extraordinary women of jazz

7 Extraordinary Women of Jazz

Take a moment to learn more about some of the women of jazz who revolutionized instrumentation and performance during the height of the genre’s popularity.

Mary Osborne

Mary Osborne (1921-1992) is a celebrated guitarist who regularly performed and recorded with her fellow jazz greats of the era. She would go on to co-found the Osborne Guitar Company. Recommended listening: A Girl and Her Guitar and A Memorial.

Toshiko Akiyoshi

Toshiko Akiyoshi (b. 1929) is a jazz composer, bandleader, and pianist. Although her classic big band works have received the most accolades, she also incorporated her Japanese heritage into some of her music. Recommended listening: Long Yellow Road and Hiroshima: Rising From the Abyss.

Terry Pollard

Terry Pollard (1931-2009) is a pianist who, although often overlooked, was a major player in the mid-century jazz scene of Detroit. She performed often with Terry Gibbs. Recommended listening: Terry Pollard and  A Detroit Jazz Legend.

Dorothy Ashby

Dorothy Ashby (1932-1986) is a composer and jazz harpist, one of few who have carved a space out in the genre for the unique instrument. She blended several unique musical influences in her work, scored several plays, and helped popularize improv jazz on the harp. Recommended listening: The Jazz Harpist and Hip Harp.

International Sweethearts of Rhythm

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm (1937-1949) are a swing and jazz band from the 1940s the first integrated group in the United States. While popular in the 1940s, they received a resurgence of recognition in the 1960s-1970s due to feminist movements of the time. Recommended listening: International Sweethearts Of Rhythm.

Alice Coltrane

Alice Coltrane (1937-2007) is a bandleader, pianist, harpist, and experimental musician. She is a massively influential figure in the jazz of the 1960s-1970s and wove her Hindu philosophies into her work, resulting in more spiritual work later in her career. Recommended listening: Ptah, The El Daoud and Journey In Satchidananda.

Bobbi Humphrey

Bobbi Humphrey (b. 1950) is a flutist and singer who explored jazz fusion, specifically funk and soul. She has recorded alongside her fellow greats as well as laid down some truly improvisational tracks on her own albums. Recommended listening: Black and Blues and Fancy Dancer.


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