One of the first important female bandleaders in jazz, Lovie Austin deserves to be much better known. After studying music in college, she toured on the vaudeville circuit, settling in Chicago in 1923. During 1924-1926, she recorded frequently with her Blues Serenaders, a group that at various times had Tommy Ladnier, Bob Shoffner, Natty Dominique, or Shirley Clay on cornet; Kid Ory or Albert Wynn on trombone; and Jimmy O'Bryant or Johnny Dodds on clarinet, along with banjo and occasional drums. Fortunately, a Classics CD has collected all of those recordings. Austin (as house pianist for Paramount) also backed many blues singers (including Ida Cox, Ma Rainey, and Alberta Hunter). But after 1926, her recording activity largely came to a halt. Austin worked for 20 years as the musical director for the Monogram Theatre and later on as a pianist at a dancing school, only returning to record in 1961 as part of Riverside's Living Legends series. Although mostly an ensemble pianist, Lovie Austin was a skilled arranger.
by Scott Yanow