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Clora Bryant, a Black jazz trumpeter, was born on this date in 1927.
She was born in Denison, Texas, and started in music as a singer in her Baptist church, but at age 14, she took up the trumpet after her brother, Fred, left his behind when he went into the military in 1941. Bryant, a very good student academically also played in her high school band.
She studied improvisation intensely, using a wire recorder to record her own soloing along with jazz records, then studying the results. She became skilled at a variety of genres, from jazz to classical, and she performed versions of famous jazz solos of the day. She honed her own skills in jam sessions along Central Avenue in Los Angeles, the center of the mid-1940's West Coast African American jazz scene.
She turned down a scholarship to Oberlin College to attend Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College (both HBCU's) because it had a jazz band program. There, in the early 1940s, she toured Texas with its all-female band, the Prairie View Co-Eds. The Co-Eds came into New York in 1944 for a successful show at the Apollo Theater, where Bryant received acclaim for her version of a solo by trumpeter Harry James. Bryant also spent a week with the legendary all-woman International Sweethearts of Rhythm. In 1945, Bryant left Prairie View to be reunited with her father and brother, Mel, who had found work in California.
In 1948, she toured with the all-woman, all Black Queens of Swing. She also married that year and started a family, continuing to perform while pregnant and as a young mother. Later she attended UCLA where she became immersed in bebop and attracted the attention of Dizzy Gillespie. She was the only female musician to perform with Charlie Parker, at Hermosa Beach’s Lighthouse Cafe. Later she toured with singers Billy Daniels and Billy Williams. In 1957, she released her album “Gal With A Horn,” Then in the mid-1960s, she briefly did duo work with her brother, who was a vocalist. She also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Later, she became the first American female jazz musician to play in the Soviet Union.
But she had an on-again, off-again career and took time off to raise her four children. Bryant has been called a "pioneer" for women trumpeters. Since 1980, she has been working on her autobiography, "Trumpetistically Speaking, Love, Clora Bryant." Since a heart attack in 1996, she was unable to play, but still sang and lectured on jazz. Clora Bryant died on August 25, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Black Music Archives