From the BlogSubscribe Now

Harlem’s Cotton Club

I heard about the Cotton Club long before I moved to Harlem. It was one of the places I knew I wanted to see. But the Cotton Club I saw was not the one of legend.

The old club was located at 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue, the site of the Club De Luxe, which was owned by the black boxing champion, Jack Johnson. Owney Madden, a well-known mobster and bootlegger, bought the Club De Luxe in 1923 and renamed it the Cotton Club, an interesting name given the kind of clientele the establishment would serve.

[Read more…]

Soulful Sundays – Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington

Born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C., Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was a musician, bandleader and a prolific composer who has more than a thousand compositions to his credit.

His parents, James Edward and Daisy Kennedy Ellington, both pianists, nurtured his artistic abilities. Duke, who got his name from one of his friends, began taking piano lessons at age seven. In high school, he studied art and was awarded a scholarship to the Pratt Institute but turned it down.

Influenced by ragtime musicians, Duke began performing professionally at age 17. In 1923, he moved to New York City where he began playing in clubs. From 1927-32 and 1937-8, he played at Harlem’s Cotton Club.

[Read more…]

Things I Love About Harlem, Pt 2

A few days ago, I posted a list of ten things I love about Harlem and promised to share a few more. Here they are:

  • Harlem Stage – A performing arts center that “celebrates and perpetuates the unique and diverse artistic legacy of Harlem and the indelible impression it has made on American culture.” Harlem Stage is located on Convent Avenue at W 135th Street, across from the Aaron Davis Hall, a 750-seat theater, experimental theater and rehearsal studio that’s used by the New York City Opera National Company, Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey, the Emerson String Quartet among others.
Duke Ellington statue

Duke Ellington Statue

RIP Nicholas Ashford

According to news reports, Nicholas Ashford of Ashford and Simpson passed away yesterday here in New York.

Ashford, who was born in South Carolina grew up in Michigan. He moved to New York City in the early 1960s and met his future wife, Valerie Simpson in Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church. They began collaborating musically with Ashford writing most of the lyrics, Simpson composing. They also recorded together. But it’s their work as songwriters for performers such as Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson and others that made them legendary. They also received writing credit on Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own.”

They also co-owned the Sugar Bar where live performances are a big part of the menu.

[Read more…]