June 11th – Happy Birthday Hazel Scott!

Pianist/vocalist Hazel Scott is born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1920. Scott was not just a jazz pianist, nor a mere entertainer. She was among the first musicians to attempt to fuse jazz with classical music, and before the chazelscott-354x340ivil rights movement (in which she was an active participant), she–like Duke Ellington–insisted on defying racial stereotypes. Whether in a posh nightclub or a Hollywood soundstage, Scott reflected a positive stage and screen (for she made numerous film appearances) image, a mix of high-cheekboned beauty, glamor and elegance. Scott was classically trained and playing professionally in her early teens. By 16, she was a radio star, appearing on the prestigious Mutual Broadcasting Network and sharing a bill with the Count Basie Orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom. In the late 1930s, she appeared in the Broadway musicals Singing Out the News and Priorities of 1942; quickly followed by parts in the films Something to Shout About, I Dood it, Tropicana, and The Heat’s On (1943), Broadway Rhythm (1944), and the George Gershwin biopic Rhapsody in Blue (1945). Remarkably, Scott insisted on final cut of her appearance on every film in which she appeared, as well as her choice of costumes. She was a regular at the integrated nightclub Cafe Society. Her marriage to Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell was treated as a celebrity wedding.

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By The National Jazz Museum in Harlem


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