Monday Movie Review: The Girls in the Band

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The Girls in the Band
Directed by Judy Chaikin
Artist Tribe/ One Step Productions
Fall 2010

To play jazz, you have to have confidence and pride. You can’t be afraid of the spotlight and you need to take risks. To some, especially in the past, this may have seemed “unladylike.” Women who dared to play jazz endured plenty of sexism and racism, among other obstacles, but as a stream finds its way to the ocean, these musicians found a way to do what they loved.

You know the famous quote about Ginger Rogers (referring to dancing with Fred Astaire), “Don’t forget, she did everything he did backwards. And in heels.” This sentiment could be applied to women musicians, too. One woman remembers being told to smile the whole time she was performing. How exactly does one smile while playing a trumpet or saxophone solo? (This must be where the “smize” comes in handy.)

This documentary touchingly and lovingly shows the past eight decades or so of women’s jazz history with exclusive footage of some of the greats who you may have never heard of. Where there is a Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Herbie Hancock, there is a Melba Lisbon, Mary Lou Williams, and Viola Smith. While many of the early jazz pioneers are no longer with us, their music and their legacy lives on. Let’s not forget them.

— Rebecca DeRosa

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