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Black Hawk (nightclub)


Mongo Santamaría & Joao Donato “Live at the Black Hawk” – Sabor

Recorded at The Black Hawk in San Francisco, 1962. Sabor is a Donato’s composition. The disc “Mongo Santamaría At The Black Haw” was a Fantasy record released in 1994. About Mongo and Joao Donato, Chuck Ellsworth (note’s editor) say: ” No one was surprised when Mongo’s swinging jazz-flavored octet was booked into the Black Hawk San Francisco’s most celebrated jazz club until its demise in mid-1963. Jazz fans of every persuasion, as well as followers of Latin music, turned out for the occasion…. Pianist Joao Donato is from South America but clearly understand what cuban music is all about, since he composed several of the numbers heard here (“Bluchanga”, “Descarga at the Black Haw,” “Sabor”). He doubles on trombon ocassionally as well, enlarging and deeping the band’s front line sound. Donato, too, is obviously in tune with jazz developments, for his work on “Sabor” is not unlike that of jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson…. Este es un tributo a los 50 años de la grabación en vivo por la Orquesta “La Sabrosa” liderada por Mongo Santamaría, y nada más agradable que con “Sabor” la composición del recordado y extraordinario pianista brasileño Joao Donato.

tumblr_lqy49eaQaf1qz7o2mo1_500The Black Hawk was a San Francisco nightclub which featured live jazzperformances during its period of operation from 1949 to 1963. It was located on the corner of Turk Street and Hyde Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Guido Caccienti owned the club along with Johnny and Helen Noga.


The Black Hawk’s intimate atmosphere was ideal for small jazz groups. In 1959, the fees that the club was able to pay jazz acts rose from less than $300 to more than $3,000 a week.  A number of musicians recorded albums at the club, including Miles DavisCal TjaderThelonious MonkShelly Manne and Mongo Santamaría.

monk-blackhawk-cover-16001Billie Holiday and Lester Young played their last West Coast club dates here and the Modern Jazz Quartet played its first. When Charlie Parker was supposed to be opening across town at the Say When Club, he could be found instead jamming at the Hawk. Other notable musicians who appeared there include Dave BrubeckJohn ColtraneDizzy GillespieChet BakerVince GuaraldiStan GetzMary StallingsJohnny MathisArt BlakeyShorty RogersArt PepperArt Farmer,Gerry MulliganHorace Parlan and Russ FreemanArt Tatum mainly did concert work in the last 18 months of his life; he played the Black Hawk in 1955.

Sunday afternoon sessions at the Black Hawk offered blowing time to young musicians. After a young sextet working at the Black Hawk brought Johnny Mathis in for a Sunday afternoon session, Helen Noga, co-owner of the club, decided that she wanted to manage his career. In early September 1955, Mathis gained a job singing at weekends for Ann Dee’s 440 Club. After repeated attempts, Noga convinced George Avakian, then head of Popular Music A&R at Columbia, to see him. Avakian came to the club, heard Mathis sing and sent the now famous telegram to his record company: “Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way.”

Billie Holiday’s old friend Dr. Herbert Henderson visited Holiday when she played dates at the Black Hawk during September 1958. For several months each year, Brubeck, who got his real start at the Black Hawk, returned for extended series of appearances, playing for consecutive weekends, sometimes for three months at a time.

6a00e008dca1f088340105372372f3970b-300wiNick Esposito and his Sextet appeared many times at the Black Hawk during the 1950’s. Esposito was known for his guitar jazz stylings. He had hit records such as “Empty Ballroom Blues,” “Penny,” “Fat Cat Boogie” and others. He always enjoyed coming home to San Francisco where he resided and the Black Hawk Nightclub.

The site of the Blackhawk is now a parking lot. Still standing is the adjacent building on Hyde Street (now housing the 222 Club) where tape recorders were set up to record the Miles Davis album.

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