Bringing something new: Female jazz instrumentalists’ use of imitation and masculinity
Creativity is often denied to women, and female jazz instrumentalists have been accused, openly or subtly, of lacking their own innovations. These critiques can reveal the manner in which jazz historians and critics, past and present, discuss creativity and how these ways fundamentally disadvantage historical and current jazz women. Several areas of jazz scholarship have benefited from investigations of the female and the feminine. What has previously been underplayed, though, was the manner in which women created musical spaces for themselves by using methods that were often considered uncreative. Despite feminism’s successes in reclaiming the historical value of female jazz instrumentalists such as Lil Hardin and Mary Lou Williams, these women confound modern women by insisting on describing their own playing as masculine. Some jazz women took their comparisons with men a step further, associating themselves with specific performers; for example, Valaida Snow, a trumpeter and singer, marketed herself as “Little Louis,” thus encouraging listeners to connect her performances with Louis Armstrong. This work details the reasons that women jazz instrumentalists utilized mimicry to gain access to masculine musical spaces and the successes that they experienced as a result. In reclaiming women’s imitative techniques, I recast women as creative entities.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Provost. (2017). Bringing Something New: Female Jazz Instrumentalists’ Use of Imitation and Masculinity. Jazz Perspectives, 10(2-3), 141–157. https://doi.org/10.1080/17494060.2018.1443966