Women in Jazz: A Primer

Jazz may be a dwindling genre in the eyes of some, but its long and rich history combined with its great stories, unique tune and enticing musical energy makes it one of the greatest musical genres in the eyes of many.

Yet despite the massive contributions, women in jazz have had less limelight in the genre’s expansive history coverage than famed male performers – much less, as per KQED. But female jazz vocalists have changed and reshaped the music of contemporary America again and again since the 1920s, with greats like Marian McPartland, Hazel Scott, Nellie Lutcher and others.

How Women Intertwined with Jazz Culture

The earlier examples of women making it into the world of professional jazz stem often from their mastery of the piano, which allowed women to accompany famous male jazz acts and gain social acceptance as per NPR. Simultaneously, many all-female bands existed in the jazz sphere, although they never gained much fame due to a lack of female presence in professional jazz at the time.

Although women often accompanied men on the jazz stage, the rise of female jazz talent occurred during the Second World War, when many  male musicians were drafted into the war. But this changed with the end of the war, as female musicians were dropped in favor of male ones, and those who remained faced ridicule or worse.

Through a steely resolve, however, several artists continued to express themselves through the genre, and over the decades after the 40s, the idea of women becoming an independent and growingly prominent force in the world of jazz became larger. Today, female jazz vocalists like Deborah Silver prove that women greatly enrich the world of jazz.

The women who played such significant roles in the growth of the Jazz music industry from the 20s and onwards most certainly deserve respect and recognition for everything they have achieved, and their legacy for women everywhere will continue to shine on.