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The National Jazz Museum In Harlem

By Published: August 30, 2010
There is also a film showing the musicians in O'Neal's photos in action. A live clip of Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
came on the screen. "Mumbles," said Westridge, referring to Terry's method of mumble-singing, which was demonstrated by its creator on the screen. With Durham's appearance, Westridge revealed that Durham had regularly played a club called The West End near Columbia University, on the Upper West Side—with the Harlem Blues And Jazz Band.

Cab Calloway
Cab Calloway
Cab Calloway
1907 - 1994
composer/conductor
, 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
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
'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
Tommy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey
1905 - 1956
trombone
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 Anderson—both trumpeters were Ellington band members. Benny Carter
Benny Carter
Benny Carter
1907 - 2003
sax, alto
, a major arranger as well as saxophonist, also appears.

Footage of saxophonist Eddie Barefield followed, featuring trumpeter Doc Cheatham
Doc Cheatham
Doc Cheatham
1905 - 1997
trumpet
(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
Illinois Jacquet
Illinois Jacquet
1922 - 2004
sax, tenor
with Milt Buckner at the organ and "Papa" Jo Jones on drums.

Westridge once saw Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams
1910 - 1981
piano
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
Joe Williams
Joe Williams
1918 - 1999
vocalist
, 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
Major Holley
Major Holley
1924 - 1990
bass, acoustic
, 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
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
.

A prominent photograph is that of Frank Wess
Frank Wess
Frank Wess
1922 - 2013
sax, tenor
. Wess is, of course, still playing powerfully.

Amongst the museum's many events was a series of nights celebrating of Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
b.1933
producer
' 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
Paquito D'Rivera
Paquito D'Rivera
b.1948
saxophone
.


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