The original Cotton Club was a famous nightclub and jazz venue in Harlem, its heyday was during the 1930s. Many of the greatest African American musicians of the time plied their trade there - Count Bassie, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. The club had a very colourful history and was originally owned by a boot legger and gangster, who acquired it whilst in prison in Sing Sing. The club launched the career of Duke Ellington, who took over as the house band, performing the music for revues, comedy, dance numbers and burlesque. A weekly radio broadcast from the club gave Ellington national exposure and famous clientele poured in to see the performances. Ellington recorded over one hundred compositions during this period and was instrumental in the club relaxing its policy of excluding black customers. In 1931 he and his band left the club to be replaced by Cab Calloway and his Orchestra and their revue 'Brown Sugar'. (Familiar name!) After the Harlem race riots, the club relocated but closed in 1940 following a tax evasion investigation in to Manhattan club owners.
The Cotton Club was immortalized by the 1984 film of the same name, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It was a crime drama, the story was based on the Club in the 1930s and starred Richard Gere as a musician, working for mobsters to further his career. It also starred Nicholas Cage as Gere's brother, his character based on real life gangster Vincent 'Mad Dog' Coll.
The caricature 'Cotton Club Charlie', a skillfully executed etching by Ronnie Wood, artfully details Charlies love of jazz and his immaculate and debonair appearance. Wearing a Panama hat, bow tie in hand and spats on his shoes, Charlie sits serenely, drumsticks in hand; holding court while the ghosts of the Cotton Clubs famous musicians play in background.
Ronnie Woods has paid tribute to many of the jazz worlds greatest performers including Miles Davies, Duke Ellington, Howlin' Wolf and Robbie Johnson, all immortalized in Ronnies 'Jazz Series' of paintings.