Back in the day, a good rent party could actually pay your rent, but then it was only about $10 per month. Come on in, friend, neighbor or downtown guest just looking to hang in Harlem. As Chester Himes’ racy novel “Pink Toes” indicated, everybody came to the Harlem rent parties, from politicians to hustlers–and race wasn’t a problem.
Musicians scurried from their last set on Saturday night for the anticipated good time, jamming all night and dancing with a lady and a chicken wing in hand to the music of Fats Waller or some other great, fun-loving musician on the scene. Eat all the pigs’ feet, fried chicken, corn bread and collard greens you want and just party as Harlem became heaven.
For one day, on July 28 at 5 p.m. at the Harlem Stage Summer Concert in Annunciation Park (West 135th Street between Convent and Amsterdam avenues), the Fats Waller Dance Party returns with pianist Jason Moran and Meshell Ndegeocello on bass and vocals with a five-piece band and a live dance installation by choreographer Maija Garcia/Organic Magnetics. Opening acts will include Amma Whatt and I Love Vinyl DJs.
After four sold-out shows in 2011 at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, Moran and Ndegeocello are teaming up for a second year to present the Fats Waller Dance Party. Commissioned by Harlem Stage, Moran and Ndegeocello set Waller’s music to 21st-century jamming grooves.
“I wanted Fats Waller to be fun for the musicians and audience, how we play it and how Meshell sings it. Before the first Waller Dance Party, I had never played for an audience that actually came out to dance,” stated Moran. “If the music moves you, you should be able to move. I want to see the different ways I can interact with the audience and music, especially in this setting, where people want to dance.”
The Fats Waller Dance Party has become so successful that the show is going on the road, and Moran will record a version of it for Blue Note Records later this summer.
Waller, a genius pianist and composer out of the stride tradition of the early 1900s, wrote such noted tunes as “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Jitterbug Waltz” and “Squeeze Me.” Waller was known to get the joint jumping at Small’s Paradise during after-hour jams and rent parties. He began recording for Victor Records in 1923. He is credited with being the first musician to play jazz on an organ.
Yosvany Terry hits Greenwich Village at the Zinc Bar (82 W. 3rd St.) on July 26. Since arriving in New York in 1999, the native Cuban has extended the palate of Afro-Cuban jazz, introducing fresh alto saxophone riffs that climb the scales of jazz to Latin rhythms.
His two-day Zinc engagement will include pianist Osmany Paredes, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, his brother bassist Yunior Terry and drummer Obed Calvaire. They will perform at 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Terry will perform tunes from his latest release, “Today’s Opinions,” a collection of eight of his original compositions. The Criss Cross label CD opens with “Summer Relief,” which starts with Spanish dialogue and travels into a swift Latin mix of swaying horns and percussion. Terry opens the flow as he rides high on alto with a few Coltranish notes. “Harlem Matinee” is a beautiful ballad with a smooth trumpet and piano conversation. Terry is more than adept here on his rhythmic, extended improvisational solo.
The quartet is an intuitive force playing with the intensive purpose of taking listeners on an exciting voyage that crosses the improvisational waters of Cuba and the United States.
What we have are the roots of Cuban tradition blended with the roots of jazz, another perspective on Afro-Cuban jazz through the music of Terry that is invigorating and memorable.
Okaru Lovelace, the talented international singer-songwriter, will be hosting Singers Connection Showcase Open Mic and Jam at its new home at the Westbeth Artist Community Room, 55 Bethune St. in the West Village on the corner of Washington Street. Opening night will be July 27 from 7:30-10:30 p.m.
The jazzy house band will feature pianist Nikolaj Hess and bassist Ralph Hamperian. The cost for great music is only $5 to watch or show your talent alongside established and aspiring singers or musicians.
Anyone may show up to perform, and it won’t be the first time a celebrity has stepped to the mic for the open jam.
Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz hits on Aug. 4 at 9 p.m. at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 236 E. 3rd St., hosted by Eric Frazier and featuring his trio with pianist Danny Dalelio and bassist Alex Layne. The admission price is $15 and will be followed by the Jazz Jam and Open Mic. For online tickets, call (212) 780-9386.
Neal will be in London on July 28 watching his daughter Lia Neal swim in the 2012 Summer Olympics in the 4×100-meter freestyle. First of all, congratulations to Lia Neal. Making the Olympics is no easy task, which means she is already one of the best female swimmers in the world before she even steps on the block. Let’s all say a prayer or concentrate on her bringing home the gold. Watch the meet on NBC on Saturday, July 28.