There was an abundance of Black-owned jazz clubs during the blood-drenched years of segregation, but now, because of that trickle down economy, Black clubs have dwindled drastically in this 21st century of openness, cloaked under smiling faces of eager racism.

Club Harlem in Atlantic City, N.J., was the most prestigious nightspot for major Black jazz performers, comedians and dancers because segregation barred them from performing in the major casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City across the tracks. The club was located at 32 Kentucky Avenue, in the racially segregated part of town known as “Kentucky Avenue and the Curb.”

The historic nightlife of Club Harlem will bolt back to life like a big deal aerobatic lindy-hop dance July 12 through July 28 as City College Center for the Arts presents a special three-week return engagement of “On Kentucky Avenue: A Celebration of Atlantic City’s Famed Club Harlem” at Aaron Davis Hall (135th Street and Convent Avenue).

The show, which premiered at Aaron Davis Hall in 2016, offers viewers a glimpse inside the celebrated nightclub founded in 1935 by Leroy “Pop” Williams. The production was created by Jeree Wade, written by the singer-actor Adam Wade and Ty Stephens and is directed by Lee Summers.

“On Kentucky Avenue” is set in 1969, during a dress rehearsal. A love triangle emerges between impresario Ivan King (Ty Stephens), his lead showgirl, Betty Jo Stanton (N’Kenge), and her best friend, the featured female vocalist, Pauline Pierce (Andricka Hall). (Ramona Dunlap performs the role of Pauline Pierce Friday, July 27).

The production also features Lee Summers as the comedian Slappy Black, who performed in the original club. The ensemble includes Donna Clark, Mindy Haywood, Cassandra Palacio, Carmen Carriker, Avery Royal, Jamal Shuriah, Phillip Deceus and Brian Davis. The revival introduces a new character, Homer Paisley, played by Count Stovall. Wade makes a special appearance as Damita Jo, a popular singer who often played the club during its summer months.

The Freddie Baxter Band will provide that memorable Club Harlem hard swing era, featuring Richard Cummings Jr. as Freddie Baxter (piano/conductor), Wilbur Bascomb as Odell Craft (bass) and David Silliman on drums, John F. Adams on synthesizer and Marvin Horne on guitar. 

From the early 1940s through the 1960s the club played host to such major performers as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstein, Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis Jr., Billy Daniels, Richard Pryor, Moms Mabley, Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington and the Temptations. It catered to integrated audiences despite the norm.

Club Harlem, the most luxurious of any Black-owned venue or the white-owned Cotton Club, featured two lounges and a main showroom seating more than 900. A cocktail lounge had room for 400 guests plus the club’s seven bars (the front bar alone accommodated nearly 100 people).

“We are thrilled to bring this new incarnation of ‘On Kentucky Avenue’ to CCCA,” said Wade. “I’ve been happy to see that the show resonates across different generations, and we hope that theatergoers will attend with their family and friends.”

Performances run July 12 through July 28, Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at or by calling 212-650-6900.

Grant Green Jr. held down the lead chair of the Grant Green Evolution of Funk tribute band that featured the intuitive collaboration of saxophonist Donald Harrison, pianist and organist Marc Cary, bassist Khari Simmons and drummer Mike Clark.

During their recent engagement at Manhattan’s Jazz Standard, the place was roaring with cheers and boisterous shouts for Grant Green’s swinging standards such as “Cease the Bombing,” “A Day in the Life” and “Idle Moments.”

The four-day gig celebrated Grant Green’s previously unissued “Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes (1969-1970)” and “Slick!—Live at Oil Can Harry’s” (Resonance Records) released in May 2018. What made Green so significant was his amazing creativity to take any song from the Beatles to James Brown or Little Anthony and the Imperials and restructure it into a “Grant Green phenomenon,” turning it into his own hit with that Green twist. He had a memorable sound that struck your eardrum with each stroke of his strings.

Green Jr., like his father, doesn’t like to be categorized and he has that blues touch. “In my early years it was kind of tough always being compared to my father,” he said. “Eventually I learned to be my own person. People are always going to compare you but it is what it is.”

Green and his band of jazz men delivered a raging sound that romped in the sea of jazz while frolicking in a deep sea of soulful blues. Cary had double duty playing both the piano and the organ. At times he played both instruments at once. Sharing that Cary magic on tunes such as “Upshot” and “Hurt So Bad,” the group was a rhythmic force with an addictive grove. Harrison’s improvisational New Orleans funk and jazz grooves kept Clark’s drums and cymbals in high gear working with Simmons’ strutting bass lines.

Yes, the elder Green would have been proud. As for Green’s newly released “Funk in France” it’s a must.

“My father wasn’t just about jazz, as you can tell from his recordings he liked all kinds of music, and when we lived in Detroit the Motown Sound was a way of life,” said Green during a phone interview from his home in Atlanta. “I have a lot of different influences that of course start with my father, then Wes Montgomery and George Benson to Nile Rogers and even Led Zeppelin.”

One would have to be familiar with Green’s “Soul Science” CD (Ropeadope, 2016) to know that he is a singer, songwriter and producer. The only song he didn’t write on the eight-track CD was “Ball of Confusion,” which was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.

“I get a wider audience when I sing, especially international audiences,” said Green. “Music is universal and singing brings people together, even though they may speak a different language, they know the songs. It’s about interpreting the music to fit your feelings.”

Green said his next album will be a tribute to Burt Bacharach. “I love the stuff he wrote,” he said. “When he teamed up with Dionne Warwick to record his songs, that was some good music.”

The young pianist/composer Christian Sands approaches his interactive relationship with jazz from a traditional perspective. That might have something to do with his thoughtful mentor, the pianist, composer and educator, Dr. Billy Taylor, who was quite proud of his young protégé.

Sands’ mission, as he often mentions, on and off stage is to keep the music moving forward. This concept became perfectly clear during his recent trio engagement at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

He opened the set with a riotous Mulgrew Miller tune that immediately took his capable bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Jonathan Barber into overdrive. His composition “Reaching for the Sun” is a smoky mid-tempo sauce that rails with textured tapestry of the jazz flow from drums that swing but never intrude to a deep bass that rallies through Sands’ jazzy classical blues flow.

On Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” the pianist went all in as the bass instigated a big melody that joined the voiceful drum dialogue. Sands was in and out, tickling the keys with masterful strokes while sliding a few funky bars of James Brown. That was my first time ever hearing Monk and the Godfather of Soul in the same tune, but it comes under Sands’ mission of moving the music forward.

His latest CD, “Reach” (Mack Avenue Records, 2017), is a textured tapestry of jazz embellishing his 10 original compositions that swing from the Latin burner “Oyeme!” to the blues of “Bud’s Tune” and the hipness of “Gangstalude,” along with some stride and showering crescendos for good measure.

His ensemble includes bassists Christian McBride and Yasushi Nakamura, guitarist Gilad Hekselman, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, percussionist Cristian Rivera and drummer Marcus Baylor.

He has a style all his own with a sound that marvels as it makes the heart sing. At times he tickles the keys similar to Count Basie, and he is one of the best dressed musicians on the jazz scene, after Ron Carter, of course.