Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The jazz singer and trompeter Valaida Snow born on June 2, 1904, Chattanooga, Tennessee was an African American jazz musician and entertainer. Raised on the road in a show-business family with her sister Lavaida Snow, she learned to play cello, bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone at professional levels by the time she was 15. She also sang and danced.

After focusing on the trumpet, she quickly became so famous at the instrument that she was named "Little Louis" after Louis Armstrong, who used to call her the world's second best jazz trumpet player besides himself. She played concerts throughout the USA, Europe and China.

Her most successful period was in the 1930s when she became the toast of London and Paris. Around this time she recorded her hit song, "High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm." She performed in the Ethel Waters show, "Rhapsody In Black", in New York. In the mid-30s she made films with her husband, Ananais Berry, of the Berry Brothers dancing troupe. After playing New York's Apollo, she revisited Europe and the Far East for more shows and films.
Later she became addicted to morphine.

While touring through Denmark in 1941, she was arrested and sent to a Concentration camp by the Nazis, where she was held from March until May 1942 before being released on a prisoner exchange. According to jazz historian Scott Yanow, "she never emotionally recovered from the experience". In the 1950s, she was unable to regain her former success.

Valaida Snow died of a brain hemorrhage on May 30, 1956 in New York City.


Valaida Candace Allen (London: Vertigo 2004)Valaida is a novel based on Valaida Snow's life story.
Noire, la neige Pascal Rannou (published in French in 2008 by Editions Parenthèses, Marseille)

Noire, la niege is inspired by Valaida's life, but is more fictitious than strictly biographical.

High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm: The Life and Music of Valaida SnowMark Miller(The Mercury Press, Toronto, in 2007) Biography. Both the Allen and Miller books contradict the assertion that Snow was held by the Nazis and instead place her in Danish custody at a Copenhagen prison.

"Valaida"John Edgar Widemanin Fever: Twelve Stories(Henry Holt and Co, 1989)Valaida Snow appears as a fictional character who threw herself on top of the protagonist when he was a child to shield him from a beating at the hands of the Nazis in a concentration camp.

Snow is depicted as a strong, generous woman who proudly recalls that “They beat me, and [expletive] me in every hold I had. I was their whore. Their maid. A stool they stood on when they wanted to reach a little higher. But I never sang in their cage, Bobby. Not one note” (28).

Reference - Wikipédia

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