I’ve got a lot of girls here. Maybe I could start myself an all-girl band.

Laurence Woods

As we learned last week, there are many hidden gems in the jazz world – female composers, musicians, and bandleaders who mastered their craft, but just didn’t get the same recognition as their male counterparts. Today, on International Women’s Day, we’re going to look at a few early female collaborations to a band you can go and hear live today.

Ina Ray Hutton and Her Melodears

The first all-female band to be recorded and filmed was Ina Ray Hutton and her Melodears. They were formed in 1934, when Irving Mills met 18 year old Ina Ray Hutton, while she was performing on Broadway, and he made her the bandleader. To the role, she brought glamour and sex appeal, wearing slinky gowns and dancing with the band, and she was known as the “Blonde Bombshell of Rhythm.” The Melodears disbanded in 1939, and Ina Ray Hutton went on as bandleader of all-male bands. Her heritage isn’t completely known, but as a child while her family was featured in the society pages of Black newspapers, she passed as white through most of her career.

Check out the Blonde Bombshell and her band performing “Truckin’”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcW0iM2UO2w

Phil Spitalny and His All-Girl Orchestra

During the same time as the Melodears, another all-female orchestra debuted in 1934, Phil Spitalny and His All-Girl Orchestra, or Hours of Charm Orchestra. He was inspired by violinist Evelyn Kaye Klein “and her magic violin,” who was the featured performer and concert mistress of the orchestra, and, later, Spitalny’s wife. This 32 member orchestra greatly differed from that of the Melodears in music selections and comportment; while Ina Ray Hutton was known for her “blatant sex appeal,” the Hours of Charm Orchestra exuded class and decorum, wearing long, white evening gowns, playing more “popular” and symphonic music, and being proficient in at least two instruments each.

Here’s Evelyn and her Magic Violin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhtkviTqCEE

International Sweethearts of Rhythm

A group that was inspired by both the Melodears and Phil Spitalny’s orchestra was the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. This was the first integrated all-women’s band, and it was started in 1938 by Laurence Woods, with students from the school where he was principal, including his daughter Helen Jones Woods. The original members were African-American, Mexican, Chinese, and Native American, and because there were no White members (at first), they could perform for Black and white audiences. They performed on the national swing and jazz circuit and were a huge hit, even while battling racial and gender inequality. In 1941 they became a professional band, parting from Woods, and settled in Arlington, Virginia. In 1944, DownBeat Magazine named them “America’s #1 All-Girl Orchestra.”

Here they are with “I Left My Man!”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uN7xU11_gS4

DIVA Jazz Orchestra

The tradition of an all-female orchestra lives on today with the DIVA Jazz Orchestra. Started in 1992, the orchestra was the brainchild of drummer and Buddy Rich Band manager Stanley Kay, who put drummer Sherrie Maricle in place as bandleader to lead these extraordinary women. This 15 member ensemble performs all over the world, sharing big band sounds with an updated approach. They were featured in the 2011 documentary The Girls in the Band, which chronicles female jazz instrumentalists from the 1930’s to present day.

Sherrie Maricle also co-leads the trio 3Divas with bassist Amy Shook and the CJO’s pianist Jackie Warren! The three met in Cleveland in 2014 and have been recording and performing together ever since.

Here’s the DIVA Jazz Orchestra playing “Nocturne”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeNe0Obtziw

Here is 3D performing “Moonglow”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoRiLGdr740

Learn more about The Girls in the Band: https://thegirlsintheband.com/

Local Jazz Festivals

Lakeland Jazz Festival
This coming weekend, you can enjoy the Lakeland Jazz Festival from the comfort of your home.

  • Friday, March 12th at 8 p.m.: The CJO featuring Joe Lovano perform “A Love Supreme”
  • Saturday, March 13th, at 8 p.m.: Pianist & vocalist Carol Welsman

The concerts are FREE! Learn more about how to watch them here: http://lakelandcc.edu/jazzfestival

Maplerock Jazz Festival
Friday, March 19th at 7:30 p.m.: The CJO will be performing at the Maplerock Jazz Festival.

  • There WILL be a limited number of FREE tickets.
  • All seating is reserved, to meet social distancing guidelines, so tickets are needed.
  • Tickets will be available only at the campus store. People can order by phone and pick them up before the concert or get them in person at the campus store. The phone number is 419-289-5336.



The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra wants to SPRING FORWARD into jazz education!

With many schools struggling with music education (if they are able to offer it at all), the CJO is focused on continuing the educational outreach projects we began last spring.

Our goal is to reach $3000 by April 1st, so we can help our community, assist our educational partners, and inspire new generations of jazz lovers!

To learn more & donate: http://bit.ly/CJOSpringFwd

Or text “CJO4NEO” to 44-321