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The Jazz Lady keeps South Shore swingin’
scit scat yez yez yeah.
she’s got the music in her veins.
She’s a Jazz Lady.
You can catch her tunes by takin’ South Shore trains.
scit scat yez yez yeah.
She’s a Jazz Lady.
That would sound great sung by Geraldine de Haas. She’s Chicago’s Jazz Lady. But she don’t sing anymore, especially bad jazz like mine. But, man, could she. Like all great jazz artists, she’s still rhapsodizing.
Geraldine tells me about auditioning for the original company of "Hair." "I said, ‘I’m not takin’ off my clothes. I’ll do all the singin’ you want, but I will not disrobe.’ So they took me because of the voice, really. I got in there. I was in my mid-30s then. I stayed healthier than most of ’em, and I was always ready." She started singing as a kid with her brother and sister Salome in Newark, N.J. They were known as Andy and the Bey Sisters, and toured all over the world, including Spain, London and Paris. "We worked the Etoile, the Olympia and the Blue Note in Paris. We did a jazz movie with Roger Vadim." Quelle hip! "Yeah, he was married to Brigitte Bardot at the time," she said. Geraldine de Haas is the founder and executive director of Jazz Unites, an annual jazz festival at South Shore Cultural Center. She just entertained a crowd of about 20,000 jazz hipsters with a lineup of "real" jazz artists.
She moved to South Shore the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. "I was pregnant with my son, drove in from Newark. It was not even on the radio when I was drivin’. I got here in the afternoon, it was very dark and cloudy, and it had started to rain. My mother said, ‘You know Martin Luther King is dead, he was just assassinated.’ That was pretty dramatic. We said, ‘What’s gonna happen now?’ "
Geraldine has shared the stage with Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan and her favorite, the late bass player Ray Brown. "Ray Brown was one of the coolest people I ever worked with. He was married to Ella Fitzgerald at one time; he was part of the bebop era." The Jazz Lady lays it on me. "Jazz evolved, it didn’t just happen. It dealt with the trials and tribulations of the people. As the people emerged, so did the music. When you listen to it as I listen to it, you can hear what people are sayin’, it’s like conversation, you can hear their pain, their happiness, whatever’s funny, and I can hear all of that in a jazz piece." Cool.
Geraldine had a stroke in 1999, she was hospitalized for a month. "I lost my eyesight. I still can’t see that well. I discovered I had arthritis in 1993. So time does really bring about a change, lemme tell you." The Jazz Lady keeps rockin’, though, producing Jazz Unites and passionately promoting jazz as America’s only original art form. South Shore has changed since Geraldine moved there in ’68. The Cultural Center was once the private, segregated country club to South Shore’s lace curtain Irish. I used to sneak in there to hang out at the beach when I was a kid. "Sure I’m a member, I left my polo pony in the parking lot." The Jazz Lady laughs and says, "Well, we couldn’t do that! I remember in 1981 when Count Basie and Dizzie Gillespie performed here at South Shore and I looked out over that crowd, and I said, ‘Those people would be turnin’ over in their graves if they saw all these black folks on the grounds of the South Shore Country Club.’ " Some of them still weep as they drive by.
Jazz was once considered the devil’s music. "That’s unfortunate because it’s the only secular music to come out of the African-American people. You know, playin’ music came before the notes were written down, that is more sacred than what you can read on a piece of paper."
Final set and the Jazz Lady says, "Billie Holiday had a strange voice, but what came out of her was so magnificent and so heartrending. But that’s what jazz is all about. It’s an expression, an individual expression that comes out of a person that makes it extremely special. Everybody is tryin’ to sound like everybody else, to make a hit record, whereas with jazz as much as you can sound like an individual, the better it is."
The Jazz Lady has spoken . scit scat yez yez yeah.