march, 2017

7mar7:00 pm- 9:30 pm“First Lady of the Violin”: Rediscovering Jazz Violinist Ginger Smock through a Canadian Archive

Event Details

“First Lady of the Violin”:

Rediscovering Jazz Violinist Ginger Smock

through a Canadian Archive


A Lecture by

Laura Risk


Ginger Smock (1920–1995) grew up in the musically vibrant Central Avenue community of Los Angeles and was one of the first women to record hot jazz on the violin. In the 1940s and 50s, she was a regular on local television and radio, often serving as bandleader. She also performed up and down the West Coast with the Jackson Brothers and toured nationally with Steve Gibson and the Red Caps. In the 1960s she was musical director for the cruise ship S.S. Catalina, and she later served as concertmaster for Las Vegas show orchestras. Smock’s playing combined virtuosic violin technique with a hard-driving swing and a bluesy improvisational language informed by big bands and an earlier generation of jazz violinists.  Ginger Smock is largely absent from jazz history, however. This is partially due to the lack of a substantive discography. Until recently, the only available recordings of her playing totalled under three hours and were limited to the first decades of her career.  In this talk, I will discuss a previously untapped archive, from Canadian jazz violin collector John Reeves. This archive contains several dozen hours of new recordings, including live shows, unreleased studio and demo recordings, jam sessions, and interviews and conversations with Smock. It also contains photos, letters, and sheet music of her original compositions. Much of this archive dates from the 1970s and 80s, a period for which we previously had few materials. I will also reflect on the process of historicizing a musician such as Ginger Smock, who launched her career at a time when her gender and race delineated her recording and performance opportunities. The Reeves archive offers us new perspectives on how she negotiated and challenged these constraints during fifty years of music-making.

 With an introductory performance by a Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program Student

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017, 7pm

Columbia University Main Campus

East Gallery, Buell Hall

West 116th Street and Broadway

Free and open to the public; RSVP required.

Please contact to secure your RSVP


(Tuesday) 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm


East Gallery, Buell Hall

515 West 116th Street, New York, NY 10027