YOUR SOURCE OF JAZZ AND MORE IN WASHINGTON DC AND THE WORLD
Jazzin Around with friend, mentor, hipster, old school hustler, producer, promoter and innovator Jim Harrison, Founder of Jazz Spotlite News and the first person to take me under his wings when I moved to New York in 1979. We met when I joined the Barry Harris Jazz Choir. At the time I had begun honing my craft, making a living while singing on the streets of NY with George Braith, Billy and Mark Johnson, also with Marvin Blackman's group. We played on the corners of 48th & Broadway, 59th & Columbus Circle, 42nd St Park, Washington Square Pk, World Trade Center. Penn Station was off bounds then. There were no banners or ID cards then. We'd catch the patrons coming out of the Broadway theaters and make a killing. At times the crowds on the corners got so big the police would make us move because we also drew pickpockets, five card Marley dealers and loose joint sellers.
When Mayor Koch was running for 're-election he put the clamps on the streets and ordered the police to impound the musicians instruments and sound systems. We were the first victims. One afternoon they took impounded George's Braith-A-Phone, Mark and Billys bass and our mouse amps, then wrote us summons. There were several other groups playing the streets as well which led the way for today's musicians to be legal. Now folks travel from all over the world to sing on the sidewalks of New York. Almost every city in America has legal street Musicians! It wasn't easy singing on the streets of NYC in those days.
I had also just began performing with James Moody and Lou Donaldson. Things were very promising. One year later I was introduced to Pharoah Sanders by brother Leon Thomas at the Village Vanguard. A few days later I received a phone call from Pharoah asking me if I wanted to hang out on the weekend. When I got to the address it was Power Station Studio. After watching for awhile about one hour later he asked me if I wanted to sing my lyrics. In one take we recorded
Everywhere I went all the cats looked out for me. Clifford Jordan, Barry Harris, Harold Vick, Frank Foster, Lou Donaldson, Walter Bishop, Walter Davis, Tommy Turrentine, Clearance C Sharpe, to name a few. Jim gave me my first opportunity to write about America's Classical Music "Jazz" in the Jazz Spotlite News and the inspiration to create the Washington DC Jazz Network years later. When I peeped what he was doing I wanted to be just like him. Jim was a old school hustler. In The musicians were the writers for the paper. It was very hip and historical. Everyone were telling their own stories and how things really happened.
His wife Fannie would always be somewhere in the audience. She was a sweetheart. We spoke and hung out together weekly for several years. He always told me we have to and must control our own shit!
Jim was also very instrumental in Charles Tolliver's career by send... for a tryout with his band because he knew Jackie needed a trumpet player. Jackie McLean showed Charles the ropes and recorded some classic albums. The rest is history....years later Charles Tolliver and pianist Stanley Cowell would create, and influence the independent record movement with Strata East Records, many years before Prince hit the scene. Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell are living role models for the entire record industry. Most musicians around the world are now a independent record producers, thus proving that artists don't have to be signed to a major label to make an album. It's called controlling your own destiny! If you don't own your masters, the Masters will own you!
Jim Harrison began as a promoter for Jazz Mobile at the beginning in 1964 and retired in 2004. For 40 years he led the promotional ground work long before the internet. You would always know that Jim Harrison had been passing through because his trademark flyers would be in all the Jazz venues around the city each week. No club, jazz school, concert, or festival went untouched...hahaha..
Together we would be at concerts selling the Jazz Spotlite News for $1.00 and passing out posters and flyers keeping jazz fans updated on all coming events. Jazz Spotlite News! Jazz Spotlite News! Get your Jazz Spotlite News!!! Moments later Moody would introduce me to the stage with Freedom Jazz Dance and burst into Giant Steps. The crowd would go wild! Oh what memories..
Jazzmobile founded by the late Dr. Billy Taylor presents Free Outdoor Summer Mobile Concerts throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. It is a multifaceted, outreach organization committed to bringing "America's Classical Music"—Jazz—to the largest possible audience by producing concerts, festivals and special events worldwide.
Jim Harrison influenced the lives of many musicians. He is a lifeblood of the Jazz community and one of the hippest promoters in the history of JAZZ in NYC! His wife Fannie was everyone's Jazz Mother. Love you always~~~George Victor Johnson Jr.
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