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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 11 June 1920Port au Spain, Trinidad
Date of Death 2 October 1981New York City, New York, USA  (cancer)

Mini Bio (2)

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, classical and jazz musician Hazel Scott became one of America's premier pianists of her time. Born on June 11, 1920, this child prodigy first started tickling the ivories at age 3 under the guidance of her mother. She moved with her family to the U.S. in 1924 where she started performing in New York City and receiving scholarships to study classical music at the Juilliard School of Music -- all of this by age 8. Her mentors in jazz technique were Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson. Topping her talents off with a warm singing voice to complement her glamorous presence, she was a club and radio star by the late 30s and performed with such notables as Count Basie. She gained some attention for her swinging versions of classical themes. Hazel appeared in the productions "Singing Out the News" and "Priorities of 1942" on Broadway and played twice at Carnegie Hall. As a sometime actress, Hazel became a noted specialty performer in musical motion pictures, including "Something to Shout About" (1943), "I Dood It" (1943) and "Broadway Rhythm" (1944) during the war-era while releasing dozens of albums during her prime. Her most famous hit was "Tico Tico" and her catchy boogie-woogie style proved quite popular during the 40s, while her versatility and ability to shift from jazz to classical to blues was incomparable. Hazel married the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., noted Congressman, preacher and editor in 1945. She became the first black woman to host her own television show in 1950 but, within months, the show was canceled. An outspoken personality all her life, she was subsequently accused of being a Communist sympathizer. She refused to perform in segregated theaters and became a vocal critic of both McCarthyism and racial injustice. Following her divorce from Powell, she lived in Paris where she performed and enjoyed racial freedom during the 1960s. Her return to the U.S. marked a second career on TV with guest parts on such shows as Julia (1968) and The Bold Ones: The New Doctors (1969) coming her way. Scott continued to perform in clubs until her death from cancer in 1981.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

In a time of stereotypical views of black women, particularly browner-skinned women, as mammies, homely, and unattractive, dazzling Hazel Scott changed that image with her natural beauty and breathtaking glamour and spunky sex appeal. Women such as Ethel Waters actually became a stereotype by making herself homely and appearing in mammie attire to be more acceptable to white people, Hazel changed that for sure. She was the most popular black pianist and singer in the 1940s, in a time of competition of many female pianists-arranger-songwriters and singers such as Dorothy Donegan and Una Mae Carlisle. Hazel rose above them because of having that extra class and elegance. She was multi-talented, able to play various instruments and, even without a microphone, her beautiful, warm, loud but soothing voice can be heard in the biggest theater and nightclub. Hazel along with Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Una Mae Carlisle, Ida James, Savannah Churchill, Ella Fitzgerald became successful black female vocalists and given equality to display their art as a white female vocalist and show their beauty, sex appeal and glamour and not be stereotyped in order to show it as in previous years. These women of color in the 1940s were given opportunities that black female vocalist in the 1920s and 1930s were not given. In the 1940s, black female vocalists were becoming cross-over successes with their own unique, original voices without selling out, many had taken over positions that white female vocalists use to have and that was a door opener in itself. Black female singers were singing with white bands, singing in high class venues that once didn't accept black female performers, appearing in movies without being stereotypes, appearing in magazines, and becoming household names was a great achievement that all black female vocalist had a hand in doing. Many give Lena Horne all the glory when Hazel and Lena became the two most popular main attractions, in quite a few films they appeared together...a true first, two beautiful black women being together at the same time on screen without stereotypes.

Hazel never stayed in her place, because she was black, it didn't make her just sing the blues and jazz which shock some, she could sing classical, show tunes, Broadway songs and take blues or jazz and make it a classical tune but, regardless of what she sung or played, the talents she inherit from her culture was always evident. In whatever she sung, you could hear the versatility; you could hear gospel, blues, jazz, soul and rhythm in her voice and piano playing that put her in a class of her own. Her fast finger, rhythmic playing was a wow in any genre of music she played. Hazel, being a naturally determined person, felt talent will prevail over color and sexism and she was right. Hazel faced more problems than most female singers because she was not just a singer but pianist, arranger and song-writer and often times women like her with many talents are a threat to males in the business who just want a woman to look pretty and sing but again Hazel didn't stay in her place, she fought for her rights with whites and fought sexism with some in her own race. She's truly an unsung legend and achiever who deserves as much honor as Lena Horne, Billie Holiday and 'Ella Fitzgerald' because Hazel does as much as them if not more. If Hazel was around today, she would be considered a musical genius, Alicia Keys isn't the first.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Alicia T. (MsLadySoul@aol.com)

Spouse (1)

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (1945 - 1956) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (5)

During her salad days she joined her mother's All-Woman Orchestra and played both piano and trumpet.
In 1978, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 714-715. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC by Karen Chilton (University of Michigan Press).
Definitive Biography: Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC by Karen Chilton (University of Michigan Press), 2008.

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