Jimmy Morton, Sr.

Item

Title

Jimmy Morton, Sr.

Description

Jimmy Morton gives recollections on his personal experience in jazz music, particularly through his work at Tony’s, a Brooklyn Jazz club. He begins by sharing photographs of various musicians and singers, providing anecdotal information about the images, especially regarding Thelonious Monk who frequently performed at Tony’s.

Morton remembers that he was always interested in jazz music. As a child, he would listen to the AM radio to the big bands. He talks about the Putnam Central, a jazz club where artists like Charlie Mingus and Max Roach had a studio in the same building. They produced their own records – the Debut Records.

His involvement in the Brooklyn jazz scene started at Tony’s; he admits that when he was a law student he spent more time listening to music at the club than studying, which resulted in his flunking out of St. John’s Law School. He knew the three men who ran Tony’s: Vincent Jones, Freddy Braithwaite, and Jimmy Gittins. In 1953, Morton became their MC by starting to announce the bands that came to play. He describes what Tony’s looked like physically, the kinds of audiences that attended performances, the history of the place, how he would introduce the bands, and what the musicians would do during and after their performances. Morton also notes that jazz music was played in churches, such as Concord Baptist Church (where Max Roach played in a band) and St. Peter’s. Other important sites were The Continental, Kingston Lounge, The East, Turbo Village, Willoughby Temple, and Arlington Inn. He retells his fondest memory at Tony’s when a fight broke out during Monk’s performance.

Morton offers his perspectives on the differences between Brooklyn and Manhattan’s jazz scenes, particularly Harlem. He mentions some of the important Brooklyn musicians at the time, such as The Modern Jazz Quartet with Milt Jackson and John Lewis.
Morton is now involved with the Andy Kirk Research Foundation as a vice chairman and letter writer. The goal of the organization is to make jazz education available in schools. The Foundation has been collaborating with Medgar Evers College and Ray Abram’s family to preserve the history of jazz. Morton also talks about Willie Jones of the Willie Jones Foundation as a reason for working with the College.

Contributor

Willard Jenkins
Jennifer Scott
Weeksville Heritage Center

Coverage

Bulk dates [1940s, 1950s]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Creator

Jimmy Morton

Date

April 5, 2010

Identifier

201.05.03

Language

English

Publisher

Weeksville Heritage Center

Subject

Modern Jazz Quartet
Abrams, Ray
Braithwaite, Fred
Monk, Thelonious
Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
Roach, Max
Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
African American jazz musicians
Jazz
Jazz musicians

interviewer

Willard Jenkins
Jennifer Scott

interviewee

Jimmy Morton

Location

Interviewee's Home
Jamaica, Queens, N.Y.

Duration

55min

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