Nov 8, 1936: Waller Says the Joint’s Officially Jumpin’
Fats Waller was in town, headlining the Hot From Harlem Revue opening at the RKO-Boston Theatre on November 6. The Hot From Harlem stage show played Boston annually with its cast of dancers, singers, comedians, and musicians supporting the show’s headlining star.
We can assume that the ebullient Waller played hits like “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and probably introduced a few new songs, too. A party atmosphere likely prevailed among the RKO-Boston crowd, because FDR had been re-elected by a landslide just two days before Fats opened.
But Hot From Harlem isn’t my reason for checking in with Mr. Waller today. I’m interested in the Theatrical Club, on Tremont Street in the Theatre District, and Waller’s role in ending its Jim Crow policy. (more…)
Jun 23 1955: Wein, Wales, Wail for Atlantic Records
As George Wein tells it in his autobiography, Myself Among Others, it was George Frazier’s idea to have Wein, owner of Storyville Records, record an album for Atlantic Records, a competitor. Frazier suggested it to Atlantic’s Ahmet Ertegun, who liked the idea of Wein playing and singing standards in a trio format. They signed a deal and scheduled a session for April 1955.
Wein apparently had more in mind than just a trio recording. For the April date, Wein had his bassist, Stan Wheeler, and drummer, Marquis Foster, both from his Storyville house band. But he also brought cornetist Ruby Braff and tenor saxophonist Sammy Margolis, and the mood was jazz. By the end of the session, the quintet had completed eight tunes, not quite enough for an album.
Before the group could reconvene, however, Wein was in the studio producing a record date for a singer/pianist for his own Storyville Records. On June 23, he had bassist Bill Pemberton, drummer Jo Jones, and the mystery trumpeter, Wally Wales, ready to go. The problem was, the singer had a few drinks and was unable to function. Wein had already paid the musicians, so he took over the piano and microphone and recorded enough material to fill out the Atlantic album. Wales, wrote Wein, “played beautifully behind me.”
It’s a Cape Code two-fer for the month of May. On May 24, 1980, the first Cape Cod Jazz Festival opened, while on May 25, 1914, pianist Marie Marcus, a friend indeed to Cape jazz, was born in Roxbury.
The Cape Cod Jazz Fest was the brainchild of Jack Bradley, the president of the Cape Cod Jazz Society, an organization he helped form in 1977. Bradley claimed it was the largest aggregation of jazz talent ever assembled on the Cape, and it is hard to argue with that assessment. For two days they held forth at Dunfey’s Hyannis Resort. Amy Lee covered the festival for the Christian Science Monitor. On Saturday the 24th, the New Black Eagle Jazz Band with special guest Dick Wetmore led off, followed by Roomful of Blues. In the evening, Dick Johnson’s band (not yet called Swing Shift) preceded Buddy Rich and his thunderous 16-piece orchestra.
The afternoon of Sunday the 25th was given over to a tribute to Bobby Hackett, who lived his last five years on the Cape, passing in 1976. The Marie Marcus Quartet played first, followed by tributes by Lou Colombo and Dick Wetmore, then Scott Hamilton’s Quartet, and finally a Bobby Hackett Memorial group led by Doc Cheatham and Vic Dickenson, with pianist Chuck Folds and drummer Ernie Hackett, Bobby’s son. The session ran a whopping four and a half hours.