Hazel Scott Day

June 11, 1920 – October 2, 1981

A birthday tribute to the superb pianist

Hazel Scott was born on June 11, 1920, in Port Of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

She moved with her mother to New York City when she was four, was considered a child prodigy on the piano, and was awarded a scholarship to study at Juilliard when she was just eight (the minimum age had been 16).

As a teenager, Scott played the piano and trumpet with her mother’s jazz group.

Hazel Scott had the ability to play a classical piece straight and then turn it into hard-driving and swinging jazz; that became her trademark.

At 16, she was performing regularly on the radio, made her recording debut two years later, and in 1940 she recorded six songs that were released as “Swinging The Classics.”

Scott appeared in several musical theatre productions, was a regular at Café Society Uptown and Café Society Downtown in New York, and appeared in several movies, usually playing a show-stopping number.

Among her films during 1943-45 were “I Dood It,” “Broadway Rhythm,” “The Heat’s On,” “Something To Shout About,” and “Rhapsody In Blue.”

In addition, Scott was the first African-American to have her own television series in the U.S, the 1950s show “The Hazel Scott Show.”

Hazel Scott, who was married to Congressman Adam Clayton Powell during 1945-60, moved to France in the late 1950s (returning to the U.S. in 1967) and played in nightclubs until a year before her death in 1981.

Here is an excellent 20-minute documentary on the remarkable pianist titled “What Ever Happened To Hazel Scott?”

-Scott Yanow