The Ladies First Big Band and Ladies First Combo, created by award-winning bassist Jennifer May, are all-female jazz groups based in the Western NY area. Both the Big Band and the Combo have been awarded the titles of "Buffalo's Best Big Band" and "Buffalo's Best Small Jazz Group", respectively, by the Buffalo Music Awards (sponsored by Nightlife Magazine). Additionally, both groups have been nominated for Artvoice's Best of Buffalo Awards numerous times as well as the JazzBuffalo Awards.
The Big Band and Combo have been seen performing everywhere from Jamestown Community College to The Riviera Theater, The M&T Noontime Concert Series, The Tralf Music Hall, The Chautauqua Amphitheater and many more locations.
The Ladies First Big Band is a 16-pc. all-female group formed by bassist Jennifer May. The band had its roots in a six piece ensemble started in 1994.
In March of 2003, Jennifer expanded this 6-pc group into a full-sized Big Band for a show she was producing in celebration of Women's History Month. The show, "An All-Female Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald," was performed at Allen Hall on the University of Buffalo South Campus and was very well-received. The Band has been performing together ever since.
Since that first appearance, the Ladies First Big Band has celebrated Women's History Month every year with a new production of"Women of Jazz by Women of Jazz"; a tribute to female jazz performers. The band has performed everywhere from Jamestown to Rochester, and concert venues ranging from the Tralf Music Hall and Riviera Theatre, to the M&T Noontime Summer Concert Series, Canal Fest, and Taste of Buffalo.
The musicians in the Ladies First Big Band are based in the Western New York area, and many of them perform in other local bands. The group rehearses every Sunday at the Newman Center near the UB North Campus. Their debut CD, Ladies First Live at the Tralf was released in 2009.
The Ladies First Combo consists of a subset of performers from the Big Band. The flexible sizing of the group, as small as a trio or as large as a 6-peice, allows the Combo to perform at events not suited for the Big Band.
Jennie Jones - Saxes, clarinet, flute and vocals
Carol Jean Swist - Keyboards (Buffalo Music Hall of Fame)
Julie WInden- Trumpet and Flugelhorn
Jennifer May- Bass
Peggy Scalzo- Drums
The Combo has performed at venues such as Canalside, M&T Plaza; Queen CIty Jazz Festival, Elmwood Ave Festival of the Arts, Montante Center; Taste of Buffalo, etc.They have been the recipients of the Buffalo Music Award for "Best Jazz Combo" three times.