Still Swinging, Still Classic: A Musical Biography of Pioneering Pianist Hazel Scott

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jazz pianist Hazel Scott in a scene from director Irving Rapper's film 'Rhapsody In Blue.' Jazz pianist Hazel Scott in a scene from director Irving Rapper's film 'Rhapsody In Blue.' (Metronome/Getty Images)

In celebration of Black History Month, WQXR host Terrance McKnight presents a portrait of Hazel Scott (1920-1981), the wife of late Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and a Juilliard-trained pianist who performed in some of the world's most prestigious concert halls.

Known as the “darling of Café Society,” the Trinidad-born Scott was quickly recognized as a child prodigy, being accepted as a piano student at Juilliard at age 8. By age 14, she was playing in touring female bands while being mentored by Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and Art Tatum.

Later in life, Scott became a trailblazer in Hollywood; an outspoken civil rights activist which made her a political target; and finally an outcast, after being ostracized from her then-husband’s renowned Harlem church because of her musical style.

One of the reasons we've chosen to devote a special to Scott is her under-appreciated place in music, despite activism in the entertainment industry that rivaled that of Paul Robeson.

"She was the first African American woman to host her own television show without sketch comedy or a variety of guests, and I was completely enamored by her story even before hearing any of her recordings, which are amazing and trailblazing," says McKnight. "Her story will be of great interest to historians, music lovers and musicians."

At 9 pm on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, join McKnight for this one hour special. 

Program playlist:

Lucky to Be Me
Leonard Bernstein, B. Comden, A. Green
Hazel Scott, piano

The Man I Love
George & Ira Gershwin
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records

Country Gardens
Percy Grainger
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records 

Valse in D flat Major
Frederic Chopin
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records 

Two Part Invention in A minor
Johann Sebastian Bach
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records 

Mighty Like the Blues 
Leonard Feather
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records

Blues in B Flat 
Hazel Scott
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records

Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 in C Sharp Minor   
Franz Liszt
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records

Mary Lou 
Mary Lou Williams
J. Russel Robinson, Abe Lyman, George Waggner
Hazel Scott, piano

C Jam Blues
Duke Ellington
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records

For You, For Me, Forevermore
George & Ira Gershwin
Hazel Scott, piano

Love is the Thing
Ned Washington, Victor Young
Hazel Scott, piano

Just Imagine
B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown, Roy Henderson
Hazel Scott, piano

Prelude in C sharp minor
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records

Vincent Youmans, Leo Robin and Clifford Grey
Hazel Scott, piano
Classics Records

Nightmare Blues

Hazel Scott
Hazel Scott, piano, voice

Ev'ry Time
Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane
Hazel Scott, piano

I Wish I Didn't Love You So
Frank Loesser
Hazel Scott, piano


Comments [41]

Joseph DiSalle

Wonderful show. I look forward to hearing it again and again. Thank you for putting it together.

Feb. 22 2016 12:15 AM
Edith Meeks from Weehawken, NJ and Manhattan

Was captivated by this program last night -- a magnificent playlist and Mr. McKnight, a voice I've come to love and wait for, you told Scott's story with such compassionate finesse. Alone in my room by the radio on a Saturday evening, I applauded.

Feb. 21 2016 09:42 AM
Richard Kelso from Manhattan

A skillful, respectful, and passionate production. Kudos to Terrance and the team who put together this show on Hazel Scott.

Feb. 20 2016 10:03 PM

Correction: African American by adoption/ naturalisation. Afro- TRINIDADIAN by BIRTH and HERITAGE

Feb. 20 2016 05:48 PM
Linda from NYC

Hazel Scott...Older generations appreciate how talented she truly was, and her accomplishments should be recognized alongside the familiar classical and jazz greats. Young musicians have a lot to learn about the rich musical legacy of African American people, instead of their silly pop, heavy metal, rap, gangsta garbage..All unintelligent noise.

Feb. 27 2015 10:28 AM
sandra from NYC

The Hazel Scott program was priceless, I had heard about her by my parents who were huge jazz enthusiasts. But your program was eye opening because we got to hear her comments on her life.
I've listened thru out the month of February and all the programs on were extremely informative but this one really stood out from the rest.

Feb. 27 2015 09:46 AM

As I have been around for a long time, I'm one of the few posters here who indeed has heard of Hazel Scott. Was always fascinated by her and the many roles she played in the brief time span she was allotted. Her lovely looks, her earthy persona, her grand talent - great that you put together such a respectful and informative tribute to an under estimated and very worthy musician of our times - which, in the end, is all time. Thanks so much.

Feb. 24 2015 10:38 PM
Billy from Brooklyn

What a fascinating life and wonderful musician - what a fantastic program, thank you for doing!

Feb. 24 2015 10:06 PM
Liz from NJ

I didn't plan to listen to the show, too much work to do, but once it started - I put down my work and just listened - Thank you for a wonderful, well-researched program about a super talented woman I never heard of before!

Feb. 24 2015 08:32 PM

Will we hear more Hazel Scott in regular WQXR scheduling? Or is it only special-occasion listening?


Feb. 25 2014 12:07 AM
William Martin

Thank you, Mr. Knight, for this wonderful program about Hazel Scott. HOWEVER, is she the only African-American artist to note. Why are you repeating this program for the same-listening audience as last week? Isn't there any of artist as gifted and interesting as she? We both know that there are, but where are they?

Feb. 24 2014 12:01 AM
Lindsay from osaka, japan

Thank you Terrrance, for a wonderful program showcasing the life of a beautiful, talented musician whom I knew nothing about!

Feb. 20 2014 12:08 AM
Lindsay from osaka, japan

Thank you Terrrance, for a wonderful program showcasing the life of a beautiful, talented musician whom I knew nothing about!

Feb. 20 2014 12:07 AM
Lindsay from osaka, japan

Thank you Terrrance, for a wonderful program showcasing the life of a beautiful, talented musician whom I knew nothing about!

Feb. 20 2014 12:07 AM
Lindsay from osaka, japan

Thank you Terrrance, for a wonderful program showcasing the life of a beautiful, talented musician whom I knew nothing about!

Feb. 20 2014 12:07 AM
parental control

The main difference of the Care4teen system from similar programs is that it gives you total knowledge and maximum control. With the help of remote access you can literally keep your finger on the pulse of your child’s Internet activities.

Jul. 10 2011 02:53 AM
gina ballinger from Graz, Austria

P.S. and all my appreciation to Karen Chilton, author of Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist, from Café Society to Hollywood to HUAC for opening yet another world to me of women in the arts. gina ballinger

Mar. 06 2011 10:27 AM
gina ballinger from Graz, Austria

quoting red paisley from manhattan
"It is so wrong that I have never heard of Hazel Scott before! Thank you, Terrance McKnight, for correcting this omission. She was an amazing woman." and also your ability to give a womans Herstory point of view : )thank you from one learning more and more of herstory in austria : ) gina ballinger

Mar. 06 2011 06:14 AM
red paisley from manhattan

It is so wrong that I have never heard of Hazel Scott before! Thank you, Terrance McKnight, for correcting this omission. She was an amazing woman.

Mar. 01 2011 10:36 AM
kdan from NYC

Of historical interest, I see that Hazel Scott's "Swingin' the Classics" recordings predate by decades such popular European groups as the Jacques Loussier Trio and the Swingles Singers. I bet they made more money off the practice than she did.

Feb. 28 2011 09:44 PM

Thank you all for listening to this show and posting your comments here. Your enthusiasm makes me want to get started immediately on the next musical biography. Here's to Hazel

Feb. 28 2011 12:18 AM

Just another note to thank you for putting together this ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS programme. The story of a life in music, it's ups and downs and ins and outs, following the muse as best one can, inspires me as I travel through my own life.

Feb. 27 2011 05:47 PM

Have to agree with your many fans here, Terrance, this Hazel Scott show is terrific. I know these bio-audio shows are an awful lot of work, but what a great result, this is engaging and instructive. Well done.

Feb. 27 2011 04:36 PM
Pix Rose from NJ

Once you get used to Terence's programs . there's no going back to someone else. I thoroughly enjoyed the program!

Feb. 27 2011 12:20 AM
Hope Brown from NYC

A brilliant program about a brilliant woman. I loved hearing her and hearing about her. Thank you so much.

Feb. 27 2011 12:10 AM
Jean Aniebona from Brooklyn, New York

I am so thankful to you for producing this music - American Classical music - that which is written performed and played by a much neglected group of artists who receive little attention due too often to racism.

I am African American and feel so uplifted by your recognition and exposure of the contributions to the world of music by those who are African American.

Feb. 27 2011 12:04 AM
Suzi Q from Maywood, NJ

Absolutely loved your show about Hazel Scott. What a beautiful mix of classics and jazz. Thanks for introducing her to your listening audience.

Feb. 27 2011 12:03 AM
Frederick from Soho, NYC

Fantastic program. Please do more musical biographies like this. I'm studying blues piano, and find these biographies inspiring.

Feb. 27 2011 12:00 AM
Paige from Seattle, WA

This was a wonderful program -- I'm so glad I have WQXR to listen to on Saturday nights, and especially glad to hear your programs, Mr. McKnight.

Feb. 26 2011 11:58 PM
Raisa from New York

Thank you for this amazing and fun program! The last piece she played wasn't by Liszt -- it's the famous C-sharp minor Prelude by Rachmaninoff.

Feb. 26 2011 11:52 PM

Saw the news article and waited for the days to pass. Great music and bio about Hazel Scott. Looking foward to listening to your show in the future.My first time Thanks!!!! Stephanie

Feb. 26 2011 11:51 PM
Michael Meltzer

Prelude in C-sharp minor was Rachmaninoff.

Feb. 26 2011 11:48 PM
Paul from Brooklyn, NY

Now this is interesting listening.

Feb. 26 2011 11:28 PM
Steve from Iowa

Thank you, this was highly interesting and informative. I didn't know much about her prior to this; I'll definitely be doing some followup reading and listening.

Feb. 26 2011 11:20 PM
Reginald Brown from Brooklyn

Thank you so much about this wonderful woman, Hazel Scott, of which I knew nothing before tonight. I am proud of you. As the 'old' saints at church used to say, "Keep on keeping on." The links with Mary Lou Williams, Lester Young, Dizzy, Billie etc...great!
Thanks also for your informative expose on Dr. Martin Luther King and his music. You are a gentleman and a scholar.
I am a black man from Kansas City KS who came to NY to pursue a career in entertainment. By God's grace, I did just that. God be with you, my brother.

Feb. 26 2011 11:11 PM
Bell Priveterre from NYC

Such a brilliant woman!

Feb. 26 2011 11:04 PM
Michael Meltzer

Beautifully done. I hope you get a Peabody.

Feb. 26 2011 11:01 PM
Neil from Jackson Heights

Bravo! What a wonderful tribute. Thanks for bringing Hazel Scott and her times alive through the magic of radio and thank God for WQXR archives so we can go back and listen.

Feb. 20 2011 06:09 PM
Barry Blitstein from New York City

A remarkable, essential biography. You did so much in one hour. Thankyou.

Feb. 20 2011 05:18 PM
TommyG from New Jersey

Caught the last part of the Hazel Scott segment last night and was blown away. Thanks for shedding much needed light on this wonderful performer and Mary Lou Williams.

Feb. 15 2011 01:23 PM

Wonderful program. Hazel Scott was an amazing, talented, and gutsy person! Heroic! Thank you for this program.

Feb. 14 2011 09:16 PM

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