CAAM featured a series of three music documentaries. I had the pleasure of viewing one called “The Girls in the Band”. It is by director Judy Chaikin who was there at the museum to discuss the journey of Women in Jass, such as big band instrumentalists. The movies explored how women were and are an important aspect of this rich music culture. However, their special gifts have been overlooked, neglected, and or understated in comparison to their male counterparts. In the thirties and forties, hundreds of women musicians toured the country in glamorous All-Girl Bands. Nevertheless, by the mid-fifties female jazz musicians had disappeared from the arena; their names, their contributions to music, totally elapsed. These gifted women put up with sexism, racism and diminished opportunities while trying to preserve their place in herStory.
Some notable female musicians that were featured include the following: trombone player Melba Liston known for her jazz arrangements and compositions. Incidentally, she worked as a freelance arranger and composer for studio sessions of various artists including Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. I was first introduced to this musician’s music, in the 1970’s, through my mother that was a music promoter in the Caribbean community for over 30 years. Consequently, Liston spent six years in Jamaica on a music education appointment at the University of Jamaica and served as director of popular music studies at the Jamaica Institute of Music.
Some other inspirational female jazz legends that the film covered included the great Lil Hardin Armstrong. Ms. Armstrong was the most prominent woman in early jazz. She played piano, composed, and arranged for most of the significant Bands from New Orleans. In 1921 she met Louis Armstrong. In 1924 she became his wife and she is commonly credited with persuading Louis to be more ambitious and serve as his own band leader. The documentary also focused on the International Sweethearts of Rhythm Band. In fact, one of the first “white’ band member’s, Rosalind Cron, was at the event that CAAM sponsored. She spoke on her experiences as a traveling musician on a sleeper bus that was caught up in Jim Crow law, at the time. She went into further speaking on the code of Jim Crow.
In conclusion, I was so upset when my camera stopped working for the filming. The reason being, some great pictures would have been captured. Nevertheless, it was a great event. If you’d like, one can purchase a copy of this film on the following website;
Stay tuned as I will revisit MOCA to explore their art-world…