The streets were hoppin’ and the groove was smooth when jazz organist Lonnie Smith recorded ‘Move Your Hand’ 40 summers ago
Summertime, and the groovin’ is easy. Tourists fatten the regular jazz crowd cramming Kentucky Avenue, where the night never dies. Inside Club Harlem, they press against the bar and each other, as the organist and his quartet tune up on the bandstand. The music comes fast and the band is tight and the organ looses a torrent of sound. And there’s an added bonus for posterity: the live session is being recorded for an album, a rare occurrence in Atlantic City.
This was the scene on the Saturday night of Aug. 9, 1969, when master jazz organist Lonnie Smith and company cut Move Your Hand, an exemplar of ’60s soul jazz, for the legendary Blue Note label. The title song, which became a hit, borrowed its lyric from a joke that Smith’s drummer told about a substitute preacher who couldn’t deliver the sermon because someone else’s hand was covering the text. (The joke is less than hysterical, but the number’s a grabber.)
“One night, I was playing a little lick and just happened to say [“move your hand”] to the fellows in the band,” says Smith, now 67 and as busy as ever. “People loved it and always requested it.”
It became Smith’s signature tune, and the album — his fourth of six for Blue Note — propelled his reputation out of the Northeast. This fertile period for Smith and his musical genre had an impact beyond the bandstand.
“Inner-city clubs were the milieu for organ trios,” says noted jazz author Ashley Kahn, who is writing a history of Blue Note Records. “Even more than jukeboxes, that was the music to socialize to. It was the soundtrack of the black experience, part of the thread that held together the black community.”
Kahn says that Lonnie Smith “helped to define this movement” from ’50s hard bop to soul jazz to hard-hitting funk jazz, often fitting standards and pop tunes of the day into an “urban funk.”
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Every Friday and Saturday night, BB’s Beer and Burgers hosts a rotating list of four blues artists who have toured and/or recorded with many of the biggest names in the business. On Sunday from 6-9pm, jazz artists perform at Ono Chinese Bistro, which also offers some of the most stunning views around.
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Bell on opening up for Van Halen, new music and video projects, his mid-'60s band the Jazziacs, which played Atlantic City's jazz clubs at the time, and his legendary Godfather.
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For one day — Sunday, Sept. 18 — the Asbury United Methodist Church in Atlantic City, home of the South Jersey Jazz Vespers, will be transformed into the bygone Club Harlem as a tribute to a name nearly as legendary as the club itself. Chris Columbo (1902-2002) was a jazz drummer who led the Club Harlem orchestra for 34 years, right up until the club closed its Kentucky Avenue doors forever in 1978
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Nina Simone had never been in a bar, nor had she ever sang before, but both were required for her summer gig at the Midtown Bar, located at 1719 Pacific Avenue, between Indiana and MLK Blvd., and just “two blocks back from the seafront" Atlantic City Boardwalk.
It’s been very weird. When I decided to self-publish my book in Dec. 2009, I did it because an agent in New York told me — and this is pre-Obama — that nobody’s interested in black history now. I said, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘Nobody is interested. That’s just the truth.’ Then, I think it was in April, HBO calls me.
As the late Atlantic City historian and former Club Harlem house band drummer Sid Trusty once said, "Every night was our party. And we invited the world." The party may be starting up again soon.
So often the nostalgia associated with Atlantic City’s past is spoken of with a special brand of sincerity — particularly a section of Kentucky Avenue between Arctic and Atlantic avenues, where the jazz clubs once ruled the day (and nights)...
THE ADDRESS WAS 32 North Kentucky Avenue, and it was a place where the music -- and the night -- never died. If the entire block, including the likes of Grace's Little Belmont and the Wonder Garden b...
A banner with the name Slappy White on it hung across Kentucky Avenue all summer. The late comedian and actor (who died in Brigantine in 1995) was booked for the entire season at Atlantic City’s famed Club Harlem. On this particular summer night, however — July 24, 1964, to be precise — hanging above the banner was yet another banner. It read: “Sam Cooke.”
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