When weather permitted, they’d leave the doors open, and we’d join the cluster of tourists, deadbeats, teenagers, and deadbeat-teenagers on the sidewalk to dig the music. I remember clarinetists Tony Parenti and Sol Yaged being the headliners, but the band I remember most clearly was Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, J.C. Higginbotham, Marty Napoleon, and Cozy Cole (basically the same personnel as on the Bluebird CD World on a String). If you stood real close, you could hear quite well. You could even hear customer comments from the bar; I remember a guy constantly requesting Ride, Red, Ride.
|Photograph by Lee Tanner|
At the time, I knew nothing of Red's greatness or place in jazz history. I knew Higginbotham only because I had Louis Armstrong’s 1938 When the Saints Go Marching In (“Here comes Brother Higginbotham down the aisle with his trambone. Blow it, son!”). I knew Hawkins only because I had Hollywood Stampede with him, Vic Dickenson, Howard McGhee, et al. I had no idea Allen and Higginbotham were old cohorts. This was before historic reissues were abundant, so I’d never heard their fantastic records together from the 1930s. All I knew was that with Red Allen leading the band, there was always a party going on inside, and I was on the outside.