Tag Archives: Harlem Renaissance

Help Save Harlem’s Historic Renaissance Ballroom from Demolition

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Protesters Aim to Save Harlems Historic Renaissance Ballroom from Demolition – Video: via Protesters Aim to Save Harlems Historic Renaissance Ballroom from Demolition – NY1.

“The Ballroom was completed in 1924 as part of a larger entertainment hub that included a bustling casino and 900-seat theatre.  Built and operated by black businessmen, the “Rennie” was the only upscale reception hall available to African Americans at the time.  Prize fights, concerts, dance marathons, film screenings, and stage acts were held at the Renaissance, along with elegant parties and meetings of the most influential social clubs and political organizations in Harlem.  The community’s elite gathered to dance the Charleston and the Black Bottom to live entertainment by the most renowned jazz musicians of the age.

“The nightspot even played host to the nation’s first all-black professional basketball team, also called the Harlem Renaissance, considered by some to be the best in the world in their day.  On game nights, portable hoops were erected on the dance floor, converting the ballroom into a stadium.  Following each game, almost invariably a victory for the Rens, a dance was held where players would mingle and jive with the choicest ladies of Harlem.  The team barnstormed in towns across the country, playing exhibition games in which coveted matches with white teams drew the largest crowds.  In their best season, the Renns set a record with 88 consecutive wins that has yet to be broken.”



Google Doodle honors Harlem Renaissance icon Zora Neale Hurston

We love a good Google Doodle.  Today’s especially.  Featuring Zora Neale Hurston.

Brief BIO:

Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance.

Born: January 7, 1891, Notasulga, AL
Died: January 28, 1960, Fort Pierce, FL

Awards: Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Musical

Plays: Mule Bone

Education: Columbia University, Barnard College, Howard University,Morgan State University

via Zora Neale Hurston – Google Search.

The Complete Stories (P.S.)

New From: $6.57 USD In Stock

Sunday Jazz Corner With Fats Waller


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

Sunday Jazz Corner With Cab Calloway

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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.