by Sherrie Tucker
Jazzwomen and friends, behold Part IV of Atlanta poet BG Roberts' historical epic about women Jazz musicians! The first three installments have taken us from Jazz precursors of field hollers, spirituals and blues through the 1960s. Part IV takes off from Jazzwomen's history of the 1970s, with the formation of women's Jazz festivals, and carries us up to the great new players of the 1990s.
From classical arias to slamming hip-hop,
The queens of the hive play it, Jazz, rock and pop.
Well, hey, hey now, it's 1978,
Women's Jazz Festival decides to celebrate,
Maiden Voyage headlined the festivity,
With some other out-chicks
In good ole K.C.
Festivals for ladies became the order of the day
Hiring each other,
because no one else would.
Instead of hiring the best talent to play,
Cats rather hire some guy who just could.
Then, in New York City,
Another fest was the plan
Of the Universal Jazz Coalition.
Club owners locked them out
On opening night,
Demanding money up front,
In pure contrition.
The spirit of woman is so very strong
Like Rosa wouldn't give up her seat,
They broke out their instruments, short and long,
Held their concert right there on the street!
Melba Liston and Company slowly became co-ed,
But the trombone was not her sole claim,
Arranger for the biggest bands around
Only added to her fame.
The most popular phrase goes like this,
"Hey, it's the nineties, chill out."
Terri Lyne is drumming in musical bliss,
But most people seem to still doubt
That good music can come from "pretty red lips,"
Masterfully striking keys,
while swaying their hips.
There are new lady jazzists
Ready to take center stage,
Rose Gales, Leigh Pilzer, Traci Wynn,
A perfect place to start a new page,
And change the way things have been.
For the final installment of BG's poetic version of the rich history of Jazzwomen, tune in next month!
Jazz flautist Nika Rejtos reports that Jazzwomen still hear the comment, "You play just like a man." Women musicians I interviewed for my forthcoming book Swing Shift: "All-Girl" Bands of the 1940s, Duke University Press, look for it in May or June!) told me about being irked by this "compliment" fifty years ago. Some told me they would respond with, "You mean I play like a musician." Do Jazzwomen today have any effective come-backs for the new millennium? I think we should compile a list for the readers of this column.
The assumption that competent Jazz playing equals manliness has got to go!
Send your suggestions to me at Jazzwomen Jam c/o the Women's Studies Department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Box 4137, Geneva, NY 14456-3397, or email me at Jazzwmnjam@aol.com.
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