Clora Bryant (May 30, 1927 - August 23, 2019) was an American jazz trumpeter and singer. She performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker and was a member of the Sweethearts of Rhythm.
As a child, Bryant was a member of the choir in a Baptist church. When her brother Fred joined the military, he left his trumpet, which she learned how to play. In high school she played trumpet in the marching band. She turned down scholarships from Oberlin Conservatory and Bennett College to attend Prairie View College in Houston, where she was a member of the Prairie View Coeds jazz band. The band toured in Texas and performed at the Apollo Theater in New York City in 1944. Her father got a job in Los Angeles, and she transferred to UCLA.
Bryant heard bebop for the first time on Central Avenue. She became a member of the Sweethearts of Rhythm, a female jazz band, and dropped out of school. Dizzy Gillespie became her mentor and provided her with work. She joined the black female jazz band the Queens of Swing as a drummer, and went on tour with the band. In 1948 Bryant married Joe Stone, a bassist who played with R&B bands. They started a family, and she continued to perform while pregnant and as a young mother.
In 1951 she worked in Los Angeles as a trumpeter for Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday. Two years later she moved to New York City.
The Queens of Swing performed on television in 1951 as The Hollywood Sepia Tones in a half-hour variety program. They were the first women's jazz group to appear on television. After six weeks the show was dropped due to lack of a sponsor. During filming Bryant was about seven months pregnant. After her daughter's birth she was called onto Ada Leonard's all-girl orchestra show; however she only stayed for a week after calls demanding to "get that nigger off there." In 1954 she briefly moved to New York because she had lost inspiration from playing in bands.
In 1951, she was a member of an all-female sextet led by Ginger Smock that was broadcast for six weeks on CBS.
Bryant recorded her first and only album, Gal with a Horn, in 1957 before returning to the life of a traveling musician. She worked often at clubs in Chicago and Denver. In Las Vegas she performed with Louis Armstrong and Harry James. She toured with singer Billy Williams and accompanied him on The Ed Sullivan Show. During the 1960s and 1970s, she toured around the world with her brother Mel, who was a singer, and they had a TV show in Australia. In 1989 Bryant became the first female jazz musician to tour in the Soviet Union after being invited by Mikhail Gorbachev. After a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery in 1996, she began to give lectures on college campuses about the history of jazz. In 2002, she received the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Two years later a documentary about her was released.
In an interview with JazzTimes, Bryant said, "Nobody ever told me, 'You can't play the trumpet, you're a girl.' Not when I got started in high school and not when I came out to L.A. My father told me, 'It's going to be a challenge, but if you're going to do it, I'm behind you all the way.' And he was."
Gal with a Horn (1957)