This website presents items from the personal collection of jazz clarinetist and saxophonist Zena Latto (1925-2016).
Born and raised in the Bronx, Latto was introduced to jazz as a young teenager by her older sister Claire. After seeing Benny Goodman perform at the Paramount Theater in 1940, Latto took up the clarinet, with the goal of one day playing professionally. Latto later met Goodman personally in 1943, and he helped to mentor her by inviting her to rehersals and shows and introducing her to well-known musicians from the New York jazz scene.
Over the next decade, Latto toured with The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first integrated all-women band in the U.S., and also performed with her own band, the Moderne Moods. She also took part in a special all-women jazz recital at Carnegie Hall in November 1957 called Jazz Female, along with other well-known women jazz musicians including Melba Liston and Morgana King
Latto moved to New Orleans in 1975 to live with her sister, and recieved a degree in music from Loyola University. Latto subsiquently taught clarinet and saxophone lessons at a local public library and at her home until the mid 1990s. Latto lived in New Orleans until 2005, when, after losing her home in Hurricane Katrina, she moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where she lived until her death.
In 2014, two staff members of Jacksonville's River Garden Hebrew Home, Alexis Warrington and Suzanne Lyda contacted Carnegie Hall on Zena Latto's behalf. Latto was hoping to find a better copy of the flyer for the Jazz Female recital in which she had performed in 1957, as her copy had badly decayed. Latto's flyer turned out to be the only remaining copy documenting the event, and Gino Francesconi of the Carnegie Hall Archives ended up personally reaching out to Zena to learn more about her and her musical career.
After speaking to Latto on the phone, Francesconi and another Carnegie Archivist, Rob Hudson, contacted Hudson's former professor at the Pratt School of Information, Cristina Pattuelli, who heads Pratt's Linked Jazz project. As part of Linked Jazz's efforts to bring exposure to lesser-known jazz musicians, in particular women musicians, Linked Jazz project memeber Karen Hwang interviewed Latto for the Internet Archive in 2015. Linked Jazz also created a Wikipedia page for Latto.
After Zena Latto died in April 2016, the River Garden Hebrew Home sent Linked Jazz a box containing Latto's musical archives, including her personal photographs, scrapbooks, and various jazz-related memorabilia. This Omeka repository seeks to share some of the highlights of this unique collection.
1944 edition of jazz musician Cab Calloway's 1939 guide to jazz slang of the time.
Recently Added Items
Photocollage with photographs and clippings of Zena Latto's band, the Moderne Moods, along with one clipping about the Jazz Female concert at Carnegie…
Photograph of a 19-year-old Zena Latto with her saxophone
Photograph of Zena Latto in front of a flyer advertising her band, the Moderne Moods