Vivien Garry

There isn’t much biographical information available about bassist, Vivien Garry, although she appears to have had a relatively rich career if her discography is any indication. [1] She led both a trio and quintet in New York in the ’40s and was also active in the LA jazz scene. In fact, her quintet is probably my favorite of the “all-girl” bands I’ve heard. They swung so hard and played so relaxed and tastefully, but with virtuosity in all the right places. They chose great tunes, interpreted them creatively, and with an energy that makes me want to dance! Interesting to note that there’s a pretty terrible review of some recordings of Garry’s Quintet Billboard’s Aug 1947 issue. [2] While I agree with the reviewer that Edna Williams’ trumpet playing is especially outstanding on every side, to my ear, the spirit of the whole band is driving and fiery, even if slightly less glossy than some other recordings at that time — and I personally prefer the heat and the grit any day. Case in point:

In her book, New York City Jazz, Elizabeth Dodd Brinkofski writes that Vivien’s groups “played all over Manhattan’s top jazz nightclubs in the 1940s.” She goes on to write that “this was the beginning of women gaining attention as musicians in the genre of jazz.” Though that may be difficult to believe given there is little information readily available on Vivien Garry and the musicians with whom she recorded, like Ginger Smock, Edna Williams, Dody Jeshke, and Winnie Beatty. Brinkofski also writes that “Viven Garry was the only female bass player that performed on Fifty-Second Street.” [3] Linda Dahl writes of Garry’s “steady timekeeping and ‘bounce'” which I think is evident in the recording above. [4]

Here is a playlist that features a few of Garry’s groups. Enjoy!

(Re)sources

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Vivien Garry,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vivien_Garry&oldid=855769321 (accessed January 17, 2019).

[2] Billboard Magazine. Vivien Garry Quintet. August 2, 1947. (https://books.google.com/books?id=xgwEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PT127&dq=vivien%20garry%20bass&pg=PT127#v=onepage&q=vivien%20garry%20bass&f=false)

[3] Elizabeth Dodd Brinkofski. New York City Jazz. (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2013).

[4] Linda Dahl, Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984).

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