Cast:

Executive Producer & Jazz Consultant - Albert Vollmer

Written and Directed by Anja Baron

Edited by Philip Shane

Joey Morant

Bobby Pring

David "Bubba" Brooks

Edwin Swanston

Al Casey

Larry Lucie

Alex Layne

Johnny Blowers

Calvin Lynch

Laurel Watson

Ivan Rolle

Albert Vollmer

 

Dr. Billy Taylor

Dan Morgenstern

Phil Schaap

Nat Hentoff

Kelly Friessen

Jonah Jones

Hank Jones

Milt Hinton

Lionel Hampton

Nancy Wilson

John Conyers

Jay McShann

Jackie Williams

Ambassador James Collins

Geny Wiggins

Bo "Bosse" Stenhammar

Vladimir Kvatchyov

Cobi Narita

Dakota Staton

Emme Kemp

Pastor Lind

Yvette Glover

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Technical Information:

© 2016, All Rights Reserved

Running time: 90 min.

Color: Color, B&W

Aspect Ration: 16:9


 

Biographies of featured members of the Harlem Blues & Jazz Band (Cast)

 

Albert Vollmer (Founder of Harlem Blues and Jazz Band)

Dr. Vollmer created The Harlem Blues & Jazz Band in 1973 with King Oliver's trombonist/blues singer, Clyde Bernhardt, never suspecting that it would become one of the longer continually performing jazz groups in existence. An impressive number of musicians from the Classic and Swing eras have graced the various incarnations of the band throughout the years, thereby giving an enviable authenticity and historical significance to the band's performances and recordings.

 

Joey Morant (trumpet/flugelhorn and vocals)

One of the most exciting and dynamic trumpeters on the current scene, Joey is also a consummate entertainer. He electrifies audiences with his dazzling horn technique, skillful scat singing and humorous asides.

He has performed with Henry "Red" Allen, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles and Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band. He has toured Japan with Count Basie. After the 9/11 terrorist attack, he was selected to blow Taps and at Ground Zero flanked by NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and NY State Governor George Pataki.

 

Bobby Pring (trombonist)

(b New Bedford, MA, 28 Nov 1924). American trombonist. After playing in an army air force band (1943–6) he settled on the West Coast and worked briefly with Tony Pastor and Herbie Fields (1946). He played first trombone in the orchestras of Tex Beneke (1946–9) and Les Brown (1950–56) and also performed with Pee Wee Russell (1950). From 1958 to 1976 he was active primarily as a freelance  and studio musician.

He migrated to New York in 1977, and besides working steady Sundays with trumpeter Max Kaminsky at Jimmy Ryan’s, he also did many weekday subs for trombonist Bobby Pratt with the house band fronted by the incredible Roy Eldridge. In a short time, he was in demand as a club performer for many of the major New York offices.

 

Bubba Brooks (tenor saxophonist)

David Kenneth Brooks, Jr., better known as Bubba Brooks or Bubber Brooks (May 29, 1922 in Fayetteville, North Carolina – April 11, 2002) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He was the brother of Tina Brooks.

Brooks's first professional gig was with the medicine show of Pepper McAllister. He served in the Army during World War II, there he played with James Moody. He moved to New York City after his discharge in 1944, where he played at Minton's Playhouse and the Harlem Grill. He toured North Carolina in a band alongside Sonny Payne in 1947, then played with George Barkley at the Baby Grand in New York; he first recorded with Barkley around 1947 or 1948. He then played with Sonny Thompson from 1948 to 1957.

In 1958 he worked with Jimmy McCracklin and in 1961 with Phil Upchurch; he also did session work with pop musicians in the 1960s. From 1967 to 1973 he played at the Fantasy East in New York with alto saxophonist Charles Williams and Don Pullen, recording three albums as a trio for Mainstream Records. After a short run with Jimmy McGriff in 1974, Brooks became a member of Bill Doggett's ensemble, where he remained for two decades (1976–1996).

Brooks worked in the middle of the 1990s with Bross Townsend, Carrie Smith and Ruth Brown with whom he performed at one one of Bill Clinton's inaugural balls.  His final work was with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band and he made a tour of France with Al Casey in 1999.

 

Edwin Swanston (pianist)

Edwin Swanston, a pianist who played in the Louis Armstrong Big Band in the 1940s and later in life worked as a vocal coach.

Swanston was born in New York City in 1922 and began studying music at the age of six. Before he was 16, Swanston had learned how to maneuver on piano, organ, pipe organ, violin, viola and bass. When Swanston was 19 he began playing in a band from which Louis Armstrong plucked six members, including Swanston, to fill out his big band.

Swanston toured and recorded with Armstrong for three years and then returned to New York and got married. Among many important Armstrong collections, Swanston’s piano playing can be heard on select tracks throughout the Armstrong box set The Complete RCA Victor Recordings. He also played with such notable jazz artists as Gene Krupa, Lucky Millinder and Art Blakey and recorded with Dexter Gordon.

In 1949 Swanston partnered with friends and musical cohorts Luther Henderson and Buster Newman to open a voice studio in New York called Vamp Studio. Eartha Kitt, Shirley Jones and Bea Arthur were among Vamp’s clients. Swanston stayed at Vamp for ten years and all the while continued playing piano and writing music. A few of Swanston’s compositions have been recorded, most notably "Love's Melody," which George Shearing recorded for Capitol 1959 and "Nightstick," recorded by the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1960. He recorded his composition "Upside down blues" with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band.

 

Al Casey (jazz guitarist)

Albert Aloysius Casey (September 15, 1915 – September 11, 2005) known professionally as Al Casey, was an African-American swing guitarist who played with Fats Waller on almost all of his famous recordings. Casey composed the well-known tune "Buck Jumpin", which was recorded by Waller.

Casey was born in Louisville, Kentucky to Joseph and Maggie B. Johnson Casey. He grew up in New York City and attended DeWitt Clinton High School. He joined Thomas "Fats" Waller's band in the early 1930s and can be heard on hundreds of recordings, working with him until Waller's untimely death in 1943. In 1944, Casey recorded with Louis Armstrong, and he and Oscar Pettiford recorded as a trio with Earl Hines. Casey also worked with Clarence Profit's band that year. In 1959 he contributed to an album called Paul Curry Presents The Friends Of Fats on the Golden Crest label.

Between stints with Waller, Casey worked with Teddy Wilson from 1939 to 1940. He recorded with Billie Holiday, Frankie Newton, Art Tatum and Leon "Chu" Berry, and even led his own a trio for a short time. Remembering his time, years later, working with Holiday, Casey commented that he was in love with her.

Casey freelanced over decades working with King Curtis from 1957 to 1961, where he played rhythm and blues. He continued playing into his late eighties with The Harlem Blues & Jazz Band, which he joined in 1981.

He died four days before his ninetieth birthday of colon cancer at the Dewitt Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in New York.

 

Lawrence Lucie (jazz guitarist)

Lawrence Lucie (December 18, 1907 – August 14, 2009) was an American jazz guitarist.

Lucie was born in Emporia, Virginia, United States. He learned banjo, mandolin, and violin as a child and played with his family at dances. Lucie's father, a barber, also played jazz music. He studied banjo in New York City at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, but switched to guitar when he started his professional career.

Lucie spent his career as a rhythm guitarist, seldom taking solos. In 1931, he subbed for Freddy Guy in Duke Ellington's band, being the last surviving musician to have played the Cotton Club with Ellington. He then became an original member of Benny Carter's band in 1932. This association lasted through 1934, including the opening of the Apollo Theater, where Carter's was the house band. He also performed with Fletcher Henderson (1934, 1936–39), the Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1934–36), Coleman Hawkins (1940), and Louis Armstrong (1940–44); he was also the best man at Louis Armstrong's weddings to Lucille. He recorded with all of them except Ellington. He can also be found on record with Teddy Wilson and Billie Holiday, Spike Hughes, Putney Dandridge, Big Joe Turner, Red Allen, and Jelly Roll Morton.

After the big band era passed, he played in a quartet with his wife Nora Lee King, also a guitarist as well as a singer. In the 1950s he played with Luis Russell, Louie Bellson, and Cozy Cole, in addition to copious session work. Lucie continued to record with his wife for his own label, Toy Records, into the 1980s. His first trip to Europe was with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. He recorded together with Al Casey for the Harlem Blues and Jazz band, Al Casey took the solos and Lucie played rhythm guitar.

Lucie taught at the Borough of Manhattan Community College for three decades, retiring in 2004. He died at age 101, in New York City. At the time of his death, he was the last surviving musician to have recorded with Jelly Roll Morton.

 

Alex Layne (bassist)

New York born bassist Alex Layne began his musical career in 1959 at Count Basie's Night Club in New York City. After attending the High School of Music & Art, the 20 year old landed a job with the club's house band headed by Steve Pulliam. Layne graduated with honors from Bronx Community College and continued his studies as a music major at Queens College. He has also studied privately with bassists Stuart Sankey, Ron Carter, and Alvin Brehm.

Basie's Night Club was just the beginning for this extraordinary musician; he went on to be a major player on the N.Y. scene. He has appeared with some of the great musicians of our time from Coleman Hawkins and Max Roach to Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton. However, the bulk of his career has been spent accompanying the top vocalists of his time- Billy Eckstine, Carmen McRae, Gloria Lynn, Johnny Hartman, and Miriam Makeba, to name a few.

His knowledge of music theory and its application to solo and group performance is of the highest order. He is a formidable performer both as soloist and as a member of a jazz rhythm section. His skills are evident on both the upright double bass and the electric bass guitar. His experience also includes time spent performing with folk, blues, and rhythm and blues artist too. Josh White, Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Anthony and the Imperials, are some of the artists that he has the pleasure of performing with. He is currently employed by the Jazz Foundation of America, performing in schools, hospitals, and Nursing Homes, as well as working with his own group in some of the prominent Jazz Clubs in New York.

 

John G. Blowers, Jr.

John G. Blowers, Jr. (April 21, 1911 – July 17, 2006) was an American drummer of the swing era. Born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Blowers learned to play percussion during his schooldays and began performing with the Bob Pope Band in 1936. Blowers attended college at Oglethorpe College, now Oglethorpe University.

In 1937 he travelled to New York City, where he found employment as a drummer in Greenwich Village. In 1938 he joined Bunny Berigan's band, and in 1942 he began performing with the up-and-coming Frank Sinatra, who asked Blowers to record with him. They performed and recorded together regularly until the 1950s. In 1947, he opened Club Blowers in the Queens district.

In addition to Sinatra, Blowers performed with Louis Armstrong, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Sidney Bechet, Eddie Fisher, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, and Mel Tormé.

 

Ivan "Loco" Rolle (bass guitarist)

Ivan's credits include several years with George Kelly's Jazz Sultans, "Panama" Francis' Savoy Sultans, and seven years with Willis "Gator Tail Jackson backing Ruth Brown. 1959-1969 he was with Cozy Cole, which included a tour to Africa for the State Department. He spent twenty years  with the famous trumpeter Jonah Jones.

 

Calvin Lynch (tenor saxophonist)

Calvin Lynch, a major player on the New York Jazz Scene, has performed with the Big Bands of C+J ( Al Cobbs/ Howard Johnson) and Ray Abrams.

He also played with Cootie Williams, Sammy Price, and blues greats Champion JAck Dupree and Wynonie Harris.

He toured and performed with the legendary Blind Boy Fuller. He has done numerous shows with Ruth Brown and others.

He spent 5 years in a Club in Brooklyn playing mostly for Rhythm 'n' Blues  Artists, Wilson Pickett, Curtis Mayfield, Theola Kilgore, GLadys Knight and The Drifters.

He toured in Sweden and Russia with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band.

 

Laurel Watson (vocalist)

As a vocalist Laurel Watson had an incredible sense of swing, a marvelous stage presence and personality. She joined the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band shortly after the death of Miss Rhapsody, in December 1984. After winning an amateur singing contest at the Apollo Theater at age 19, Laurel's background includes working and recording with Don Redman, Roy Eldridge, Louis Jordan and Claude Hopkins. She appeared on film with Cootie Williams and sang for both Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

Documentary

THE LAST OF THE FIRST

"The Last of The First"

A Documentary Film by Albert Vollmer & Anja Baron

The title refers to the last of the first generation of swing musicians who are represented as the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band.

It stars legends of the Swing Era and culminates in a world wide musical tour including a final studio recording of their Art. These "originals" actually did "jump" at the Woodside and "stomp" at the Savoy, with Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, "Fats" Waller, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and other jazz greats.

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