit: by Ghassan Shanti

 

 

An interview with CBC's Lynne McNamara from 1988

 


 Eleanor Collins

Born November 21, 1919

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

 In 2012, I produced and aired a two part radio series for CHLY 101.7 FM Nanaimo, Canada on early jazz women from North America.  One truly exciting find was discovering the online 1950’s jazz videos of Vancouver vocal jazz legend ELEANOR COLLINS at:

 http://www.jazzstreetvancouver.ca/artists/23

Jazz vocalist Collins was the first music artist in Canada to have had a national television series named for her in 1955 called the “Eleanor” show. Her music career and appearances began in the early 1940’s on both CBC radio and television where she had a long and vibrant career lasting many decades.

Collins was a gifted performer and had much natural musical and vocal talent. She was also charismatic, elegant, beautiful and glamorous. While her television show aired in the 1950’s during an oppressive period for artists of colour, the “Eleanor” show helped to break down barriers for performers and Canadians from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Eleanor began her radio career at CBC Vancouver as featured vocalist with the Ray Norris Quintet and throughout the years she worked with Vancouver’s leading musicians such as the Chris Gage Trio, Doug Parker Orchestra, Lance Harrison Band, Bobby Hales Orchestra and Fraser McPherson.  Her television career began with the inaugural music/dance series out of CBUT Vancouver in August 1954 called “Bamboula”.  She later followed with such variety shows as Parade, Riding High, Back-A-Town-Blues, Quintet and Heritage as well as numerous guest appearances on other Canadian productions.

An interesting fact is that Collins’ signature television program preceded Nat King Cole’s 1956 television show in the United States. At the time Nat King Cole was thought to be the first artist of colour to host a national TV show.  However, it seems perhaps that distinction rests with a Canadian woman. Research appears to confirm that the 1955 “Eleanor” show was indeed the first television series in North America to be hosted by a black artist.

Inspired by the research in 2012, I was led to an opportunity for an interview with 93 year old legend Eleanor Collins at her home. Remarkably, Eleanor still exercises regularly, has practiced live organic vegetable juicing for over 30 years and takes regular health supplements. She practices healthy living and a positive spirit as part of her daily routine. She is bright, humorous and witty and it was an extraordinary pleasure to have a conversation with this artist about her music, career and personal philosophy. She captivated me with stories about Vancouver music history, CBC history, the jazz scene and the musicians and it is wonderful to be able to document it for the radio listening audience. Eleanor’s years of living have been full and her wisdom and spirituality shine through. 

Eleanor has been the recipient of numerous awards for her contribution to arts and entertainment and is also featured on the following websites:

http://vanalogue.wordpress.com/tag/eleanor-collins/\

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/BC/ID/2424917303/

Below is a link to my Feb. 4, 2013, CHLY 101.7 FM radio interview with Eleanor Collins.  I hope it allows for a true legend of the Canadian vocal world to reach new listeners.

http://chly.dailysplice.com/rhythmaning/9689/

 by Kerilie McDowall

 www.rhythmaning.ca

 

 

Ella Fitzgerald 

 

  

 


 

She made her singing debut at 17 on November 21, 1934, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. She pulled in a weekly audience at the Apollo and won the opportunity to compete in one of the earliest of its famous "Amateur Nights". She had originally intended to go on stage and dance, but, intimidated by the Edwards Sisters, a local dance duo, she opted to sing instead in the style of Connee Boswell. She sang Boswell's "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection," a song recorded by the Boswell Sisters, and won the first prize of US$25.00.

In January 1935, Fitzgerald won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. She met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb there. Webb had already hired singer Charlie Linton to work with the band and was, The New York Times later wrote, "reluctant to sign her....because she was gawky and unkempt, a diamond in the rough."[ Webb offered her the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University.

She began singing regularly with Webb's Orchestra through 1935 at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. Fitzgerald recorded several hit songs with them, including "Love and Kisses" and "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)". But it was her 1938 version of the nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket", a song she co-wrote, that brought her wide public acclaim.

Chick Webb died on June 16, 1939, and his band was renamed "Ella and her Famous Orchestra" with Ella taking on the role of nominal bandleader. Fitzgerald recorded nearly 150 songs with the orchestra before it broke up in 1942, "the majority of them novelties and disposable pop fluff"

In 1942, Fitzgerald left the band to begin a solo career. Now signed to the Decca label, she had several popular hits while recording with such artists as Bill Kenny & The Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and The Delta Rhythm Boys.

With Decca's Milt Gabler as her manager, she began working regularly for the jazz impresario Norman Granz and appeared regularly in his Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) concerts. Fitzgerald's relationship with Granz was further cemented when he became her manager, although it would be nearly a decade before he could record her on one of his many record labels.

With the demise of the Swing era and the decline of the great touring big bands, a major change in jazz music occurred. The advent of bebop led to new developments in Fitzgerald's vocal style, influenced by her work with Dizzy Gillespie's big band. It was in this period that Fitzgerald started including scat singing as a major part of her performance repertoire. While singing with Gillespie, Fitzgerald recalled, "I just tried to do [with my voice] what I heard the horns in the band doing."

Her 1945 scat recording of "Flying Home" arranged by Vic Schoen would later be described by The New York Times as "one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade....Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness." Her bebop recording of "Oh, Lady Be Good!" (1947) was similarly popular and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists.

In her most notable screen role, Fitzgerald played the part of singer Maggie Jackson in Jack Webb's 1955 jazz film Pete Kelly's Blues. The film costarred Janet Leigh and singer Peggy Lee. Even though she had already worked in the movies (she had sung briefly in the 1942 Abbott and Costello film Ride 'Em Cowboy), she was "delighted" when Norman Granz negotiated the role for her, and, "at the time....considered her role in the Warner Brothers movie the biggest thing ever to have happened to her." Amid The New York Times pan of the film when it opened in August 1955, the reviewer wrote, "About five minutes (out of ninety-five) suggest the picture this might have been. Take the ingenious prologue ...[or take the fleeting scenes when the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald, allotted a few spoken lines, fills the screen and sound track with her strong mobile features and voice." Fitzgerald's race precluded major big-screen success. After Pete Kelly's Blues, she appeared in sporadic movie cameos, in St. Louis Blues (1958), and Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960). Much later, she appeared in the 1980s television drama The White Shadow.

She made numerous guest appearances on television shows, singing on The Frank Sinatra Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, and alongside other greats Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Mel Tormé, and many others. She was also frequently featured on The Ed Sullivan Show. Perhaps her most unusual and intriguing performance was of the "Three Little Maids" song from Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta The Mikado alongside Joan Sutherland and Dinah Shore on Shore's weekly variety series in 1963. A performance at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London was filmed and shown on the BBC. Fitzgerald also made a one-off appearance alongside Sarah Vaughan and Pearl Bailey on a 1979 television special honoring Bailey. In 1980, she performed a medley of standards in a duet with Karen Carpenter on the Carpenters' television program Music, Music, Music.

Fitzgerald also appeared in TV commercials, her most memorable being an ad for Memorex. In the commercials, she sang a note that shattered a glass while being recorded on a Memorex cassette tape. The tape was played back and the recording also broke the glass, asking: "Is it live, or is it Memorex?" She also starred in a number of commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken, singing and scatting to the fast-food chain's longtime slogan, "We do chicken right!" Her final commercial campaign was for American Express, in which she was photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

Ella Fitzgerald won thirteen Grammy Awards, including one for Lifetime Achievement in 1967.

Other major awards and honors she received during her career were the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, National Medal of Art, first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named "Ella" in her honor, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing. Across town at the University of Southern California, she received the USC "Magnum Opus" Award which hangs in the office of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. In 1990, she received an honorary doctorate of Music from Harvard University.

The career history and archival material from Ella's long career are housed in the Archives Center at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, while her personal music arrangements are at the Library of Congress. Her extensive cookbook collection was donated to the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University, and her extensive collection of published sheet music was donated to UCLA.

In 1997, Newport News, Virginia created a music festival with Christopher Newport University to honor Ella Fitzgerald in her birth city. The Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival is designed to teach the region's youth of the musical legacy of Fitzgerald and jazz. Past performers at the week-long festival include: Diana Krall, Arturo Sandoval, Jean Carne, Phil Woods, Aretha Franklin, Freda Payne, Cassandra Wilson, Ethel Ennis, David Sanborn, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ramsey Lewis, Patti Austin, and Ann Hampton Callaway

Callaway, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Patti Austin have all recorded albums in tribute to Fitzgerald. Callaway's album To Ella with Love (1996) features fourteen jazz standards made popular by Fitzgerald, and the album also features the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Bridgewater's album Dear Ella (1997) featured many musicians that were closely associated with Fitzgerald during her career, including the pianist Lou Levy, the trumpeter Benny Powell, and Fitzgerald's second husband, double bassist Ray Brown. Bridgewater's following album, Live at Yoshi's, was recorded live on April 25, 1998, what would have been Fitzgerald's 81st birthday.

Austin's album, For Ella (2002) features 11 songs most immediately associated with Fitzgerald, and a twelfth song, "Hearing Ella Sing" is Austin's tribute to Fitzgerald. The album was nominated for a Grammy. In 2007, We All Love Ella, was released, a tribute album recorded for the 90th anniversary of Fitzgerald's birth. It featured artists such as Michael Bublé, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Queen Latifah, Ledisi, Dianne Reeves, Linda Ronstadt, and Lizz Wright, collating songs most readily associated with the "First Lady of Song". Folk singer Odetta's album To Ella (1998) is dedicated to Fitzgerald, but features no songs associated with her. Her accompanist Tommy Flanagan affectionately remembered Fitzgerald on his album Lady be Good ... For Ella (1994).

Fitzgerald is also referred to on the 1987 song "Ella, elle l'a" by French singer France Gall, the 1976 Stevie Wonder hit "Sir Duke" from his album Songs in the Key of Life, and the song "I Love Being Here With You", written by Peggy Lee and Bill Schluger. Sinatra's 1986 recording of "Mack the Knife" from his album L.A. Is My Lady (1984) includes a homage to some of the song's previous performers, including 'Lady Ella' herself. She is also honored in the song "First Lady" by Canadian artist Nikki Yanofsky.

In 2008, the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News named its brand new 276-seat theater the Ella Fitzgerald Theater. The theater is located several blocks away from her birthplace on Marshall Avenue. The Grand Opening performers (October 11 and 12, 2008) were Roberta Flack and Queen Esther Marrow.

In 2012, Rod Stewart performed a "virtual duet" with Ella Fitzgerald on his Christmas album Merry Christmas, Baby, and his television special of the same name.

In 2013, Google paid tribute to Ella by celebrating her 96th birthday with a Google Doodle on its US homepage.

There is a bronze sculpture of Fitzgerald in Yonkers, the city in which she grew up, created by American artist Vinnie Bagwell. It is located southeast of the main entrance to the Amtrak/Metro-North Railroad station in front of the city's old trolley barn. A bust of Fitzgerald is on the campus of Chapman University in Orange, California. On January 10, 2007, the United States Postal Service announced that Fitzgerald would be honored with her own 39-cent postage stamp. The stamp was released in April 2007 as part of the Postal Service's Black Heritage series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lena Horne

 

 Actress and singer Lena Horne was born June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York. She left school at age 16 to help support her mother and became a dancer at the Cotton Club in Harlem. She later sang at Carnegie Hall and appeared in such films as Stormy Weather and The Wiz. She was also known for her work with civil rights groups, and refused to play roles that stereotyped African-American women.

                                     

  • At age 16, Horne dropped out of school and began performing at the Cotton Club in Harlem. A few years later, she joined the Noble Sissle Society Orchestra, using the name Helena Horne. Then, after appearing in the Broadway musical revue Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1939, she joined a well-known white swing band, the Charlie Barnet Orchestra. Charlie Barnet was one of the first bandleaders to integrate his band, but because of racial prejudice, Horne was unable to stay or socialize at many of the venues in which the orchestra performed, and she soon left the tour. In 1941 she returned to New York to work at the Café Society nightclub, popular with both black and white artists and intellectuals.
  • Horne already had two low-budget movies to her credit: a 1938 musical feature called The Duke is Tops (later reissued with Horne's name above the title as The Bronze Venus); and a 1941 two-reel short subject, Boogie Woogie Dream, featuring pianists Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons. Horne's songs from Boogie Woogie Dream were later released individually as soundies. Horne was primarily a nightclub performer during this period and it was during a 1942 club engagement in Hollywood at Slapsy Maxie's in which talent scouts approached Horne to work in pictures. She chose Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and became the first black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. In November 1944, she was featured in an episode of the popular radio series Suspense, as a fictional nightclub singer, with a large speaking role along with her singing. In 1945 and 1946, she sang with Billy Eckstine's Orchestra.

    She made her debut with MGM in Panama Hattie (1942) and performed the title song of Stormy Weather based loosely on the life of Adelaide Hall, (1943), which she made at 20th Century Fox, on loan from MGM. She appeared in a number of MGM musicals, most notably Cabin in the Sky (also 1943), but was never featured in a leading role because of her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theaters could not show films with black performers. As a result, most of Horne's film appearances were stand-alone sequences that had no bearing on the rest of the film, so editing caused no disruption to the storyline; a notable exception was the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, although one number was cut because it was considered too suggestive by the censors. "Ain't it the Truth" was the song (and scene) cut before the release of the film Cabin in the Sky. It featured Horne singing "Ain't it the Truth", while taking a bubble bath (considered too "risqué" by the film's executives). This scene and song are featured in the film That's Entertainment! III (1994) which also featured commentary from Horne on why the scene was deleted prior to the film's release.

    In Ziegfeld Follies (1946) she performed "Love" by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Horne wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM's 1951 version of Show Boat (having already played the role when a segment of Show Boat was performed in Till the Clouds Roll By) but lost the part to Ava Gardner, a personal friend in real life, due to the Production Code's ban on interracial relationships in films. In the documentary That's Entertainment! III Horne stated that MGM executives required Gardner to practice her singing using Horne's recordings, which offended both actresses. Ultimately, Gardner's voice was overdubbed by actress Annette Warren (Smith) for the theatrical release.

    In 2003, ABC announced that Janet Jackson would star as Horne in a television biopic. In the weeks following Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" debacle during the 2004 Super Bowl, however, Variety reported that Horne demanded Jackson be dropped from the project. "ABC executives resisted Horne's demand", according to the Associated Press report, "but Jackson representatives told the trade newspaper that she left willingly after Horne and her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, asked that she not take part." Oprah Winfrey stated to Alicia Keys during a 2005 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show that she might possibly consider producing the biopic herself, casting Keys as Horne.

    In January 2005, Blue Note Records, her label for more than a decade, announced that "the finishing touches have been put on a collection of rare and unreleased recordings by the legendary Horne made during her time on Blue Note." Remixed by her longtime producer Rodney Jones, the recordings featured Horne in remarkably secure voice for a woman of her years, and include versions of such signature songs as "Something to Live For", "Chelsea Bridge", and "Stormy Weather". The album, originally titled Soul but renamed Seasons of a Life, was released on January 24, 2006.

    In 2007, Horne was portrayed by Leslie Uggams as the older Lena and Nikki Crawford as the younger Lena in the stage musical Stormy Weather staged at the Pasadena Playhouse in California (January through March 2009).

    In 2011, Horne was also portrayed by actress Ryan Jillian in a one-woman show titled "Notes from A Horne" staged at the Susan Batson studio in New York City, from November 2011 to February 2012.

    The 83rd Academy Awards presented a tribute to Horne by actress Halle Berry at the ceremony held February 27, 2011

    Grammy Awards

    Lena Horne Grammy Award History[23][24]
    YearCategoryTitleGenreLabelResult
    1995Best Jazz Vocal PerformanceAn Evening with Lena HorneJazzBlue NoteWinner
    1989Lifetime Achievement AwardWinner
    1988Best Jazz Vocal Performance – FemaleThe Men in My LifeJazzThree CherriesNominee
    1988Best Jazz Vocal Performance – Duo or Group"I Won't Leave You Again"JazzThree CherriesNominee
    1981Best Pop Vocal Performance, FemaleLena Horne: The Lady and Her MusicPopQwestWinner
    1981Best Cast Show AlbumLena Horne: The Lady and Her MusicPopQwestWinner
    1962Best Female Vocal PerformancePorgy and BessPopRCANominee
    1961Female Solo Vocal PerformanceLena at the SandsPopRCANominee

    Other awards

    YearOrganizationCategoryResultNotes
    2006Martin Luther King, Jr.
    National Historic Site
    International Civil Rights Walk of Fame[25]Inducted
    1999NAACP Image AwardOutstanding Jazz ArtistWinner
    1994Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement AwardSongwriters Hall of FameWinner
     Hollywood Chamber of CommerceHollywood Walk of FameWinnerHonor (motion pictures)
     Hollywood Chamber of CommerceHollywood Walk of FameWinnerHonor (recordings)
    1987American Society of Composers,
    Authors and Publishers
    The ASCAP Pied Piper Award[26]WinnerGiven to entertainers who have made significant contributions to words and music
    1985Emmy AwardLena Horne: The Lady and Her MusicNominee
    1984John F. Kennedy Center for
    the Performing Arts
    Kennedy Center Honors[27]WinnerFor extraordinary talent, creativity, and perseverance
    1980Howard UniversityHonorary doctorate[28]Honored
    1980Drama Desk AwardsOutstanding Actress – MusicalWinnerLena Horne: The Lady and Her Music
    1980New York Drama Critics Circle AwardsSpecial CitationWinnerLena Horne: The Lady and Her Music
    1981Tony AwardsSpecial CitationWinnerLena Horne: The Lady and Her Music
    1957Tony AwardsBest ActressNominee"Jamaica"

     

     Nancy Wilson

     

     

    After making numerous television guest appearances, Wilson eventually got her own series on NBC, The Nancy Wilson Show (1967–1968), which won an Emmy in 1975. Over the years she has appeared on many popular television shows from I Spy (more or less playing herself as a Las Vegas singer in the 1966 episode "Lori," and a similar character in the 1973 episode "The Confession" of The F.B.I.), Room 222, Hawaii Five-O, Police Story, The Jack Paar Program, The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show (1966), The Danny Kaye Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Kraft Music Hall, The Sinbad Show, The Cosby Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Soul Food, New York Undercover, and recently Moesha, and The Parkers. She also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Merv Griffith Show, The Tonight Show, The Arsenio Hall Show and The Flip Wilson Show. She was in the 1993 Robert Townsend's The Meteor Man and in the film, The Big Score. She also appeared on The Lou Rawls Parade of Stars and the March of Dime Telethon. She was signed by Capitol records in the late 1970s and in an attempt to broaden her appeal she cut the album Life, Love and Harmony, an album of soulful, funky dance cuts that included the track "Sunshine", which was to become one of her most sought-after recordings (albeit among supporters of the rare soul scene with whom she would not usually register).

    In the 1980s, she recorded five albums for Japanese labels because she preferred recording live, and American labels frequently did not give her that option. She gained such wide popularity that she was selected as the winner of the annual Tokyo Song Festivals.

    In 1982 she recorded with Hank Jones and the Great Jazz Trio. In that same year she recorded with Griffith Park Band whose members included Chick Corea and Joe Henderson. In 1987 she participated in a PBS show entitled Newport Jazz ‘87 as the singer of a jazz trio with John Williams and Roy McCurdy.

    In 1982 she also signed with CBS, her albums here including The Two of Us (1984), duets with Ramsey Lewis produced by Stanley Clarke; Forbidden Lover (1987), including the title-track duet with Carl Anderson; and A Lady with a Song, which became her 52nd album release in 1989. In 1989 Nancy Wilson in Concert played as a television special.

    In the early 1990s, Nancy recorded an album paying tribute to Johnny Mercer with co-producer Barry Manilow entitled With My Lover Beside Me. In this decade she also recorded two other albums, Love, Nancy and her sixtieth album If I Had it My Way. In the late 1990s, she teamed up with MCG Jazz, a youth-education program of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, nonprofit, minority-directed, arts and learning organization located in Pittsburgh, PA.

    In 1995, Nancy Wilson performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the San Francisco Jazz Festival in 1997. In 1999, she hosted a show in honor of Ella Fitzgerald entitled Forever Ella on the A & E network.

    All the proceeds from 2001's A Nancy Wilson Christmas went to support the work of MCG Jazz. Wilson was the host on NPR's Jazz Profiles, from 1996 to 2005. This series profiled the legends and legacy of jazz through music, interviews and commentary. Wilson and the program were the recipients of the George Foster Peabody Award in 2001.

    Wilson's second and third album with MCG Jazz, R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) (2005), and Turned to Blue (2007), both won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Alberta Hunter

     

     Alberta Hunter

    Born in Memphis, she left home while still in her early teens and settled in Chicago, Illinois. There, she peeled potatoes by day and hounded club owners by night, determined to land a singing job. Her persistence paid off, and Hunter began a climb through some of the city's lowest dives to a headlining job at its most prestigious venue for black entertainers, the Dreamland ballroom. She had a five-year association with the Dreamland, beginning in 1917, and her salary rose to $35 a week.

    She first toured Europe in 1917, performing in Paris and London. The Europeans treated her as an artist, showing her respect and even reverence, which made a great impression on her.

    Her career as singer and songwriter flourished in the 1920s and 1930s, and she appeared in clubs and on stage in musicals in both New York and London. The songs she wrote include the critically acclaimed "Downhearted Blues" (1922). She recorded several records with Perry Bradford from 1922 to 1927.

    Hunter recorded prolifically during the 1920s, starting with sessions for Black Swan in 1921, Paramount in 1922–1924, Gennett in 1924, OKeh in 1925–1926, Victor in 1927 and Columbia in 1929.

    Hunter wrote "Downhearted Blues" while recording for Ink Williams at Paramount Records, but she received only $368 in royalties. Williams secretly sold the recording rights to Columbia Records, in a deal giving the royalties to Williams. The song became a big hit for Columbia, with Bessie Smith as the vocalist. Hunter learned what Williams had done and stopped recording for him.

     
    In 1928, Hunter played "Queenie" opposite Paul Robeson in the first London production of Show Boat at Drury Lane. She subsequently performed in nightclubs throughout Europe and appeared for the 1934 winter season with Jack Jackson's society orchestra at London's Dorchester Hotel. One of her recordings with Jackson is Miss Otis Regrets (she is unable to Lunch Today). While at the Dorchester, she made several HMV recordings with the orchestra and appeared in Radio Parade of 1935 (1934), the first British theatrical film to feature the short-lived Dufaycolor, but only Hunter's segment was in color. She spent the late 1930s fulfilling engagements on both sides of the Atlantic and the early 1940s performing at home. In 1944, she took a U.S.O. troupe to Casablanca and continued entertaining troops in both theatres of war for the duration of World War II and into the early postwar period. In the 1950s, she led U.S.O. troupes in Korea, but her mother's death in 1954 led her to her seek a radical career change. She prudently reduced her age, "invented" a high school diploma, and enrolled in nursing school, embarking on what was apparently a fulfilling career in healthcare.

     Hunter's life was documented in Alberta Hunter: My Castle's Rockin' (1998), a documentary written by Chris Albertson and narrated by pianist Billy Taylor, and in Cookin' at the Cookery, a biographical musical by Marion J. Caffey that has toured the United States in recent years with Ernestine Jackson as Hunter.

    Hunter came from a difficult background. Her father left when she was a child and to support the family Hunter’s mother worked as a servant to a whorehouse in Memphis. Although she married again in 1906, Hunter was not happy with her new family. Hunter left for Chicago around the age of eleven, in the hopes of becoming a paid singer; she had heard that it paid ten dollars an hour. Instead of finding a job as a singer she had to earn money by working at a boardinghouse that paid six dollars a week as well as room and board. Hunter's mother left Memphis and moved in with her soon afterwards.

    to New York City. She performed with Bricktop and Louis Armstrong. She continued to perform until shortly before her death in October 1984. She is buried in the Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum, Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York (Elmwood section; plot 1411).

    Hunter was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011, while her album Amtrak Blues had been previously honored in 2009.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Hazel Scott

     

     

    Hazel Dorothy Scott (June 11, 1920 – October 2, 1981) was an internationally known, American jazz and classical pianist and singer; she also performed as herself in several films. She was prominent as a jazz singer throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In 1950, she became the first woman of color to have her own TV show, The Hazel Scott Show, featuring a variety of entertainment. To evade the political persecution of artists in the McCarthy era, Scott moved to Paris in the late 1950s and performed in France, not returning to the United States until 1967.

    Born in Port of Spain, Hazel was taken at the age of four by her mother to New York. Recognized early as a musical prodigy, Scott was given scholarships from the age of eight to study at the Juilliard School. She began performing in a jazz band in her teens and was performing on radio at age 16.

    Hazel Scott was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, to Alma Long Scott, a musician. They moved to New York City when Hazel was four. Recognized as a child musical prodigy, the young Scott was awarded scholarships to study classical piano at the Juilliard School from the age of eight. As a teenager, she performed piano and trumpet with her mother’s "Alma Long Scott" all-girl jazz band, which sometimes featured Lil Hardin Armstrong.

    By the age of 16, Hazel Scott regularly performed for radio programs for the Mutual Broadcasting System, gaining a reputation as the “hot classicist.”[1] In the mid-1930s, she also performed at the Roseland Dance Hall with the Count Basie Orchestra. Her early musical theatre appearances in New York included the Cotton Club Revue of 1938, Sing Out the News and The Priorities of 1942.[1]

    Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Scott performed jazz, blues, ballads, popular (Broadway songs and boogie-woogie) and classical music in various nightclubs. From 1939 to 1943 she was a leading attraction at both the downtown and uptown branches of Café Society. Her performances created national prestige for the practice of “swinging the classics”.[2] By 1945, Scott was earning $75,000 ($956,423 today[3]) a year.[4]

    In addition to Lena Horne, Scott was one of the first African-American women to garner respectable roles in major Hollywood pictures. She performed as herself in several features, notably I Dood It (MGM 1943), Broadway Rhythm (MGM 1944), with Lena Horne and in the otherwise all-white cast The Heat's On (Columbia 1943), Something to Shout About (Columbia 1943), and Rhapsody in Blue (Warner Bros 1945). In the 1940s, in addition to her film appearances, Scott was featured in Café Society’s From Bach to Boogie-Woogie concerts in 1941 and 1943 at Carnegie Hall.

    She was the first woman of color to have her own television show, The Hazel Scott Show, which premiered on the DuMont Television Network on July 3, 1950. Thereafter, she guest starred in an episode of CBS's Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town musical series.

    With the beginning of political intimidation during the years of Senator Joseph McCarthy's influence, Scott was called to testify by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Her television variety program was cancelled soon afterward on September 29, 1950. This was also a time of continued racism in the advertising industry and economic hardships for jazz musicians in general. Scott remained publicly opposed to McCarthyism and racial segregation throughout her career.

    To evade the oppression in the United States, Scott moved to Paris in the late 1950s. She appeared in the French film Le Désordre et la Nuit’ (1958). She maintained a steady but difficult career in France and touring throughout Europe. She did not return to the US until 1967. By this time the Civil Rights Movement had led to federal legislation ending racial segregation and enforcing the protection of voting rights of all citizens; most African Americans in the South could vote again, after nearly 100 years of many being excluded from the franchise. Other social changes were underway.

    Scott continued to play occasionally in nightclubs, while also appearing in daytime television until the year of her death. She made her television acting debut in 1973, on the ABC daytime soap opera One Life to Live, performing a wedding song at the nuptials of her "onscreen cousin", Carla Gray Hall, portrayed by Ellen Holly.

    Scott recorded as the leader of various groups for Decca, Columbia and Signature, among them, a trio that consisted of Bill English and the double bass player Martin Rivera, and another featuring Charles Mingus on bass and Rudie Nichols on drums. Her album Relaxed Piano Moods on the Debut Record label, with Mingus and Max Roach, is generally her work most highly regarded by critics today.

    In 1945, Scott, who was a Catholic, married Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a Baptist minister and U.S. Congressman, in Connecticut. They had one child, Adam Clayton Powell III, but divorced in 1960 after a separation.

    On January 19, 1961, she married Ezio Bedin, a Swiss-born comedian.

    On October 2, 1981, Hazel Scott died of cancer at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She was 61 years old, and survived by her son Adam Clayton Powell III. She was buried at Flushing Cemetery in Queens, New York, near other musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hodges, and Dizzy Gillespie.

    Scott was best-known internationally as a performer of jazz. She was also accomplished in politics, leading the way for African Americans in entertainment and film; and was successful in dramatic acting and classical music. She was noted for her swinging style, performing at the Milford Plaza Hotel in her last months.

     

     

     

     

    Etta Jones

     

     

    ETTA JONES (1928-2001)

    Etta Jones began singing at age three. Hearing Billie Holiday inspired her to a career that lasted over a half century beginning when she entered a talent show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Leonard Feather who ass...
    isted so many female jazz musicians, expedited her first session in 1944 at age 16.

    She worked through the late ‘40s and very early ‘50s with the bands of J.C. Heard and Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines; though times were often very tough and Etta often had to work odd jobs. (By the way she’s not to be confused with with R & B singer Etta James; nor another Etta Jones of the Dandridge Sisters who recorded with Jimmie Lunceford.)

    Jones’ 1960 comeback album “Don’t Go to Strangers” was a hit that went gold. She subsequently recorded a couple dozen more; two were Grammy nominated. From 1968 on she worked with her husband, tenor sax man Houston Person; performing with renewed energy after a serious brush with cancer in the mid-90s. Etta Jones last album was a Billie Holiday tribute was released the day of her death in 2001.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Maxine Sullivan

     

     

     

    MAXINE SULLIVAN (1911-1987)

    Originally from Pennsylvania, Sullivan got her start at the Onyx Club in New York working with pianist-arranger Claude Thornhill. Maxine sang delicately clear and pure with a lilting, softly melodic voice: on-tu...
    ne and relaxed with considerable charm. Her 1937 “Loch Lomond” -- Thornhill’s skillful arrangement of a traditional Scottish song -- sold very well, leading to a contract with Victor Records and high profile film and theatrical roles.

    During the ‘40s Maxine Sullivan worked with Benny Carter and many prestigious residencies; later touring America and Europe. In the ‘50s she took up valve trombone and flugelhorn and her international career lasted through the mid-1980s.

     

    Blanche Calloway

     

     

     

    BLANCHE CALLOWAY (1904-1978) - Jazz Pioneer

    Singer Blanche Calloway was very much overshadowed by her brother Cab Calloway’s superstadom. She was very successful in the early 1930s when she fronted her own band that consisted mostly of guys from the Andy Kirk band.

    Blanche Calloway put together some pretty tight groups which at one time or another included trumpter, composer, arranger Edgar Battle who worked for Waller, Hines, Basie and Teagarden; saxophone great Ben Webster -- and in her last session in 1935 trombonist Vic Dickenson and Prince Robinson on tenor sax.

    She was very probably the first woman to lead an all male orchestra and waxed a couple dozen sides. Much later during the 1960s in Miami she was the only black female disc jockey on the air in Florida, and possibly the entire South!

     

     

     

    Melba Liston

     

     

    Melba Doretta Liston,
    Trombonist, composer, arranger.
    Born in Kansas City, Missouri, January 13, 1926
    Died in Los Angeles April 23, 1999.

    The code of behavior at ladies' finishing schools never recommended taking up the trombone. ...


    The instrument didn't rival the piano or the cello in drawing room decorum. And yet the only two well-known women trombonists were both glamorous to look at. Melba Liston was one of them and the English Annie Whitehead was the other.

    Melba Liston certainly saw every side of show business.
    On one occasion she was stranded with Billie Holiday, both of them broke, in a hostile South Carolina, and on another she walked about playing a harp in the film "The Ten Commandments" (1956).

    It was her talents as a composer and arranger that distinguished her, rather than her work as an instrumentalist. She wrote scores for innumerable big bands including those of Quincy Jones, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. Her long association with her mentor the pianist and composer Randy Weston took her to the forefronts of modern jazz and Tony Bennett,
    Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln and Diana Ross were amongst the vocalists that commissioned work from her.
     
     

     

    Billie Holiday

     

     

              "I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That's all I    know."

                                         – Billie Holiday

    Singer, jazz vocalist. Born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Some sources say Baltimore, Maryland. Her birth certificate reportedly reads "Elinore Harris.") One of the most influential jazz singers of all time, Billie Holiday had a thriving career for many years.

    Holiday spent much of her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, Sadie, was only a teenager when she had her. Her father is widely believed to be Clarence Holiday, who eventually became a successful jazz musician, playing with the likes of Fletcher Henderson. Unfortunately for Billie, he was only an infrequent visitor in her life growing up. Sadie married Philip Gough in 1920 and for a few years Billie had a somewhat stable home life. But that marriage ended a few years later, leaving Billie and Sadie to struggle along on their own again. Sometimes Billie was left in the care of other people.

    In her difficult early life, Holiday found solace in music, singing along to the records of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong.  Around 1930, Holiday began singing in local clubs and renamed herself "Billie" after the film star Billie Dove.

    At the age of 18, Holiday was discovered by producer John Hammond while she was performing in a Harlem jazz club. Hammond was instrumental in getting Holiday recording work with an up-and-coming clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman. With Goodman, she sang vocals for several tracks, including her first commercial release "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and the 1934 top ten hit "Riffin' the Scotch."

     

     

     

    Sarah Vaughn 

     

     

    American jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan got her start as a child singing in her church choir. In 1942, she was thrust into the spotlight after a winning performance at Amateur Night at the famed Apollo Theatre, and by the mid-1940s she was appearing on television. Soon given the moniker, "Sassy," Vaughan showed off her impressive three octave range, and quickly became regarded as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. She was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1990, the same year she died

     

     Bessie Smith

     

     

     Bessie Smith (Jul 9,1892 or apr.15,1894 - Sep.26,1937) was Americas most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and '30s.

    Smith is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era, and along with Lou...
    is Armstrong, a major influence on subsequent jazz vocalists.

    As a way of earning money for their impoverished household, Smith and her brother Andrew began performing on the streets of Chattanooga as a duo, she singing and dancing, he accompanying on guitar; their preferred location was in front of the White Elephant Saloon at Thirteenth and Elm streets in the heart of the city's African-American community.

    In 1904, her oldest brother, Clarence, covertly left home by joining a small traveling troupe owned by Moses Stokes. "If Bessie had been old enough, she would have gone with him," said Clarence's widow, Maud. "That's why he left without telling her, but Clarence told me she was ready, even then. Of course, she was only a child."

    In 1912, Clarence returned to Chattanooga with the Stokes troupe and arranged for its managers, Lonnie and Cora Fisher, to give her an audition. She was hired as a dancer rather than a singer, because the company also included Ma Rainey.

    By the early 1920s, Smith had starred with Sidney Bechet in How Come?, a musical that made its way to Broadway, and spent several years working out of Atlanta, Georgia's 81 Theater, performing in black theaters along the East Coast. Following a run-in with the producer of How Come?, she was replaced by Alberta Hunter and returned to Philadelphia, where she had taken up residence. There, she met and fell in love with Jack Gee, a security guard whom she married on June 7, 1923, just as her first recordings were being released by Columbia Records. The marriage was a stormy one, with infidelity on both sides. During the marriage, Smith became the biggest headliner on the black Theater Owners Booking Association ( T.O.B.A.) circuit, running a show that sometimes featured as many as 40 troupers and made her the highest-paid black entertainer of her day. Gee was impressed by the money, but never adjusted to show business life, and especially not Smith's bisexuality. In 1929, when Smith learned of Gee's affair with another performer, Gertrude Saunders, she ended the marriage, but never sought a legal divorce. Smith eventually found a common-law husband in an old friend, Richard Morgan, who was Lionel Hampton's uncle and the antithesis of her husband. She stayed with him until her death.

    Bessie Smith, Clarence Williams, Eddie Lang - I'm Wild About That Thing (1929)

     

    Mary Lou Williams

     

     

     Mary Lou Williams, one of the rare women instrumentalists from the early years of Jazz

    1. Mary Lou Williams was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. Williams wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements, and recorded more than one hundred records.