Clora Bryant: Plays and Sings – Complete Recordings 1957-1960

It wasn't easy for trumpeter Clora Bryant to make her way, but Mikhail Gorbachev made her the first female jazzer to play the USSR


Clora Bryant is a largely unrecognised pioneer of the jazz trumpet. She had to contend with the jazz establishment’s ingrained bias against women who had the temerity to perform with the instrument. Even when she recorded her only album, the 1957 Gal With A Horn, the record label insisted that she sang on it in order to conform with the stereotypical role of women in jazz at the time.

Yet those who knew their onions in this regard recognised and respected her talent. Louis Armstrong asked to sit in with her upon hearing her play in a nightclub as did Charlie Parker on another occasion. Dizzy Gillespie invited her to perform in his band and became her mentor for the rest of his life.

In her early days Bryant played in all-female bands such as Sweethearts of Rhythm and Queens of Swing. Later on she was backing Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker. In the 70s she replaced Blue Mitchell in Bill Berry’s big band and in 1989 she became the first female jazz artist to tour the Soviet Union after Mikhail Gorbachev invited her to play there.

In this Fresh Sound release we hear eight numbers comprising standards and popular music of the time that were recorded on Gal With A Horn. They’re performed by Bryant’s newly formed quartet with Roger Fleming on piano, Ben Tucker bass and Bruz Freeman on drums. For half the album they’re joined by Norman Faye on trumpet and Walter Benton on tenor sax. Bryant’s trumpet playing is characteristically ebullient and she doesn’t hold back with her voice either. She sings on every track. Try Tea for Two, which she delivers in cha-cha style.

Bookending the eight tracks from Gal With A Horn is a number featuring Bryant from a 1957 Bethlehem series LP, Jazz City Presents and two tracks from a 1960 Coral LP, The Billy Williams Review. Her accurate emulation of Louis Armstrong’s gravelly singing voice in the closing number, Blueberry Hill, is uncanny.

The album’s sound quality is excellent throughout. The CD comes with an interesting 16-page booklet with biographical details, photos of Bryant performing and various gig posters of the time.

Rifftide; Gipsy In My Soul; Makin’ Whoopee; Man With The Horn; Sweet Georgia Brown; Tea For Two; This Can’t Be Love; Little Girl Blue; S’posin’; Angel Eyes; Blueberry Hill (51.03)
Bryant (t, v); Don Fagerquist, Norman Faye (t); Herb Geller (as); Bill Perkins, Walter Benton (ts); Pepper Adams (bar); Herbie Harper (tb); Claude Williamson, Roger Fleming, (p); Curtis Counce, Ben Tucker (b); Mel Lewis, Bruz Freeman (d). Los Angeles, 21 March 1957, June 1957 and 27 June 1960.
Fresh Sound Records FSR-CD1140