Hazel Scott was not only a gifted pianist and singer — a child musical prodigy who at only eight years old was given a scholarship from the Juilliard School of Music to be privately tutored — she was also the first woman of color to have her own TV show (1950), and was an outspoken advocate for civil rights throughout her life. From Smithsonian Magazine:

There was little separation between Hazel’s performance and her outspoken politics. She attributed it to being raised by very proud, strong-willed, independent-minded women. She was one of the first black entertainers to refuse to play before segregated audiences…

By the time Hollywood came calling, Hazel had achieved such stature that she could successfully challenge the studios’ treatment of black actors, demanding pay commensurate with her white counterparts, and refusing to play the subservient roles in which black actors were commonly cast.

Scott continued to fight discrimination during McCarthyism and the Hollywood Blacklist. After moving to France in the late 1950s, “Her apartment on the Right Bank became a regular hangout for other American entertainers living in Paris. James Baldwin, Lester Young, Mary Lou Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach were regular guests, along with musicians from the Ellington and Basie bands.”

Above, Hazel Scott plays Black and White on two grand pianos in the 1943 Mae West film, The Heat’s On. There’s also a trumpet-playing puppet.

hazel-scott-two-pianos

Recommended listening: Hazel Scott’s Round Midnight, and the celebrated Relaxed Piano Moods with Charles Mingus and Max Roach.

Speaking of Roach, watch his brilliance on the hi-hat. Plus, two other pianos on stage: Oscar Peterson and Count Basie – Jumpin’ At The Woodside.

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