I lived in a second floor apartment at 2173 Webster Avenue. There, amidst all the goins' ons...The Perry Bar, on down to the Crawford Grill #2, shoot over to Center Avenue where there were flourishing businesses...as far as the eye could see...both ways...both sides; head on down past The Savoy Ballroom, The New Granada Theater, hustle on past the Roosevelt Theater, constantly weaving through an endless flow of moving people until I'd reach The Irene Kaufmann Settlement; turn left on Helman Street and just a few more weaves before I reached Grandma's house. This was my routine virtually every weekend from the time I could walk until age eleven.
At age six, I recall seeing and hearing Eddie "Lock Jaw" Davis play at the Perry Bar. My Uncle, who loved jazz and rhythm n' blues, knew all the musicians by name. He had been close friends with Eddie Jefferson. Both had frequented the pool room which was located on the first floor of the building in which I lived. His name was Arthur Robinson. When I was very young, my friends and I used to ride each others shoulders while looking through the diamond-shaped window in the stage door of The Crawford Grill. My first memories of "the grill" began in circa1949, and I can't remember there ever being anything other than a diamond-shaped window in that door even until today. The matinees were difficult to see through the window because the sun would be up; but when the sun was down, we had a birds-eye view of the musicians in action. These guys...always well dressed...always well groomed...havin' plenty fun...yes...you bet...they were cool. The sounds, on the other hand, were ever present, sunny or not; and sometimes we'd just sit...backs against the building...listening. At the time, I had no idea these experiences would eventually serve in shaping my point of view musically or otherwise. All I knew was that I truly enjoyed what I was hearing and liked what I was seeing immensely.
Movies in the late forties aired good music too. Cartoons...jingles...there were songs that displayed a ball bouncing rhythmically atop each syllable...each word...from left to right...an on screen lesson so to speak...teaching rhythm...a visual exhibition of steady rhythm as it applies to sounds that change...then change...then change. It had added character to each sound...it had enhanced and provided a distinct color for each character. At times, percussion would be tossed into the mix; and as this combination of pops, thumps, clicks and crashes blended simultaneously with ever changing, twisting and sidewinding sounds...a story would begin to unfold. A story which contained a beginning and an ending...a story in which the melody, the harmony and the rhythm would travel up the hill, then down the hill while describing and colorfully detailing the scenery along the way as it journeyed from one destination to another. Each scene contained its own unique landscape. To be sure, the landscapes intrigued me the most; for it is the landscape which reveals the theme: dramatic, romantic, comedic, melancholic, horrific, and for me at the time, out and out mystic...how'd they do that? Nevertheless, I had realized practically from the onset that every theme could be sufficiently addressed, or abundantly supported, or highly polished, or even lavishly decorated, and more...much more...with music. The sky's the limit...the possibilities...never ending.