PERFORMING ARTS

Sax Appeal: Ivy Benson and Her All-Girls Band

Rowman & Littlefield. Nov. 2020. 184p. ISBN 9781538133279. $24.95. MUSIC
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Ivy Benson (1913–93) played clarinet and alto sax in British dance bands, then formed a band that was active from the 1930s until the early 1980s. Tennant (Mistress and Muse: Ursula—the First Mrs. Vaughan Williams) tells Benson’s story in a lively, carefully researched book that recounts the lives of Benson and her sister musicians in the 1930s and on into the pre- and postwar years in England. As in other fields during World War II, women musicians had more opportunities when their male counterparts left civilian life to serve their country. At first the group played only jazz and swing, but under Ivy’s leadership their repertoire grew to include current pop hits as well. Through the years the roster of musicians would change frequently as many of the players left to marry, often to American GIs. Benson once quipped, “I sometimes thought it was not so much a band as a mobile marriage market.” If this story strikes a chord with readers, they’ll appreciate the recordings on YouTube.
VERDICT A satisfying look at a trailblazer and noteworthy role model.

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