Category Archives: Blog

Remembering Billie Holiday, For Real

At today’s kickoff of Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation Month, it was music to my ears when Mayor Michael A. Nutter mentioned a news article about Billie Holiday in which I was quoted. I noted that Lady Day does not have a plaque on the Walk of Fame.

The Mayor is on it. He plans to talk with the Philadelphia Music Alliance, the nonprofit organization that’s responsible for the Walk of Fame. PMA touts that it is “Philadelphia’s largest and most important single monument honoring outstanding contributions to this city’s rich and diverse musical heritage.”

 

After the press conference, I introduced myself to Nutter. He immediately said we should work together to make sure Lady Day takes her rightful place among the jazz legends on the Avenue of the Arts.

Walk of Fame Plaques - Overview

I don’t think PMA needs to explain why Holiday does not have a plaque on the Walk of Fame. The nomination process seems to be straightforward. So while I don’t think any slight is intended, the oversight should be corrected as soon as possible.

For more info, contact All That Philly Jazz.

In Philadelphia, Jazz Lives

The 5th Annual Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation Month celebration is underway.

Jazz Lives - McCoy Tyner

The 2015 Philadelphia Jazz Honoree is West Philly native McCoy Tyner, a four-time Grammy winner and NEA Jazz Master. Mayor Michael A. Nutter gave Tyner an inscribed Liberty Bell, the equivalent of the keys to the city.

McCoy Tyner - 4.1.15

Tyner said his Philly roots are deep:

It’s wonderful to be back home in Philadelphia. I would like to thank the Mayor and the people of this great city for making this possible for me. No matter where I am in the world, Philadelphia always has a special place in my heart.

For information about Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation Month events, visit www.creativephl.org/jazz.

Jazz Appreciation Month 2015

Since 2002, April has been designated Jazz Appreciation Month. This year’s celebration was kicked off with a big bang. The Smithsonian announced the LeRoy Neiman Foundation donated $2.5 million towards the expansion of jazz programming.

The foundation also donated “Big Band,” a painting by LeRoy Neiman.

Leroy Neiman Big Band

Neiman considered the painting “one of the greatest in his career.” Four of the 18 iconic jazz musicians have been inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame  – John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Gerry Mulligan.

The painting is now on display at the National Museum of American History.

Women in Jazz: Pearl Bailey

As Women in Jazz Month winds down, I want to salute Pearl Bailey who began her singing and dancing career at the Pearl Theater in Philadelphia. She lived in this house which is located just a few blocks from North Philly’s famed “Golden Strip.”

Pearl Bailey House

In 1946, Bailey made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman, a musical written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

‘Sounds Jewish’ Symposium

Earlier today, I attended a symposium organized by the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University, “Sounds Jewish.” The event featured an awesome array of panelists who shared their experiences and stories.

Josh Kun recounted the story of a busboy who once worked at Los Angeles’ landmark Clifton’s Cafeteria. During a break Jimmy Witherspoon’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” was playing on the radio. He asked the black cook who that was. The busboy decided then and there he would write music for black artists.

And he did. The busboy was Jerry Leiber. He later became one half of the legendary songwriting and producing team, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. They wrote hits for, among others, the Coasters, Drifters, Charles Brown and Big Mama Thornton.

It must have been a surreal experience for Leiber when he heard Jimmy Witherspoon’s “Real Ugly Woman” on the radio. He and Stoller wrote it.

Women in Jazz: Vi Redd

Elvira “Vi” Redd (born September 20, 1928) is an American jazz alto saxophone player, vocalist and educator. She has been active since the early 1950s and is known primarily for playing in the bebop, hard bop and post-bop styles. She is highly regarded as an accomplished veteran who personally knew Dizzy Gillespie and has performed with such stars as Count Basie, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Linda Hopkins and Marian McPartland.

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Whose Murals Get Saved?

They say that “blues ain’t nothing but a botheration on your mind.” It’s bothersome that developers are erasing African Americans’ cultural heritage. In Philadelphia, developers routinely – and without notice – demolish or cover up murals that are paid for in part by City taxpayers.

John Coltrane Collage

Murals are part of Philadelphia’s cultural landscape. The Mural Arts Program creates murals that engage the community. They reflect a community’s history, identity, hopes and dreams.

Women of Jazz Mural

City Council members can use Councilmanic Prerogative to require that developers of publicly-subsidized projects replace murals of social or cultural significance. Who will determine which mural meets that threshold? Let’s stipulate that murals that tell stories about events or persons who are the subject of books, songs, documentaries, national holiday, or City and congressional resolutions are culturally significant.

City Council Resolution - June 2001

The how of replacement is negotiable. What is non-negotiable is that developers can erase African Americans’ cultural heritage because, to borrow a phrase from Al Gore, there is “no controlling legal authority.” A district Council member is the controlling legal authority in his or her district. He or she decides which projects go forward and which ones go nowhere. While developers view murals as disposable, district Council members must exercise their prerogative and demand that they respect that which came before.