Tag Archives: Ridge Avenue

Ridge Point Cafe

The Ridge Point Cafe, aka the Crossroads Bar, was located at the crossroads of Ridge Avenue, 23rd Street and Columbia Avenue. In Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson, the NEA Jazz Master shared a story about John Coltrane’s gig at this North Philly club:

Philadelphia boasted many jazz clubs at that time, and John and I continued to gig often. John, however, soon got a very strange gig. Word came to me that John was working at a club called The Ridge Point. We called it The Point because of the street configuration there, where instead of bisecting each other, three streets crossed—Columbia Avenue, 23rd Street, and Ridge Avenue—such that the shape of the building at that intersection resembled a large slice of pie—much like the famous Flatiron Building in Manhattan. The bar’s shape mimicked the building. The bandstand was at the wide end of the pie. The tip, or the point, was the main entrance. All that was interesting, but The Point was not a bona fide jazz club. Eddie Woodland, a tenor player, usually held forth. Woodland was a “boot ‘em up” tenor player with a circus aura, who held audiences in the palm of his hand by walking the bar, with bravado. Crowds loved him, but for some reason, he took a leave of absence. Maybe he was sick. Then word went around that my pal John was playing at The Point, and I knew John wasn’t that kind of saxophone player. The Point was definitely not a hip jazz club, and regulars expected every artist to walk the bar.

Woodland’s “boot ’em up” saxophone can be heard on “Stranger in Town.”

More from Golson:

I could not believe what I saw. This wasn’t Eddie at all, but John! John Coltrane was up on the bar at the small end, at the tip of the mud pie, honking, grooving, preparing to go down to the far end and back to the bandstand again. He was cranked up, playing low B-flats, nimbly stepping over drinks like a mountain goat on slippery terrain. He didn’t see me right away. But when he came up from one of his low horn-swooping movements, he looked in my direction. His eyes got wide and he stopped right in the middle of a group of low B-flats. He took the horn out of his mouth, stood straight up, and said, “Oh, no!” I fell against the wall, dying with laughter. I’d busted him. He was humiliated, but he finished his slumming bar performance.

Published by Temple University Press, Golson’s autobiography is available for purchase here.

Mr. Chip’s Bar

Popular in the mid ‘90s, Mr. Chip’s Bar was located at 22nd Street and Ridge Avenue.

Mr. Chip's Bar

In a 1996 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer saxophonist Jimmy Oliver recalled the bar was across from the former location of Irene’s Café:

I looked over there and thought to myself that it only took me 50 years to get across the street.

Oliver was a regular at Irene’s, along with Pearl Bailey.

Bird Cage Lounge

As a young boy Steven Berry, director of “Jazz in Philadelphia,” used to shine shoes outside of the Bird Cage Lounge, which was located at Ridge Avenue and Francis Street in North Philly. One day he had a chance encounter with Charlie Parker. He later shared what happened with an uncle. His uncle’s enthusiasm was contagious – Berry was hooked on jazz for life.

Ridge Cotton Club

Opened in 1947 and listed in the The Negro Motorist Green Book, the Ridge Cotton Club shows the influence of Harlem and the Cotton Club. And like the legendary Harlem nightspot, it was probably controlled by the mob. The original owners, Morris Brodsky and Harry Hirsch, died within days of each other in January 1949 following “injuries inflicted by an assailant.”

Ridge Avenue Cultural District

The Elmer Snowden Trio played here in April 1946.

Blue Note

The Blue Note was located at 15th Street and Ridge Avenue. The house band, the Ray Bryant Trio, backed, among others, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

blue-note-jazz-club

With the exception of Bud Powell, all of the Blue Note coming attractions have been inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame.

The Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums), appeared at the Blue Note on December 8, 1956.

The performance was broadcast live on Mutual Network’s Bandstand USA. In his closing remarks, the announcer, Guy Wallace, said:

A great sound — the great sound by Miles Davis and his horn, from Lou Church’s Blue Note, 15th and Ridge Avenue down in Philadelphia. A truly fine place to go if you’re driving around down in that Philadelphia area and you want to hear some real cool jazz. Miles Davis is the boy that can do it, because he’s one of the real great exponents of that cool sound in cool jazz. I don’t know, uh, as an observer (and more than just interested observer), I find it a pretty controversial thing to talk about cool jazz and other types of jazz, because those of you who are listening who like the clinical sound of cool jazz, really like it, and when we make any comment about it, we’re usually deluged with letters. We hope you liked it, however, and we hope that you continue to listen to our Bandstand here on Saturday nights on Mutual as we present all types of jazz, from New Orleans to Chicago to Kansas City to the cool clinical sound of modern jazz. You’re listening to Bandstand USA on Mutual Network.

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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

Ridge Avenue

During Philadelphia’s golden age of jazz, there were jazz clubs in every neighborhood. There were so many that folks in North Philly didn’t go to joints in South Philly and vice versa. There were a handful of clubs that reached legendary status and attracted patrons from all over the city. The Blue Note at 15th Street and Ridge Avenue was “the town’s swankiest jazz emporium.”

From 15th Street to Columbia Avenue (later renamed Cecil B. Moore Avenue), Ridge Avenue was a jazz corridor where legends-in-the-making roamed.

Ridge Avenue Entertainment District - 7.26.17