*** (out of four)
A crash course on female musicians in jazz, “The Girls in the Band” packs in so many stories and performances that I wished it would slow down, so the music could settle and the anecdotes could breathe.
That said, a high quantity of revolutionary people and concerts is a good problem in a documentary about barrier-busting musicians. Director/co-writer Judy Chaikin speaks to many of these women, including members of late-’30s/early-’40s ensemble the International Sweethearts of Rhythm and their “trumpetiste” Clora Bryant. Countless snippets of archival footage include shameful examples of sexism like a letter to the editor that female musicians “should stick to their ironing” and a TV host introducing Chicago native Ina Ray Hutton as “that pretty little spitfire of syncopation.” Anyone familiar with mid-20th century America will be unsurprised but sickened by such misogynistic behavior, as well as by tales of racism encountered while touring in Southern states.