Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
ghost of miles

"Cafe Society: the Wrong Place for the Right People"

21 posts in this topic

This week's Night Lights program Cafe Society: the Wrong Place for the Right People takes a look at New York City's first integrated nightclub, a diverse musical panorama where artists such as Teddy Wilson, Frankie Newton, Big Joe Turner, Pete Johnson, Hazel Scott, Josh White and Lena Horne all performed, and a gathering spot for Popular Front entertainers and intellectuals. It's also the place where Billie Holiday debuted her version of "Strange Fruit," the anti-lynching song that became an early civil-rights anthem. The program features music from all of the previously-mentioned artists, as well as remarks from cultural historian Michael McGerr and Terry Trilling-Josephson, widow of Cafe Society owner Barney Josephson and co-author of his newly-published memoir.

 

"Cafe Society: the Wrong Place for the Right People" airs tonight at 11 p.m. EST on WFIU-Bloomington, at 9 p.m. Central Time on WNIN-Evansville, and at 11 p.m. Central Time on KOSU-Oklahoma City. It also airs tomorrow evening at 10 p.m. EST on Blue Lake Public Radio and KMBH-Brownsville, TX. It is already archived for online listening.

Edited by ghost of miles

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember fondly Josephson's last venture, The Cookery. Had many a dinner there, listening to fine music after a day's work. Then I'd move down the street, 'round the corner to Bradley's for serious drinking and more great music.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He talks quite a bit about the Cookery in that new book; I'd still like to get the Mary Lou Williams CD that was recorded there.

I remember seeing Mary Lou Williams there. Didn't know she'd done a recording.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Williams actually played at Cafe Society in the 1940s as well. I included a short piece from The Zodiac Suite in the original version of the Night Lights show but had to drop it to make the 59:00 time limit. I may re-do the program as a standalone, non-Night Lights special and will probably try to smuggle the Williams track back into it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This Night Lights airs tonight on Blue Lake right after my 26th Anniversary program.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This Night Lights airs tonight on Blue Lake right after my 26th Anniversary program.

Congratulations, cheers, and here's to another 26 years of LV on the air... :party::tup

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, thank you. The service that provides our web streaming was down for repairs Sunday night -- without prior notice. Sorry if anyone was hung up by that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I spent many good nights at The Cookery on University Place. Last eve I was there they had Ray Brown Trio.

Re Mary Lou Williams - -there is a 33 LP, 10" that I once owned, but sold. It may be out there somewhere....really an excellent recording

of her beautiful piano work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This week's Night Lights program Cafe Society: the Wrong Place for the Right People takes a look at New York City's first integrated nightclub, a diverse musical panorama where artists such as Teddy Wilson, Frankie Newton, Big Joe Turner, Pete Johnson, Hazel Scott, Josh White and Lena Horne all performed, and a gathering spot for Popular Front entertainers and intellectuals. It's also the place where Billie Holiday debuted her version of "Strange Fruit," the anti-lynching song that became an early civil-rights anthem. The program features music from all of the previously-mentioned artists, as well as remarks from cultural historian Michael McGerr and Terry Trilling-Josephson, widow of Cafe Society owner Barney Josephson and co-author of his newly-published memoir.

We're re-airing Cafe Society: the Wrong Place for the Right People this weekend; it's already archived for online listening.

Next week: "Chicago Calling: Unsung Heroes of the City's Hardbop Scene."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, a bit of a crazy story here:  a few weeks ago I scheduled the Night Lights Cafe Society show to re-air last week.  Just a few days ago I received an invitation to come out and give a talk about Cafe Society at the very site of the former club (the original downtown Cafe Society that opened in December 1938) as part of a plaque-unveiling event.  The basement space at 2 Sheridan Square looks quite different now (it's the home of the Axis Theater Company), but it will still be a thrill to stand in the same space where Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Frankie Newton, Albert Ammons, and so many other jazz artists whom I love once performed.  In the meantime, here's the Night Lights program again, which includes commentary from Barney Josephson's widow Terry and historian Michael McGerr, as well as some broadcasts from the club itself:

Cafe Society: The Wrong Place For The Right People

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A very interesting Bird recording at Cafe Society is the one, where he plays a lot of the "Bird with Strings" repertoire just with his regular quintet. With much solo space for the other great members of his group too: Kenny Dorham, Al Haig, and even the rare but great bass feature of Tommy Potter on "Talk of the Town"......

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/19/2018 at 2:41 AM, Gheorghe said:

A very interesting Bird recording at Cafe Society is the one, where he plays a lot of the "Bird with Strings" repertoire just with his regular quintet. With much solo space for the other great members of his group too: Kenny Dorham, Al Haig, and even the rare but great bass feature of Tommy Potter on "Talk of the Town"......

I haven't heard that recording yet--the immediate chronology of Cafe Society after Barney Josephson gets out of the game in 1949 is rather mysterious to me. I know that Josephson generally didn't book bebop groups at either Cafe Society Downtown or Uptown, and in his memoir he says he "shuttered" Cafe Society Downtown in early 1949 (after enduring a lot of attacks from media figures like Walter Winchell and Westbrook Pegler for his leftwing connections).  But somebody must have been operating it into the next year, if Parker was recorded there in mid-1950.  Getting to stand in that space and play Billie Holiday's recording of "Strange Fruit" for a small audience with all of the lights turned off (we projected the famous photo from the Commodore recording session on a small screen while the music played) was quite a thrill, btw. There's an interesting post-Cafe Society history associated with that basement as well; in the 1970s it was the site of the Ridiculous Theater Company, which the manager of the current theatrical company occupying the space (Axis) told me warrants a chapter in the annals of queer theater. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting that, David. Looks like all who attended had a good time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw Alberta Hunter twice at the Cookery; she was wonderful.  I remember there was a movie theater across the street on 8th Street, where they debuted Remember My Name.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw her there too and last night went to a play called "Cookin' at the Cookery" which is about Alberta Hunter's life.  Really good production. Just two actors both of whom were excellent singers. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

12 hours ago, mjzee said:

I saw Alberta Hunter twice at the Cookery; she was wonderful.  I remember there was a movie theater across the street on 8th Street, where they debuted Remember My Name.

I saw her in the early 80s when my wife to be and I were dating; it was well worth it. 

Edited by Brad

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Call your mother!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Brad said:

I saw her in the early 80s when my wife to be and I were dating; it was well worth it. 

I remember her doing a tour over here around at that time which got fairly high profile.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been on a bit of a Mary Lou Williams kick of late and listened this afternoon to the album she recorded at the Cookery in the 1970s:

MI0002527640.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.