Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hep cats & jumpin' jive: Cab Calloway & "A Great Day in Harlem"

Cab Calloway and The Cotton Club Orchestra, 19...Cab Calloway and The Cotton Club Orchestra, 1934 photo of His High-de-Highness of Ho-de-Ho and the band (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Yesterday's photos of male jazz icons provoked a barrage of commentary on sartorial style. Did you know that Cab Calloway popularized the "zoot suit"?  Calloway was a consummate entertainer, and the epitome of hip, whether in language, attire, songwriting, or bandleading. His "Jumpin' Jive"  has always been one of the few songs that makes me happy to be on a treadmill. And no tribute to Calloway would be complete without "Minnie the Moocher," featuring Betty Boop.
And he was born to play Sportin' Life in Porgy and Bess. Here's a late-career performance of one of his showstopping numbers.
Art Kane, a freelance photographer working for Esquire, took the shot below of 57 jazz musicians in 1958. (It had to be New York City to round up this many, especially at 10 a.m.!) The photo is known as "A Great Day in Harlem," and there's even a documentary about it. Of the people depicted in my previous two posts, you can discern Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Mary Lou Williams, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, and Mary Lou Williams (the other women are singer Maxine Sullivan and pianist Marian McPartland).
Left to right: Marian McPartland, Sonny Rollins (back), Lawrence Brown, Mary Lou Williams, Emmett Berry, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie (seated), Vic Dickenson, Milt Hinton
Lester Young, Rex Stewart, J.C. Heard, Gerry Mulligan, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie


  1. Cab Calloway has always been a personal fave! The Betty Boop cartoons were so strange and ahead of their time:)

  2. LOVE THE CAB CALLOWAY FOOTAGE!!!! Everytime see a photo of him or hear a song from him I automatically think of his cameo in The Blues Brothers.