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Who Shot Miles & Other Stories from the Blue Coronet

Interview by Willard Jenkins with Dickie Habersham-Bey, former owner of the Brooklyn jazz club

From 1965-1985 one of the New York metro area’s hotspots for live jazz was the Blue Coronet in Brooklyn-the Bedford-Stuyvesant community to be exact. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps Brooklyn should be labeled the Second City instead of Chicago, given the backseat that storied borough so often takes to its little sister Manhattan (Brooklyn being by far the bigger land mass). Case in point, while surfing the web in search of additional background on the Blue Coronet, consistently the only listing that shows up in a Google search is reference to a bootleg recording made there in 1969, about which more in a minute. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz has a generally reliable series of pages under its Nightclubs entry that provides handy thumbnail sketches of various and sundry jazz clubs around the country, in major cities as well as smaller burghs… except for Brooklyn, where none of the borough’s jazz clubs are mentioned. And this is despite the fact that during a period in the ’50s and ’60s Brooklyn was alive with jazz clubs, particularly in the Bed-Stuy, an area that was home to a significant number of great jazz masters, including Eubie Blake, Max Roach, Randy Weston and Cecil Payne, and also including a certain trumpet player who spent many nights at the Blue Coronet and who as a younger man had lived in Bed-Stuy with the mother of his first child.

That Brooklyn disparity is one reason we’ve embarked on a research project of discovery into jazz in Bed-Stuy, essentially Central Brooklyn, for the Weeksville Heritage Center. In recent months The Independent Ear has excerpted lively interviews with some of the principles behind such legendary Brooklyn jazz venues as the East, and the current bastion known as Sista’s Place. However one joint preceded both of those homes to the music; the Blue Coronet has consistently been mentioned by both musicians, activists and fans alike as a home of great sounds. So we sought out Dickie Habersham-Bey, the owner-proprietor of the now-shuttered Blue Coronet. Though somewhat frail of health recently, Mr. Habersham-Bey gave some lively commentary on the Blue Coronet, including shedding some light on one of the more notorious nights in Miles Davis’ storied odyssey. Read on…

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