Shirley Scott

2000 Living Legacy Awardee

Sepia photo of Shirley Scott playing the piano.

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Image: Shirley Scott. Credit: Courtesy of the artist.

Known as the “Queen of the Organ,” Shirley Scott began her musical career as a pianist at the age of six. She later moved on to the trumpet but continued to play the piano for neighborhood gigs. While playing jazz piano in her native Philadelphia, Ms. Scott was encouraged to try the organ. She had the great fortune to meet and study with Jimmy Smith and is considered his best known protégé.

Well known for her command of the Hammond B-3, Ms. Scott’s popularity surged in the late fifties during her collaboration with the great tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. In the sixties, Ms. Scott briefly formed her own trio and hired the late tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Ms. Scott and Mr. Turrentine were married in 1961 and their personal and professional relationship lasted almost ten years.

In addition to Mr. Davis and Mr. Turrentine, Ms. Scott recorded with jazz greats Harold Vick, Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins, Oliver Nelson, and David “Fathead” Newman, to name only a few. During her career, Ms. Scott released over 100 recordings on Prestige, Impulse, Blue Note, Atlantic, and numerous other labels.

In 1992, Ms. Scott was named musical director for Bill Cosby’s television series, “You Bet Your Life.”

Dedicated to education, Ms. Scott earned a Bachelor’s degree from Cheyney University in Pennsylvania while working on two Master’s degrees. She subsequently served as a full-time Assistant Professor at Cheyney. She was a well-known jazz educator and encouraged her students to consider careers in jazz. Additionally, she received two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Shirley Scott (1934-2002)

*Bio from Award presentation