A few years way back, I overheard the sounds of the singing quartet, Manhattan Transfer, coming from the stereo in my son’s room. The group had added lyrics to Joe Zawinul’s extraordinary instrumental “Birdland,” conjuring some warm memories of the jazz club that had once been called “The Jazz Corner of the World.”
Broadway and 52nd Street in the 1950s and early sixties was a jazz oasis. On Saturday evenings, crowds could steal glances through open doors at the Metropole Cafe, across from the Colony Record Shop of greats such as Roy Eldridge or Gene Krupa playing on top of the bar.
Wednesday night was Mambomania night at the Palladium Ballroom up the street with Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria ticking and booming their impulsive and complex rhythms on well-tuned skins, what was to become the pulse of today’s Latin Jazz, to the bustling street below.