Tag Archives: jam sessions

2015 BlackStar Film Festival

The 4th annual BlackStar Film Festival gets underway on Thursday, July 30.

BlackStar Film Festival Logo

The four-day film fest is “a celebration of cinema focused on work by and about people of African descent in a global context. BlackStar highlights films that are often overlooked from emerging, established, and mid-career directors, writers and producers working in narrative, documentary, experimental and music video filmmaking.” The program also includes panel discussions and workshops.

I am particularly looking forward to “Virtuosity,” a collection of shorts, including University of Pennsylvania music professor Guthrie Ramsey’s documentary, “Amazing: The Tests and Triumph of Bud Powell.” The film is based on Ramsey’s 2013 book, The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History and the Challenge of Bebop.

Powell had frequent gigs in Philly in the 1940s and ‘50s. He performed in such legendary jazz spots as Watts’ Zanzibar, Downbeat and The Point. While in town, Powell shared his genius with young musicians, including Lee Morgan, at the Heritage House Jazz Workshop.

The festival runs from July 30 to Aug. 2. For the full schedule and ticket information, visit BlackStar Film Fest.

Heritage House Jazz Workshop

From Jeffrey S. McMillan, “A Musical Education: Lee Morgan and the Philadelphia Jazz Scene of the 1950s”:

Early in 1954, a Camden, New Jersey, DJ named Tommy Roberts began holding jazz sessions at the Heritage House, a north Philadelphia community center located on the second floor of what is now the Freedom Theater at 1346 N. Broad Street. These sessions became an important part of the Philadelphia jazz scene, especially for young musicians, and gave birth to a series of events known as the “Jazz Workshop.” Beginning in April 1954, the Workshop met every Friday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 and featured prominent jazz artists who were in town playing evening engagements in the clubs in Center City. The first hour of each session entailed a performance by the featured artists and was followed by an intermission where members of the audience were free to socialize with the musicians. The second hour was devoted to young musicians and composers who were encouraged to sit in with the artists or submit their work to be performed by the band. This unique, hands-on opportunity for youngsters to learn about jazz was augmented by the quality of artists that appeared at the Workshop.

In 1954 alone the artists included the Chet Baker Quintet (featuring James Moody), Johnny Hodges’s band (which, at the time, included John Coltrane), Buddy DeFranco, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Bud Powell, Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Roy Eldridge, the Erroll Garner Trio, and Billy Taylor. Besides a 75¢ admission fee, there was only one restriction to being admitted to the Workshop: every attendee was required to be twenty years old or younger. Those of legal drinking age, twenty-one or older, had to take their business to the clubs to hear the artists.

Read More

Beatrice Tyner’s Beauty Shop

McCoy Tyner grew up in West Philly. The family lived on the corner of May and Fairmount Avenue, above his mother’s beauty shop. It’s where Tyner composed “Blues on the Corner.” In an interview with Dr. Anthony Brown for the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Project, the NEA Jazz Master shared that he held jam sessions in the beauty shop:

Tyner: Yeah the kitchen was . . . the living room-it wasn’t very big but it was right behind the beauty shop. And the beauty shop was a pretty large place because they had shampoos and they had these stations for people doing their hair. And then right behind that was that little small living room where we had the TV and everything. And then there was, after that, there was a kitchen, and then above all that were bedrooms upstairs; bed and bathroom upstairs. It was a nice location, and then my mother had to get in a cab to go any place. They drop her right downstairs (laughs) and that’s where my piano was. So sometimes-you know I had an R&B band in the beginning and we had jam sessions. I had quite a few jam sessions in my mother’s shop, and my mother would be doing hair and say, “Ah you guys go ahead play. It’s alright, it’s no problem”. So we would be in there and the ladies would be under the dryer patting their foot. … (laughs) a musical beauty shop!

Brown: So, they’re sitting under those hair dryers patting their feet and you guys are jamming?

Tyner: Jamming!

Brown: Right in the same room.

Tyner: Yeah, we were in the same room. She loved music anyway and she loved piano. I think she might have felt as though that’s what I was going to do. I think she saw the handwriting on the wall and so she didn’t discourage me. I took lessons and all that and I used to practice a lot. And then when I got the band, but she was very willing to let us go ahead and do our thing. That’s where I developed the skills of writing for other instruments.

READ MORE

Linton’s Restaurant

A 24-hour diner located right off the “Golden Strip.” After their gigs, jazz musicians would gather here and sometimes hold jam sessions. In an interview with All About Jazz, Jymie Merritt recalled:

AAJ: That sounds like great fun and very productive at the same time. Another general location at around the same time, as I understand it, was on Columbia Avenue [now Cecil B. Moore Boulevard- eds.] in North Philadelphia near Temple University. There was a restaurant called Linton’s.

JM: Oh, yeah. Right on Broad Street off Columbia Avenue.

AAJ: Yes, exactly. And were you involved with the guys who used to gather there?

JM: Yeah. I used to eat there. And when we’d finish eating, we’d leave a tip. And then Philly Joe [Jones] would go around and collect the money for himself as we went out the door. [laughter]

AAJ: So he’d keep the tips!

JM: He was really ingenious.

READ MORE

Dowling’s Palace

A North Philly mainstay, Dowling’s Palace hosted weekly jam sessions with Lucky Thompson and the Budesa Brothers. Now closed, Dowling’s Palace will reopen in the planned Hotel Indigo.

Blue Horizon Hotel

Stacey Dowling shared:

Hotel Indigo at The Blue will be reborn as one of Philly’s premier cultural destinations. Whether it’s an overnight stay, oldies but goodies, live jazz, blues or poetry, The Blue will again be where it happens.

For updates, check out Mosaic Development Partners.