This day in Mohawk Valley history: January 31, 1990

The Freeman’s Journal, January 31, 1990, Cooperstown, Otsego County, NY

Learning to swing dance

COOPERSTOWN—Would-be dancing dynamos who would like to learn a few steps of “swing” before Feb. 9, the evening of “Back to the Future/The Fabulous 40s” at the Pepper Mill, can get a jump-start Thursday evening, Feb 1 from 7:30-9p.m. In a one-shot workshop taught by virtuoso Cooperstown area dancer, Mary Jo Morris.

Morris will start out from scratch for the jitterbug-related lessons. Coming from a family of dancers (her mother was a professional dancer, her grandmother taught ballroom dancing and her family has long been associated with Fred Astaire Studios), Morris has been dancing all her life. At age 16 she was a finalist at the Junior Harvest Moon Ball competition at Madison Square Garden. More recently she was a past resident dance with the Glimmerglass Opera and has done the choreography for numerous high school productions. Morris also teaches cotillion classes for 7th and 8th graders. She will also teach a six-lesson adult education class in “touch dancing” at the high school.

Jazz set for concert series

COOPERSTOWN—The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, a group of veteran jazz musicians, will perform Friday, Feb. 2, [1990], at 8 p.m. in Cooperstown’s Sterling Auditorium.

The band, which appeared in Cooperstown in 1979 and 1983, is the third offering in the 20th Anniversary Encore! Season of the Cooperstown Concert Series. the performance is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Gathered together in 1973 by Larchmont, N.Y. saxophonist and orthodontist, Al Vollmer, the musicians of the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band have included many of the founding fathers who helped shape and define the original swing era.

Current members of the band are John Letman on trumpet and fluegelhorn; Candy Rose, trombone; George Kelly, tenor sax; Samuel Benskin, piano; Al Casey, guitar; John Williams, string bass; John Blowers, drums; and vocalist Laurel Watson.

For Kelly, Casey, Williams and Watson this is their second appearance in Cooperstown. Williams was also a member of the group during its 1979 performance here.

These musicians, whose average age is more than 70, have performed with such band leaders as Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Al Cooper, Don Redman, “Fats” Waller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. They have backed singers like Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Shirley Bassey, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

Source:New York State Historic Newspapers

The Harlem Blues and Jazz Band video

The Harlem film was shot at various locations in Harlem, at Hank O´Neal´s studio at 830 Broadway and at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood, New Jersey. The exact days were 15,16 & 17 July 1991.

The Freeman’s Journal, Cooperstown, N.Y.,Jan 31, 1990