In honor of National Women's History Month it's Girl's Night Out, a concert of songs penned by some of the most gifted women in jazz, and sung by Riverwalk Jazz divas Nina Ferro, Rebecca Kilgore, Carol Woods and Topsy Chapman.
Mary Lou Williams, known as "the lady who swings the band" because of the driving rhythmic force of her playing, was on the road as a full-time jobbing musician by the time she was fifteen years old. One of the leading jazz pianists of the Swing Era, she was also a composer and arranger for bands led by jazz greats Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Mary Lou Williams was a dedicated teacher and a champion of women in jazz. She led her own bands and recorded with several all-women bands. Her 1937 tune "Roll 'Em," written in honor of boogie woogie piano man Pete Johnson, is featured on tonight's concert.
Famous for her edgy humor widely published in Vanity Fair and The New Yorker magazines Dorothy Parker is equally well known as a founding member of Manhattan's Algonquin Round Table. In 1933 Parker headed for Hollywood where she worked as a scriptwriter, helped organize the Screenwriters Guild and wrote lyrics for songs in the movies, including the torch song "I Wished on the Moon" for the movie The Big Broadcast of 1936, sung here by Topsy Chapman.
Though only a handful of her songs became famous, Ann Ronnell had a lot of 'firsts' to her credit. She was the first woman to write both the lyrics and music for a Broadway show. In Hollywood she earned a reputation as the first successful female composer and lyricist while writing background music for Disney and Paramount movies, and conducting film sound track recordings. Her two most famous songs secured her a lasting place in popular culture. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" was her 1933 collaboration with Frank Churchill for the Disney animated film of the same name. The success of her 1932 ballad "Willow Weep for Me" led to her induction into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1991. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band offers their instrumental interpretation of this popular jazz standard.
Betty Comden is an iconic figure in the history of American theater. With her long-time partner Adolph Green, Comden won numerous awards, including six Tony Awards, an Obie Award and Kennedy Center Honors. Comden and Green wrote the great lyrics to "Make Someone Happy," composed by Jule Styne and performed here by Rebecca Kilgore. "Gimme Pigfoot," a little-known blues number established as a classic by Bessie Smith's 1933 recording was written by blues singer "Coot" Grant who toured the black vaudeville circuit with her husband, Wesley "Kid Sox" Wilson in the 1920s.
Also heard on Girl's Night Out, Carol Woods belts "Come Rain or Come Shine," Nina Ferro sings "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and Topsy Chapman offers "I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me."
Photo credit for Home Page: Mary Lou Williams. Photo courtesy Rutgers University.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2007