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Past Events

Saturday Panels
Black and Blue: The life & music of Andy Razaf featuring live music by Catherine Russell/Chuck Folds plus Barry Singer, Razaf biographer
June 2, 2012

Join us for an afternoon celebrating the life of a singular African-American composer whose work still resonates today. Live music will be sung and swung by the brilliant team of vocalist Catherine Russell and pianist Chuck Folds. We are also honored to be joined by Barry Singer, author of the celebrated Razaf bio Black and Blue. As he wrote:

Born Andreamenentania Razafkeriefo - a direct descendant of the royal family of Madagascar - in 1895, Andy Razaf's life is a tale of breathtaking lyric talent ending in obscurity. After a brief pitching career in Cleveland with a semi-pro offshoot of the now-legendary Negro Leagues, Razaf turned to songwriting, creating with partners Thomas "Fats" Waller, stride piano giant James P. Johnson, and Eubie Blake such landmark standards as "Memories of You," "Honeysuckle Rose," "The Joint Is Jumpin'," "Ain't Misbehavin'," and "Black and Blue" - more than 800 songs from the bawdy blues "My Handy Man" to the big band hit "Stompin' at the Savoy." His first professional song, "Baltimo'," was performed in The Passing Show of 1913 at the Winter Garden Theatre when he was seventeen years old. He went on to write for the Creole Follies, a 1924 nightclub revue at the whites-only Club Alabam' in Times Square, with Fletcher Henderson leading the orchestra. Keep Shufflin', in 1928, Razaf's first Broadway show, was a jet-propelled musical entertainment ("there is no adagio anything," wrote one opening night reviewer) bankrolled by gangster Arnold Rothstein, who was the victim of a mob hit during the show's road tour. The nightclub revue Hot Feet followed - and quickly moved from Harlem to Broadway as Connie's Hot Chocolates with the backing of legendary gangster Dutch Schultz. A frenzied spectacle of a musical, Connie's Hot Chocolates featured a cast of 85, Louis Armstrong in the pit, and a score that included "Ain't Misbehavin"' and what many regard as America's first race protest song, "Black and Blue." Despite these successes, Razaf was invited to compose only one more musical for Broadway, Blackbirds of 1930. He died in 1978.

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