This week, I got to see the wonderful documentary The Girls in the Band at a local theater with some friends, and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in this history of jazz and women's rights. The film tells the stories of some of the ground-breaking female musicians from the 1930s to the 1970s who fought discrimination, sexism and more to have an equal place on the bandstand, alongside the men.
The film is worth it just to hear the story of theInternational Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first all-female integrated jazz band in the country. But all of the musicians featured are fantastic.
If I can fault the film for anything, it's that the filmmakers spend so little time showing these talented musicians actually playing. I wish they would have just let the historic concert footage just role for a phrase or two of music before cutting away to another talking head.
Still, this is essential viewing for lindy hoppers interested in the history of this music that we love so much. And for DJs, great leads on artists to search for to play at your next dance.
They wiggled, they jiggled, they wore low cut gowns and short shorts, they kowtowed to the club owners and smiled at the customers…and they did it all, just to play the music they loved. In the thirties and forties, hundreds of women musicians toured the country in glamorous All-Girl Bands, while others played side by side with their male counterparts. Yet by the mid-fifties female jazz musicians had literally disappeared from the workplace; their names, their contributions to music, completely forgotten. THE GIRLS IN THE BAND tells the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and their fascinating, groundbreaking journeys from the late 30′s to the present day. These incredibly talented women endured sexism, racism and diminished opportunities for decades, yet continued to persevere, inspire and elevate their talents in a field that seldom welcomed them. Today, there is a new breed of gifted young women taking their rightful place in the world of jazz, which can no longer deny their talents.
See the official website for upcoming showtimes. No word on any online or digital distribution.
And here's another awesome clip of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm!