They wiggled, they jiggled, they wore low-cut gowns and short shorts, they kowtowed to the club owners and smiled at the customers…and they did it all just to play the music they loved. “The Girls in the Band,” a new film by Judy Chaikin, recounts the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and their fascinating, groundbreaking journeys from the late 1930s to the present day.
These incredibly talented women endured sexism, racism and diminished opportunities for decades, yet continued to persevere, inspire and elevate their talents in a field that seldom welcomed them. Today a new breed of gifted young women is taking their rightful place in the world of jazz which can no longer deny their talents.
Combining archival footage and interviews with musicians including drummer Viola Smith, saxophonist Roz Cron, bassist Carline Ray and trumpeter Clora Bryant, Chaikin explores how even in the face of extreme prejudice, these women helped shape the history of American music and bravely challenged the racial barriers that prevented white and black musicians from working together.
The film also reveals how female jazz musicians of today, including Maria Schneider, Anat Cohen, Sherrie Maricle and Esperanza Spalding, are continuing to build upon the talent and courage of their predecessors.
Director Judy Chaikin, a graduate of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women, first came to recognition when she wrote, produced and directed the 1987 Emmy-nominated PBS documentary “Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist.”
Executive Producer Michael Greene was the first president/CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization that produces the Grammy Awards.
After a special screening of the film at Lincoln Center on May 10, which was co-sponsored by Local 802, Bertha Hope and her trio provided music. Earlier, Mayor Bloomberg had proclaimed the day “Women in Jazz Day.”
For more information and for showings, see www.TheGirlsInTheBand.com.