Posts Tagged ‘Ella Fitzgerald’

Philly Memories Of A Jazz Lover: Oral History Prose

August 5, 2015

I was talking to a friend’s father, a resident at a Jewish senior center in Florida, about his life. During our walk, we heard some jazz through the intercom. As we sat in the sun room, he started telling me about his younger days in Philadelphia. These are his words (with “my comments” inserted), as close as I can recall:

Hearing Jazz in Philly
“I remember going to a club off of Walnut, and you had to go downstairs. We were sitting there, and the side door opened and they had a guy by the arm. They walked him out, brought him to the raised stage and took him up the stairs, and they put his hand on the keyboard and left him. And he sat down and started playing. From then on he owned the place. It was George Shearing. THAT was music.
Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, I saw them together and separately. They were amazing.
The guy with a different-shaped horn … “Dizzy Gillespie?” Yeah, the Dizz. There was a block of houses in West Philadelphia, and they tore out the center of the block, and he played there. That was a great sound.
Philadelphia was where that jazz happened, even more than New York. They loved to play there, and they just did it for the love… Oh,what music!
The guy with the handkerchief … “Satchmo!?!” Yeah Satchmo. Louie Armstrong, what a trumpet player! He wasn’t known as a singer, but could he play! And the Dizz … when he played, his neck and cheeks bulged out and he would force those notes out through the front, just willed it out.
And Sarah Vaughan… Beautiful! She could sing. And I would be the only white guy there, 2-3 times a week I’d be at the clubs, and they all knew me because I loved — we all loved — the music. Stan Kenton, I saw him. Benny Goodman. Except for his band, we didn’t dance at these places. They were small … and just made for listening.
They would play in the clubs until closing, or we’d go to the Boyd Theater at 11, until 1 or 2 in the morning. Then they’d come off the stage and we’d talk to them, then we’d all go to some bar or someplace and they’d set up and play until 5 or 6 in the morning. That was just for the love of the music! Now you have all these musicians, they have no talent, they just perform for the money. But back then, you could see it, and feel it, they would just play until the early morning because they loved making that sound! That music!
They would all talk to me, I knew them all. I was the only white guy in the place, but they knew I loved that sound. They don’t play like that for the love anymore. And it’s too bad.”