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Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part III: Kansas City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles & Beyond

Karl Ackermann By

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Advocates for the 18th & Vine Jazz District have seen a slow but well-intentioned revival of the area. The Mutual Musicians' Foundation Building is a historic site that serves the dual purposes of a museum and a performance space. The Blue Room Jazz Club—named after its 1930s predecessor—similarly combines historical artifacts with mostly local jazz performers but also features regular jam sessions and big band shows. Green Lady Lounge self-identifies as the "Venue for Authentic Kansas City Jazz" and the club takes that vision seriously. The focus on the Kansas City tradition is seen in velvet red walls ornamented with vintage oil paintings and 1950s style hanging lamps. The tradition is heard in local talent who play on the main floor stage and in a lower level room, reminiscent of the speakeasies that made the town famous.


In his book A Prayer for the City (Vintage Books/Random House, 1997), Buzz Bissinger reminds readers that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a "city of firsts" amid the metropolitan centers of the U.S. Among those firsts are a hospital, theater, daily newspaper, black newspaper, public school, public bank, magazine, and the first U.S. manufactured piano. Philadelphia was also the first city to produce a substantial home-grown and city-nurtured crop of jazz musicians, many of whom would play a significant role in shaping the future of music. Reminiscent of the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, Philadelphia's Walk of Fame, on Broad Street, features well over one-hundred brass sidewalk plaques that commemorate the city's jazz legends.

In and around the era of the jazz age, Philadelphia produced Benny Golson, Jimmy Bond, and Walter Dickerson, among others. Later arrivals included McCoy Tyner, Bobby Durham, Marilyn Crispell, Marc Copland, Joe Chambers, Uri Caine, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Charles Fambrough, Stanley Clarke and Melody Gardot. Apropos of the "City of Brotherly Love," jazz siblings sprang from the Philadelphia streets. An affinity for Charlie Parker, earned Jimmy Heath the nickname "Little Bird" and in the mid to late 1940s, his band—which included John Coltrane—was a mainstay on the Philadelphia jazz scene. Heath and his brother, the drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath were natives of the city and shuttled between local venues and New York. Bassist Percy Heath spent his childhood in Philadelphia, later recording more than three-dozen albums with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Brother Albert "Tootie" Heath, was part of that group and the three brothers worked and recorded as the Heath Brothers from the 1970s into the 1990s. Not the only Philadelphia brothers in jazz, the city gave us Kenny Barron and tenor saxophonist Bill Barron as well as Michael Brecker and Randy Brecker.

As was the case in New Orleans, Chicago and New York, the early venues for jazz were dancehalls and theaters. In Philadelphia, the Academy of Music opened in 1857 as an opera house, hosting Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, Gustav Mahler, as well as Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky. But the South Broad Street academy also welcomed many of the great names in jazz such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Coltrane, who called the city home from 1952 until 1958, and then on-and-off until his death in 1967. The Earle Theatre opened in 1924 at 11th and Market Streets. Its enormous stage and a seating capacity of more than twenty-five hundred made the opulent theater a draw for the top names in Big Band music. Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller and Ellington played the Earle, often premiering upcoming or recent recordings. The proliferation of television negatively impacted live shows and led to the closing and demolition of the Earle in 1953.


Under the Radar Karl Ackermann Benny Moten Count Basie Joe Turner Charlie Parker Sonny Stitt Dexter Gordon Miles Davis benny golson Walter Dickerson McCoy Tyner Marilyn Crispell Marc Copland Joe Chambers Uri Caine Charles Fambrough Stanley Clarke Melody Gardot Jimmy Heath John Coltrane Albert Heath Percy Heath Kenny Barron Bill Barron Michael Brecker randy brecker duke ellington Dizzy Gillespie Benny Goodman Tommy Dorsey Glen Miller Billie Holiday Art Blakey Cannonball Adderly Philly Joe Jones Thelonius Monk Nina Simone Yusef Lateef Nat King Cole Lester Young Ray Bryant Red Garland Paul Chambers Terell Stafford Orrin Evans Cecil Payne Sonny Rollins Frank Morgan Chick Corea Chuck Mangione Gerald Veasley Charlie Hunter Jelly Roll Morton Kid Ory Lionel Hampton Wardell Gray Art Pepper Charles Mingus Ella Fitzgerald Cab Calloway Louis Armstrong Lena Horne Billy Eckstein wynton marsalis Modern Jazz Quartet Shelly Manne oscar peterson Herb Ellis Lennie Tristano Gerry Mulligan Dave Brubeck Chet Baker John LaPorta Serge Chaloff Herb Pomeroy Les McCann Milt Jackson Cannonball Adderley Keith Jarrett The Jazz Crusaders Joe Henderson Elvin Jones Alex Cline Nels Cline Monty Alexander Diane Schuur ernie watts Bill Frisell Kurt Rosenwinkel Scott Colley Brian Blade Edward Simon Randy Weston Herb Alpert Artie Shaw Johnny Hodges Harry Carney Roy Haynes Sidney Bechet Charlie Mariano Jaki Byard Nat Pierce Mingus Big Band David Sanborn arturo sandoval Frank Foster Roland Hanna Donald Byrd Alice Coltrane James Carter Geri Allen Kenny Garrett Betty Carter Dewey Redman Joshua Redman George Shearing Joe Williams Woody Herman Jessica Williams abdullah ibrahim Terence Blanchard Chuck Israels Larry Bunker
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