We Trinidadians always seem to be seeking international recognition for our stars , yet the best of them from yesteryear are soon forgotten.
Talented jazz and classical pianist , movie star , singer and bandleader Hazel Scott is such a one.
Hazel was born in Port of Spain,Trinidad in 1920 , and her parents moved to Harlem when she was four.
She became an internationally renowned singer and pianist , appearing in a number of movies, and was the first African American to host her own TV show ( long before Oprah ) .
She also hosted a radio show on WOR in New York.
As a teen she attended the Julliard , where she was hailed as a musical genius.
As she became successful , she was also politically aware and active , and refused to play before segregated audiences.
She becams a star at the famed Cotton club when she replaced the legend Billie Holliday , and when Hollywood came calling , she demanded that her roles were not subservient or demeaning.
She was a contemporary of the celebrities of her era , like Duke Ellington Frank Sinatra Paul Robeson and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Here are two very impressive movie performances from the 1940s where Hazed dazzles her observers with her impressive piano skills. From the 1943 movie “I DooD it”, she performs an audition of ” Taking a Chance on Love “, from the Broadway musical Cabin in the Sky by Vernon Duke which has become a standard
And from the 1943 movie “The Heat’s On” , Hazel demonstrates her incredible skills playing two Grand Pianos at the same time.
This excellent documentary tells the story of Hazel Scott , and should be of great interest to Trinidadians curious about our former stars and their contributions to western music and culture.
Actually , it should interest everyone interested in stories of great artists from the past , especially those of the African diaspora.
Here is some personal information on Hazel Scott’s life , courtesy Wikipedia:
“In 1945, Scott married Baptist minister and US Congressman Adam Clayton Powell. They had one child, Adam Clayton Powell III, but divorced in 1960 after a separation. Their relationship provoked controversy, as Powell was married when their affair began.
On January 19, 1961, she married Ezio Bedin, a Swiss-born comedian.
On October 2, 1981, Hazel Scott died of cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. She was 61 years old and survived by her son Adam Clayton Powell III.”