One of the last living musicians of the Be-Bop jazz era is a exceptional woman who mentors the next generation of jazz players. Clora Bryant toured with Billie Holiday, and she is the only woman trumpet player who ever recorded with Dizzy Gillespie and played with Charlie Parker. Though she had a long and remarkable career, she never became well known to the general public.
Bryant's love affair with the trumpet started when she was a high school junior in 1941 in Denison, Texas. After her brother was drafted into the army, Clora Bryant picked up the trumpet he left behind and started playing day and night. Since then, her 59-year career has been full of firsts. In the 1940s, most women in jazz either sang or played piano and avoided the male-dominated horn section. Bryant was the first woman to play with Charlie Parker. She recorded with Dizzy Gillespie and played with other greats like Louis Armstrong, Carl Perkins, Dexter Gordon and others. Later, in 1989, Bryant was the first woman to travel to the Soviet Union to perform jazz, on the invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev.
Despite a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery in 1996 that left her unable to play her trumpet, Bryant continues to exert her influence on the world of jazz. She still sings and lectures on jazz history at several Los Angeles-area colleges. She also mentors several young female jazz musicians, encouraging, inspiring and teaching them. Honored with the 2002 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival Award, Bryant was again celebrated with the 2004 release of Trumpetistically, a documentary profile by filmmaker Zeinabu Irene Davis.