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Tracks Unwrapped

Bohemia After Dark

 

Located in London’s Argyll Street is an intriguing place called Mason House. The name gives us a clue. Apparently the name ‘dates back to 1737, when the majority of residents on Argyll Street were Masons ... Built amidst the vaults of The London Palladium  (Mason House) has been ornately refurbished to resemble a Masonic temple.’

‘Guests enter the venue through a candle-lit crypt before reaching three raw brick arches adorned with sumptuous leather lounges and bronzed tables. Guests are invited to dance the night away on the club’s mosaic dance floor, complete with exclusively commissioned neon artwork and Mason Housegothic themed DJ booth. Mason House offers bottle and waitress service for 30 tables in a 415 person capacity space, as well as drink service from the club’s main bar. In addition to the main room, Room 33 is an alternative music space, with a secret door operating on an invitation only basis.’

Earlier in 2015, Mason House staged a four-week Pret A Diner – The Bohemians After Dark:  ‘an explosion of style and atmosphere of artistic revolution through the injection of pomp and glamour, Michelin starred chefs, DJs, art and mixologists .... Amongst the hidden vaults of The London Palladium, in a venue resembling a Masonic temple and steeped in its own dark history, Mason House will open its doors at the very stroke of midnight to welcome all Pret a Diner guests to continue the party late into the evening and pay “homage to the most illustrious of lifestyles”. Entering through a haunting crypt, guests will find themselves in the sumptuously decorated main room where the team behind Pret A Diner will extend the bohemian décor. Join us after dinner for a complimentary cocktail on arrival, live music from Pret A Diner resident DJ duo Maxology, before indulging in a hedonistic evening of delicious cocktails from Pret A Diner world renowned mixologists.’

OK, so you missed it. Perhaps you will, after all, have to fall back on the Oscar Pettiford tune and the Kenny Clarke album – not a bad alternative – although there is no reference on the album to the secret door to Room 33.

The 1955 Savoy album Bohemia After Dark by drummer Kenny Clarke is particularly significant as it featured the earliest recordings by Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Scott Yanow said: ‘Although drummer Kenny Clarke is the nominal leader and the other sidemen include trumpeter Donald Byrd, Jerome Richardson on tenor and flute, pianist Horace Silver and bassist Paul Chambers, the impressive performance by the young Adderleys makes this a historic session that has often been reissued under Cannonball's name’.

Here is the title track. No doubt the album cover would receive a comment or two today.

 



Café Bohemia in this case was a jazz club in Greenwich Village. Jimmy Garolfolo had owned the room since 1949 and had not been very successful in his attempts to run it on and off as a restaurant, bar and stage. In 1955, saxophonist Charlie Parker was living across the street from the club with poet Ted Joans. Bird offered to play at the club for Garofolo, but died before he could play the gigs. Nevertheless, the association of Charlie Parker’s name with the club gave it a new lease of life.

Here is bassist Oscar Pettiford playing Bohemia After Dark. As someone suggests, listen to the bass changes at 1:17 to 1:27 and 2:42 to 2:52 , and another person points out that the track features the horns of Donald Byrd, Ernie Royal, Bob Brookmeyer, Gigi Gryce, and Jerome Richardson.

 

 



Oscar Pettiford named Bohemia After Dark after the Greenwich Village club and among the bands that played there over its short lifetime as a jazz club were the first Miles Davis Quintet, Art Blakey’s original Jazz Messengers and Kenny Dorham’s Jazz Prophets. Apparently Miles Davis's Prestige recordings Workin’, Relaxin’, Steamin’ and Cookin’ were meant to convey the spirit of the group's performances at the Bohemia. The cover photograph of the Miles Davis record ‘Round About Midnight was one of several taken by Marvin Koner during Miles Davis 'Round About Midnightthe quintet's stay at the club in 1956. The photograph retains the actual colouring but is cropped from the original. The red hue was due to a red fluorescent light above the bandstand.

Wikipedia tells the story of how ‘On 19 June 1955, Julian and Nat Adderley arrived in New York on a trip for the former to work on his Master's Degree at New York University. That first night in the city the brothers went to the Café Bohemia to hear the Oscar Pettiford band, which was the club's house band at the time. Jerome Richardson, who was the group's regular saxophonist was unavailable that evening due to a recording session. Pettiford asked Charlie Rouse - who was in the audience - if he would sit in, but Rouse did not have his saxophone with him. Pettiford then noticed another audience member, Adderley, who had a saxophone case with him and told Rouse to ask this unknown man if he could borrow his horn. Instead of lending the horn, Adderley asked if he could sit in with the group. Reluctantly, the leader complied and allowed Adderley to play. Overnight Adderley rose to prominence on the New York jazz scene. On 21 June he officially played his first night at the Bohemia; on June 28 he made his first recording with Pettiford's group; on 14 July he recorded his first album as a leader. By October 1957 he was a member of the Miles Davis Sextet.’

There has been some debate about where the cafe was located. Some information says that the building of the defunct Café Bohemia is now occupied by the Barrow Street Ale House, others that Café Bohemia was located at 15 Barrow St. around the corner from where the Ale House is located.

Trumpeter Roy Hargrove teamed up with alto saxophonist Antonio Hart to record Bohemia After Dark as a track on their 1994 Tokyo Sessions album. The other musicians on this track recorded in 1991 in Japan are Yutaka Shiina (piano); Tomoyuki Shima (bass); Masahiko Osaka (drums). Note how Antonio Hart references Lullaby Of Birdland in the trumpet / saxophone give and take.

 

 

 

 

A word or two about Bohemia. It is, of course, a region of the Czech Republic with a long and complex history bordered by Germany to La Boheme posterthe west and northwest, Poland to the northeast, Moravia to the east, and Austria to the south.

As far as a ‘Bohemian lifestyle’ is concerned. The term Bohemianism emerged in France in the early nineteenth century when an artistic community began to inhabit the lower-rent, lower-class, Romani neighbourhoods. Bohémien was a common term for the French Romani people who were mistakenly thought to have reached France in the 15th century via Bohemia. A ‘bohemian’ is defined in The American College Dictionary as  ‘a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior.’

My favourite opera, Puccini’s La Bohème, reflects this lifestyle with a poor poet, a musician, a philosopher and an artist living in a French garret. Beautiful music, but not full of laughs. Rodolfo, the poet burns his work to give them a little warmth and then falls in love with Mimi, a flower girl / seamstress whose tiny hand is frozen and who dies of consumption. In between they all hang out at Café Momus – probably after dark as it offers some warmth and bohemian company.

 

Here is a brief contemporary introductory video to La Bohème from the Royal Opera House that sets the scene and the story.

 

 

 

Maxwell Bodenheim was an American poet and novelist, known as the 'King of Greenwich Village Bohemians' during the 1920s during the Jazz Age. The Beat generation of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac followed in the 1950s and they again made Greenwich Village their centre. 'because of low rent and the 'small town' element of the scene'. Folksongs, readings and discussions often took place in Washington Square Park, but their Café Momuses were the San Remo at 93 MacDougal Street on the northwest corner of Bleeker, Chumley's, and the Minetta Tavern. Jack Kerouac described the San Remo's crowd in his novel The Subterraneans as: 'Hip without being slick, intelligent without being corny, they are intellectual as hell and know all about (Ezra) Pound without being pretentious or saying too much about it. They are very quiet, they are very Christlike.'

In this video, the writer and painter Jack Dowling speaks about moving to New York City in the early 1950s and immersing himself in the vibrant gay social scene and in particular about the San Remo café (the interview is not without sexual references).

 

 

 

Today, there are cafés all over the world called 'Café Bohemia', places where people are encouraged to come together to talk about philosophy and the Arts. In many countries the alcohol can be cheap, and the coffee strong. Henry Murger discovered the Café Momus, on the Parisian Right Bank near the church of Saint-Germaine-l'Auxerrois, in the years preceding 1848. Then the café became a popular meeting-place for such important Bohemians as Gustave Courbet and Alexandre Privat d'Anglemont. Sitting here, writing this in Starbucks in Bath on a rainy day in September, surrounded by university students with their student loans and all of us making a cup of coffee last a long time, things are not so different, except that the place will close before dark. I don't think there is a Room 33 here ...

Here are J-Sonics getting down to Bohemia After Dark at London's Hideaway Club in July 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

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More Tracks Unwrapped:

I'm In The Seventh Heaven
Jack The Bear
Jeep's Blues
Fables Of Faubus

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2015