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Bebop Spoken There

Noah Preminger: "The U.S.A - the greatest country in the world - didn't lift a finger to help their 3ooo-plus citizens in Morocco. We were abandoned by our own government." - (DownBeat June 2020).

Dave Rempis:Ten years from now, I can see musicians streaming concerts in real time and charging a minimal amount for people to watch.” - (DownBeat September 2013)

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COVID-19

In the current climate we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date. All gigs, as we all know, are off.

However, good old YouTube has plenty to offer both old and new to help us survive whilst housebound. Plus now is a good time to stock up on your CDs.

Also, keep an eye out for live streaming sessions.

Alternatively, you could do as they do in Italy and sing from your balcony.

Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

The Forum: Hazel Scott – BBC World Service – May 7

As I've said before, we never sleep here at BSH, so this morning at 10am I was listening intently to this World Service broadcast, which was a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion about the life of Hazel Scott, superb jazz pianist, Hollywood actor, celebrity, and civil rights activist – until she disappeared from public life during the McCarthy era in the USA.

Scott, born 1920 in Trinidad and raised in the USA, was a child prodigy on the piano and her mother managed to get her accepted for training at Juilliard when she was only 8 years old.  At the audition, Hazel had to vary the chords in a Rachmaninov piece to suit her small hands, which really impressed the tutors!

 A bright child who, by the age of 18, was playing and singing in her mother's band on radio jazzing up classical pieces, sometimes in a Boogie Woogie style. We heard Chopin's Minute Waltz played straight, then jazzily, great fun. She had her own band and preferred to play in the non-segregated Cafe Society venue in New York, which opened in 1938.

After cutting her first disc in 1939 Hazel lived well in upstate New York. Chauffeur, fur coats, champagne. and worth a million dollars in today's money. She refused to sing to segregated audiences and knew well how to take care of her own interests. She had parts in five Hollywood films, but refused to play any part in which a person of colour was demeaned, insisting upon wearing her own clothes, so her Hollywood career didn't progress. She recorded piano to entertain the troops in WW2 and was very popular.

In 1945 she married Adam Clayton Powell, a baptist parson who was a Civil Rights activist before the time of Martin Luther King. They were a celebrity couple. Hazel  continued with her career and was the first black woman to have her own TV show.

BUT this all changed during the 1950's McCarthy era, when she voluntarily agreed to testify to the Un-American Activities Committee, which proved to be a disaster for her career. The television show was dropped and she lost gigs. In 1951 she had a breakdown, but, typically, recovered and went on to record with people such as Charlie Mingus and Max Roach. Some jazz musicians consider that she did her best work at this time. Just one album was recorded and the excerpt played (fours between piano and drums) sounded like exciting stuff.

The couple divorced amicably and Scott went to Paris with her young son Adam, where she opened a sort of salon in 1957, which was frequented by such as Quincy Jones and writer James Baldwin. She also did a few bookings in small nightclubs. Her final years were spent in the USA, where Murray Horwitz described meeting Hazel Scott, who, he described as a warm, confident, gracious person more interested in talking about a sick friend than talking about herself.

The discussion ended with an assessment of Scott's legacy, which summed her up as a woman who broke down barriers, especially those which affected black women. She certainly deserves to be remembered. Look for Hazel Scott on YouTube, as I've just done, and watch the clip of her playing two pianos at once, with obvious enthusiasm, humour and huge enjoyment. Quite a personality!
Ann Alex 

Presenter Rajan Datar; Karen Chilton (Scott's biographer); Loren Schoenberg (saxophonist, bandleader, academic from the National Jazz Museum, Harlem); Murray Horwitz (broadcaster, playwright, met Scott personally)

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