Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Cool Movie Soundtracks Edition,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Mo’ Better Blues (1990)

It’s hard to go wrong with just about any soundtrack from just about any Spike Lee joint: the go-go heavy School Daze, the Public Enemy–anchored Do the Right Thing, Stevie Wonder’s Jungle Fever, Prince’s Girl 6, and so on.

But Mo’ Better Blues may be the score that’s closest to Lee’s heart. The movie is partially inspired by his own jazz musician father, Bill Lee (who composed the title track), and it’s set to a mix of original Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard numbers that run the gamut of jazz styles, from sultry vocal ballads to snazzy melodic pop to avant-garde dissonance.

The album’s most vital track may be Gang Starr’s “Jazz Thing,” a hip-hop history of the genre that many neophytes have used as a recommendation list for what to listen to: from Theolonious Monk (“a melodious thunk”) to Ornette Coleman (“another soul man”).

Psychedelic Lunch

His 1972 song ‘Soul Makossa’ was loved by David Mancuso and sampled by Michael Jackson and Rihanna

Manu Dibango has passed away aged 86 in Paris after contracting COVID-19.

The legendary Cameroonian saxophone player is best known for his 1972 song ‘Soul Makossa’, which was a favourite at David Mancuso’s Loft parties, and also famously sampled by Michael Jackson in ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’’ and Rihanna in ‘Don’t Stop The Music’.

A statement on Dibango’s official Facebook page says: “It is with deep sadness that we announce [to] you the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove.

“His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organized when possible. If you wish to express your condolences, please write to the following email: manu@manudibango.net.”

Listen to ‘Soul Makossa’ below.

LEGENDARY JAZZ AND FUNK MUSICIAN MANU DIBANGO HAS DIED OF CORONAVIRUS

The young art director’s idea to photograph as many of the luminaries of the New York jazz scene as possible together for Esquire’s 1959 Golden Age of Jazz edition began his career as a photographer. Police closed the road to all but residential traffic, and 57 musicians duly assembled in Harlem between Fifth and Madison Avenues. The group included Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan and Count Basie.

A Great Day In Harlem

New Orleans Jazz Revival, 1938-1966 – spotify playlist


Despite being the king of New Orleans and Chicago, King Oliver’s influence was waning by 1925. By the mid to late 20s, the modern sounds of Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Bix Beiderbecke, and Louis Armstrong were on the rise. 

Once all the rage, New Orleans Style was becoming rural and old-fashioned. Armstrong recorded his last small combo song, “Knockin’ a Jug,” in March 1929. The fall of Wall Street in Oct 1929 put the final nail in the coffin. New Orleans was dead, and Big Band was taking over.

During the Great Depression, New Orleans Style was almost completely forgotten. Louis Armstrong led a mediocre big band almost solely by the force of his own genius. King Oliver lost his life savings when his bank collapsed; he died penniless in 1938. Sidney Bechet & Tommy Ladnier ran a tailor shop which doubled as a hang-out spot for jazz musicians. Jelly Roll Morton struggled through hard times, trying unsuccessfully to get his royalties. Kid Ory retired to run a chicken farm. Meanwhile, white musicians were getting rich playing the music they learned at the feet of the New Orleanians. 

In 1938 French jazz critic Hugues Panassie came to America to produce some real jazz records with Mezz Mezzrow, and they enlisted the New Orleans greats Sidney Bechet and Tommy Ladnier. They recorded the timeless classic “Really the Blues”. 

A month later, John Hammond produced the first From Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall, featuring Sidney Bechet & Tommy Ladnier representing New Orleans Style. Bechet got a deal with Blue Note and had a minor hit with “Summertime”. Amidst the Big Band craze, there was still some appetite for the original jazz. (The same day as “Summertime,” Bechet recorded “Blues for Tommy” for his friend Tommy Ladnier, who had just died earlier that week.)

A few months later in Sept 1939, Jelly Roll Morton got his first recording session in years with the instructions to play the old music. So he enlisted Bechet and played old New Orleans tunes such as “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say” (which was a version of Bolden’s hit song “Funky Butt”) and “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor”. Morton would have only a few more chances to record before dying in 1941.

In 1940, Bechet and Armstrong were reunited for the first time in 15 years to record 4 songs. They did not get along, and the results were not as great as they should have been. “Perdido Street Blues” is interesting though. After this brief return to New Orleans Style, Armstrong went back to his mediocre big band.

Johnny Dodds (King Oliver and Hot Five alumni) got his first chance to record in over a decade and produced the tremendous “Red Onion Blues” (1940). He died of a heart attack that year at age 48.

After the meteoric rise of Swing in 1938, critics started chronicling the origins of the music. Jazzmen, the first book on the origins of jazz, was published in 1939. The book brought the broke trumpeter Bunk Johnson (b. 1879) out of retirement; a collection was made to buy him dentures so he could play again. Johnson made embellished claims about teaching Louis Armstrong everything he knew, which pissed off Armstrong. Johnson was no longer as great as he claimed, and was reportedly drunk all the time. He recorded quite a bit in the 40s, dying in 1949.

New Orleans clarinetist George Lewis (b. 1900) played in Johnson’s band and took over the band when Johnson retired. In the early 60s, Lewis’s band would form the original Preservation Hall Jazz Band. 

Trombonist Kid Ory (b. 1886) — the first African American to record New Orleans jazz (1922), who had played with both King Oliver and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five — came out of retirement in 1944 and led one of the most popular New Orleans jazz bands for the next 15 years.

In 1944, jazz fan Orson Welles put together an all-star band to record on his radio show, consisting of Kid Ory, clarinetist Jimmie Noone, Mutt Carey, Zutty Singleton, and others. After a handful of popular broadcasts, Jimmie Noone died of a heart attack at age 48. Kid Ory and the band recorded “Blues for Jimmie” in his honor. 

Bechet recorded another timeless classic for Blue Note, “Blue Horizon” (1944). A tumultuous man who had trouble working with others, Bechet still occasionally showed off his genius. 

One of the most important aspects of the New Orleans Revival was that the drums could be recorded — drummers could not record in the 20s or they would throw the needle off. The New Orleans greats Baby Dodds and Zutty Singleton had to play with wood blocks when recording with King Oliver & Louis Armstrong. In 1945, Baby Dodds was recorded telling stories and playing unaccompanied drums, and it was later made into a documentary, Baby Dodds – New Orleans Drumming.

By 1947, the writing was on the wall: the Swing Era was over. Louis Armstrong was convinced to do a concert with a small combo before a packed house of 1,500 at Town Hall, and it became the turning point of his career. He reluctantly fired his big band and formed the All-Stars with Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines, and Barney Bigard. With Armstrong on board, the New Orleans Revival had officially arrived.

The New Orleans Revival coincided with the rise of Bebop, and there was a friendly rivalry between the camps that was played up in the media to sell more tickets. (Louis Armstrong & Dizzy Gillespie ended up becoming good friends and neighbors in Queens, smoking joints and playing cards together.)

Far from being a rehash of previous glories, Armstrong and Bechet were still playing their asses off — and now, unlike in the 20s, they had good recording quality and could record live shows.

Bechet went on to great fame in France in the 50s, and of course Armstrong skyrocketed to even further fame.

Guide to the New Orleans Jazz Revival, 1938-1966

“So What” By Miles Davis, Album: Kinda Blue 1959

Who Was Miles Davis? 

Instrumental in the development of jazz, Miles Davis is considered one of the top musicians of his era. Born in Illinois in 1926, he traveled at age 18 to New York City to pursue music. 

Throughout his life, he was at the helm of a changing concept of jazz. Winner of eight Grammy awards, Miles Davis died in 1991 from respiratory distress in Santa Monica, California.

Kind of Blue

Davis recorded several albums with his sextet during the 1950s, including Porgy and Bess and Kind of Blue, his final album of the decade, released in 1959. Now considered one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, Kind of Blue is credited as the largest-selling jazz album of all time, selling more than 2 million copies.

Davis continued to be be successful throughout the 1960s. His band transformed over time, largely due to new band members and changes in style. The various members of his band went on to become some of the most influential musicians of the jazz fusion era. These included Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Chick Corea (Return to Forever), and John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra).

This was the opening track on Kind Of Blue, which is arguably the biggest-selling Jazz album of all time. It was recorded by Miles Davis in 2 days giving only brief instructions to a new band – yet all tracks were recorded in one take. It is also counted by many as the greatest Jazz album of all time and ranks at or near the top of many “best album” lists. Rolling Stone magazine, for instance, placed it 12th on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

In 2007 this was voted the best-ever Jazz record in a poll of listeners of the UK radio station Jazz FM.

George Cole, who wrote The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991, explains why Davis is so important: “Miles Davis is to jazz is what Mozart is to classical music or The Beatles are to popular music. He is by far the most influential jazz musician of all time and it’s unlikely that anyone will ever supplant this position. He started out as a teenager playing bebop (a frenetic style of jazz) with the saxophonist giant Charlie Parker, and ended almost 50 years later, combining jazz with hip-hop. He recorded the best known album in jazz (Kind of Blue) while still in his early 30s and it contains the best known jazz track: ‘So What.'” (For more on Miles Davis,read our interview with George Cole.)

This was one of three tracks on Kind Of Blue that was originally recorded in the wrong key later to be tidied up on re-releases (the other two were “Freddie Freeloader” and “Blue in Green”).

Miles Davis in 1958. Credit…Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos

Jazz Corner

OGDEN — An Ogden legend died Saturday.

Joe McQueen, pioneering jazz saxophonist and Northern Utah resident, died Saturday morning at the age of 100.

Fellow jazz musician Brad Wheeler said in a Facebook post Saturday afternoon that McQueen, his close personal friend and fellow musician, died at 10:20 a.m. Saturday.

“He has been living his whole life for this day,” Wheeler wrote in the post. “He told me to tell everyone not to cry for him, that when you think about him to think about all of the blessings he had received, and know that he had lived a full and meaningful life.”

Lars Yorgason, an Ogden resident and bass player, told the Standard-Examiner that McQueen was a wonderful person, and he’s considered himself lucky to call McQueen a friend.

“He was a very honest, honorable person,” Yorgason said. “I think the world should know that. I’m grateful I was his friend.”

Yorgason played with McQueen since 1977, when he moved back to Ogden. He described McQueen as a leader for desegregating Ogden establishments, telling club owners that he wouldn’t play at their establishments unless they allowed people of all colors inside.

“He was a force in getting establishments to reduce and eliminate segregation in Ogden,” Yorgason said. “He really enjoyed being in Ogden.”

McQueen was described as a tender, kind and strong man, according to Ryan Conger, an organist who played for years with Joe as part of his quartet.

Conger, who said he’s known McQueen for about eight or nine years, was always amazed at what the saxophonist could do, even in his older years. Conger recalled a piano teacher he had at Utah State University who would sit in on jam sessions where others could join in. It was competitive, and the teacher was always intimidated when trying to keep up with McQueen.

Conger would later share in that experience when he, too, would play with McQueen. His speed and expertise in music could be seen well into his later years.

“Mere mortals could hardly keep up with him back in the day,” Conger said. “It was one of those experiences that left you in awe.”

McQueen was much more than just a musician, said Conger, as he was known for his strength and passion for helping others. After McQueen retired in his 80s, Conger said McQueen would spend 40 hours a week driving seniors to doctor’s appointments, pharmacies and anywhere else they needed to go.

“It’s hard to imagine all he did for this community,” Conger said. “That was just Joe, he was tough as nails but always cared about others. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be.”

McQueen was born May 30, 1919, in Ponder, Texas, and was raised by his grandmother in Ardmore, Oklahoma, according to previous Standard-Examiner reporting.

He began playing the saxophone as a teenager, eventually touring the country with jazz bands. In late 1945 McQueen and his new bride, Thelma, were traveling with a band when they made a stop in Ogden. While here, another member of the band stole the group’s money and left town. The couple decided to stay and make a home here.

McQueen became a fixture in the local music scene, playing with many of the big jazz names coming through town — Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie. He also toured on and off throughout the West.

Through the years, McQueen toured across the country but always remained true to Ogden.

Earlier this year on June 1, dozens gathered at Ogden’s Second Baptist Church to celebrate McQueen’s 100th birthday.

Speaker after speaker noted McQueen is an inspiration for more than just his music. They praised McQueen for breaking barriers during segregation, playing in any clubs he could, and helping generations of younger musicians learn how to play and be good people.

In anticipation for his centennial birthday, the Utah Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 12, which honored the jazz legend’s birthday. The musician also received a brand new saxophone from the Sandy-based company Cannonball Musical Instruments.

Ogden Jazz Legend Joe McQueen Dies Saturday At The Age Of 100

Jazz history if full of important songs with interesting stories as well as songs that left a mark with their compositions, taboo-defying ideas and magical melodies. From miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” to Joe Venuti’s “4 String Joe”, here are 10 songs that won a place at jazz history through their stories.

“To Be Young, Gifted and Black”

“To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, written by Nina Simone for her close friend, scenarist Lorraine Hansberry, following her death; is much more than a mere homage. The song, which carries the same name with the play penned by Hansberry and directed by Simone’s ex-husband Robert Nemiroff, became a sort of a anthem for the African-American youth who is fighting racism in United States.

“Blue In Green”

One of the most important albums of Jazz history, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue includes the “Blue in Green” track, which brought an interesting story and controversy. The question in regards to if the track was written by Miles Davis or Bill Evans is still unanswered. Even though Davis said in his autobiography that he wrote all the songs in the album by himself, Evans put the trio version of the song in his album and credited it as “Davis – Evans”. Evans also stated in an interview 20 years after the album that he wrote the song but Miles Davis took all the credit and royalties.

“I Wish It Would Rain”

Another band that comes to mind when talking about Motown is The Temptations and their classic hit “I Wish It Would Rain” is remembered with its tragic story. The lyrics, which are narrated from the perspective of a man who was despised and heart-broken by his wife, was written by Roger Penzabene days after he found out about his wife’s affair. In 1967, 10 days before the release of The Temptation’s striking track “I Wish It Would Rain”, Roger Penzabene, who has written many songs for Motown projects, couldn’t bear the emotional pain and took his own life.

“Ooh Baby Baby”

Motown legend Smokey Robinson and his band The Miracles became known with the “Ohh Baby Baby” chant they used to repeat with various harmonies during the breathing breaks for the orchestra. This was one of the most anticipated moments of their concerts. Smokey Robinson took that phrase, which was receiving a lot of attention from their fans, and made it a hit song.

“The Music Goes Round And Around”

Known mostly by Ella Fitzgerald and Tommy Dorsey versions, “The Music Goes Round And Round” is one of the most interesting songs of jazz history, which includes many interesting stories conveyed through songs. Composed by Mark Riley and Ed Farley and written by Red Hodgson, “The Music Goes Round And Round” is about how the play a French horn. Becoming an instant hit after it was played in a New York night Club in 30’s, the song is also adapted to different instruments through time by changing some of its lyrics.

“Here, My Dear”

The opening song with the same name of Marvin Gaye’s 1978 album, “Here, My Love” is devoted to legendary musician’s first wife Anna Gordy and their unsuccessful marriage. In the song, which was written after his short marriage to Anna Gordy, the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Marvin Gave talks about how he had to make this album since recording a new album and giving all the benefits from this album to his ex-wife Anna Gordy was a part of their divorce settlement.

“4 String Joe”

Legendary jazz violinist Joe Venuti is known with his weird jokes as much as his music. A story that was verified and told by many musicians is also the inspiration behind Venuti and Eddy Lang’s “4 String Joe”. The story goes like this: One day Venuti summoned 30 bass players and told them he needed them for a concert in New York and they should come back the next day with their basses. And the next day he greeted them in his car and gave them berries. Afterwards, Venuti was fined by the musicians union to pay the concert’s fee to all the bass players who were victims of his joke.

“Take the A Train”

Pianist Billy Strayhorn, who was doing orchestral arrangements for Duke Ellington in the early 40’s, wrote the jazz standard “Take the A Train”, which has been performed by various jazz musicians since then. One of the most popular songs of the day, “Take the A Train” was inspired by the subway ride into New York’s Harlem and Strayhorn told that the song was like a letter to an old friend.

“The Girl From Ipanema”

The second most recorded song of the history, “The Girl From Ipanema” was co-written by composed Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes. The duo, who used to meet in a bar named Veloso in the coastal neighborhood of Ipanema in Rio de Janerio, wrote the song with the inspiration they took from a girl who used to pass by the bar all the time. The girl, who discovered to be 17-year-old Heloisa Enedia Menezes Paes Pinto, became famous after the song. Vinicius de Moares described Pinto, who inspired one of the most interpreted songs of the history, as a “gift from life”.

“Strange Fruit”          

Written by a teacher named Abel Meeropol in 1937, “Strange Fruit” is mostly remembered by Billie Holiday’s magnificent vocals. Written in protest to the racism and lynchings towards African American people in United States, “Strange Fruit” has that chilling effect every time you listen to it. Also sang by UB40, Annie Lennox and Nina Simone, the song was turned into a short animation by Shimi Asresay and Hili Noy.

10 Songs In Jazz History

CHET BAKER’S THE LEGENDARY RIVERSIDE ALBUMS SET FORNOVEMBER 15TH RELEASE
DELUXE 180-GRAM VINYL BOX SET INCLUDES FOUR REMASTERED ALBUMS, BONUS DISC OF OUTTAKES AND ALTERNATES, NEW LINER NOTES AND MORE

Los Angeles, CA (September 26, 2019)—Craft Recordings is pleased to announce the release of Chet Baker’s The Legendary Riverside Albums on November 15th. The deluxe five-LP box set presents the artist’s output as a leader for the renowned jazz label, recorded and released between 1958 and 1959: (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You, Chet Baker In New York, Chet and Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe. The recordings, which feature such icons as Bill EvansJohnny Griffin and Kenny Burrell, have been cut from their original analog master tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI. Also included is a bonus disc of choice outtakes and alternates from Baker’s Riverside sessions, plus a collectible photo print and a 16-page booklet filled with photos and insightful new liner notes by jazz historian Doug Ramsey. The complete collection will also be released digitally, including in hi-res 192/24 and 96/24 formats. The track “You’re Driving Me Crazy” is available to stream and download today: listen and pre-save the collection here.
Few musicians have embodied the romantic—and ultimately tragic—jazz figure as totally as Chesney “Chet” Baker (1929–88). Unschooled yet eloquent in his music, and a fast-liver who survived for nearly six decades, the Baker mystique has only reinforced one of the most haunting trumpet styles and ingenious approaches to jazz singing. The Los Angeles–based musician rose to fame in the early ’50s, playing with established artists like Charlie ParkerGerry Mulligan and pianist Russ Freeman—partnerships which would solidify his status as a major jazz star. By the end of the decade, when he signed a four-album deal with the New York–based label Riverside, Baker had become known for his trademark West Coast “cool jazz” style. However, these recordings—which pair the artist with some of the best East Coast players—demonstrate Baker’s versatility as a modern trumpeter who could play with even the hardest boppers. 
Baker’s 1958 recording session debut for Riverside, which resulted in the album release (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You, offers a modern, hipper take on standards like “Old Devil Moon,” “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” and “How Long Has This Been Going On?” The only album in this collection not produced by the label’s co-founder, Orrin Keepnews (who initially objected to his Riverside partner Bill Grauer’s unilateral signing of Baker), Chet Baker Sings is unique in that the nimble artist sets aside his trumpet in several of the tracks, using only his vocals—and even scatting some of the improvised solos in a style that sounds very much like his lyrical trumpet playing. In his new liner notes, Doug Ramsey praises that the album contains “Baker’s most inventive and convincing vocal work.” While All Music calls the album “An essential title in Chet Baker‘s 30-plus-year canon.”
A month after his Chet Baker Sings sessions, the artist went back into the studio to record Chet Baker In New York with a stellar lineup of Philly Joe Jones on drums, tough-tenor Johnny Griffin, bebop veteran Al Haig on piano and bassist Paul Chambers. The song selection, which ranges from laid-back and serene to hard-driving bop, features top-notch performances and impressive solos from all musicians involved. Highlights include the Miles Davis–penned tune “Solar,” the ballad standard “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and the effervescent “Hotel 49.”
1959’s instrumental outing, Chet, focuses on ballads and features an all-star cast that includes pianist Bill Evans, guitarist Kenny Burrell, flutist Herbie Mann and Pepper Adams on the baritone saxophone. Baker shines in his languid and tuneful approach to tracks like “Alone Together,” “It Never Entered My Mind” and “September Song.” All About Jazz called the album “A session that allows the trumpeter to take his introspective time, encouraged by Evans’ spare accompaniment to transform these standards into vibrant, impressionistic etchings.”
Baker’s final album for Riverside, 1959’s Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe, finds the trumpeter offering his renditions of tunes by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe who, together, penned some of the most famous songs on Broadway. Baker, joined by an ensemble that once again included Bill EvansPepper Adams and Herbie Mann—along with the great Zoot Sims on tenor saxophone—covers material from My Fair Lady, Gigi, Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon.
In addition to the four LPs, The Legendary Riverside Albums also includes a fifth disc, featuring outtakes and alternate takes from Baker’s recording sessions with the label. Doug Ramsey points out several highlights, including “Chet’s playing into a Harmon mute on the new version of ‘The More I See You’ and the spaciousness of his open horn in the Matt Dennis–Tom Adair classic ‘Everything Happens To Me.’ There is also a rarity, ‘While My Lady Sleeps.’” Ramsey adds that Baker’s version of the song “Underlines pianist [Kenny] Drew’s finely honed ability to concentrate on his partner’s phrasing and harmonic turns, and supply perfect support.’”Though Baker’s Riverside era preceded even more troubling times for the artist, these recordings find the artist in excellent form, joined by some of New York’s finest musicians, proving his brilliance as an inspired original, and as one of the great jazz musicians of the 20th century.  The collection is now available to pre-order in 5-LP and digital formats: Click here
Special bundle featuring a limited edition Riverside t-shirt available exclusively via the Craft Recordings online store: Click here
TRACK LISTING: DISC ONEChet Baker Sings: It Could Happen to You
Side 11.    Do It The Hard Way2.    I’m Old Fashioned3.    You’re Driving Me Crazy4.    My Heart Stood Still
Side 21.    The More I See You2.    Everything Happens To Me3.    Dancing On The Ceiling4.    How Long Has This Been Going On?5.    Old Devil Moon

DISC TWOChet Baker In New York
Side 11.    Fair Weather2.    Polka Dots and Moonbeams3.    Hotel 49
Side 21.    Solar2.    Blue Thoughts3.    When Lights Are Low

DISC THREEChet
Side 11.    Alone Together2.    How High The Moon3.    It Never Entered My Mind4.    ’Tis Autumn
Side 21.    If You Could See Me Now2.    September Song3.    You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To4.    Time On My Hands5.    You And The Night And The Music

DISC FOURChet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe
Side 11.    I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face2.    I Could Have Danced All Night3.    The Heather On The Hill4.    On The Street Where You Live
Side 21.    Almost Like Being In Love2.    Thank Heaven For Little Girls3.    I Talk To The Trees4.    Show Me

DISC FIVEBonus LP: Outtakes and Alternates
Side 11.    While My Lady Sleeps (Take 10)2.    You Make Me Feel So Young (Take 5)3.    The More I See You (Take 8, Alternate)4.    Everything Happens To Me (Take 2, Alternate)
Side 21.    Soft Winds2.    Early Morning Mood

Chet Baker’s ‘The Legendary Riverside Albums’ deluxe five-LP box set and digital release out 11/15

Tobacco Road

Tobacco Road was widely considered to be Miami’s oldest bar with property records showing business operations as far back as 1915.

Tobacco Road will be sorely missed. It was the best and oldest dive bar in Miami, with some of best BBQ in metro area. A true Miami landmark and treasure. The bar was always crowed with great people, good vibes, amazing drink specials, and yearly events such as the Crawfish Boil and Seafood Festival.

A Brief History of Tobacco Road

Considered Miami’s Oldest Bar, The Road survived several Miami land booms, Al Capone, Prohibition, the Great Depression, the country at War, deadly hurricanes, Mariel Boatlift, race-riots, cocaine cowboys, and the rise and fall and rise of South Beach. The Road had been a speakeasy, gambling den, gay bar, strip joint and blues bar. The two-story structure remained virtually unchanged since its inception in the early 1900s. And while ownership changed, the primary purpose of the establishment – a neighborhood watering hole always remained the same.

Turn of the century – 1930s
The original address was 1812 Avenue D before the city changed its street names in 1920. During its early years, the establishment was a bakery that presumably served as a front for a speakeasy during Prohibition. A secret room hidden behind a bookshelf on the second floor was used to store liquor. While Prohibition was in effect from 1920 – 1930, Dade County was voted to be Dry in 1913. In the 1920s and 30s, the second floor speakeasy was also thought to be used as a gambling den.

1940s-1970s
In the early 1940s it was purchased by an infamous racketeer and bookie from New York who named it Tobacco Road. During this decade, the Road became a nationally known gay bar and the focus of local outrage. It was shut down by the city’s Morals Squad for “lewd, wanton and lascivious behavior” a charge that referred to its female impersonators and male strippers. The military responded by declaring the Road off limits to all its personnel a ban that was lifted in 1986.

In the decades that followed, the bar operated under the names Chicken Roost, Chanticleer Restaurant and Shandiclere. In the 1970s, it was sold to a former Miami police officer, who renamed the bar back to Tobacco Road.

In 1981, Governor Bob Graham ordered a drug raid on Tobacco Road and the bar was again temporarily shut down. In 1982, the bar was sold to its present owners Michael Latterner and Patrick Gleber. The neighborhood was tough and so was the Road. The parking lot was an abandoned field with homeless squatters and a crack house was located across the street.

National blues and jazz acts began playing the bar, including George Clinton The King of Funk, Koko Taylor, The Queen of the Blues, David Bromberg Legendary Songwriter & Performer, John Lee Hooker An American Blues Roots Treasure, Dr. John Personification of New Orleans and Albert Collins Blues Guitar Master.

Tobacco Road gained a new reputation as a popular hangout with downtown professionals, celebrities and tourists.

On the morning of October 26, Tobacco Road had its final last call and turned off the famous neon sign for the final time in its 102 year old location. 

The building has been around since 1912 and has been a bakery, burlesque club, gay club, gambling den and of course a place for live music. Tobacco Road was the only place in Miami where lawyers, politicians and doctors could drink next to bikers, vagrants and drug dealers. 

Tobacco Road was hurting for business the last few years with the construction of Brickell City Centresurrounding the bar and after having the property bought for $12.5 million in 2012 by developer Carlos Mattos. 

Road_1

Threatened by health officials in the early 1980s, Tobacco Road was closed for several months to undergo renovations, including the addition of this outdoor patio.

Laura Hirata knew how to pour a Guinness beer. Very slowly. She could also mix cocktails while juggling drink and food orders. Yet the tattooed bartender had an Achilles heel: handling remote controls. “I hate technology,” she mutters while trying to find the Miami Marlins game. “I still have a VCR.”

“I have a couple of porno tapes, but I don’t have a VHS,” a customer declares, quickly adding: “Just kidding!”

A few seats away, the conversation is more somber. “Jimbo’s is gone. It’s history!” one patron groans, referring to the smoked-fish and beer establishment that operated at Virginia Key from 1954 until last year.

People sitting on either side of him rattle off other Magic City bars and hangouts that have shut down in recent years.

“There’s nowhere left!” one man gripes.

“I’m with you,” mumbles a stocky drinker sitting to his left.

The cluster of people at the bar then makes a toast, to Miami’s lost haunts and to the good times they’ve had at Tobacco Road.

Located at 626 S. Miami Ave., Tobacco Road is renowned for its drink specials, comfort food, and live music.

When Miami-Dade State Attorney Janet Reno was appointed U.S. Attorney General in 1993, Tobacco Road was the scene of the celebration. When the cinematic version of Miami Vice was being filmed, actor Colin Farrell frequented Tobacco Road during his off-time. He enjoyed the jalapeño-rich Death Burger, drank with cops who served as consultants for the film, and flirted with a certain female bartender. When celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse is in town, you might catch him playing drums with one of the bands.

Although the famous and influential do enjoy the Road, as longtime patrons call it, so do construction works, waiters, and various local characters. “Most places you go, they tend to attract a certain type of person,” says Mark Weiser, who has booked music acts at Tobacco Road for more than 30 years. “But every kind of person goes to the Road at the same time. It’s pretty cool like that.”

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Road co-owner Patrick Gleber: “When we bought this land, it was as a real estate investment, so it was always for sale.” 

Tobacco Road was not only cool, it was old. On November 17, it will celebrate its 100th anniversary. During much of the 20th Century the bar has operated under different names and owners as a speakeasy, a gambling den, a gay bar, a dive bar, a strip joint, a theater house, and a music club. It has survived prohibition, military boycotts, city-sanctioned homophobia, dramatic demographic changes, police raids, violent crime, urban renewal, and broken friendships.

And along with that long life are plenty of stories. Patrons and owners from the early years are gone, their tales taken with them to the grave. But the past three decades, under the ownership of Patrick Gleber and Kevin Rusk, have produced a long string of memorable moments.

There’s the time a naked man tried to get inside the Road but the doorman wouldn’t let him in. “We have a dress code,” he informed him.

There’s the time when a couple were having sex in the upstairs lounge — right when Rusk’s relatives were visiting the Road.

There’s the time when 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley jumped on stage with a tambourine during a blues performance.

There’s the time when Cindy Crawford was turned away for not having an ID.

There are the times when Jimmy Buffet, Lenny Kravitz, Jefferson Airplane, the Romantics, and other big names in the music world, after watching local acts, decided to join the jam session.

And there are plenty of stories surrounding the late Willie Bell, also known as Dr. Feelgood, a skinny ex-con who poked unruly guests with a finger, was fond of saying “that’s what she said,” and hid a large knife and gun beneath his clothes, either of which he could pull out at the blink of any eye if he felt the bar was threatened.

The Road’s past is certainly colorful. The future, however, is anything but certain: It’s unclear if the place will outlive Brickell’s latest development boom.

Much of the surrounding area has been transformed into the birthing grounds of Brickell CitiCentre, a massive, towering $1 billion project of offices, condos, hotels, and retail being built by Swire Properties, the Hong Kong-based company that developed Brickell Key.

“When Swire announced the project, people came out of the woodwork looking to buy our property,” says Gleber, co-owner of Tobacco Road since 1982.

This past April, Gleber and his partners sold the two-story building for $941,600 to Tobacco Road Property Holdings, Inc. Fabio Faerman, commercial division director for Fortune International Realty, brokered the deal and represents the new owner, but won’t say who controls Tobacco Road Property Holdings.

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Kevin Rusk partnered with Gleber in 1982 as co-owner, but eventually left: “It was a shock that two people I admired would stick a knife in my back.”

However, according to the Daily Business Review, the company is headed by Carlos Mattos, president of Hyundai Colombia Automotriz, who has been investing in land throughout Miami-Dade County.

The 3800-square-foot Tobacco Road parcel was just a small part of a $12.5 million land deal between Tobacco Road Property Holdings and various companies connected to real estate investor Michael Latterner, Gleber, or Rusk. The transaction gave Tobacco Road Property Holdings ownership of 49,950 square feet of land that includes parking lots along SW 7th Street as well as restaurant, retail, and office space. As part of the deal, Tobacco Road and the River Seafood & Oyster Bar, located a few doors south of the Road, can continue operating in their current locations for the next three years.

“When we bought this land, it was as a real estate investment, so it was always for sale,” Gleber says with a sigh.

But the business itself wasn’t — and isn’t — for sale.

Gleber continues to run Tobacco Road, although the restaurant is now a mere tenant. And if the Road is unable to endure at 626 S. Miami Ave., Gleber says he’ll just move it somewhere else. “I think the Road has value, and the name has value,” he says.

Mark Weiser believes the bar’s long history adds value to the land and, hence, is sure it won’t be demolished anytime soon. “If I were a developer, it’d be a plus to have the oldest cabaret in Miami on my property,” he says. “So I’m not too worried.”

Indeed the new landlord, who put down another $28.2 million to buy 2.5 acres of nearby vacant land, is reportedly in no rush to demolish anything, content with rental income, which will increase over time, according to Faerman. “The location is incredible,” he says. “Miami Avenue’s going to be a major street that’ll compete with Brickell Avenue.”

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Tobacco Road’s downstairs bar is a home away from home for many, who say they’ll miss it when it finally closes.

ccording to several newspaper reports published since 1982, the business later known as Tobacco Road was opened in 1912. When Dade County went dry and prohibited alcohol a year later, a bakery and sandwich shop served as a front while an illegal speakeasy served liquor on the second floor.

Between the 1920s and 1930s, the second floor also operated as an illicit casino. Among the guests was Al Capone, who lived part-time on Palm Island in Miami Beach.

At least that’s the legend. The farther back one goes, the harder it is to verify elements of Tobacco Road’s past. “I’ve heard stories,” says Paul George, a local historian affiliated with Miami-Dade College. “They’re murky.”

According to county property appraiser’s records, Tobacco Road’s current building was constructed in 1915, although an employee of that department acknowledges that records are sometimes inaccurate for such old buildings.

Gleber and Rusk are convinced that Tobacco Road was founded 100 years ago and operated illegally during the dry years at that very spot. While renovating the bar, they found the secret passageway hidden by a bookshelf that led those in the know from the bakery and sandwich shop to the speakeasy on the second floor.

Locals, including a previous owner and elderly former patrons, have also told them the Road was a speakeasy. Gleber remembers an incident 15 years ago when a “white-haired little old lady” asked to see the upstairs lounge, now called the Cabaret Stage, one last time before she moved from Miami.

Once there, she described what the room looked like in the 1920s, replete with bird cages, roulette wheels, and gambling tables. “She goes: ‘We used to have such a great time here,’” Gleber remembers her saying. “‘We’d gamble and drink when it wasn’t allowed.’”

By the 1940s, the bar was called Tobacco Road. For a period of time it was a gay bar that featured male strippers as part of its entertainment and transvestites as part of its customer base. Jack Bell, a Miami Heraldcolumnist during that decade, wrote that Tobacco Road was as “queer as a nine-dollar bill,” according to a Heraldarticle by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

The rest of the newspaper back then called the place a “filthy hole.” By 1944 the military had banned its personnel from visiting the Road. Later that same year the city’s “morals squad” shut down the bar for “lewdness,” according to the Herald.

It was reopened in 1946 under the name Chanticleer Bar, and probably continued to operate as a gay bar, in spite of Miami leaders’ obsession with eradicating homosexuality in the Magic City. Prodded by the Heraldand the Miami News, whose reporters and editors labeled gays as “sex perverts,” Miami officials launched a series of raids on gay bars in 1954. Among the establishments hit was the “Shanticleer Bar,” according to a Miami Newsarticle, likely a misspelled reference to the Chanticleer.

By the early 1970s, the place was just a neighborhood bar. “I was in there in 1975 when I was a college student,” remembers historian Paul George. “It was a Sunday afternoon. There were hard-core drinkers, lots of smoke in the place, and pinball machines.”

Retired police officer Neil Katzman reclaimed the Tobacco Road moniker when he bought the building in 1977 for $80,000. Much of his efforts were spent renovating the upstairs lounge, which he called the Speakeasy at Tobacco Road. His decorating choices can still be seen: photographs of old Miami, quirky lamps, and a painting of a topless woman.

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Mark Weiser has been booking bands at Tobacco Road for 30 years: “Every kind of person goes to the Road. It’s pretty cool like that.”

Why that painting? “Katzman turned it into a strip bar,” Gleber answers.

“He tried to make it a topless club,” corrects Weiser, who at the time was manager of the Fat Chance Blues Band, which later renamed itself Iko-Iko. “That failed. So they brought us in.”

Katzman turned to blues and jazz for entertainment (along with the occasional stage play), but the environment in Southside, as the area was known, didn’t exactly help business owners.

“It was rows and rows of crack houses,” remembers Jack Pakonis, a bartender at Tobacco Road for 30 years (under Gleber and Rusk), who frequented the Road under Katzman’s ownership after working his shift at a Coconut Grove club. “Unless you were already really drunk, people were afraid to go to that neighborhood.”

Gram Wood Drout says the tough neighborhood actually enabled him to become a professional musician. The wife of the Fat Chance Blues Band’s original lead singer wouldn’t let him work there. “The hours were 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 in the morning, and the Road was notoriously rough,” he remembers. The rest of the band asked Drout, then a budding musician, to take the singer’s place. He did, and remains the lead singer for Iko-Iko.

“We were there right after the Mariel boatlift,” Drout continues. For much of the night, the bar was filled with Mariel refugees, many of whom wanted to try their hand at playing the drums. When things got too crazy inside the bar, Katzman would pull out his shotgun. Says Drout: “It was click click, and he’d just hold it.”

It was law enforcement, not rowdy patrons, who ended Katzman’s reign. Under Gov. Bob Graham’s direct orders, state agents and local cops raided the Road and nine other Miami establishments for drugs in 1981. The charges against Katzman didn’t stick, but he was determined to sell all his properties, so he hired real estate broker Michael Latterner.

“When it came time to sell Tobacco Road, nobody would touch it,” Gleber says. (Katzman, who is supposedly living in Mexico, couldn’t be reached for comment. Latterner also couldn’t be reached by deadline.)

So in 1982, Latterner himself bought the Road’s building for $150,000 and asked Gleber to become his partner in running the bar. At the time, Gleber was a 22-year-old recent graduate of Florida International University’s hospitality program who ran the Vine Wine Bar at The Falls shopping center. As he likes to tell it, Gleber visited the Road for the first time on St. Patrick’s Day, found a rabbit’s foot talisman in the gutter, and heard the song “Tobacco Road” play on the radio while he was driving home. “That was enough for me,” he says.

But Gleber couldn’t do it alone. After being rejected by at least one prospective partner, Gleber turned to Kevin Rusk, a fellow FIU hospitality graduate who also worked at the Vine Wine Bar. As Rusk recounts: “He said something along the lines of, ‘Hey, I’m doing this thing about buying this place. This guy really needs to get rid of it and it’s a horrible rundown bar that’s poorly managed.’”

When Rusk visited the Road, it was love at first sight. “I’m from Baltimore,” he explains. “I know dive bars. I love dive bars. So I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. This is great. Let’s do it!’”

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Bluesman Gram Wood Drout: When things got too crazy, the previous owner would pull out his shotgun. “It was click click, and he’d just hold it.”

fter Gleber and Rusk bought a stake in the Road, Rusk pretended to be a trainee bartender in order to figure out how the operation was being run. “There were a lot of seedy things going on,” Rusk recalls.

The senior bartenders, for example, instructed Rusk not to hassle a particular drug dealer, a few prostitutes (several of whom lived in rooming houses across the street) openly solicited customers, and some drink proceeds were kept separate from the cash register.

When Rusk revealed himself as one of the new owners, the old staffers knew it was time to go. “Most of them were gone when they found out we were really making changes,” Rusk says. “They wanted nothing to do with it.”

Besides drug-dealing and sexual activity (“There were some really interesting silhouettes,” Drout recalls), the new owners had to contend with lots of violence. For the first six months, there were so many barroom brawls that Gleber often had to use the brass knuckles and a roll of quarters he carried with him. One person was fatally stabbed in the bar. There were also drive-by shootings outside.

When the health department threatened to intervene, Gleber and Rusk shut down the Road for several months and invested $60,000 renovating the building. They expanded and cleaned up the kitchen (the old Road was content with serving hard-boiled eggs and pretzels), shortened the main bar, changed the seating, and turned a garbage strewn rear lot into an outdoor patio bar.

They hired their culinary friends as chefs and cooks and created a decent lunch and dinner menu. Because choices were more limited in downtown Miami back then, Tobacco Road was a hit, especially with Miami’s legal community, in particular with federal prosecutors, whose offices were nearby on the north side of the Miami River. “There weren’t that many restaurants in downtown Miami back then,” Weiser says. “So Tobacco Road became very popular for lunch, or happy hour, or dinner. You had judges and you had lawyers from both sides of important cases.”

When the Road reopened in 1983, it still had to contend with the Florida Department of Transportation, which was ripping apart the street as they built a new Miami Avenue bridge. Several businesses closed down as a result of the disruptive construction.

Among the casualties was Lucky Strike Bar. Established in 1932 at 524 S. Miami Ave., Lucky Strike’s bartenders were fond of first ridiculing anyone ordering a cocktail (even a screwdriver or a Bloody Mary) as a sissy, and then suggesting they order a drink at Tobacco Road. FDOT seized Lucky Strike, demolished it, and built the ramp to the new drawbridge right over it.

The Road had another trick up its sleeve: music. “We tried a lot of different things: reggae, jazz,” Rusk says. “As much as people liked jazz, the jazz people would just sip a glass of wine. But if you get a good blues band, they down glasses of beer at three times the rate.”

Besides bringing Fat Chance Blues Band back to the Road (they left after just three months working under Katzman), Weiser also attracted superstars of the blues world and American roots genre. John Hammond, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, and Albert Collins are just some of the blues giants who have performed at the Road. “That’s really what started to build our reputation all over the world,” Weiser says. Not even the roadblocks that were present during the Miami Avenue bridge’s construction were a deterrent for the blues crowd. “It was part of the fun,” Weiser says. “It almost made it like a secret place.”

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Kitchen window: Gleber and Rusk established Tobacco Road as a restaurant with a bar, rather than the other way around.

Iko-Iko became the Road’s unofficial house band, performing there almost every week for 15 years. But after the mid-1990s, the Road was booking fewer blues acts in favor of other genres like jam bands, rock, and heavy metal. As time went on, Iko-Iko’s appearances became increasingly sporadic. “We play up north in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach,” says Drout, who still performs solo at the Road on Tuesdays. “That’s where our audience moved to.”

In the years that followed, Latterner, Gleber, and Rusk increased their real estate holdings along S. Miami Avenue. Gleber and Rusk also started other restaurant ventures, including Fishbone Grille, which operated in the space now occupied by the River Seafood & Oyster Bar.

But by 1996, Rusk walked away from managing the Road. Rusk, who went on to open the successful Titanic Restaurant and Brewery in Coral Gables, feels he was forced out by Gleber and Latterner. “It was a shock that two people I admired and I thought of as family would stick a knife in my back,” he says today. “I could’ve sued them, but that’s not my thing. I was more hurt than anything else.”

“There was a disagreement about how things should be run,” replies Gleber, who owns a stake in Pegasus Thruster Inc., a company that makes underwater propulsion gear for divers. “Kevin is a talented restaurateur. We just have different theories.”

Still, Rusk plans to make an appearance at the Road during the 100th anniversary, along with many friends. “I love Tobacco Road and everything about it,” Rusk says. “I’d love to see it live for another hundred years, but I’m a realist, and I do understand the business aspect.”

Rusk doubts a developer would be willing to invest the money needed to address the building’s quirks, including cleaning out the asbestos. “It is fine and stable,” he says, “but once you find asbestos in a building, then the cost to repair anything increases.”

Gleber credits Rusk, Weiser, Pakonis, and several other employees and partners, past and present, with making Tobacco Road a success. But he insists the Road isn’t done yet. “We’re constantly working on different ideas,” he says. “It’s always a work in progress. You slow down, you die.”

Historian Paul George, has frequented the Road in recent years, isn’t sure it’ll be the same if it isn’t at 626 S. Miami Ave. “A different building has a different ambiance, I don’t care what they do,” he says. “I hope they’re planning the 100th in a big way because it might not be around much longer.”

 

Tobacco Road’s 100th anniversary took place on November 17 2012.

On October 26, 2014, Tobacco Road closed and was demolished by Thunder Demolition Inc. An estimated 4,000 people came on its last night…

A Tribute to Tobacco Road!

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Allan Holdsworth: None Too Soon

None Too Soon (1996), by Allan Holdsworth, is a jazz album that somehow manages to sound both traditional and left of center, simultaneously.

Allan Holdsworth played guitar like John Coltrane played saxophone; completely free and almost stream of consciousness.

The notes just glide off his fingers in the most entrancing

patterns, like stones skipping across a still body of water.

The songs on None Too Soon are primarily jazz standards from the likes of Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Irving Berlin, Django Reinhardt, Bill Evans, and Lennon & McCartney (not jazz, but jazzed up Beatles!).

Pianist Gordon Beck contributed 2 songs that fit right in with the better known tunes. Throughout, Beck plays wonderful accompaniment to Holdsworth’s magical solo excursions, and provides plenty of tasty soloing of his own. Allan Holdsworth was a giant of the guitar, and of music altogether. He was one of a kind, and his playing will endure.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind