On Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, Beech Community Services will present the 9th Annual “Jazz on the Ave.” The free community festival will stretch along four blocks on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, between Broad and 17th Streets.
Ken Scott, president of the Beech Companies, said:
Each year, this concert continues to grow with thousands attending from the Tristate area and beyond. From local celebrities, like Bernard Hopkins, to longtime community members, this concert continues to be one of the must attend summer concerts of the year.
During Philly’s jazz heyday, the “Ave” was known as Columbia Avenue. The four blocks were part of “The Golden Strip,” which stretched from 8th Street to 23rd Street. Columbia Avenue was chock-a-block with jazz joints, including such legendary spots as Cafe Society, Watts’ Zanzibar and the Web.
For festival updates, follow Jazz on the Ave on Twitter, Instagram, or like them on Facebook.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dottie Smith was a jazz vocalist who recorded and toured with bandleader Louis Jordan. Jordan saw her perform at Spider Kelly’s and offered her a job on the spot.
Jazz Historian and WRTI Jazz Host Bob Perkins wrote:
Dottie Smith opened her own place on Columbia Avenue, called La Gayla, a handle based on her married name, Gayle. She booked local icons Bootsie Barnes, Jimmy Oliver, Philly Joe Jones and host of others.
The Women of Jazz mural features many of the most iconic female jazz performers in the world, including Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Betty Carter, Shirley Scott, Dottie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Mary Lou Williams. The tiles below and to the left of the mural were designed by students at several of the city’s public schools.
Smith, affectionately called Miss Dot, is the blonde next to Nina Simone. She was a longtime resident of Strawberry Mansion and a former manager of the legendary Gert’s Lounge. Miss Dot died in December 2014.
Women of Jazz is included in the Mural Arts Program’s African American Iconic Images Collection.
UPDATE: In 2016, the Philadelphia Housing Authority demolished the mural.