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NAMA celebrates Black History Jazz Legends

Renee Minus White | 3/6/2014, 11:34 p.m.

At the Bronx Library on Fordham Road, the New Amsterdam Musical Associates (NAMA) held their annual Black History Month concert featuring “Legends of Song.” This year, the audience enjoyed stories and songs of Sarah Vaughn sung by Renee White, Whitney Houston sung by Naomi Randolph and Gloria Lynn played by Antoinette Hamlin, president of NAMA. Accompanied by Nama’s Jazz Trio on piano, bass and drums, these song stylists received a standing ovation.

This concert is always free to the public. This year’s music and singers were incredible. The audience was awed to be reminded of the story of the late great Houston, and many cried when Randolph sang her hit “The Greatest Love of All.”

The NAMA, a not-for-profit organization, is located at 107 W. 130th St., between Lenox and Seventh avenues. Founded in 1904, its mission is to preserve, teach and promote the only original art form of America and other types of music. As a community-based organization, it offers music lessons for all ages, rehearsal space, community meeting rooms, performances, fundraising events, student recitals and private showcases.

For Women’s History Month, NAMA will hold a concert at its West 130th Street location on March 30 at 5 p.m. There will be jazz and some R&B music on the program. For tickets, email namaisalive@yahoo.com.

Every Monday night from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., there’s a jam session. Folks can perform in front of a mixed audience from all over the world. You are invited to come and sing or play a musical instrument just for the fun of it. Young bloods Jazz Jammers are also on hand to entertain you. They do request a small donation of $5, and snacks and refreshments are included. For more information, visit www.newamsterdammusicalassociation.org.

You’ll love being a part of Harlem’s revival of the music that put Harlem on the map. Remember the great artists such as Vaughn, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Lena Horne, Dizzy Gillespie, Larry “Lucky” Luci, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Cab Calloway, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, Eubie Blake and Louis Armstrong. During NAMA’s Monday night jam sessions, the music of these greats is performed by many of New York City’s best older and younger musicians. NAMA also gives these musicians an opportunity to come out of retirement and have fun showing and sharing their crafts with the younger generation.

In the 1920s, patrons ranging from gangsters to socialites frequented Harlem’s hot spots like Connie’s Inn, the Cotton Club and the block-long Savoy Ballroom. There were also places like speakeasies, sporting houses and all manner of after hours joints.

The NAMA was also here and was already conceived in 1900 as a union for Black musicians who were denied admission into white-only local unions. NAMA’s membership consisted of James Reese Europe, Blake, Fletcher Henderson, Henry Minton and others.

The organization has experienced its ups and downs. Today, a dedicated core of volunteer members is now working diligently to revitalize NAMA. It’s the first official representative of Black musicians in the world. It’s where syncopation fused with ragtime and created swing dance music. It set the stage for the music that came to be known as jazz.