The National Jazz Museum In Harlem
Cab Calloway, performing a Durham arrangement on screen, brought the comment form Westridge that, in his opinion, Calloway was performing dances in the 1930s that people think Michael Jackson invented.
Many of the musicians in the photos played with Calloway, at some time in their careers, at the famous Harlem venues such as Savoy Ballroom (of "Stomping At The Savoy" fame). Calloway's band provided a hothouse for the development for more than one generation of musicians, as Dizzy Gillespie's early career illustrates. Another such band was Lucky Millinder's and musicians from that band are also represented. The heyday of Harlem is therefore well pictured.
Arrangers such as Sy Oliver are also represented in the video. A film pointing up Oliver's work features the Tommy Dorsey orchestra and the big hit "Opus 1," its brilliantly commercial sound having the impact, but not the kitsch, of Glenn Miller's music. In the clip, trumpeter Shorty Baker hits high notes in the style of the later Cat Andersonboth trumpeters were Ellington band members. Benny Carter, a major arranger as well as saxophonist, also appears.
Footage of saxophonist Eddie Barefield followed, featuring trumpeter Doc Cheatham (as Westridge mentions, of American-Indian heritage) and pianist Sammy Price. Price, says Westridge, survived all his boogie-woogie rivals and so eventually felt able to call himself "King of Boogie-Woogie piano." He would say, "I'm the king, because all the other guys are gone!"
Then there was a video of Illinois Jacquet with Milt Buckner at the organ and "Papa" Jo Jones on drums.
Westridge once saw Mary Lou Williams at Carnegie Hall in a double-bill with none other than the avant-garde Cecil Taylor. The two pianists played separately and together. "I don't know who matched them up," he says. "They were opposites." Yet, in the Museum's clip of Williams, she plays a slow blues where there is, at one point, a distinctly Thelonious Monk-like touch, and the wide-open space in her playing could conceivably allow room for a percussive pianist like Cecil Taylor without too many clashes!
A quote from Duke Ellington is in the commentary that accompanies the photos on the wall. Ellington says, "Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her playing and performing have always been a little ahead throughout her career... She is like soul on soul."
The bassist Bill Lee, another photo subject, was the father of director Spike Lee. But more interesting revelations were to follow. Westridge said that Eddie Durham told him he, Durham, had actually written the famous Basie number "One O'Clock Jump," and that the tune had, moreover, originally been entitled "Blue Balls."
Continuing the parade of important members of the jazz fabric in the film is singer Joe Williams, performing the hit "Alright, OK, You Win" with the Count Basie Orchestra.
An interesting singer in the film is Thelma Carpenter. Her clear performance of the Jerome Kern classic "I Must Have That Man" is a new experience. In true Harlem fashion, she had begun her career by winning the (still-running) amateur night at The Apollo in the late 1930s.
Another discovery for some may be bassist Major Holley, from Detroit, who, like Slam Stewart, vocalised in unison with his bass. Westridge says Holley was nicknamed "Mule," because he "looked like one." In another example of jazz connections, he says that another Detroit native in the photos is Oliver Johnson, whose grandson has played with Wynton Marsalis.
A prominent photograph is that of Frank Wess. Wess is, of course, still playing powerfully.
Amongst the museum's many events was a series of nights celebrating of Quincy Jones' achievements. Jones couldn't be there in person, so he was beamed in via video conference call.
On the northern (street-side) wall of the room is a group of photographs of the famous Harlem jazz venues, such as Mintons, the Savoy, and of course the Apollo.
A large collection of books are also of particular interest. Early blues is covered too: Alan Lomax's The Land Where The Blues Began is there, as is a book entitled Early Down-home Blues. Scott DeVeaux's excellent history of bebop is there, as is Gillespie's autobiography, To Be Or Not To Bop, and My Sax Life by Paquito D'Rivera.