C is for Clora Bryant. Clora is a vocalist and a trumpet player. She started out as a singer but she took up the trumpet in 1941 when her brother left his behind when he went to fight in WWII. She landed her first professional gig in 1944. By 1948 she was touring with the Sweethearts of Rhythm (we’ll see them again). She was the only female musician ever to perform with Charlie Parker and she was first American female jazz musician to perform in the Soviet Union where she was invited by Mikhail Gorbachev himself. She released her one and only album “Gal With A Horn” in 1956. Shortly thereafter she took time off to raise her 4 children.
As of last year, Clora was still appearing annually at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival. She can no longer play the trumpet but she still sings and presides over a jazz history panel. Here’s a cut from Clora’s album, “This Can’t Be Love” (Rogers and Hart 1938).
I watched a film of Clora at the 2010 jazz festival and I think am a little bit in love with her now. Despite all the obstacles she must have faced as a female musician of color in the post WWII era, she seems to recount only fond memories of the time. I think perhaps the true secret of longevity is being able to wade through the sea of crap life often throws us to find the golden moments then hold those most dear. At least I hope that’s the secret of long life because if it really is eat right and exercise I am totally screwed!