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A Brief History of Jack's Basket Room

3219 South Central Avenue used to be the place where musicians would gather together after-hours and play music all through the night, into the morning. It was smack dab in the middle of the jazz scene in the 1950s. Many musicians came and went to hang out and have a great time.

One particular story that has become part of Jack's rich music history was the night Charlie Parker, or the Bird as he was fondly called by his peers, came out after being released from hospital and played at the Basket Room.

Word on the street lit up with musicians reporting that he was suited up and headed for Jack’s, alto in tow. Buddy would recall the evening in his memoir: “[Bird] had been quite ill, having problems with drugs and going through other things. There was an announcement that he was going to come and jam.”
All the tenor and alto players were there—Sonny Criss, Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Gene Phillips, Teddy Edwards, Jay McNeely, and on and on. They all played and Bird sat there and smiled…. Finally, Bird got up there and I don’t think he played more than three or four choruses. But he told a complete story, caught all the nuances, tapered off to the end. Nobody played a note after that. Everybody just packed up their horns and went on home, because it was so complete, so right.”

There were plans to restore the building and make it a place where musicians could once again congregate and share their ideas, music, and lives with one another. However, an unfortunate thing happened. The building was burnt down, an apparent arson, for unknown reasons.

Now, Jack's Basket Room lives only in people's stories, its past recorded in memories and shared anecdotes.

-via Longreads

(Image credit: The Tom & Ethel Bradley Center/California State University, Northridge)


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