I joined the Creative Jazz Organization in 2010 and it was by total coincident. My partner Rodney was a member about four years prior and he asked me to accompany him to the club. At the time, they were playing at what is known today as The Proper. I must confess that I was not a Jazz enthusiast but had a huge appreciation for the art and I might say I am slowly being converted. Well, now I can say that I can’t wait for Wednesday nights to come back around to see everyone again. The American Legion Post 483 is our new home, we have bonded and became a family.
A little about me, I am the proud mother of one, my baby girl Gabrielle. I am also blessed to be the surrogate mother to many. I have a business degree so supporting the organization in this capacity makes me very happy. In 2010, I became a board member as Corresponding Secretary and in 2015 I became the Vice President. Now, 2018 is was fortunate to hold the title for the next two years. I must say that with my love of people mainly seniors and my belief in the Organization I consider my time well spent.
Being a part of the Board for around 10 years, I must confess that musicians are a special group of individuals. I have developed such an appreciation for the sacrifices they make in order to keep Jazz alive. They are DEDICATED.
We are working dilligently to someday own our own building dedicated strictly for the music. Soon the organization hopes to be live streaming our music internationally for our musicians.
My motto, We must come together as a movement to induce, inspire, influence, encourage and motivate each other.
My name is Mary Cokely. I am President of the Missionary Board at my Church of which I have been a member for 30 years. This has prepared me in fulfilling my new duties as Corresponding Secretary. I have been an active member for more than 13 years and three years as the Corresponding Secretary. My greatest passion is cooking and baking for family, friends and various other affairs and organizations. I enjoy dancing, chatting and music of all genres. I am a proud Brooklynite and I love people, adventure, and living life to the fullest. I adore jazzy jewelry, and unique clothing. I feel bless to live the life I Iive.
“To God Be The Glory
REUBEN BANKHEAD CHAIRMAN OF SCHOLARSHIP COMMITTEE
Reuben Bankhead eighty-eight and still going strong, born on 01/12/1930 Alabama, South Carolina then onto Brooklyn, New York and now resides in South Richmond Hill in Queens. He married his dutiful wife Alice and together they have five children four boys and one girl. He has a younger brother and an older sister.
So, sitting down with Reuben at my home I asked him what was his favorite kind of music and as you may have guessed, he quickly responded Jazz. He said he gained an appreciation for this wonderful artform at the young age of five, he knew then there was something very special about Jazz music. If anyone knows Reuben you may know that he has a warped sense of humor. I ask him if he played an instrument and in true fashion he said the radio. With that satisfied look on his face that says I just made a funny. On a more serious note he mentioned as a child his parents paid for piano, drums and the violin lessons, neither of which he plays today. However, you might say it is in the genes, because his son Keith happens to play the drums and the piano. Curious as to the influence that lead him to jazz music he wasted no time and belted out big bands, bee bop, dizzy, Charlie Parker, Monk, and Lester Young.
I asked if he got to see any of them in concert he smiled and said I saw dizzy, Parker, Monk and Roy Haynes, who coincidentally came to Carmichaels regularly. Most times Roy just wanted to sit out and had to be convinced to play. For those of you who might be novices to the jazz world Carmichaels was the home of CJO (Creative Jazz Organization) for many years. It was in South Jamaica Queens on Guy Brewer Blvd and Foch in the basement of the Carmichael’s diner. I would be remiss if I painted a picture that CJO was buried somewhere in a restaurants basement. Oh, no. The organization was looking for a new home and the Carmichael brothers extended generosity to the group, and the unofficial organizations name became Carmichael’s, home to some of the greatest local and well-known Jazz artists to name a few, Roy Haynes, Walter Perkins.
I digressed. At the start of Reuben’s professional career, he worked at the post office for 11 yrs. and then he joined NYPD and stayed there for 23 yrs. I asked Reuben, who is currently the President of Creative Jazz when did he join the organization and to the best of his memory he said around 1996/1997. Well ladies the good news is a woman was the first President of CJO, and then the reins were passed to him. Reuben became President in 2000. I asked Reuben if he thought that would be doing it this long. He answered a resounding No, but I love the organization. He went on to say that throughout the years many organizations have come and gone and there was a time he thought that CJO would have to close. Why I asked, he mentioned for lack of participation. You see most of our members are now older and can’t get around as well, moved away or passed on.
As I mentioned earlier the Carmichael brothers I think there were 4/5 brothers they owned a bank, liquor store, garage as well as the diner in the neighborhood. They opened their doors to us and gave us a tremendous opportunity that changed the newly formed organizations into an institution of greatness. However, their business began to decline as one of the brothers were shot and the businesses began to suffer and lose money. The writing was on the wall and the time came when the business was going to be sold so we had to find another home. I asked Reuben throughout the many relocations, the organization had to go through, do you have any original members still attending the sessions at Thomasina’s? Yes, we do. We have quite a few, George Callendar, Wilbur and Daisy Hutchinson, Alice Brown, Edsel Lindsay, Eve Henderson, Al Raines Pat Hartwell, Joe Katz, Shirley Doig, Mildred Williams (backup singer for Cooty Williams) Ann Batson recently deceased and Jeanne Ottley recently deceased.
I asked Reuben if he could tell me his favorite performer from back in the day he immediately said Charlie Parker, John Coltrane. Then I asked who is it today, he took a moment to narrow down his list and said Charles and Carl Bartlett, along with Elijah Shiffer, he is a young man that came to us at the age of 16 and has developed into quite an accomplished musician. So, I asked him, if there was anyone alive today that did not know about Jazz music what would you like them to know, it was birthed as slave music, then we had the blues with the humming and singing. So, I asked do you have to like jazz to appreciate it, he said of course.
Now Reuben, St. Albans has been the home to many Jazz artists, do you still see that strong influence today? No, not really because there are not too many Jazz clubs left and they really don’t teach music in many schools today. So as a community organization what do you do to help promote the history of Jazz? Well, we have several affiliations with surrounding schools. We advertise through emails, we have a music scholarship program, we support our youth with school supplies and Christmas gifts to remind them of our presents. What plans do you have for CJO in the future, oh that’s easy we will continue to do everything we can to “keep Jazz Alive” and to educate the youth about Jazz music. Now, you traditionally here about men in jazz, what about the women of jazz are there any today. Oh yes, Jazmine Horn, Terry Wilson, Madam Pat Tandy to name a few.
If you had one person to come back to perform a concert who would you like to see? I would love to enjoy Bross Townsend on piano. He went blind overnight but it didn’t stop his career. John Abraham tenor sax he frequented Carmichael’s. Bob Cunningham Fantastic bass player for CJO, Bill Wurtzell best guitar player I have ever heard and Lou Vega an awesome guitarist also.