Sp7. Women and Jazz
- 1 Discussion
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Jazz women 1910-1920s America
- 4 Jazz women in 1930's America
- 5 Jazz women in 1940's America
- 6 Jazz women in 1950's America
- 7 Jazz women in 1960's America
- 8 Jazz women in 1970's America
- 9 Jazz women in 1980's America
- 10 Jazz women in 1990's America
- 11 Jazz women in 20th century
- 12 Internet & Bibliographic Resources on Women in Jazz
- 13 NOTES
“Leonard Feather, a fellow expatriate from England, and well-known figure in the jazz world as a critic, composer, and record producer, had by then begun tracking Marian McPartland's career, carefully and with a certain concern. Writing in Downbeat in 1952, he drily, but bluntly, summed up Marian's position in jazz: "She is English, white, and a woman—three hopeless strikes against her."” (bold not in original)
“"Only God can make a tree," the swing historian George T. Simon wrote in The Big Bands (London: Macmillan, 1967), "and only men can play good jazz." (bold not in original)
“In addition to unfair pay scales, jazz women encountered equally hostile philosophical and sexist attitudes. An unsigned Down Beat article of 1938 illustrates one particularly potent masculine point of view:
- Why is it that outside of a few sepia females, the woman musician never was born capable of sending anyone further than the nearest exit? It would seem that even though women are the weaker sex they would be able to bring more out of a poor, defenseless horn than something that sounds like a cry for help. You can forgive them for lacking guts in their playing but even women should be able to play with feeling and expression and they never do it. ("Why Women Musicians are Inferior" 1938)
Both the anonymity of this tirade and the willingness of Down Beat to publish it reveal a latent yet permeating sexism. The explicitly masculinist and racialized tone of this passage represents one particularly prevalent political ideology. Here, women are defined as physically inferior, yet are somehow expected to have greater expressive and emotional capacities. Further, the anonymous author promulgates racial stereotypes by admitting a few black (sepia) female musicians into the masculine institution of jazz.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
Group shot for Director Judy Chaikin's documentary "The Girls in the Band" (picture modeled after Art Kane's Esquire magazine photograph "A Great Day in Harlem" taken in 1958). Chaikin's documentary tells the true stories of female jazz musicians enduring sexism, racism, and lack of opportunities all so they could play their music.
Group shot for Director Judy Chaikin's documentary "The Girls in the Band" (picture modeled after Art Kane's Esquire magazine photograph "A Great Day in Harlem" taken in 1958). Chaikin's documentary tells the true stories of female jazz musicians enduring sexism, racism, and lack of opportunities all so they could play their music.
Women have probably been underrepresented in every professional field with few non-gendered exceptions. For how this has affected women philosophers generally, see Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting's essay "Women or Philosophers" (February 4, 2021) and Helen Beebee's article "Women in Philosophy: What's Changed?" (May 29, 2021) both at The Philosophers' Magazine. To see what has been adopted to assist UK philosophy departments, learned societies and journals in ensuring that they have policies and procedures in place that encourage the representation of women in philosophy, see "Good Practice Scheme." For women's representations in philosophy classrooms and faculty offices, see "The Diversity of Philosophy Students and Faculty in the United States," (May 30, 2021) by Eric Schwitzgebel, Liam Kofi Bright, Carolyn Dicey Jennings, Morgan Thompson and Eric Winsberg.
“Women had long been accepted as vocalists in popular music, but few had enjoyed successful careers as jazz instrumentalists, and even fewer managed to make records during this period. Surviving news coverage attests that female bands were well known during the 1930s, and we hear mention of the Harlem Playgirls, the Darlings of Rhythm, the Hip Chicks, Dixie Sweethearts, and other ensembles, but we have little documentation of the music they made. But in 1937, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-female swing band, was formed—initially as a fund-raising project at the Piney Woods Country Life School for poor and orphaned African American children in Mississippi. But the band members had larger ambitions and, after a well-received debut at the Howard Theater, would go on to tour the United States and Europe, as well as record for the Victor label. The ensemble was often marketed for its glamour, and this may have led some to overlook its high musical standards, as demonstrated on tracks such as “Swing Shift” and “Bugle Call Rag.” But Louis Armstrong was so impressed with trumpeter Ernestine “Tiny” Davis that he offered her a job at a substantial pay raise, which she declined, and the propulsive drummer Pauline Braddy, billed as “Queen of the Drums,” was a major talent by any measure. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm not only helped establish women as respected instrumentalists, but also broke down barriers as the first integrated female band in the United States. Yet their example would stand out as a rare exception, and only gradually gain the interest of critics and music historians. A turning point came in 1980, when pianist and broadcaster Marian McPartland worked with the Kansas City Jazz Festival to sponsor a reunion and public event honoring nine surviving band members. Williams, for her part, gradually rose through the ranks of the Kirk organization: for a time she acted as chauffeur for the band (she also worked as a hearse driver during this period), eventually securing a spot as a staff writer and full-time performer. But from 1930 until 1942, Williams served as the main catalyst for the Kirk ensemble. Her charts, such as “Mary’s Idea” and “Walkin’ and Swingin’,” were marked by a happy mixture of experimentalism and rhythmic urgency, while her playing soon earned her star billing as “The Lady Who Swings the Band.” In later years, Williams’s progressive tendencies became even more pronounced, leading her to adopt much of the bebop vocabulary and inspiring her to compose extended pieces, most notably the Zodiac Suite from 1945. Following her conversion to Catholicism in the 1950s, Williams wrote and performed a number of sacred works and continued to expand her musical horizons long after the age when most artists settle comfortably into a familiar style and repertoire. Her 1962 work for voices “Black Christ of the Andes” is a neglected masterpiece that makes clear that Williams could have reached the highest rung as a choral composer, and fifteen years later this stalwart of traditional jazz went head-to-head with free-jazz titan Cecil Taylor in a controversial Carnegie Hall concert. At this high-profile performance, held four years before Williams’s death in 1981, two confident masters of the jazz keyboard confronted each other head on, and neither side blinked. As such daring gestures made clear, 'none of the Kansas City pioneers brought a broader perspective to their music making than Mary Lou Williams.” (bold not in original)
In her "Women in Jazz 1920s–1950," a term paper in 2015 for her "History of American Music" course, author Emma Lamoreaux explains that women are underrepresented in jazz history for multiple reasons. First, there was significant and repressive male prejudice against all non-male musicians. Second, jazz had a social stigma of being sleazy and sexy, allegedly inappropriate for female participation since people judged it socially unacceptable for women to participate in such activity. A third and strikingly telling reason accounting for women's underrepresented in jazz history is from an over-reliance on recordings. Female jazz musicians were underrepresented in recordings precisely because of the first two prejudices against their playing jazz in the first place.
Women jazz musicians have almost always been in a discouraging situation caused by numerous factors against them: male gender prejudices against female musicians, the belief by many that there are no good female jazz players (although this has always been false), that playing anything other than the piano or singing was not 'lady-like' and was inappropriate for women to play the trumpet, the saxophone, the bass, or the drums.
Several newspaper reporters have written about the problems for women entering into the jazz field, including Robert Palmer (1945–1997) in his January 21, 1977 New York Times article "Women Who Make Jazz" and Peter Watrous in his November 27, 1994 New York Times article JAZZ VIEW: "Why Women Remain At the Back of the Bus."
Lamoreaux, in her paper, discusses multilingual composer, instrumentalist, singer, and dancer Valaida Snow (1904–1956). Often known as the “Queen of Trumpet,” Snow recorded her album "Hot Snow," containing both her singing as well as playing her trumpet. By the age of 15, she had learned to play the cello, bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone. Louis Armstrong thought so highly of her trumpet playing that he said she was the world's second-best jazz trumpet player besides himself. Because of this, she was named "Little Louis" after Louis Armstrong.
A more well-known and influential woman musician was singer, songwriter, electric guitarist, and recording artist Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973), who was not really a jazz musician but more of a hot gospel performer with her electric guitar playing using heavy distortion and influencing 1960's British electric blues guitar players, such as Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. Wikipedia: Sister Rosetta Tharpe notes that “She attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a precursor of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music and among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences, later being referred to as "the original soul sister" and "the Godmother of rock and roll."”
Another unsung woman of jazz was Dorothy Donegan (1922–1998), an American jazz pianist and vocalist, working primarily in the stride piano and boogie-woogie style, but she also could play Bebop, swing jazz, or even classical music.
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was an all-female jazz orchestra in the 1940s that toured widely, including traveling and performing in many venues.
European ones like Barbara Thompson and Marilyn Mazur
Above all, however, they looked to Jutta Hipp, who had already proven in the early 1950s that a musician could be taken seriously as a woman at the instrument even without the "exotic bonus."
There were only three female musicians in Cologne, Germany's WDR big band in 2018. Australian-born trombonist Shannon Barnett became a full member in January, 2014. See and hear her killer trombone solo at 2:12 in on a Paquito D'Rivera date with the WDR Cologne big band.
Karolina Strassmayer alto saxophonist. Since 2004 she has been the first woman to be a permanent member of the WDR Big Band Cologne. In 2004, Strassmayer was also named "Top Five Alto Saxophonist" of the year by the American jazz magazine Downbeat. She played alto sax on Joe Lovano's 20th album "Symphonica" released in 2009 on Blue Note Records from a November 26, 2005 live recording.
See below for more facts about these individuals and groups.
NOTE: Screencapture below of women in jazz from WikiVisually: Jazz under topic heading of 2. Elements and Issues of 2.4 Roles of women. Click on any hyperlink, including the photo itself, to go there, then scroll down, or click here and go directly.
🌕 Rosetta Reitz (1924–2008) championed women's jazz.
🌕 See Douglas Martin's obituary "Rosetta Reitz, Champion of Jazz Women, Dies at 84," NYTimes, November 14, 2008.
Jazz women 1910-1920s America
Bertha Gonsoulin (1890–1951)
(Bunk Johnson played a concert a week at the Geary Theatre in San Francisco, starting in May 1943 and recruited from Los Angeles players who were sympathetic to his aims. Pictured l. to r. Everett Walsh drums, Buster Wilson piano, Ed Garland bass, Bertha Gonsoulin piano, Frank Pasley guitar, Kid Ory trombone, Bunk Johnson trumpet.) (Source: Black Beauty White Heat)
As a young woman she played piano in her father's orchestra in Louisiana with trumpeter Bunk Johnson.
learned three tunes as a pupil of Jelly Roll Morton in early 1920s: "Kansas City Stomp," "The Pearls," and "Frog-i-more" as reported by musicologist, music historian, book author, professor, and journal editor Dr. Sherrie Tucker.
“At some point in the early nineteen twenties, either before her departure to Chicago with Oliver, or after her return, she took some lessons from Jelly Roll Morton. Bill Colburn told William Russell that Bertha “couldn't go to the places where [Morton] played, so he went to her home [in San Francisco] to teach her. She said he taught her several of his compositions, including "Kansas City Stomp," "The Pearls," and "Frog-i-more." (bold not in original)
One afternoon in May 1943 at a rehearsal in the San Francisco home of Bertha Gonsoulin, Bunk played four versions of this same tune as part of a medley of Buddy Bolden(PoJ.fm) tunes using the song "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor."A (Wiki) Bunk started the tune by playing "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor"B (see 108 vocal versions; 46 instrumental) in the key of Eb and then changing key to Ab in the ‘making runs’ part. The ‘making runs’ part has the same basic chord structure as, for instance, "Tiger Rag." With his fertile imagination, Bunk could play a chorus a hundred different ways.
Reviewer Scott Yanow informs us that Gonsoulin played two good numbers on Bunk Johnson's album titled "Bunk Johnson in San Francisco." link= “It is interesting to hear Ory a year before he started to officially make a comeback, although the best music is actually provided by pianist Bertha Gonsoulin who is featured on "Wolverine Blues" and "The Pearls." . . . Much better are six duets that Bunk had with Gonsoulin two days before, and one day after, the concert.” (bold not in original) “One afternoon in May 1943, at a rehearsal in San Francisco with Bertha Gonsoulin, Bunk played four version of this same tune as part of a medley of (Buddy) Bolden tunes (with the song "Make Me a Pallet on the/your Floor"). With his fertile imagination Bunk could play a chorus a hundred different ways. Excerpts from three of these versions are presented here – the first as background to Bunk's account of his first night in the Bolden Band, and finally sections of the second and fourth "takes." Bertha Gonsoulin, pupil of Jelly Roll Morton, was King Oliver's pianist in 1921– 22 and as a child had played with Bunk in her father's orchestra in Louisiana.” (bold not in original) "Bunk Johnson: Rare & Unissued Masters, Volume 2 — 1943–1946" 13. "Plenty to Do" (feat. Bertha Gonsoulin) 14. "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" (feat. Bertha Gonsoulin) [Alt] 15. "St. Louis Blues" (feat. Bertha Gonsoulin) Lillian Hardin left for home about the time that the Pergola club closed in San Francisco and was eventually replaced by Bertha Gonsoulin. the Pergola Dancing Pavilion at 949 Market Street in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Ory secured a gig for his old friend King Oliver at the Pergola Dancing Pavilion at 949 Market Street in San Francisco. The owner liked the Ory band and wanted to hire them, but Ory's group had a full schedule at the Creole Cafe and the Iroquois Theatre in Oakland. Ory sent for Oliver, who left Chicago May 21, 1921, with a band that included Lil Hardin, piano; Jimmy Palao, violin; David Jones, saxophone; Minor Hall, drums; Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Honore Dutry, trombone; and Ed Garland, bass. Oliver and his wife Stella moved into an apartment at 45 Garden Avenue in San Francisco. The band opened at the Pergola on June 12, 1921, and the job lasted until early 1922. Minor Hall quit by August, but elected to stay in California and played with Ory. Oliver sent to St. Louis for drummer Warren "Baby" Dodds to replace Hall, resulting in a fine from the union since he did not first seek permission before making the move. Baby Dodds would also play in Ory's band. By year's end, Dutry, Palao, and Lil Hardin had quit the Oliver band and returned to Chicago. Ory became a regular substitute in the Oliver band. One of the gigs Ory played with King Oliver was a Mardi Gras Ball held by the Louisiana Commercial Association at Oakland Municipal Auditorium on February 28, 1922. The event was advertised on the front page of the Oakland Sunshine newspaper. After this, work slowed down for Oliver; he relocated to Los Angeles, but was not able to establish a regular residency—bouncing instead from country club dances to fraternal halls. By June, Oliver was back in Chicago, though without bassist Ed Garland, who opted to stay in California with Ory. Kid Ory filled in for Dutrey, who was the next to leave. The remaining members of Oliver's band found work as best they could. Baby Dodds and Ed Garland joined forces with Ory for a while and played for dances in the San Francisco area as well as at Ory's old hangout, the Creole Cafe." Johnny Dodds stayed in California with Oliver but stayed in San Francisco as much as possible after the birth of his first child, John Jr., on November 5, 1921." For a few months, Oliver, Garland, Johnny and Warren Baby Dodds, Ory, and Gonsoulin sponsored their own weekend dances in an Oakland hall." It was probably this band, billed as "King Oliver's and Ory's Celebrated Creole Orchestra," which later played for a Mardi Gras ball at the Municipal Auditorium in Oakland on February 28, 1922. An advertisement in the Western Outlook on March 25, 1922, urged people to attend another event, the Grand Ball at the West Indian Cricket Club, in San Francisco on April 17, where "King Oliver's Celebrated Orchestra would provide the music." Oliver remained in California at least through April 1922. During this period, he must have broken his contract to play for an "old-time country and barn dance" sponsored by the Raquette Tennis Club at Forester's Hall in Oakland on Saturday, April 22," in order to perform on that same date as an "extra added attraction" for the opening of "Ragtime" Billy Tucker's Hiawatha Dancing Academy in Los Angeles. Tucker, who was the California correspondent for the Chicago Defender published his account of this event in the Defender on April 29, 1922: "As an extra added attraction we are featuring "King" Joe Oliver, the world's greatest cornetist, who is in town en route to Chicago. He has been up in San Francisco a few months. When he came to Los Angeles a few days ago, Jelly Roll Morton entertained him at Wayside Park, and I'll chirp to the whole continent [that] he set Los Angeles on fire . . . . Matt Lewis (my partner) and myself have offered him all kinds of inducements to stay in Los Angeles and take charge of our bands at the Hiawatha, but he has already made his contract." The contract in question was Oliver's engagement with the Lincoln Gardens, the remodeled and redecorated former Royal Gardens, which had opened under a new name and management during May 1921, 296 Anderson the month that Oliver had left Chicago for California." The Defender trumpeted Oliver's return to Chicago on June 17, 1922, announcing: "Dance to the music of Joe Oliver's Creole Jazz Band just back from a great year on the coast. By June 17, 1922, Oliver's band had probably been in Chicago for several weeks, but its opening at the Lincoln Gardens had been delayed by problems with the musicians union. The fine that Oliver had neglected to pay in San Francisco came back to haunt him. According to Ed Garland, Oliver's band was on the stand at the Lincoln Gardens when a representative of the union entered the hall and halted the scheduled performance. Mrs. Major, the cabaret's white owner, had to pay a fine of $100 per player, plus an extra $200, before the band could go on. (Garland must have heard the story secondhand, however, since he had stayed on in California with Kid Ory.) Bill Johnson took Garland's place in Oliver's band at the Lincoln Gardens in Chicago, and Dutrey reclaimed his old position as the trombonist. Bertha Gonsoulin, who had returned to the Midwest with Oliver, went back to San Francisco at the end of November 1922, and Lil Hardin, who had been playing with May Brady at the Dreamland, rejoined the Oliver band." May 1921: May The Creole Band leaves for California. June 1921: The Creole Band opens at the Pergola Dancing Pavilion in San Francisco, California with Bertha Gonsoulin on the piano. September 1921: The drummer "Baby" Dodds replaces Minor Hall in the Creole Band. October 1921: The Creole Band leaves the Pergola and freelances in San Francisco; Lil Hardin retums to Chicago. November 1921: The trombonist Honore Dutrey returns to Chicago. February 25, 1922: The Oliver-Ory band plays the Mardi Gras Ball in Oakland, California with Bertha Gonsoulin on piano. April 17, 1922: The Oliver band plays at a Grand Ball in San Francisco with Bertha Gonsoulin on piano. April 22, 1922: Oliver's band is featured at the opening of Ragtime Billy Tucker's Hiawatha Dancing Academy in Los Angeles, California. June 1922: Joe Oliver is featured at the Lincoln Gardens in Chicago. It is highly unusual when one can list all of the recordings of a jazz musician. It is quite likely that this can be done in Gonsoulin's case, as found at AllMusic.com: Here are the titles of the CDs with Gonsoulin's recordings: Listen on Spotify.com to four tunes of Bertha Gonsoulin. Bunk Johnson suffers no poor musicians so Gonsoulin must have been competent. Her playing, however, is somewhat mechanical and plodding. You be the judge. Lawrence Gushee, "New Orleans: Area Musicians on the West Coast, 1908-1925," Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 22, Supplement: Best of BMR. The second came over twenty years later when her credentials as an Oliver alumnus brought her to the attention of Rudi Blesh and other movers and shakers of the New Orleans Revival. These enthusiasts of early jazz sought Gonsoulin's services as an appropriate accompanist for New Orleans trumpet legend, Bunk Johnson, in 1943. Cornetist and band leader Joe “King” Oliver moved from New Orleans to Chicago around 1918 or 1919. His first Chicago jobs were in Bill Johnson‟s Royal Gardens band and Lawrence Duhe's Dreamland Café band, but by the fall of 1919, he was leading the band at the Dreamland. The band included Honore Dutrey, Johnny Dodds, Ed Garland, Minor Hall, and a recent migrant from Tennessee, pianist Lil Hardin. Business, however, was rocky at the Dreamland. According to Gene Anderson, rumors that the club might be sold were circulating, and so Oliver decided to seize the opportunity for a California tour for which he had been recommended by trombonist Kid Ory. The band opened at Pergola, a dance hall in San Francisco in June, 1921. 265 A Feminist Perspective on New Orleans Jazz Women A NOJNHP Research Study by Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas The pressure of declining work opportunities caused tension among the band members and leader, and a series of personnel changes ensued. When the Pergola closed, the band was booked into the California Theater, where they encountered difficulties with the aggressive white audience, in the form of racial slurs, and challenges to their authenticity as “Creoles.” Hardin, at this time married to Jimmy Johnson, received an opportunity to return to the Dreamland and play for violinist and band leader Mae Brady. Hardin was but one of the musicians to evacuate the ill-fated tour. Bertha Gonsoulin, a pianist with roots in New Orleans, but who lived in San Francisco, became Hardin's replacement. Promoter Bill Colburn, who lived in San Francisco and knew Gonsoulin well, told William Russell, “When very young, she played in her father's band in New Orleans. Her father was a violinist who worked on the Southern Pacific Railroad.” If her father's name was Gonsoulin, it is possible the family lived in New Iberia, Louisiana where numerous Gonsoulins show up in US Federal Census records. According to Burton W. Peretti, "For New Orleans jazz musicians before 1917, distant California was as important a market as Chicago." Indeed many New Orleans musicians, including Jelly Roll Morton and Kid Ory had moved their career bases to the West Coast as early as musicians in the more often-noted Chicago migration. We know little about Gonsoulin's role in this movement. She is not mentioned in Tom Stoddard's history of jazz in San Francisco, Jazz on the Barbary Coast (Chigwell, Essex: Storyville, 1982). The details of her life are as scarcely considered by most Oliver scholars as the minutia about other members is actively debated. We do know that her 266 A Feminist Perspective on New Orleans Jazz Women A NOJNHP Research Study by Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas nickname was “Bob” or “Miss Bob.” We also know that Gonsoulin stuck it out through the year of personnel changes and fickle employment. At one point, a reconfigured band called, “King Oliver's and Ory's Celebrated Creole Orchestra,” made up of Oliver, Kid Ory, Baby Dodds, Ed Garland, Johnny Dodds, and Bertha Gonsoulin, played for Mardi Gras Ball in Oakland. When Oliver brought his band back to Chicago in June, 1922, Gonsoulin was still the pianist. It was she, in fact, not Hardin, who was the working pianist in the Creole Jazz Band when Oliver sent away for a young New Orleans musician by the name of Louis Armstrong to join as second cornet. As Gonsoulin told William Russell in 1940, “the telegram asking Louis Armstrong to join the Oliver band was sent to him on a Saturday evening and he replied Sunday evening. Louis arrived on Tuesday evening, carrying his cornet wrapped in a black bag.” Oliver took Armstrong to the Dreamland to meet Lil Hardin, and to try and convince Lil to come back to his band at the Royal Garden. When Armstrong joined the band in August 1922, he did so as a part of a larger reorganization of the Creole Jazz Band, which included more shifting of personnel, such as the return of clarinetist Honore Dutrey and pianist Lil Hardin. When Hardin agreed to re-join the band in December 1922, Bertha Gonsoulin was sent back to San Francisco. As an out-of-towner, Gonsoulin recalled that she had been paid in cash the whole time she was in Chicago, and had amassed so much of it that she “carried it home in a pillow case.” At some point in the early twenties, either before her departure to Chicago with Oliver, or after her return, she took some lessons from Jelly Roll Morton. Bill Colburn told William Russell that Bertha “couldn't go to the places where [Morton] played, so he 267 A Feminist Perspective on New Orleans Jazz Women A NOJNHP Research Study by Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas went to her home to teach her. She said he taught her several of his compositions, including "Kansas City Stomp," "the Pearls," and "Frog-i-more." What happened to Gonsoulin over the next twenty years is, again, sketchy. The 1930 Census lists a Bertha Gonsoulin, age 49, “wife,” living in Louisiana. This could very well be her. [NOTE: In 1930, Bertha was exactly forty years old.] The age could be right, but by 1940, we find her again in San Francisco. Perhaps she could have moved back and forth between the two cities. We know from a photo and caption in the Chicago Defender, that, in 1940, she was a well- respected piano teacher at the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center in San Francisco. The paper ran a photograph of her looking very distinguished in a white dress, regal gaze, sitting at a piano, not as an entertainer, but as a “Trainer of Musicians.” The caption stated that “Miss Bertha Gonsoulin . . . has the enviable reputation of being one of the finest instructors, composers, and trainers of aspiring musicians in the west.” Accounts of the 1943 Bunk Johnson concerts and recordings make no mention of her reputation as a “fine instructor,” or “composer,” but they do suggest that she had become “immersed in church music when she was approached by Rudi Blesh to accompany Bunk on the piano.” Martin Williams adds that she had, in fact, “given up jazz for church music” and “had to be persuaded” to play with Bunk Johnson. Whether or not Gonsoulin herself found church music incompatible with jazz—(had she “given up” jazz, or had she not had opportunities to work as a jazz pianist?)—over the next several months, she played a role in the celebration of New Orleans jazz (pre-1929) that became known as the New Orleans Revival. In San Francisco in the 1940s, the New Orleans Revival centered around Lu 268 A Feminist Perspective on New Orleans Jazz Women A NOJNHP Research Study by Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas Watters‟ Yerba Buena Jazz Band, a contemporary group of white male musicians who were inspired by the music of “King” Oliver. Christopher Hillman wrote of the atmosphere of excitement, when, “[I]n early 1943, Rudi Blesh, who was on the fringe of the movement associated with the book Jazzmen, arranged to give a series of lectures on New Orleans jazz at the Museum of Art in San Francisco.” Concerts by “authentic” New Orleans jazz musicians were conceived as part of this popular lecture series. Blesh and other collectors raised money to bring Bunk Johnson appear at one of the lectures, but they had to find musicians to play with him. Blesh located “Bertha Gonsoulin, a lady who had once played with King Oliver in Chicago, but was by then heavily involved in church music.” She agreed to accompany Johnson on the piano. The lecture/concert (April 11, 1943) was an enormous success. In his opening remarks, Blesh shared a letter from Louis Armstrong that praised Bunk's genius, and put in a good word for “Miss “Bob” (Bertha Gonsoulin), expressing hopes that they “could get together for a jam session in the near future.” A list of the numbers played by Johnson and Gonsoulin, compiled by Mike Hazeldine and Barry Martyn, includes “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Down by the Riverside,” “High Society,” “Careless Love,” “Pallet on the Floor,” “Tiger Rag,” and “Yes, Lord, I'm Crippled.” The concert was recorded, and several of the numbers are currently available on CD (AMCD-016 Bunk Johnson in San Francisco). This event was so well received, that a subsequent one was planned for May 9, 1943 at the Geary Theater. Hal Smith, "Bunk Johnson," The San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Collection: The Charles N. Huggins Project, Bunk’s first engagement in San Francisco was a concert at the War Veterans Memorial Building, where he played, accompanied by former King Oliver pianist Bertha Gonsoulin. He talked about his early career and generally held the audience in the palm of his hand. This successful event was followed by a concert at the Museum of Modern Art. Next, jazz impresario Rudi Blesh invited Bunk to perform in his “This Is Jazz” concert series at the Geary Theater. This ambitious presentation was to include Kid Ory, Mutt Carey and members of Ory’s band as backing. At the Geary Theatre (1943). (L-R) Kid Ory tmb, Wade Whaley cl, Mutt Carey tpt, Bunk Johnson tpt, Everett Walsh drm, Frank Pasley gt, Ed Garland b, Buster Wilson p. Source: Louisiana State Museum Jazz Collection. Bunk Johnson’s Geary Theatre concert in San Francisco included musicians from Los Angeles players who were sympathetic to his goals. (L-R) Everett Walsh drm (Holding a picture of Lu Watters), Buster Wilson p, Ed Garland b, Bertha Gonsoulin p (Replaced Lil Hardin in King Oliver’s Band in 1921), Frank Pasley gt, Kid Ory tmb and Bunk Johnson tpt. Source: Claes Ringqvist - The Swedish Bunk Johnson Society "Bunk Johnson in San Francisco" CD American Music AMCD – 16 includes the 1943 concert at the Geary Theater with Kid Ory’s band, duets with pianist Bertha Gonsoulin, Bunk playing along with a George Lewis record and two fragments of unreleased sides from the 1944 sessions. On May 7, 1943, Johnson and Gonsoulin met at the latter musician's home on 1782 Sutter Street in San Francisco to prepare for the forthcoming concert. William 269 A Feminist Perspective on New Orleans Jazz Women A NOJNHP Research Study by Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas Russell, who had just arrived from New Orleans, was on-hand to document the session, which, he later recalled, had not been planned as a recording session, but rather as a chance “to get Bunk's lip in shape.” This rehearsal, however, was, in fact, issued on the American Music label, and is also represented on the aforementioned CD (AMCD- 016 Bunk Johnson in San Francisco). The May 9th concert little resembled this intimate rehearsal. It did not include duets between Johnson and Gonsoulin. Trombonist Kid Ory and his band had been brought up from Los Angeles, and the concert primarily featured Johnson with Kid Ory's band. Gonsoulin, who would have known Ory from 1920s concerts with King Oliver, was not much featured, but did play a couple of solos. The next day, she expressed disappointment when she found that her own contributions in the concert were “hardly mentioned in the press.” Perhaps in response to her ennui, Russell recorded Gonsoulin re-creating the solo rendition of “The Pearls” she had performed the previous night. This, too, appears on "Bunk Johnson in San Francisco". After the Geary Theater concert, several traditional jazz concerts were presented at the CIO, co-sponsored by a coalition of jazz fans and labor union figures, including Harry Bridges. Bunk Johnson and Bertha Gonsoulin were the “special guests” at the first such concert on July 11, 1943. After Johnson left the San Francisco Bay Area for lack of work, Gonsoulin made at least one further appearance at the CIO, in the spring of 1944. At some point, Russell interviewed Gonsoulin, and his hand-written notes are housed at The Williams Research Center. I have drawn heavily from these notes, as one of the few sources of information on Gonsoulin, but must add that these notes are 270 A Feminist Perspective on New Orleans Jazz Women A NOJNHP Research Study by Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas sketchy, focus entirely on her year with King Oliver, and include her claim to have been the pianist on the Gennett session of “The Chimes,” which is incorrect. Future research should continue to seek information on Bertha Gonsoulin for years other than 1921–22 and 1943–44. Future research should also explore the possibility that Gonsoulin may have been thinking of a different recording session, other than her discredited claim to have been on the Gennett session, when she told Russell she recorded with Oliver. Notes 1. Music (Fall 1994), v. 12 no3, 283(21). (get page number) Gene Anderson, “The Genesis of King Oliver‟s Creole Jazz Band,” American See Gene Anderson, "The Genesis of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band." 2. American Music 12.3: 238 (21). 3. Accounts of this tour appear in numerous places, including James Dickersons Just For A Thrill, which, unfortunately, has not proven a very reliable source. I have fact-checked all information that I‟ve taken from Dickerson‟s book. A detailed and well-researched account of this tour can be found in Anderson's article, above, which incorporates a compendium of meticulously documented sources. See also Lillian Hardin Armstrong, Oral History, July 1, 1959, Reel I [of I)–Digest–Retyped, 3. 4. JazzMedia Aps, 1999), 571. William Russell, “Oh, Mister Jelly” A Jelly Roll Morton Scrapbook (Denmark: Burton W. Peretti, The Creation of Jazz: Music, Race, and Culture in Urban. 5. America. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992, 41 6. William Russell, "Bertha Gonsoulin 1940s," handwritten notes from “California Notes”, MSS 536 F15. The Williams Research Center. Also, see mention of her as “Miss Bob” in letter quoted in Mike Hazeldine and Barry Martyn, Bunk Johnson: Song of the Wanderer (New Orleans: Jazzology Press, 2000), 94. 7. Anderson, “The Genesis of King Oliver‟s Creole Jazz Band.” 8. William Russell, "Bertha Gonsoulin 1940s," handwritten notes from “California Notes”, MSS 536 F15. The Williams Research Center. 9. Russell, “Bertha Gonsoulin 1940s.” 10. Russell, “Oh, Mister Jelly Roll”, 571. 11. “Trainer of Musicians." Chicago Defender February 3 1940: 9. “Trainer of Musicians.” 12. 271 A Feminist Perspective on New Orleans Jazz Women A NOJNHP Research Study by Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas 14 235. 15 13. Books, 1988, 55-56. Christopher Hillman, Bunk Johnson: His Life & Times (New York: Universe Martin Williams, Jazz Masters of New Orleans (New York: MacMillan, 1967), Christopher Hillman, Bunk Johnson: His Life & Times (New York: Universe Books, 1988, 55-56. 16. Orleans: Jazzology Press, 2000), 94. Mike Hazeldine and Barry Martyn, Bunk Johnson: Song of the Wanderer (New 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Bibliography Primary Sources Armstrong, Lillian Hardin, Oral History, July 1, 1959, Reel I [of I]–Digest–Retyped, Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University. Russell, William. "Bertha Gonsoulin,1940s," handwritten notes from “California Notes”, MSS 536 F15. The Williams Research Center. Russell, William Russell, Oral History digest, Reel I, Feb. 2, 1975, 2, Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University Secondary Sources Anderson, Gene. "The Genesis of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band." American Music 12.3: 238 (21). Dahl, Linda. Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen (New York: Limelight Editions, 1989), 23. Handy, D. Antoinette. Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras, Second Edition. Lantham, Mass. and Kent: Scarecrow Press, 1998, 223. Hazeldine, Mike, and Barry Martyn, Bunk Johnson: Song of the Wanderer (New Orleans: Jazzology Press, 2000). 272 Hazeldine and Martyn, 95. Hazeldine and Martyn, 95. For more information on these recordings, see http://www.weigts.scarlet.nl/430510.htm William Russell, Oral History Interview, Reel I, Feb. 2, 1975, 2. Hazeldine and Martyn, 101. Hazeldine, 106. Hazeldine, 120. William Russell, "Bertha Gonsoulin 1940s," handwritten notes from “California Notes”, MSS 536 F15. William Russell Collection, The Williams Research Center. A Feminist Perspective on New Orleans Jazz Women A NOJNHP Research Study by Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas Hillman, Christopher. Bunk Johnson: His Life & Times (New York: Universe Books, 1988. Peretti, Burton W. The Creation of Jazz: Music, Race, and Culture in Urban America. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992. Placksin, Sally. Jazzwomen: 1900 to the Present, Their Words, Lives and Music (London and Sydney: Pluto Press, 1985), 44. Rose, Al, and Edmond Souchon. New Orleans Jazz: A Family Album. Revised edition. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press. Russell, William. “Oh, Mister Jelly” A Jelly Roll Morton Scrapbook (Denmark: JazzMedia Aps, 1999). "Trainer of Musicians." Chicago Defender, February 3 1940: 9. Photo and caption of Miss Bertha Gonsoulin, piano teacher at Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, San Francisco. Williams, Martin. Jazz Masters of New Orleans. New York: MacMillan, 1967, 235, 238. Discography Available: AMCD-016 Bunk Johnson in San Francisco (These are the recordings from the museum concert, the rehearsal at Gonsoulin's home, and the final intimate session at Gonsoulin's home the day after the Geary Theater concert). Illustrations I have only found one photograph, the Chicago Defender clipping, included in the accompanying file. link=http://www.facebook.com/otisbdriftwoodcomedyband/
Ina Ray Hutton
🔸 Metro-Gnomes, a small band fronted by Jack Hylton's then-wife Ennis Parkes.
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pianists such as Lil Hardin Armstrong
Lovie Austin developed jazz and led their own bands;
in New York, Hallie Anderson, organist
pianist Mattie Gilmore and trombone player and arranger Marie Lucas trained orchestras for theaters.
Sherrie Tucker’s four-year research on New Orleans jazzwomen uncovers a few of the female musicians, mainly pianists and self-trained instrumentalists, who worked in the red light district:
cornet Antonia Gonsalez
Mamie Desdunes, pianist
Dolly Adams, pianist
Camilla Todd, pianist
Edna Mitchell, pianist
Rosalind Johnson, pianist who was also a song writer and received formal musical training.
Jazz women in 1930's America
excellent all-female group including Jean Starr (1919-1956) on trumpet, Marjorie Hyams on vibes, Marian Gange on guitar, Vicki Zimmer on piano, Cecilia Zirl on bass, and Rose Gottesman on drums.
L'ana (Webster) Hyams
trumpeter Ernestine “Tiny” Davis
propulsive drummer Pauline Braddy, billed as “Queen of the Drums”
Jazz women in 1940's America
Ada Leonard's All-American Girl Orchestra
Marjorie Rainey's Rhythmettes
Mary Lou Williams
International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Jazz women in 1950's America
Jazz women in 1960's America
Jazz women in 1970's America
Ahnee Sharon Freeman
Jessica (Jennifer) Williams
Jazz women in 1980's America
Terri Lyne Carrington
Jazz women in 1990's America
DIVA jazz orchestra
Jazz women in 20th century
🔸 Geri Allen (1957–2017) American (Pittsburgh) pianist, composer, and educator.
🔸 Renee Rosnes (b. 1962) Canadian jazz pianist, composer, and arranger.
🔸 Cindy Blackman Santana (b. 1959) American jazz and rock drummer.
🔸 Jane Bunnett (b. 1956) Canadian soprano saxophonist, flautist, bandleader, and educator especially known for performing Afro-Cuban jazz and often traveling to Cuba.
🔸 Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981)
🔸 Dorothy Donegan (1922–1998) American jazz pianist, vibraphonist, and vocalist, primarily known for performing in the stride piano and boogie-woogie style as well as playing bebop, swing jazz, and even classical music.
🔸 Marian McPartland (1918– 2013) English-American jazz pianist, composer, and writer. hosted "Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz" on National Public Radio from 1978 to 2011.
🔸 Mary Osborne (1921–1992) American jazz guitarist
🔸 Toshiko Akiyoshi (b. 1929) Japanese-American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and bandleader.
June, the Universal Jazz Coalition will present a four‐day “Salute to Women in Jazz” in New York from Monday, June 26, through Thursday, June 29, in the room at 52d Street and Broadway that was once the legendary Birdland (it is now a disco known as CasaBlanca 2).
The Salute will provide a showcase for some of the women who are not as celebrated as the stars who played in Kansas City, among them
🔸 Carline Ray (b. 1925) American jazz pianist, guitarist, and vocalist. She was a member of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.
🔸 Janice Elaine Robinson (b. 1959) American (Pennsylvania) trombonist.
🔸 Patti Bown (1931–2008) American jazz pianist, composer, and singer.
🔸 JoAnne Brackeen (b. 1938) American jazz pianist and music educator.
🔸 Corky Hale (b. 1936), American jazz harpist, pianist, flutist, and vocalist. She has been a theater producer, political activist, restaurateur, and the owner of the Corky Hale women's clothing store in Los Angeles, California.
🔸 Emmelyne "Emme" Kemp (b. 1936), pianist, vocalist, band leader, Broadway composer, actress, lecturer, and an American music researcher. A protégé of Eubie Blake and best known as a Broadway composer and actor for Bubbling Brown Sugar. Acted in the Woody Allen film "Sweet and Lowdown." She has performed throughout the United States, Germany and Japan.
🔸 Jill McManus (b. 1940), American jazz pianist, composer, teacher, and author.
🔸 Nina Sheldon (b. 1940), American pianist, singer, composer and lyricist.
🔸 Led the house band at the Village Gate (1974 –1977) in New York City. Has played with Sonny Stitt, George Coleman, Maxine Sullivan, Budd Johnson, Bobby Hackett, and Vic Dickenson. Taught jazz history and improvisation at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. Performed at major jazz festivals such as Newport jazz festival and the Kool jazz festival in New York and the Kansas City Women's jazz festival.
three disks on “Women in Jazz,” collections of recordings made between 1926 and 1961, providing a very convincing demonstration that women, singly and in groups, have been making impressive contributions to jazz since its earliest recorded days and doing it for the most part, in relative anonymity.
🔸 Vi Burnside (1915–1964), saxophonist
🔸 Vi Redd, saxophonist
🔸 Valaida Snow, trumpeter
🔸 Jean Starr, trumpeter
🔸 Marion Gange, a guitarist
🔸 Terry Pollard, vibes and piano
🔸 Lovie Austin, a pianist in Chicago in the 20's around whom a whole school of male musicians flourished
🔸 International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all‐woman big band
🔸 Beryl Booker, a pianist who is heard urging Miles Davis’ trumpet along on Tadd Dameron's “Squirrel”
🔸 Kathy Stobart, an English saxophonist
🔸 Jutta Hipp, a German pianist
🔸 Japan's ground‐breaking contribution to jazz, Toshiko Akiyoshi, pianist and conductor
Jazz women in 21st Century
Ingrid Jensen, Anat Cohen, Sherrie Maricle and the indomitable DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Geri Allen, Cindy Blackman, Tia Fuller
Internet & Bibliographic Resources on Women in Jazz
NOTE: The information below varies in formatting and does not conform to standard bibliographic formatting for ease of reading.
Kai EL' Zabar (Executive Director of the eta Creative Arts Foundation in Chicago, IL as of July 2019), "Eleven Jazzy Divas Celebrate Women's History Month," The Chicago Defender, March 9, 2016. The featured vocalists include Joan Collaso, Bobbi Wilsyn, Tecora Rogers, Yvonne Gage, Maggie Brown, Julia Huff, Margaret Murphy-Webb, Lynne Jordan, Frieda Lee, Greta Pope, and Felena Bunn singing the music of Chaka Khan, Nancy WIlson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dianne Reeves, Phyllis Hymen, Abbie Lincoln, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt and more.
Cecilia Björck and Åsa Bergman, "Making Women in Jazz Visible: Negotiating Discourses of Unity and Diversity in Sweden and the US," IASPM Journal, Vol 8, No 1 (2018).
Abstract: “The aim of this article is to examine responses to a project that aspires to further gender-equal jazz scenes in Sweden and the US. The project brought together actors at various levels of the industry: cultural agencies, commercial organizers, activists, and artists. Our analysis—with special focus on resistance-voiced—is based on observations, interviews with organizers, and a documentary about the project. The project’s central ambition was to make women in jazz visible in order to change a structural imbalance where men still take up most of the space on stage. This ambition was, however, complicated as different actors resisted a female–male binary, and thus the very idea of “women in jazz.” The resistance was played out through gender equality discourses of either unity or diversity, varying in relation to national context and generation. The article also discusses visibility as a central but also problematic aspect for gender equality efforts in music.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
By 1999, little had changed in mainstream jazz historiography as evidenced by the continued absence of many prominent jazzwomen from the jazz sections of the Reader’s Guide to Music History, Theory, and Criticism edited by Jeremy Steib.
Linda Dahl. Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen. New York: Limelight Editions, 1989. In addition to an impressive collection of biographical information and an extensive discography, Dahl includes chapters such as “Equal time: Beyond the Fraternity, Toward Community” and “Building a Support System,” which further contextualize female participation and give voice to a budding movement toward the normalization of gender in jazz.
Angela Y. Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday, first Vintage Books edition, February 1999. Published in the United Slates by Vintage Books, a division of Random Home, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 1998.
Jeffrey Taylor, “With Lovie and Lil: Rediscovering Two Chicago Pianists of the 1920s” (conference paper), Society for Music Theory, Annual Meeting, Columbus, OH, November 1, 2002. Reprinted in Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies, Edited by Nichole T. Rustin & Sherrie Tucker, Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.
"A DIY Guide to the History of Women in Jazz" by Laura Pelligrinelli at NPR'S A BLOG SUPREME, May 10, 2013.
"Ireland’s jazz scene continued to grow in strength and diversity in 2019: Smaller regional festivals were major successes while a number of important projects were led by Irish and Irish-based women," The Irish Times News, Saturday, Dec 7, 2019.
Jazz, Gender, Authenticity, Proceedings of the 10th Nordic Jazz Research Conference Stockholm August 30–31 2012, Alf Arvidsson, editor, 2014. The articles published here are the authors’s revised versions of the presentations at the 10th Nordic Jazz Conference: Gender and Notions of Authenticity in Jazz, Stockholm, August 30–31, 2012. ISBN: 978–91–979205–3–7. ISSN: 0281–5567.
"Polyrhythms And Improvization: Lessons For Women's History," Elsa Barkley Brown, History Workshop 31 (1991), 85-90. America: History and Life with Full Text.
"Sound Recordings Reviews," Cheryl L. Keyes (Professor in Department of African American Studies at UCLA and Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Ethnomusicology), Journal Of American Folklore, 105.415 (1992), 73.
"Beyond Beethoven And The Boyz: Women's Music In Relation To History And Culture," Britain Scott and Christiane Harrassowitz, Music Educators Journal, 90.4 (2004), 50.
"Telling Performances: Jazz History Remembered And Remade By The Women In The Band," Sherrie Tucker, The Oral History Review, Volume 26, Issue 1, Winter-Spring 1999, 67–84. http://doi.org/10.1093/ohr/26.1.67
"Black Women Working Together: Jazz, Gender, and the Politics of Validation," Tammy L. Kernodle, Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Spring), 27-55.
Rosetta Reitz (1924–2008) obituary written by Douglas Martin, "Rosetta Reitz, Champion of Jazz Women, Dies at 84, NY Times, November 14, 2008.
Leslie Gourse, "Madame Jazz: Contemporary Women Instrumentalists. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Leslie Gourse published Madame Jazz “the most comprehensive list ever assembled of women currently playing instruments professionally.” Gourse provides a balanced look at the bright future of female instrumentalists with an acknowledgment of the reality that chauvinism is (and was) alive and well.
Sherrie Tucker. "Telling Performances: Jazz History Remembered and Remade by the Women in the Band." Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture. Volume 1, 1997.
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Café Society, and An Early Cry for Civil Rights. David Margolick. 2000.
Jazz women: a Feminist Retrospective (1923–57) (Stash) 2 LPs.
Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen. Linda Dahl. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.
“Women in Jazz, Past and Present.” John S. Wilson. The New York Times. June 11, 1978.
"Women in Jazz Town Hall (A jazz conversation)," hosted by Kaisha S. Johnson, Jazz at Lincoln Center's World Congress 2020.
Jazzwomen Speak: Interviews with Six Musicians, Wayne Enstice and Janis Stockhouse, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013).
Maxine Gordon's website. Maxine Gordon has had a long involvement with jazz, including working with the queen of the jazz organ Shirley Scott, producing a son with trumpeter Woody Shaw (1978), becoming wife of saxophonist Dexter Gordon (1983), tour manager for Gil Evan's big band, road manager for the Berlin Jazz Festival (1973), road manager for Dexter Gordon's return from Europe to the United States (1976–1983), author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon (2018), an oral historian and archivist in the fields of jazz and African American cultural history, New York University, M.A., (2001–2009) Ph.D. Candidate, History (African Diaspora). In 2020 still working on her newest book, Jazz Quartette: Shirley Scott, Velma Middleton, Melba Liston, Maxine Sullivan.