At Revived Minton's in Harlem, Pianist Bertha Hope Reflects On Her Late Husband

There’s a bona fide scene going on these days under the revived Minton’s banner in Harlem, and it includes both notable music and good food. Next weekend—December 12 and 13—I’ll be sure to be there for Andy Bey, who gets my vote, hands down, as the best living male jazz singer, and who is also his own best accompanist on piano.
Sunday, December 7, pianist Bertha Hope will lead a quintet dedicated the music and memory of her late husband, Elmo Hope, an important jazz pianist and composer whose was a close associate of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell during a time when bebop innovations were being formulated and refined. Although Betha recorded three piano duets with Elmo (who died in 1967) few knew that she was a talented pianist until her 1992 Minor Music release Between Two Kings.
Like Elmo did, Bertha has a gift for subtle innovation. I hope I make it up to Minton’s to hear her. If you’re in New York, you should too. And here’s a little piece I wrote about here a dozen years ago (hence the dated references) for Jazziz magazine, that I’ve dug up in celebration.

By the time Bertha Rosemond was in junior high school in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, she was immersed in music. She’d walk home from school with a boy from her neighborhood who just happened to be destined for jazz immortality, Billy Higgins, and he’d play his sticks on anything he could: a fence, a garbage can lid. They’d trade recordings of the latest music. One day, a friend of Billy’s lent her something exotic, from New York: The Amazing Bud Powell.
“I was hooked,” she recalls, now decades removed at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. “I heard this interval I hadn’t encountered: the flatted fifth. I kept trying ‘til I could play that beginning.  I was picking it up by ear.” The young Bertha had started on piano at 3, having played in churches for her father, a singer, at 10 or 12, and having been blessed with the ability to hear such things. Continue reading “At Revived Minton's in Harlem, Pianist Bertha Hope Reflects On Her Late Husband”