A new film is finally putting the spotlight on some of the unsung female musicians of the big band and jazz era, who until now have mainly gone unrecognized for their incredible talents and influence in music.
Director Judy Chaikin talked with The WAVE’s Pat Prescott about her decision to tell these women’s stories in the film, which gives a historic look back on many of the female jazz musicians of the early 30s and beyond.
Judy’s interest in the little known subject began eight years ago when a friend told her that he’d met a woman who said she’d been a drummer in a big band in the 1940s. A fan of the genre, Judy said she’d never heard of a woman ever playing in a big band before, so she looked into the topic a little more.
“I started to do a little research and found out that not only had this woman been in big bands, but she had been in big all female bands and that there hundreds of them in the 30s and 40s,” said Judy. “They had had a very significant part in the early years of big band and swing and jazz, and that their stories have never been told. So that’s why I decided to tell them.”
In the film, Judy explores the question whether if many of these women had just been hobby musicians or “were there really giants among them that had they not been women, would have been recognized as great, important figures in the music world.”
The official website describes the film as “the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and their fascinating, groundbreaking journeys from the late 30′s to the present day.”
The film follows these stories of pioneering female instrumentalists in jazz who set out to break down gender discrimination in this formally male-dominated field. They endured “sexism, racism and diminished opportunities” for years, but continued to follow their musical passion despite discrimination.
Some of the women spotlighted in the film include Roz Cron of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, trumpeter Clora Bryant, drummer Cindy Blackman, pianist Marian McPartland and more.
This weekend, fans can see a special screening of the film at various Laemmle Theatre locations in SoCal. Look below for complete screening details.
Listen to our complete interview with the film’s director, Judy Chaikin, in the clip below.