Jazz Pioneers

The early days of jazz spawned great women jazz pianists —
Sweet Emma Barrett, Billie Pierce, Jeanette Kimball, Mary Lou Williams, and Lovie Austin among them. These women were so talented some eventually became band leaders, and these ground-breaking women made some significant contributions to Jazz. Here are some:

Sweet Emma Barrett

She played with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, sometimes one-handed after a stroke. Here she is being interviewed by Art Duke and performing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Billie Pierce

Another member of the renown Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Here she is performing with her husband Dede. I appreciate the enhanced audio (by Konrad Klingelfus) on this track.



Jeanette Kimball

Jeanette Kimball was classically trained and played in “society bands” with Papa Celestin. Here’s an example:

She finally got to record on her own, and you can hear her piano chops:

Mary Lou Williams

This self-taught musician started her career at age seven in Pittsburgh as “the little piano girl of East Liberty.” She wrote, arranged and performed with the likes of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.

Lovie Austin

Born in Tennessee, she established her musical career in Chicago, and Mary Lou Williams credits her as a major influence. I selected this song featuring Lovie’s piano playing with Ida Cox singing.

Original “Black Betty” – Sung By Texas Prisoners

This version of a multi-recorded song was a standard in Texas prisons. This song has been recorded by many singers thru it’s century-plus history. There is so much unknown about this song, that was made a hit in 1977. Some suggest the song, written in the 1800’s, was about a gun with a black stock. Somehow I don’t think these prisoners in a Texas jail were singing about a weapon. Check out this cover version with Johnny Depp plus a kick ass video. Great music is timeless.

Glenn Campbell, Ed Sheeran, Jack White, And Johnny Cash Versions Of A Classic

Written in the 18th century, this song has been sung by many. I remember this song from when I was frequenting the coffee house/folk scene. The site thebluegrasssituation.com is totally worthwhile, and this post is classic, including different versions of this song done by 20 gr8 voices – Glenn Campbell, Ed Sheeran, Jack White, and Johnny Cash to name a few. Check out Jack White singing this song on YouTube.

“Canal Street Blues” by King Oliver’s Creole Band

Jazz greats have to start somewhere, Louie Armstrong started here. Joseph Nathan Oliver, known as King Oliver, an excellent coronet player himself, gave Louis his 1st entertainment job in his creole band, took him under his wings, and taught him the music biz ropes. Tim Gracyk has made a sensational YouTube post of this song, and it includes some gr8 old images. I encourage you to expand your music horizons and give a listen.