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.