Sarah McLawler Day

August 6, 1926 – September 12, 2017

A tribute to the singer, organist and pianist

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Singer, organist and pianist Sarah McLawler was born on August 6, 1926 in Louisville, Kentucky.

She began playing the piano by ear when she was seven, performed at her father’s church, and studied pipe organ at a music conservatory.

After hearing pianist Earl Hines perform in Chicago in the early 1940s, she became very interested in jazz, studying at Fisk University and working in clubs.

She worked with a trio and other usually all-female groups, sang occasionally and in the late 1940s seriously took up the organ.

McLawler worked regularly in New York City, married violinist Richard Ott, formed a group with her husband (a trio that also included a drummer), and made recordings starting in 1950 including two sessions with tenor-saxophonist Georgie Auld and several during 1953-60 with her husband.

After being off record for 50 years, in 2010 she made her final recording with an all-female septet called Les Femmes Jazz.

Sarah McLawler was active until a few years before her death at the age of 91.

Here she is in 2014 as a singer and pianist, recording “Taking A Chance On Love” for the documentary film The Age Of Love.

-Scott Yanow


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