Levee, the trumpet player in the band of black musicians that accompanies blues singer Ma Rainey. Not well educated but stylish, flamboyant, brash, energetic, and ambitious, Levee is in his early thirties and is the youngest of the musicians. Scorning the conservative musical style favored by Ma Rainey, Levee plays in a new, improvisational jazz style and dreams about forming his own band. He offers his own arrangements and songs to Sturdyvant, the white owner of the run-down Chicago recording studio, but Ma insists on her own arrangements. Anxious to please Sturdyvant but insistent that he is not cowed by whites, Levee is a study in growing anger and frustration, quarreling constantly with Ma and the rest of his fellow musicians during the recording session that constitutes the action of the play. Levee’s frustration culminates in his fatal stabbing of Toledo, another member of the band.
Ma Rainey, the most popular black blues singer of her day, called the Mother of the Blues. A short, heavy woman, dressed opulently in a full-length fur coat, matching hat, emerald-green dress, matching headband, and several strands of pearls, Ma carries herself with a royal air, but, like any black person in Chicago in the 1920’s, she is a second-class citizen. She is unable, for example, to get a white cab driver to take her to the recording studio. Consciously playing the prima donna, she makes arbitrary demands...
(The entire section is 573 words.)