The list of enduring and influential jazz vocalists is almost uniformly denominated women: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Etta Jones, Lena Horne, Anita O'Day...
But what of jazz instrumentalists?
History Homeroom extensively covered harpists Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane a few months ago but it's due time we continued our salute to the first ladies of jazz. So in honour of International Women's Day we applaud the following soul sisters of the 1970s:
Patrice Rushen is probably best know for her RnB and disco tracks, notably Larry Levan favourite "Haven't You Heard." But before she was signed to Elektra, she was laying down serious jazz on Prestige. Her album Before the Dawn has some of the most sublime electric piano work in the soul jazz canon and remains an everlasting sample source for hip hop producers.
Patrice Rushen - "Razzia," Before the Dawn, Prelude, 1975
Discogs: Before the Dawn
Bobbi Humphrey. Damn. The flutist's Mizell-produced album Black and Blue is one of the best dates Blue Note published during the 70s. When I'm out digging for records with friends and I come across a Humphrey album that they don't own yet, I won't let them leave the store without buying it. Regrettably, I still haven't stumbled upon her coveted rare-groove disco single "Don't You Know."
Bobbi Humphrey - "Harlem River Drive," Black and Blue, 1973
Discogs: Black and Blue
Monnette Sudler unfortunately is not the immediately recognizable name that she ought to be. Despite being a graduate of The Berklee School of Music, a composer and an exceptional jazz guitarist, the Philly native is all too often glanced over on the way to more famous male players. But Sudler is due mad respect as she dextrously and uniquely combines the traditional blues roots of her counterparts with the spirituality and avant-gardism of Alice Coltrane. Her catalogue may be modest but the greatest gifts come in small packages.
Monnette Sudler Quartet/Quintet - "Let Us Love," Time for Change, SteepleChase, 1977
Discogs: Time For Change