Ginger grows up listening to her mom’s jazz records and is determined to become a jazz singer and not a frustrated drunk like her mother, who gave up her dream. A friend's father lets Ginger sing with his trio in a small bar in their hometown. She's a hit and is encouraged to move to NYC where she meets Ben, a jazz pianist, in the Greenwich Village coffee house where they both work. They become a team as well as lovers.
While making a record, she is seduced by Bill, a sax player, decides she wants to be free to have other relationships, and risks telling Ben she cheated. He walks out, forcing Ginger to evaluate what she wants. Torn and confused, she sees an old couple, holding hands. Their love causes her to question her decision. Will Ben be able to forgive her?
Blame it on Mom. She was a jazz freak and I grew up hearing Billie Holiday, Anita O’Day, June Christie, Ella and Louis, you name it. “The cats,” she called them. She knew all the words and she’d sing to the records, snapping her fingers, looking at herself in the mirror, moving her hips. I remember sitting on the floor, holding the record jackets, looking at the pictures on the front, then up at Mom singing to herself. She sang when she did dishes or was dusting around the house. I can still see her holding a dish and washing it over and over while she sang, When You Wish Upon a Star or Stormy Weather. I can still hear her singing different songs, moving her head from side to side while I sat on the floor playing with my Raggedy Ann doll.
I remember how she’d laugh at me when I came to her holding one of her Billie Holiday albums and I’d say, “Billie on, Billie on.”
She’d say, “Ginger, baby, you’re going to be a jazz singer when you grow up.”
She’d put the record on and I’d sit on her lap and listen to Billie singing, Strange Fruit and All of Me, Why Not Take All of Me. The record was scratchy and worn out; I could tell how much Mom loved those records. So did I.
Mom wanted to be a singer but got knocked up by some guy I never knew, and had me. She worked at different jobs, dropping me off at Charlene’s Day Care then picking me up on the way home. I remember Charlene, a big fat black woman. She laughed a lot, especially when she’d hear me sing jazz songs while I played. I’d sing, How High the Moon, or my favorite, A Tisket a Tasket a Little Yellow Basket. I sang it just like Ella and even did some scat singing, “doowy-doowey, dee, dee, doo.”
Charlene would say “Chile, where you learnin’ dem songs?”
The other kids in the group sang nursery rhymes and songs like, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I remember singing that song, but I’d jazz it up, standing in front of them, moving my hips from side to side like mom, and say, “Sing it like this, Twinkle… Twinkle…” and I’d snap my fingers and sing it fast, changing the notes so it had some feeling and pizzazz.
Mom wanted to be a jazz singer but had to work to put food on the table. She’d say, “I’d be a jazz singer if I didn’t have to put god damn food on the table.”