You’ve heard about it.

What was the Cotton Club like in its heyday?

No need to wonder.

This is the context in which the music appeared. It was NOT concert music ala Jazz at Lincoln Center. It was part of the entertainment industry. It just so happened that the composers, arrangers and performers were geniuses.

All three of these short films are marvelous, but if you only have time for one, make sure you see the last one in the series. It features Cab Calloway three years into his residency at the Cotton Club at the height of his powers with occasional flashes of documentary-style film work.

First we walk down Harlem streets circa 1930s. Soundtrack provided by Duke Ellington. (6:17)

A Cotton Club floor show – part of which the film censors blocked from public screening (6:41)

Cab Calloway Cotton Club floor show – and a lot more (1934) (9:55)

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

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The Afro-Quadrille
Topsy - The history of jazz in one tune

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