Tag Archives: Otto Hardwicke

WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A WALK?

Yes, it is a pretty Harry Warren song from 1931.  But I mean a real walk — a jazz walk. 

Paul Blair, someone who knows his jazz, has been editing the local jazz monthly called Hot House for the past six years.   And he’s also been conducting walking tours through various New York neighborhoods.   This home-grown enterprise – operating under the name SwingStreets (www.SwingStreets.com) – began with a focus on historic local jazz addresses:  musicians’ homes and hangouts, clubs past and present.  Paul’s led outings in Midtown, Greenwich Village, the East Village, Bed-Stuy and Fort Greene-Clinton Hill. 

Lately, he’s broadened his approach and now also leads folks with absolutely no interest in jazz through particularly distinctive Outer Borough neighborhoods they’d be unlikely to explore on their own.  Still, his most popular tour remains the one covering Harlem. 
 
A typical tour (one Paul conducted two weeks ago) went like this: “We begin at 11:30 AM in front of 3940 Broadway (a prominently numbered building situated on the NE corner of Broadway and 165th St.) and, after strolling at a fairly leisurely pace, end up at the corner of Lenox Ave. and W. 125th St., near Sylvia’s Restaurant.   I’m always willing to take people further, if they wish, to see Minton’s, down on W. 118th St, near where Otto Hardwicke and Benny Carter once lived.   For those arriving from downtown for a tour, I always suggest taking a subway (either the A or the 1) to the 168th St. station, then walking three short blocks south to our meeting point.  People purchase tickets for those Harlem tours online through my website.  And many of my fellow strollers have surnames suggesting that they’re overseas visitors to the city.”

It costs $25 for two hours, and each participant takes home a free jazz CD. 

I want to see where Otto Hardwicke lived.  Don’t you?

JESSE KING’S TREASURES

Even though it is an ancient cliche, we are known by the company we keep, and so I think that the late Jesse King must have been someone remarkable.

I know nothing about her except what I’ve been told — that she was located in Richmond, Virginia.  But photographs from her estate just recently turned up on Ebay (sorry, the bidding is over, so you missed your chance to squander the grocery money on these unique artifacts).  Not just snapshots of the cabin at Schroon Lake or of the kids cavorting — but Thirties studio photographs of some of the world’s most remarkable musicians — AUTOGRAPHED to Jesse.

Here they are in roughly alphabetical order:

ebay-red-allenA very slender and dapper Henry “Red” Allen in a very hip suit with what looks like the world’s longest trumpet.  The pose isn’t exactly, “Look, Ma, no hands!” but it comes close.  “I can hit those high notes with one hand tied behind my back,” it suggests.”

ebay-louis

Water damage or not, this is still Mr. Strong.  And he threatens to burst out of this tiny picture (really an eight-by-ten).

ebay-duke-ellington1

Edward Kennedy Ellington, sharp as a tack and a long way from “Soda Fountain Rag.”

ebay-wc-handy“A fellow named Handy, with a band you should hear.”

ebay-edgar-hayes

Who remembers Edgar Hayes?  I certainly do.

ebay-johnny-hodgesThis one was signed “Johnnie,” which initially mystified the seller.  But WE know who these fellows are: how about the Ellington reed section pre-Ben Webster, in a photograph I had never seen before.  (Barney Bigard, Otto Hardwicke, Hodges, and Harry Carney.)    Postscript: I wanted this one for my wall and was outbid, which is fine.

ebay-claude-hopkins2Here’s Claude Hopkins and his alter ego, both dressed for success.

ebay-harlan-lattimoreHarlan Lattimore, a sweet singer who worked and recorded with many classic big bands.  Perhaps his portrait is the largest here because of that nifty cap.

ebay-don-redmanDon Redman, so influential and so under-acknowledged.

ebay-luis-russell

Luis Russell was not a thrilling pianist.  I doubt he would have lasted long among the striders uptown.  But his bands were very fine: his 1929-30 group can still melt your earbuds.

ebay-chick-webbAnd something quite astonishing — a portrait of Chick Webb!  Helen Oakley Dance told the story of asking Chick to autograph a photo and his saying, shyly, “Oh, my secretary will sign it for you.  She has such beautiful handwriting.”  Finally, Helen prevailed on Chick to sign his name himself.  The photograph here is too small to see if it is “authentic” by the standards of autograph collectors, but it’s close enough for me.

ebay-unknown-trumpeter2Does anyone recognize this trumpeter?

ebay-fitz1This photo (inscribed to his honey) is signed “Fitz,” which is quite mysterious — although if I had a world-class magnifying glass, there is a slim chance that All might be Revealed.  Which one is Fitz?

ebay-three-dukesThen there are “The Three Dukes,” clearly to the manor born.

One photograph eluded me — of the bandleader Baron Lee — but the others suggest what riches are in trunks and attics.  But who was Jesse King?

And a larger question.  I understand the collacting urge, to have the rarities for oneself.  But I also wonder if these delicious photographs shouldn’t have ended up in a museum where everyone could see them.  Perhaps they will someday, but the waywardness of people’s heirs and the fragility of paper make this unlikely.  And perhaps it is right not to put too much emphasis on mere objects, even if they have been touched by Red Allen or Johnny Hodges.

But what if Ebay is our new museum, and these objects have stopped being accessible once they are bought?  I would find that troubling.  “Art for sale!  Get your red-hot art!  Peanuts, popcorn, relics!”  Well, at least we have gotten an opportunity to see these photographs.  That is more than I would have expected.

SEEING BLANTON PLAIN

The jazz scholar Bob Porter has his own website, www.jazzetc.net., which is well worth looking into.  Bob also has a long-running rhythm ‘n’ blues radio show on WBGO-FM (www.wbgo.org.) , and has produced and annotated many fine records and CDs. 

What caught my eye this time on Bob’s site was his inclusion of three previously unseen photographs of the Ellington band, presumably taken in late 1940 at the Michigan State Fair, sent along by Fred Reif. 

They show Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Juan Tizol, Otto Hardwicke, and Ellington’s phenomenal bassist Jimmy (or Jimmie) Blanton.  Usually the few shots of Blanton are fuzzy, cropped from larger photos: these are as sharp and arresting as Blanton’s own sound.  Worth inspecting indeed!

Here’s one: for the other two, be sure to visit http://www.jazzetc.net/articles/new-jimmy-blanton-photos-does-anyone-have-any-information-on-these-photos.

jimmie-blanton