Al Vollmer, Founder of Harlem Blues and Jazz Band
The Harlem Blues & Jazz Band, founded in 1973 by King Oliver's trombonist/blues singer Clyde Bernhardt and jazz aficionado Al Vollmer, is dedicated to keeping the significant side-men of the Classic Jazz Period working and not forgotten.
The band has always had a strong link to Louis Armstrong from its inception. George James, the first saxophonist in the band, was with Armstrong in the '30's and participated in Armstrong's first triumphant return to his Native New Orleans. Bassist Johnny Williams joined and remained with the band for 25 years until his death in 1998 at the age of 90. He had been with Armstrong in the late '30's and again in the early '40's. (On occasion he would vocalize with Louis on the famous number "Rockin' Chair".)
"Fats" Waller's guitarist, Al Casey, joined the band in 1981. He had recorded with Armstrong and also performed with him at the Metropolitan Opera House in N.Y and the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. after winning the prestigious Esquire Jazz Critics Award for best guitarist in 1944 and 1945. Vollmer created the Harlem Blues & Jazz Band in 1973 as a labor of love, never suspecting that it would become one of the longest continually performing jazz groups in existence. An impressive number of musicians from the Classic and Swing eras have graced the various groups throughout the years, thereby giving an enviable authenticity and historical significance to the band's performances and recordings.
The Harlem Blues & Jazz Band was showcased in a documentary film by Anja Baron and Albert Vollmer titled "The Last of the First". The documentary was acclaimed (2004) at prestigious film festivals in New York (Tribeca), Los Angeles and Newport R.I. Dr. Vollmer served as jazz consultant and Executive Producer for this crucial documentation of a significant part of jazz history.