2011 NEW YEAR’S EVE DANCE @ 345 LENOX AVENUE 12/31/2011 10 PM – 3 AM – $40
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2011 NEW YEAR’S EVE DANCE @ 345 LENOX AVENUE 12/31/2011 10 PM – 3 AM – $40
The life of stride pianist Willie “The Lion” Smith was the stuff of legend, but unfortunately, some of that legend seems to have come from Smith’s own imagination. For example, Smith always claimed to have been born in 1897, but his WWI draft registration states that he was born 118 years ago, in November 1893.
Like the date of his birth, the origin of his nickname (“The Lion”) is also subject to debate; Smith always said that he earned it for his bravery as an artilleryman in WWI. After the war, he returned to Harlem and was soon known as one of the three great Harlem stride-piano players (along with James P. Johnson and Fats Waller). Among the Big Three, many remember Smith as the chairman of that particular board: Duke Ellington idolized “The Lion.” Aspiring jazz pianists as diverse as Billy Taylor and Thelonious Monk studied under him. Smith was also a composer, a bon vivant, a student of Judaism and one of those maddening braggarts who could make outrageous claims about his abilities and then proceed to back them up. He was seldom seen without a cigar in his mouth and a derby on his head; he made sure he was noticed, which he usually accomplished by outperforming every other piano player in the room.
When Art Kane published his famous Great Day in Harlem photograph in Esquire magazine in 1958, some wondered where “The Lion” was. Well, Smith showed up for the shoot, but got tired of standing around, so he sat on the stoop of a nearby brownstone while that great photo was taken. Here are five reasons why Willie “The Lion” Smith should have been in that picture.
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Romare Bearden dismantled reality and then reassembled it, slightly askew, in dense, kinetic collages. His narratives, made of newspaper clippings, captured the grotesqueness of growing up in rural North Carolina and Harlem in the 1920s.
“As a Negro, I do not need to go looking for?.?.?.?the absurd or the surreal, because I have seen things that neither Dali, Beckett, Ionesco, or any of the others could have thought possible,” he wrote.
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Bearden filtered African-American life through tough 1960s activism, but he had a sensual side too; his collages bristle with clashing textures of layered paper. And there’s a lushness bordering on decadence in the late work, where patterns and washes of brilliant colour echo Matisse’s ideal of “luxe, calme, et volupté”.
Bearden would have been 100 years old in September, and the Studio Museum in Harlem has marked his centennial by inviting 100 artists to take his work as a starting point for new creations. The multifarious tribute compounds an artistic question – does Bearden still matter? – with a barrage of more probing conundrums: does being black give a young artist a sense of identity in a theoretically “post-racial” world? Do today’s art-stars pay homage to Bearden for his intuitive sense of beauty or his labour-intensive technique? Does his early political boldness outweigh his later placidity? What’s the core of his legacy, his style or his self?”
The first widely scattered answers to these implicit provocations are now on the wall (although the museum will continue to add things throughout the run of the show). A few respondents chose to integrate Bearden’s aesthetics into their own; others opted for a more imitative approach, and a third contingent couldn’t find common ground with Bearden at all, and just did their thing.
Wangechi Mutu easily grafts Bearden’s vision onto her own way of pasting together pictures of human parts. Here she musters fragments from ethnographic, pornographic and couture magazines into a cackling witch with a gaping, toothy grin, coiled in layers of puckered flesh and snakeskin. In this bizarrely beautiful collage, Mutu stays true to herself, to Beardon, and to their shared ancestors, the Berlin Dadaists and connoisseurs of the grotesque, Hannah Höch and George Grosz, who cobbled together barbarous bodies in response to the epochal slaughter of the first world war. Bearden, and now Mutu, protest other forms of savagery, with weird and abrupt changes of scale and faces chopped apart and reconfigured as monstrous masks.
Other artists stray further from familiar terrain to salute Bearden’s style. The usually austere Glenn Ligon abandons his brainy black-and-white style for an almost voluptuary nostalgia. In “Pittsburgh Memories Redux”, he’s collected flashes of mass experience into a haunting, vivid image of a butterfly. The shards are difficult to read: there are scenes of military actions, dead cows lying on a devastated beach, political slogans, jigsaw puzzles, football victories, all shredded and remade into a thing of beauty that evokes a shared past. Trauma is the chrysalis that gives birth to the future.
David McKenzie, who generally sticks to pop-oriented conceptualism and performance, has crafted an elegant, inscrutable meditation on Nefertiti. The ancient queen’s face, culled from an unusual array of reproductions, reappears upside down, right side up and sideways, garlanded by graceful body parts and beribboned with tangles of colour. The mood here is less the harsh smirk of Dada than surrealism with a smile.
While McKenzie and Ligon stretched beyond their comfort zones, others try to squeeze their usual routines under Bearden’s umbrella. Julie Mehretu’s homage “Untitled, 2011” is the same sort of watery, placid abstraction she always makes, a nest of vortices cradling a few brightly coloured shapes. Mickelene Thomas, who likes to dress up in vintage gear and then undo as many blouse buttons as she can, exposes herself to the lens four times in “Photomontage 12”, and surrounds each version with a cluster of overlapping frames. In the museum’s call-in audio guide, she hazily explains: “I learned from Bearden’s figures, and the way he constructs incredibly communicative figures with just the most sparse elements.” Thomas’s stale, narcissistic gambits are anything but communicative, and their threadbare critique owes more to Cindy Sherman’s film stills than anything by the great collagist.
Of all the artists here, only Stacy Lynn Waddell fixes her sites on the elder Bearden, who gazed contentedly at the incandescent sea and grass near the house he built on St. Maarten. In those late works, you can smell the coconuts, feel the heat radiating from sun-warmed palms, and hear the music pulsing from saxophones, double basses and singers’ throats. Wadell’s “No Place Like” sparkles with tiny Austrian crystals strewn across its surface, intensifying the shimmer of palm trees against a turquoise sky. A clipper ship hovers on the horizon, its golden sails lit up by the sun. But like Bearden’s most colourful constructions, Wadell’s Caribbean fantasy insinuates an undertone of darkness. That antique ship – is it carrying slaves sailing towards the sugar-soaked land of their nightmares? A more rigorous inspection of the water reveals that what looked like waves are actually swarms of the letter “B” (for Bearden? Or black?) branded thickly into the surface of the paper. Waddell leaves it up to us to decide whether to skim the glistering surface or delve into the depths of history and memory.
‘The Bearden Project’ continues until March 11, www.studiomuseum.org
By Ariella Budick
HARLEM BAR AND RESTAURANT owners fear that a new proposal requiring local establishments to stop serving liquor at 2 a.m. could close the tab on their late night business.
The proposal, initiated last week by Community Board 10’s Economic Development Committee, would require new businesses seeking a liquor license recommendation from CB 10 to agree to stop serving two hours earlier than the 4 a.m. norm in the rest of the city.
“The entire city is open until 4 a.m. so if Harlem bars were to close at 2, it would put us at an extreme disadvantage,” said Sherri Wilson-Daly, one of the owners of the popular Harlem Tavern on W. 116th St.
“For them to put our businesses at a disadvantage like that is doing a real disservice to the community.”
Although CB 10 cannot change the hours of operations for existing businesses, the board can omit their liquor license recommendation for new businesses seeking approval from the New York State Liquor Authority.
CB 10 is still in the early stage of the proposal process and will further examine the effects of the plan before moving forward, said CB 10 Chair Henrietta Lyle.
“There’s still a lot of work being done looking at the economic effect and police reports by the community board,” said Lyle. “It is still in the early stages.”
As more bars and restaurants continue to pop up in bustling Central Harlem, CB 10 aims to limit the late night crowds that have appeared in other bar-ridden areas of Manhattan, like Murray Hill and the Meatpacking District.
“They’re nervous that Harlem will become like the Lower East Side or Meatpacking District with lots of people in the streets, but we are still very far away from that,” said
“We’re keeping people in the community, hiring people from the community and bringing money into the community, so it seems strange that would want to hinder business,” she added.
In August, CB 6 approved a similar proposal forcing bars and restaurants in the Murray Hill area to meet with the New York State Liquor Authority if they wanted to keep serving later than 2 a.m.
“It’s hard to do business in Manhattan,” said Koteen. “If businesses want to stay open a little later and make a few extra bucks, why not?”
BY Joseph Tepper
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
IT is no idle boast for Edgar Kendricks: The man can sit at any piano or organ in Harlem and summon a legion of church ladies in big hats to fill the pews and serve as his choir.
Take last Saturday night, when more than 100 of his followers crowded into the narrow, windowless Glendale Baptist Church, which is squeezed between apartment buildings on West 128th Street.
As usual, Mr. Kendricks was wringing soul-drenched sounds from a tired baby grand, and belting out spirited versions of hymns, spirituals and gospel standards. Dressed in a long, ornate robe and a black, jeweled turban, he praised Jesus with a bluesy growl and gazed ecstatically at the water-stained ceiling tiles as if they were the portals to heaven.
The performance was advertised by fliers posted around Harlem — “Don’t miss Edgar’s birthday celebration” — and included photos of “The Legendary Edgar Kendricks,” stylishly dressed, eyes cast upward.
At moments Saturday night, he would contort and shake with the spirit. Every few songs, he would duck into the clergy office and emerge in a different flamboyant robe. Women stood and clapped and waved hands overhead. They sang spirited responses and shouted their amens and corroborating testimony. Mr. Kendricks paraded up and down the aisles, shaking bells and hugging people.
“I’m too close,” he screamed. “I can almost see my God’s face.”
The next morning this gospel virtuoso took his usual car service the few short blocks from his 131st Street apartment building to Metropolitan Baptist Church, a large limestone-block building at the corner of Lenox Avenue and 128th Street where Mr. Kendricks holds the lofty title “minister of music.”
Mr. Kendricks, who never married and has no children, is the unofficial mayor of his church-laden neighborhood, which is Gospel Central on Sunday mornings. Tourists often outnumber congregants in local churches, even at Metropolitan Baptist.
On Sundays, Mr. Kendricks sweeps in at the last minute for noon services. He is greeted and fussed over by the women, in white uniforms, who serve as ushers, and then makes his way past his (long since assembled) band to the organ, just in time to lead the assembled through opening hymns. “I don’t think there’s a church in Harlem that I haven’t been in,” said Mr. Kendricks, who turned 69 last Sunday. “This has been my life for 40 years.”
Along with his status as a local gospel star, Mr. Kendricks is one of Harlem’s flashiest dressers, carving out a church-elder-dipped-in-funk look. He favors long-cut suits in bold-colors, often topped with fine-filigreed robes and some sort of tall hat. To accompany him in the clothing stores on 125th Street is to get a seminar in high Harlem street style.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Kendricks led a house band at the Apollo Theater, where he performed with the likes of Marvin Gaye, O. C. Smith and Jerry Butler. He headed an ensemble called Listen My Brother, a gospel-infused group known mostly for its appearances on “Sesame Street.” The group included a teenage Luther Vandross.
“Luther was chubby at the time, but he could certainly sing,” Mr. Kendricks recalled. “The managers made us hide him in the back row because of his weight.”
Mr. Kendricks took front and center in the band. He favored bright yellow slacks, a leather fringed vest, a big Afro and a beaded headband. He wrote and arranged the band’s repertory of gospel-infused children’s songs, including enduring educational staples like “Count to 20” and “Song of the Alphabets.”
This came naturally to Mr. Kendricks, who would write songs to amuse and educate his younger sisters while growing up on a farm in Alabama, the seventh of nine children. He and his siblings formed the Kendricks Gospel Singers and moved to Newark. Mr. Kendricks was soon invited to sing in Harlem churches and was hired at the Apollo. After some flashes of opportunity, he settled into church work in his 30s to make ends meet. “I guess I was overly suspicious a few times when someone would offer me a contract, and maybe that hurt my chances,” he said. “Now I realize that the real money comes from taking a percentage of the profits. But back then, it seemed like such a small percentage.”
It certainly did not diminish his spirit at the Glendale Baptist event, which he wound down with one of his staples, a rollicking version of “Let the Church Roll On,” as the women shouted in approval, “Sing it, Father.”
A Harlem charter school specializing in French language and culture is learning a hard lesson about meeting public school standards.
At the New York French American Charter School (NYFACS) on W. 120th St. just off Manhattan Ave. – now kindergarten through third grade – about 70 to 80 precent of the curriculum is exclusively in French.
“We teach children of refugees alongside the kids of United Nations officials and corporate executives,” said parent representative to the school’s board and Harlem resident April Patrick-Rabiu, noting NYFACS has received visits from has received visits from three French senators and Princess Mathilde of Belgium.
But the school has run into trouble with city’s Education Dept.
In a report last May, city school officials praised the school for its “unique culture, diversity and strong parent participation,” but noted several “concerns” including weak leadership from board members, failure to meet state education requirements and a scarcity of books.
The school, which opened in September 2010, will be reevaluated next May.
About 50 percent of the school’s 189 students are from Francophone families, while half are African-American, Hispanic or Caucasian. They travel from as far away as Queens to “keep the tradition of French language and Francophone customs from around the world would alive,” said NYFACS official Vanessa Handal-Ghenania.
In response to the DOE report, the school’s parents and board members replaced the principal – who had only private-school experience – with veteran public school educator, Marie-Jose Bernard, a former city staff developer in bilingual education.
“Because the school is so new, it’s a work in progress and we are finding a balance between French and American school systems,” said Bernard, adding the school’s teaching staff comes from Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Algeria, “and other French-speaking countries.”
Parents also lobbied for a change in board leadership, and got it last Tuesday night when board president Johnny Celestin, a business consultant, resigned and was replaced by Dr. Fabrice Rouah, who has a strong background in education, said Patrick-Rabiu.
NYFACS parents have also been trying to get more books into the classrooms.
Wassila Guiga-Lofti, owner of B2D2 French Books, whose two sons attend the presitigous and private Lycee Francais on the Upper East Side spread the word among Lycee families that NYFACS was in dire need of books and received 200 donations of used French-language children’s books.
“There is large francophone community in NYC, and many would like to send their children to the Lycee, but the tuition at the LFNY is not affordable to all, even though there is financial aid,” said Lofti, “so NYFACS gives a broad range of students a bilingual education and an opportunity to keep a contact with the language and the culture of their parents’ country of origin.”
On Monday Guiga-Lofti dropped by the school with a new contribution of about two dozen books and chatted with teachers and students, including Amalia Dayle, a second grader. The daughter of a Jamaican-born father and Italian-born mother, Amalia speaks French, Italian and German, as well as English.
Asked about how she defines her identify, given her rich family heritage, she quickly replied, “I’m a New Yorker.”
BY Abigail Meisel
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, December 22 2011, 6:00 AM
For years people have come to Harlem, primarily on tour buses. They get off the bus to hear gospel music at a church, but usually leave before the worship service ends, and have a meal.
Harlem is the third most visited tourist destination in New York City. Yet most visitors have no idea what there is to see or what to expect. Unbeknownst to many visitors, Harlem has three distinct areas: Central Harlem, where African Americans first settled in the early 1990s; East Harlem or El Barrio, which is home to Latinos, with Puerto Ricans first migrating to the enclave after WWI; and West Harlem, which includes a diverse population of African Americans, West Indians, Latinos, and whites. As a bonus we included Washington Heights’ home to Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest house. We want people’s feet to hit the ground to explore Harlem’s rich history, which is unparalleled by any other New York City neighborhood. Its ethnic diversity makes it a fascinating place to visit and this app will help visitors and residents alike navigate its nooks and crannies.
About the Authors
The authors are both homeowners and long-time residents of Harlem. Carolyn D. Johnson operates a tour company, a visitor’s center, and a website that provides information about Harlem under the umbrella of Welcome to Harlem. Valerie Jo Bradley operates a PR and special events planning firm and is proprietor of a small guest house inHarlem. In addition to collaborating with other Harlem-based tour companies to develop unique tours of Harlem, she has trainedHarlem residents to conduct tours in their neighborhoods.
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