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Harlem Meer Festival’s 20th anniversary concert series

7/29/2013, 10:15 a.m. | Updated on 7/29/2013, 10:15 a.m.
The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band (HBJB) performed at the Harlem Meer Performance Festival in Central Park to a mature ...
Harlem Blues Band, L to R: Bill Wortzel (guitar), Fred Staton (tenor sax), Joe Morant (trumpet) and Ron Wilkins (trombone)

The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band (HBJB) performed at the Harlem Meer Performance Festival in Central Park to a mature swing dancer’s audience of swing dancers and enthusiasts.

The HBJB is the world’s most authentic swing band. It stars seven veteran jazz and blues musicians and one vocalist, all founders of swing. The musicians’ average ages are 80 years young and they have a combined 500 years of performing experience. Their roots reach to the classic period of jump blues and swing of the 1920s and 1930s.

Together since 1973, these “originals” actually “jumped” at the Woodside and “stomped” at the Savoy with Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, “Fats” Waller, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and other jazz greats. The band is based in Harlem, the symbolic home of swing, but they spend most of the year on tour through the U.S. and Europe. The HBJB plays in small group “jump band” format with one soloist on each of the major jazz band instruments, performing hard-driving Kansas City stompers and sultry blues. On tour since 1976, the group has been called “a national treasure.” They continue to be enthusiastically embraced by audiences around the world, and HBJB music is so enjoyed by the Harlem Meer audience and swing dancers that they come to the Meer every Sunday to enjoy the free performances, which are co-sponsored by Circuit Productions Inc.