Category Archives: Sunday Jazz Corner

Sunday Jazz Corner with Jimmie Lunceford

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James Melvin “Jimmie” Lunceford (June 6, 1902 – July 12, 1947) was an American Jazz alto saxophonist and bandleader in the swing era.

Jimmie Lunceford is the odd man out in jazz history. This bandleader made no waves with his musicianship – his preferred instrument was the conductor’s baton – and he possessed neither the elegance of Ellington nor the hipster hauteur of Calloway. But Lunceford knew how to entertain an audience, and he led one of the finest jazz bands of the 1930s. When Lunceford’s ensemble took a booking at the Cotton Club, following in the footsteps of Cab and the Duke, dancers would hardly have missed a beat. “Harlem Shout” demonstrates the core virtues of this orchestra: its swinging riff-based charts, its hot and polished section work, and (another calling card of Lunceford’s bands) high-note trumpet theatrics, provided here by Paul Webster. Like a hearty band of soldiers, this ensemble always maintained discipline under fire, and there was inevitably plenty of hot stuff around when folks like Sy Oliver and Eddie Durham were handing out the parts. Perhaps if Lunceford had lived longer – he died, reportedly of a heart attack (although under suspicious circumstances), at age 45 – he might have been fêted as elder statesman of jazz. But, as it stands, he is little more than a half-remembered name for most younger jazz fans. Tis pity, ’cause this band was sublime.  Reviewer Credit: Ted Gioia

Read Wikipedia on Jimmie Lunceford stating rumors about his death (suspicious circumstances) that he was actually poisoned in Seaside, Oregon by a restaurant owner.

Tain’t What You Do – Jimmie Lunceford

Jimmie Lunceford and His Dance Orchestra 1936 (LIVE)

Harlem Shout – Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra

Sunday Jazz Corner With Etta James

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The one and only Etta James.  It is sad to think we have just only recently lost Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins)  on January 20, 2012.  She was born January 25, 1938 and she died five days before her birthday on which she would have been 74 years old.  James was known as an American singer-songwriter.  Her style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, jazz, R&B, soul, rock and gospel.  Whenever anyone thinks of the jazz classic “At Last” they think of Etta James.  Etta’s version as compared to versions by other jazz singers, belonged to her.

James was married to her husband Artis Mills, whom she married in 1969.  They had two sons, Donto and Sametto.  Both started performing with their mother — Donto played drums at Montreux in 1993, and Sametto played bass guitar circa 2003 with his mom.  Etta James battled with Heroin addiction for years and her husband Mr. Mills served a 10-year prison sentence for heroin possession.

From 1989, James received over 30 awards and recognitions from eight different organizations, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences which organizes the Grammys.

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Now perhaps more trendy than ever Etta James is a “cult hero” with producers and remixers waiting in line to remix her legendary sound and style.  We continue to hear her though samples in rap, hip hop, electronic and pop music of today.  Her legacy lives on through blues and jazz singers in clubs worldwide honoring her sound.  Here she is singing “At Last” as only she could.  And the second video is of a young Etta James singing “Got A Hold On Me.”

At Last (live) [VIDEO] – Etta James

Somethings Got A Hold On Me (Live) [VIDEO] – Etta James

Sunday Jazz Corner With Fats Waller

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King of the stride, Fats Waller was a colorful comedic personality and jazz legend in the 20′s, 30′s and 40′s.  Waller was an influential pianist, composer, singer and comedic entertainer, whose innovations to the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano.  His best-known compositions, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Honeysuckle Rose were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame posthumously, in 1984 and 1999.

Fats Waller (Thomas Wright Waller), was born in New York City in 1904.  He started playing piano when he was six and by the age of fourteen he was playing the organ at Harlem’s Lincoln Theater.  Within twelve months he had written his first rag (ragtime) song.

By the age of fifteen he became a professional pianist, overcoming opposition from his clergyman father, working in cabarets and theaters.  Waller went on to become one of the most popular performers of his era, finding critical and commercial success in his homeland and in Europe.  He was also a prolific songwriter and many songs he wrote or co-wrote are still popular, such as “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Ain’t Misbehavin” and “Squeeze Me”.

He enjoyed success touring the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 1930s.  He appeared in one of the first BBC television broadcasts.  While in Britain, Waller also recorded a number of songs for EMI.  He appeared in several feature films and short subject films, most notably Stormy Weather  which you can view a video clip of below.  It was released in 1943 just months before his death.

Multi-talented Waller performed Bach organ pieces for small groups on occasion.  Waller influenced many pre-bop jazz pianists; Count Basie and Erroll Garner have both reanimated his hit songs (notably, “Ain’t Misbehavin’”).  In addition to his playing, Waller was known for his many quips during his performances.

Between 1926 and the end of 1927, Waller recorded a series of pipe organ solo records.  These represent the first time syncopated jazz compositions were ever performed on a full-sized church organ.

His final recording session was with an interracial group in Detroit, Michigan in 1943, that included trumpeter Don Hirleman.  Waller was returning to New York City from Los Angeles, after the smash success of Stormy Weather, and after a successful engagement at the Zanzibar Room, during which he had fallen ill.  He contracted pneumonia on a cross-country train trip near Kansas City, Missouri, where he died on December 15, 1943.  Coincidentally, as the train with the body of Waller stopped in Kansas City, so stopped a train with his dear friend Louis Armstrong on board.  Coincidence or providential?

More than 4,000 people attended his funeral in Harlem at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., delivered the eulogy, and said that Fats Waller “always played to a packed house.”

I highly recommend FATS WALLER “compilation” on iTunes.
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See below 2 Videos by Fats Waller.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Stormy Weather (1943) – FATS WALLER

I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter (1935) – FATS WALLER

Harlem’s Opening Night at Minton’s (Review)

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Minton's Jazz

Minton’s Harlem is the rebirth of legendary jazz club Minton’s Playhouse, frequented by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian and Dizzy Gillespie, in the 1940s and ’50s.  Owner Richard Parsons (former chairman of Citigroup and the former chairman and CEO of Time Warner) has teamed up with Executive Chef Alexander Smalls and Chef de Cuisine Banks White to create a destination offering an exceptional experience that bridges Harlem’s past, present and future.  Mr. Parsons is also the owner of The Cecil, which is adjacent to Minton’s, and which we previously reviewed (click here for the review).

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Richard Parsons dining on opening night

As we approached the restaurant on one of Harlem’s restaurant rows, the first thing we noticed was the glowing plaque indicating that Minton’s is in The National Register of Historic Places.  That set the tone for the experience that followed.

Upon entering the restaurant we were greeted warmly by the Director of Operations  Beatrice Stein, just as she had when she greeted us at The Cecil, where she holds the same title.

The restaurant is a  wide and long though not cavernous rectangle with spacious ceilings.  It is well lit and beautifully designed with rich warm colors everywhere.  There is a nice bar to the right, and a banquet of tables lining a cloth paneled wall to your left.  You walk through this lounge-like space into the main dining room.  There you find tables lining the walls to your left and right.  Some of the walls are mirrored.  Pictures of Jazz Legends including Dizzie and Billie line the walls.  Off in the distance is a stage with a wonderful mural.  The stage features a beautiful black grand piano.  The tables are a combination of two and four tops draped in crisp white linens.  The chairs are comfortable and the tables nicely sized.  The staff is omni-present, attentive and knowledgeable.

We were seated at the first table to your right as you enter the main dining area.  From there you can take in everything while enjoying some privacy.

There are two dining options, both prix-fixe, one two course, the other a four course.  We opted for the five course.

We started off with cocktails which were generously poured.  The Lady Bird was exceptional.  We also enjoyed a variety of red and white wines throughout the evening, which are available by the glass or the bottle.

While we waited for our meal the musicians assembled and started their first of several sets.   These are top-notch Jazz musicians with years of experience.  They did not disappoint – their performances were the highlight of (and throughout) the evening.

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The first course was an appetizer sampler called the Low Country Experience.  We each received a plate containing nine sections, each with a different appetizer.  The variety was fabulous.  It felt as though the chef’s had traveled the world and selected their best fare for our tasting. Our table could have ordered several bowls of the Fried Okra wrapped in Surryano Country Ham.  Other favorites included Deviled Egg Toast with Smoked Trout and Pickled Shallot, Creminis stuffed with creamed collard greens, and Beau Soleil Oysters, Champagne Mignonette Ossetra Caviar.

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The second course consisted of Sherry She Crab Soup with Crisp Yam and Skillet Bread, Winter Apple Salad with Candied Black Walnuts, Butter Lettuce and Smoked Crabapple Vinaigrette, and Roasted Parsnip and Kabocha Squash Soup with Benne Seed Crunch and Brown Butter Creme Fraiche.

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The third course consisted of Smothered Lobster & Shrimp Caserole with Creole Crawfish Gravy an Nora Mills Pimento Cheese Grits, Wagyu Ribeye with Bone Marrow Butter, Chanterella Mushrooms, Sweet Potato Pave and Blacktruffle Glace Deviande, and Pan Seared Venison with Carmelized russel Sprouts, Dumpling Squash and Huckleberry Gastrique.

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The fourth course included Minton’s rendition of Banana Cream Pie with Sable Breton, Sour Cremem Mousse and Banana Sorghum Ice Cream.  And blackberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar Bisquit and Cornbread Ice Cream (and I asked for the requisite cool glass of milk).  We ended the evening with a round of smooth and soothing Cognac.

During and after our meal Beatrice Stein, Alexander Smalls and Banks White were kind enough to stop by.  We of course let them know how much we enjoyed our time, and assured them that we would be back.

MINTON’S HARLEM Jazz Supper Club

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206 W 118th Street (St. Nicholas & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd)
New York, NY 10026
Reservations: (212)243-2222
Monday – Thursday: 5-11PM
Friday – Saturday – 5-Midnight
www.MintonsHarlem.com