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Saxophonist Roz Cron

Rosalind "Roz" Cron, "Featured Soloist, International Sweethearts of Rhythm",. Bloom Chicago, photographer.  Black and white photo, 10-1/4" x 8".
Bloom, Chicago
Marian Tatum-Webb/Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Rosalind "Roz" Cron, "Featured Soloist, International Sweethearts of Rhythm"

The most popular, most integrated and best-documented all-women swing orchestra of the 1940s was the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. The last remaining member of that band, alto saxophonist Roz Cron, died Feb. 7. She was 95. Robin Lloyd tells Roz's story.

Roz Cron is considered a pioneer of women in jazz.

Born to a Boston-area Jewish family, Cron started studying flute, clarinet and saxophone when she was 9 years old. She could read music better than most of her male counterparts.

Cron played in many bands in her lifetime, joining the International Sweethearts of Rhythm when she was 19.

Cron kept a journal during those years, which documented the excitement and the scary times of traveling with the women she called her musical sisters. Her exposure to the Jim Crow laws in the Southern states was an eye-opener, and she spent the rest of her life advocating for civil rights.

After World War II, when the male musicians came home from their military service, they expected to get their jobs back, and most of them did. Before long, the all-women orchestras disbanded and pretty much disappeared.

Cron played in bands when she could, and she also taught music. She moved to Los Angeles, raised a family and held a number of corporate jobs.

But she never forgot her time on the road with the multicultural International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Cron’s recollections are featured in documentaries like “Lady Be Good: Instrumental Women in Jazz” by Seattle-based filmmaker Kay D. Ray, “The Girls in the Band” by Judy Chaikin, and the Jezebel Productions/Rosetta Records short film “America’s Hottest All Girl Band.”