March 16th, 2014 by harlemhouse

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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

Posted in Art and Culture, Celebrity, Central Harlem, Dance, Harlem, HarlemCondoLife, History, Music, New York City, Sunday Jazz Corner, West Harlem Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

January 5th, 2014 by harlemhouse

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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

Posted in Dance, Entertainment, Harlem, HarlemCondoLife, Music, New York City, Sunday Jazz Corner, TV & Video Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

December 14th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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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

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October 20th, 2013 by harlemhouse

Lalah Hathaway at Variety Playhouse

The apple does not fall far from the tree.  A few weeks ago we featured the legendary Donny Hathaway on our Sunday Jazz Corner and in it we briefly mentioned his daughter Lalah.  This week it is all about Lalah Hathaway, daughter of the jazz and R&B great Donny Hathaway.  Though she may be under the radar to some, if you do not already know about Lalah, you will know about her soon as she continues to rise at a rapid pace amongst her peers.

Born as Eulaulah Donyll Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway is referred to as the First Daughter of Soul.  She is considered a contemporary R&B and jazz singer.  In a sea of high pitched soprano female pop culture singers, it is so refreshing to hear Lalah Hathaway in the mix.  There is something about her texture and tone in the same context as Sade or Sarah Vaughan and other infectious swooners that just makes you feel good inside.  When you think of pop culture singers these days, you emmediatialy think Beyonce, Rihanna, pop, Hip Hop, soul etc.  But with the Esmaralda Spalding’s and Janelle Monae’s and other newbies quietly making themselves heard, please take note of Lalah Hathaway and check out her music on iTunes.

The first video you will listen to below is  “Something” by Snarky Puppy featuring Lalah Hathaway.  I was referred to it by a friend and watched blindly, and unprepared.  I started off listening, watching calmly, inquisitively, maybe slightly judgmental, sitting in my chair… watching, waiting… and as it continued I started getting this feeling, this emotion inside of me.  I sat up straight in my chair and tuned everything else out around me.  Now, in one hundred percent concentration mode listening and watching this video in front of me, completely committed with Lalah and her performance I begin talking to my computer screen… next, I am standing, now I’m yelling at my computer, clapping, cheering!!  Alone in my apartment, goose bumps running all through my body up and down my spine I sit back down.  Of course because I’m a man, I did not cry.  Maybe just one tiny tear but I fixed that real quick and like I said, I was alone and nobody was there to see a thing.

I think jazz, gospel, good soul, rock whatever, is supposed to make you, make us feel this way, right?  Sometimes rarely, music can take you there to this place and so when you do feel it and are a part of the art and why music exists in the first place, it is such a great experience.  So ya, that’s kind of what my experience with Lalah was like.  And just remember, nobody cried here!

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Here are two videos below one Live in Harlem with Robert Glasper at Marcus Garvey Park, and  the first one is by Snarky Puppy “Something” featuring a live recording of Lalah Hathaway.  I could have posted 20 more like this but I kept it down to two.  While writing this piece and listening to this music all I could think of was all of the music that we still can look forward to with future recordings of Lalah Hathaway.

P.S. At the 6:12 minute mark of this song does she sing a chord?  I think she sang a chord!!  And I love the drummers reaction, he literally got out of his seat as if to say, what just happened.

Singing with Robert Glasper in Harlem, Live at Marcus Garvey Park in August 2012, a classic Nirvana rock song “Smells Like Teen Spirit ” with a jazz twist. Brilliant.

To see more Sunday Jazz Corner Archives (Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Sarah Vayghan, Cag Calloway and more…)

Posted in Art and Culture, Celebrity, Central Harlem, Community, Dance, East Harlem, Entertainment, Faith/Religion, Harlem, History, Menu Harlem Restaurant Row, Music, New York City, North Harlem, South Harlem (SOHA), Sunday Jazz Corner, West Harlem Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

October 13th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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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.

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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 with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

September 22nd, 2013 by harlemhouse

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For those who don’t know, you need to know.  For those who do know, you don’t need me telling you why Rachelle Ferrell is so respected and admired by all of our musical greats and in the jazz community.  There is a reason Jennifer Hudson, Gladys Night, Stevie Wonder and the list goes on and on, can be found at one her live performances.  With a little bit of Sarah Vaughan to a little bit of just about everything but the kitchen sink, this contemporary jazz artist creates, channels and delivers styles that nobody has even heard of yet.  This is someone that was born to sing and perform music.  We hear over and over about certain singers and hopeful talent rising up in the business who are tagged with the word unique.  I’m encouraged to watch these new singers to develop and grow.  Rachelle Ferrell on the other hand is the definition of the word “unique.”
But don’t take my word for it just listen to what “the voice” can do.

Here are two videos  (live) below showing off her jaw dropping vocal abilities and her passionate commitment in how it is delivered.

Rachelle Ferrell – I Can Explain (live)

Rachelle Ferrell & Jennifer Hudson, Improvisational (live) moment on stage

Visit her great collection of music on iTunes.

Posted in Art and Culture, Celebrity, Entertainment, Harlem, Music, New York City, Sunday Jazz Corner Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

September 15th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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A Song For You, was written by Leon Russell in 1970 and is considered an American classic.  Many performers have sung this song, from jazz icons to pop superstar Elton John.  But nobody has sang it quite like Donny Hathaway.  This song is a great example of how a really powerful ballad can transcend all genres and styles of singers from rock to soul, blues to jazz, pop to country.  Donny’s version brings out the soulful core of this heartfelt classic with his distinct vocal timing and texture and emotion bringing it to a level that few performers can reach with such conviction and truth.  You really believe those lyrics that he is singing.  There is no doubt in our minds that he has lived this song and he commands our complete attention with that touch of church added to it from his early gospel roots where he sang in the church choir with his Grandmother, who was a professional gospel singer herself.  It definitely ranks in the top 10 songs written of all time, if not in the top five.

Donny Edward Hathaway was an American jazz, blues, soul, and gospel vocalist and musician.  Known for his own songs and solo career he also had many hits with vocalist and friend Roberta Flack, including “Where Is The Love” and “The Closer I Get To You”.  His friendship with Roberta Flack goes back to college days where they attended Howard University together and remained friends until Donny’s death in 1979.  It is reported Mr. Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York’s Essex House hotel, and that he had jumped from the balcony.  His life ended tragically and way too soon.  It is written he had battled with psychological issues throughout the best part of his career.  He began to suffer from severe bouts of depression and it was found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.  Over the course of the 1970s, Hathaway’s mental instability wreaked havoc on his life and required several hospitalizations.  The effects of his melancholia also drove a wedge in Flack and Hathaway’s friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the successful release of “The Closer I Get To You” in 1978.  Flack and Hathaway then resumed studio recording to compose a second album of duets.

Hathaway and his wife, Eulaulah, had two daughters, Eulaulah Donyll (Lalah Hathaway) and Kenya.  Lalah has enjoyed a successful solo career, while Kenya is one of the three backing vocalists on the hit TV program American Idol.  He also had another daughter, Donnita Hathaway.  If you do not have any music by Donny Hathaway here is a great starter album for you to buy A Donny Hathaway Collection.  He remains one of the finest singers of our time.

Here is Donny Hathaway singing Live  1) A Song For You and below it is the original version, 2) A Song For You by Leon Russell.  Not just anyone can write a song like this.  When you listen to Leon’s version, you can almost hear the song “visually” through his humble conviction and the sincerity in which he sings it.  A timeless song transcends through all musical styles.  The final video is a duet with Roberta Flack, 3) You Are My Heaven, which was co-written by Stevie Wonder for Donny Hathaway.  He had a lot of angels in his corner.  A very sad ending for an incredible talent.  As one of the commenters writes in the comments section below, “this is music at its best.”

Posted in Celebrity, Culture, Entertainment, Harlem, History, Music, New York City, Sunday Jazz Corner Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

September 8th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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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.

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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 with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

September 1st, 2013 by harlemhouse

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Ella Fitzgerald was known as the “Queen of Jazz“.   An American jazz vocalist with impeccable diction, phrasing and a vocal range spanning three octaves.  She would create and change the notes spontaneously with an effortless improvisational style in perfect pitch while we all watch and listen in awe.  There was no auto tuning here.  There were no simple three note melodies.  This was the real deal.  Ella set the bar high for everyone to follow.  Whether you are a lover of jazz or not, it would be difficult not to recognize her God-given talent.

Listen and witness a master at work giving off a joyous smile as she makes it all look so simple.  Especially with her style of scat singing.  I wonder who can sing like her today out of all our new singers?  I hope that there is someone, or that a young talent will grow and meet her expertise someday.

She really had something special and gave us everything, every time with every recording and live performance.  Take a minute to read a bit of history on this musical genius Ella Fitzgerald.

Here she is performing a live 7:00 minute uptempo version of “The Man I love.”

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August 25th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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What do you get when you mix Jill Scott, Al Jarreau and George Benson together?  One of the best versions of the jazz classic “God Bless The Child” in the last decade.  How can you go wrong with these music greats.  Seven-time Grammy Award winning Al Jarreau has an endless list of albums and hit songs and collaborations throughout his long and successful career.  Grammy-winning  Jill Scott glides beautifully from R&B, Neo Soul to Jazz standards with such ease in her unique style and thunderous talent.  George Benson is known for his famous guitar-vocal style which has made him a ten-time Grammy Award winning artist with one of the best songs in my opinion of all time “This Masquerade.”

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Below is a video version of their recording of God Bless The Child which is available on iTunes on 2 different albums  Jill Scott Collaborations and  George Benson & Al Jarreau “Givin It Up”.  Both albums are great!  Preview them for yourself after listening to God Bless The Child, and download a copy.  Hope that you enjoyed Sunday Jazz Corner this week.

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