Hazel Dorothy Scott, 61, a leading jazz pianist and singer and former wife of the late congressman from Harlem, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., died of cancer Friday at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. She lived in Manhattan.
Miss Scott's son, Adam Clayton Powell III, said his mother suffered from an advanced form of cancer of the pancreas.
In recent months, he said, she had performed at Kippy's, a West 44th Street restaurant. She gave her last performance, knowing she was dying, less than two months ago. Friends said she had been hospitalized since August.
Born on Jan. 11, 1920, in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Miss Scott was a child prodigy who was playing the piano by the time she was four years old.
She was brought to the United States in 1924 and made her professional debut at the age of five, following in the footsteps of her mother, Alma Long Scott, a tenor and alto saxophonist who led an all-female band.
When she was eight, Miss Scott began studying at the Juilliard School of Music (the normal entrance age was 16). She said that she studied so thoroughly that she almost decided to change her career to becoming a classical singer.
When she started playing on her own at age 15, her first engagement was with the Count Basie orchestra at Roseland.
In 1940, in the midst of a concert at Carnegie Hall, she suddenly started "swinging" it. "That taught me a lesson," she said, "because the 'long hair' audience loved it."
In the 1940s, when the South still officially sanctioned segregation, Miss Scott insisted that a clause be included in her contract requiring promoters to forfeit if an audience were separated racially.
She also fought an unsuccessful battle to perform in Constitution Hall in Washington, which was segregated as recently as 1949. She later comented that these days, "Young people don't know about these things."
In 1936, she had her own radio series and in 1938, she made her Broadway debut singing "Franklin D. Roosevelt Jones" in the musical revue "Sing Out the News." Her recording debut came one year later.
During Miss Scott's career, she played with various bands and in supper clubs throughout the United States, earning a large following between 1939 and 1945 in her appearances at Cafe Society Downtown, a Greenwich Village jazz club.
In addition, she appeared in films, including "Rhapsody in Blue" and "I Dood It," in the mid-1940s.
Her early recordings were quasi-jazz renditions of classical pieces. In later recordings, she showed the influence of pianists Art Tatum, Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson and Bud Powell.
Miss Scott married Adam Clayton Powell Jr. on Aug. 1, 1945. She was his second wife. Her marriage to Powell, one of the most powerful politicians in Harlem and the first black member of Congress from the Eastern Seaboard, ended in divorce in 1960. She later was divorced from Edzio Bedin, a Swiss-Italian whom she married in 1961.
After her marriage to Powell ended, she began playing the concert circuit and was a box office success.
"She had always said that she never wanted to retire and wanted to play right up to the time she could play no longer," her son said. "She did exactly what she intended to do."
Besides her son, Miss Scott is survived by two grandchildren