All posts by Faye Anderson

I am director of All That Philly Jazz, a place-based public history project that is documenting and contextualizing Philadelphia’s golden age of jazz. The project is at the intersection of art, public policy and cultural heritage preservation.

Club 421

The Charlie Parker Quintet with Little Benny Harris (trumpet), Charlie Parker (alto sax), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Teddy Kotick (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums) performed here in June 1951.

Club 421

In John Coltrane: His Life and Music, Lewis Porter writes:

The Club 421 on Wyalusing Avenue also became one of the leading venues for jazz. Rice recalls: “I was the first band in [421 Club]. That was right around the corner from me. That place used to be a restaurant at first. We used to hang around there—it was called the Coffee Pot. Then a guy bought it and made a nightclub there—a gentleman named Mr. Roach. So they decided to have music, and I had the first band in there with [saxophonist] Vance Wilson, [William] “Reds” [later known as “Red”] Garland [on piano; 1923-84], [bassist] Bob Bushnell, and a good trumpet player, Johnny Hughes, who passed on some time ago.”

Rice is legendary drummer Charlie Rice who led the first house band at Club 421.

Charlie Rice

Charlie Rice passed away on April 22, 2018, two years shy of his 100th birthday.

The Hunting of Billie Holiday

In a new book, “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs,” Johann Hari writes how Billie Holiday was targeted by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics after she refused to be silent about racism:

One night, in 1939, Billie Holiday stood on stage in New York City and sang a song that was unlike anything anyone had heard before. ‘Strange Fruit’ was a musical lament against lynching. It imagined black bodies hanging from trees as a dark fruit native to the South. Here was a black woman, before a mixed audience, grieving for the racist murders in the United States. Immediately after, Billie Holiday received her first threat from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Harry had heard whispers that she was using heroin, and—after she flatly refused to be silent about racism—he assigned an agent named Jimmy Fletcher to track her every move. Harry hated to hire black agents, but if he sent white guys into Harlem and Baltimore, they stood out straight away. Jimmy Fletcher was the answer. His job was to bust his own people, but Anslinger was insistent that no black man in his Bureau could ever become a white man’s boss. Jimmy was allowed through the door at the Bureau, but never up the stairs. He was and would remain an “archive man”—a street agent whose job was to figure out who was selling, who was supplying and who should be busted. He would carry large amounts of drugs with him, and he was allowed to deal drugs himself so he could gain the confidence of the people he was secretly plotting to arrest.

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Lee Andrews & the Hearts

One of the finest R&B vocal groups of the ’50s, Lee Andrews & the Hearts specialized in smooth ballads and were influenced by similar vocal acts like the Moonglows, the Orioles, the Drifters, the 5 Royales, the Five Keys, the Midnighters, and the Ravens, while lead vocalist Lee Andrews’ influences were mostly solo artists like Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra, and especially Nat King Cole. These two key influences — a harmonizing four-part vocal base with a strong but tender tenor voice leading the way — was the foundation of the Hearts’ hard-to-beat sound.

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Lee Andrews Plaque

Pearl Bailey

The daughter of a preacher, Pearl Bailey began singing at the age of three (her brother, Bill Bailey, also taught her a few dance steps). She was performing professionally by her early teenage years and after touring as a dancer for several years, she featured both as a singer and dancer with jazz bands led by Noble Sissle, Cootie Williams and Edgar Hayes. She began performing as a solo act in 1944, and wooed nightclub audiences with her relaxed stage presence and humorous asides. After briefly replacing Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Cab Calloway’s Orchestra during the mid-’40s, she debuted on Broadway during 1946 in the musical St. Louis Woman. Bailey earned an award for most promising newcomer, and made her first film, Variety Girl, in 1947.

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Pearl Bailey - 1.12.15

Thom Bell

In tandem with the visionary production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, arranger and producer Thom Bell was among the principal architects of the lush and seductive Philly soul sound, one of the most popular and influential musical developments of the 1970s. Born in Philadelphia in 1941, Bell studied classical piano as a youth; he joined Gamble’s harmony group the Romeos in 1959, and by the age of 19 was working as a conductor and arranger for hometown hero Chubby Checker. Within months he began writing original material for Checker as well, eventually joining the singer’s production company. When Checker’s organization folded, Bell signed on as a session pianist with Cameo Records, where he first worked with the local soul group the Delfonics. When their manager Stan Watson formed the Philly Groove label in 1968, Bell came aboard as a producer, helming Delfonics classics like 1968’s “La La Means I Love You” and 1970’s “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time.”

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Thom Bell - Resized

Michael Brecker

Tenor saxophonist and composer Michael Brecker is a multiple Grammy winner, and the first to win both the “Best Jazz Instrumental Performance” and “Best Jazz Instrumental Solo” awards two years in a row. As a result of his stylistic and harmonic innovations, Michael is among the most studied instrumentalists in music schools throughout the world today.

Born into a musical household in 1949 in Philadelphia, Michael’s father had played records by Dave Brubeck and Clifford Brown for his sons and took Michael and his older brother Randy to see Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. While Randy took up trumpet, Michael launched his studies on clarinet and alto sax. When moved by the genius of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, among others, Michael switched to tenor in high school. After studying, as did his brother, at the University of Indiana, he moved to New York City, landing work with several bands before co-founding the pioneering jazz-rock group Dreams in 1970.

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Michael Brecker Plaque

Randy Brecker

Randy Brecker has been shaping the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than three decades. His trumpet and flugelhorn performances have graced hundreds of albums by a wide range of artists from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Chaka Khan, George Benson and Parliament-Funkadelics to Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, David Sanborn, Horace Silver, Jaco Pastorius and Frank Zappa.

Randy Brecker’s history is as varied as it is distinguished. Born in Philadelphia to a piano-playing father, Randy spent summers in stage-band camps where he got his earliest experience in ensemble playing. He began playing R&B and funk in local bar bands while in his teens, but at the same time he had an ear for hard bop. “I’d listen to Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Miles’ Quintets, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, the Clifford Brown/Max Roach group,” explains Brecker.

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Randy Brecker Plaque

Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown was one of the 20th century’s greatest trumpet players. He represented the highest level of instrumental excellence and influenced a generation of jazz musicians. Dizzy Gillespie called him “the next major voice in the line of trumpeters.” As impressive and historically important as his musical accomplishments were, his personal impact on those who knew him is also quite extraordinary. His profound work ethic, personal integrity, kind-hearted nature, and commitment to excellence deeply affected his friends and fellow musicians. Jazz legend Sonny Rollins once remarked “Clifford was a profound influence on my personal life. He showed me that it was possible to live a good, clean life and still be a good jazz musician.”

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Clifford Brown Plaque