Jazz times in Central Avenue

This was in the early ’40s and things were so different from the way they are now. Central Avenue was like Harlem was a long time ago. As soon as evening came out people would be out in the streets, and most of the people were black, but nobody was going around in black leather jackets with naturals hating people. It was a beautiful time. It was a festive time. The women dressed up in frills and feathers and long earrings and hats with things hanging off them, fancy dresses with slits in the skirts, and they wore black silk stockings that were rolled , and wedgie shoes.(…) 

The Club Alabam was the epitome of Central Avenue. It was right off Forty-second Street across from Ivy Anderson’s Chicken Shack. (…) The music started at two in the morning and went on all night. People would come in and sit in: Jimmy Blanton, probably the greatest bass player that ever lived – he was so far ahead of any jazz musician on any instrument it was just ridiculous; Art Tatum came in; Louis Armstrong, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Johnny Hodges, Lester Young. You can imagine what a thrill it was to be in the same room with these people. I used to go sit in after my job at the Club Alabam and play with them (…) I was already drinking every night and taking pills.

Art Pepper (Straight Life, 1979)     


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