Let’s go back in time to a different era and take a look at old Harlem with the sounds of Jazz vocalist Cab Calloway. Born on December 25, 1907, in Rochester, New York, after a short period in Chicago he moved back to New York and landed a gig performing regularly at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club during the swing era. In 1931 his song “Minnie the Moocher” became a hit and was considered to be one of the first recordings to ever feature scat singing.
Besides Calloway’s musical act, he also appeared on stage and in films. During the 1930s and 1940s, he worked in such films as The Big Broadcast (1932), The Singing Kid (1936), and Stormy Weather(1943). Calloway spent two years in the cast of a revival of the musical Porgy and Bess, beginning in 1952. He also performed in other stage productions over the years and made more film appearances, most notably in the 1979 movie The Blues Brothers. During the film, Calloway put on his trademark white tie and tails and performed “Minnie the Moocher”. Cab Calloway died on November 18, 1994.
He took pride in his part of the Harlem Renaissance and also mentions Sriver’s Row in his songs ”Hard Times (Topsy Turvy)” and “The Ghost of Smokey Joe.”
Click on the photo below for a link to iTunes to hear all of his music.
Below is a video of Cab Calloway performing his hit “Minnie the Moocher” Live at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Also, a video clip from the movie “Stormy Weather” (1943) featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra performing “Jumpin Jive” which ends with the Nicholas Brothers dancing and struttin’ their stuff.
Posted in Apollo Theater, Celebrity, Central Harlem, Community, Culture, Dance, East Harlem, Education, Entertainment, Harlem, History, Music, New York City, North Harlem, South Harlem (SOHA), Sunday Jazz Corner, TV & Video, West Harlem
Tagged @HarlemHCL, Apollo Theater, Cab Calloway, Cotton Club, Harlem, Harlem History, Harlem Jazz, Harlem Renaissance, HarlemBlogger, HarlemBlogs, HarlemCondoLife.com, iTunes, jazz, Jumpin Jive, Live Jazz, Minnie The Moocher, Nicholas Brothers, Srivers' Row, Stormy Weather, Sunday Jazz Corner, Swing, YouTube
Duke Ellington’s last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered”. He was an American composer, pianist, and jazz-orchestra leader with a career that spanned more than 50 years. Ellington led his orchestra from 1923 until his death. He was born April 29, 1899 and passed along on May 24, 1974. He was known as a key participant of the Harlem Renaissance era and his legacy lives on in Harlem and all around the world.
For this post I chose two video performances “Take The A Train” live in Harlem 1964, and a video of Ellington and his band performing “It Don’t Mean A Thing” back in 1943.
Duke Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson, on July 2, 1918, when he was 19. Shortly after their marriage, on March 11, 1919 Edna gave birth to their only son, Mercer Kennedy Ellington. Ellington was joined in New York City by his wife and son in the late twenties, but the couple soon permanently separated. According to her obituary in Jet magazine, she was “homesick for Washington” and returned (she died in 1967). In 1938 he met and moved in with Cotton Club employee Beatrice “Evie” Ellis, who with with him during his Cotton Club years in Harlem. The relationship with Ellis, though stormy, continued after Ellington met Fernandae de Castro Monte in the early 1960s. Ellington supported both women for the rest of his life.
At his funeral, attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Harlem, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, “It’s a very sad day. A genius has passed”. He was laid to rest in the Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999.
Duke Ellington in 1973
VIDEO: Duke Ellington Live in Harlem “Take The A Train” (1964) features Ernie Shepard on vocals.
VIDEO: Duke Ellington – It Don’t Mean A Thing (1943)
Posted in Art and Culture, Celebrity, Central Harlem, Community, Culture, East Harlem, Entertainment, Harlem, History, Music, New York City, North Harlem, South Harlem (SOHA), Sunday Jazz Corner, West Harlem
Tagged @HarlemHCL, Big Band, Duke Ellington, Harlem, Harlem Blogger, Harlem Jazz, Harlem Jazz Legends, Harlem Renaissance, HarlemCondoLife.com, HCL, jazz, Jazz History, jazz orchestra, jazz pianist, Jet magazine, Minton's Jazz Club, Minton's Playouse, Sunday Jazz Corner, The Cotton Club
Louis Armstrong was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972 by the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was one of the most famous musicians of the Harlem Renaissance.
Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an “inventive” trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly-recognizable gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also skilled at scat singing (vocalizing using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics). Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to “cross over”, whose skin-color was secondary to his music in an America that was severely racially divided. He rarely publicly politicized his race, often to the dismay of fellow African-Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation during the Little Rock Crisis. His artistry and personality allowed him socially acceptable access to the upper echelons of American society that were highly restricted for a black man.
In Louis Armstrong’s later years he resided in Corona, Queens NY in a home that now many schools and classrooms still visit today for history on the Harlem Renaissance and Social Studies. It was explained to me recently by a teacher who took his classroom to visit the home as a school field trip that when Louis was on the road and would drive home all the neighbor kids would run up to the driveway to greet him and he would play his trumpet for them. It is also told that his wife and him would invite the neighborhood kids in for cake.
Here is Louis Armstrong singing his classic version of ”What A Wonderful World.”
Posted in Harlem, History, Music, New York City, Sunday Jazz Corner
Tagged @HarlemHCL, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Harlem, Harlem Jazz, Harlem Renaissance, HarlemCondoLife.com, jazz, Louis Armstrong, new york city, Scat singing, Sunday Jazz Corner, What A Wonderful World, your gateway to harlem
“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
- Zora Neale Hurston
“A thing is mighty big when time and distance cannot shrink it.”
- Zora Neale Hurston
* Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.
An article, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston”, by Alice Walker, published in the March 1975 issue of Ms. magazine, revived interest in Hurston’s work. The reemergence of her work coincided with the emergence of authors such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Walker herself, whose works are centered on African-American experiences and include, but do not necessarily focus upon, racial struggle.