Black History: Special Delivery!!
Many of us have heard of the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. But have you heard of the legendary Clora Bryant? This little known but legendary woman is a music pioneer who deserves some props! She paved the way for female musicians working in a heavily male dominated jazz industry.
Clora was born in 1927 in Denison, TX. She began playing the trumpet in high school; eventually joining the school marching band. She continued playing after high school while attending Prarie View College. She joined the all-female swing band the Prairie View Coeds. The group toured across the state of Texas. The tour culminated in performances at the Apollo Theater in New York in 1944.
Bryant transferred to UCLA in 1945 and began playing with musical groups there. In 1946, she joined the all female band, Sweethearts of Rhythm. She quit school soon after. It was around this time that she met Dizzy Gillespie. He remained a mentor for her for the rest of his life. In her career as trumpeter, she played for Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker to name a few. She also performed in Canada, touring there for 2 years. In 1955 her LP, “Gal With A Horn” debuted. She continued to tour and play into the late 90’s. In 1989 she was invited by Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev to do 5 performances in the USSR.
In 1996 she suffered a heart attack which made her unable to continue as a trumpeter. However she continued to use her vocal talents as a singer. She also began lecturing on various college campuses educating audiences on the history of jazz. In 2004, the documentary Trumpetiscally was released about Bryant.
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