Cobi Narita’s Open Mic is happening Friday nights from 7-10:30pm at a new location, 111 West 71st Street in the Hargrave House annex. Cobi has been producing renown and unknown performance artists for over four decades. For nearly thirty years, musicians, singers and tap dancers have enjoyed a venue where they could develop their crafts, practice new riffs or to just show off the old ones. Because of her generous patron heart, “Mother of New York City’s Jazz and Tap,” is how Cobi Narita is regarded by entertainers and fans alike.
Past participants of Cobi’s Friday night Open Mic include Harold “Stumpy” Cromer of the pioneering duo Stump and Stumpy (https://youtu.be/8QHvQ8kpquo), vocalist Yvette Glover, and her tap master son, Savion, to name a few. On any given Friday, the audience is likely to catch one or more Broadway celebrities or jazz giants honing their next project. Recent participants: Tina Fabrique (Ragtime, Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, Truly Blessed), Cynthia Scott (original Ray Charles Raelette), Fred Staton (centenarian tenor saxophonist, and Dakota Staton’s brother), Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin (Grammy nominated, poet, singer, actress), dancer/choreographer Mikki D. Davidson (For Colored Girls 20th Anniversary, Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert), 92 year-old Mabel Lee, who continues to perform internationally (https://youtu.be/TQ1UmNPnJ6s), or Savion’s tap protégé Keitaro Hosokawa (https://youtu.be/Z1vlki_BSio).
Open Mic performers are accompanied by legendary pianist Frank Owens—former musical director of Showtime at the Apollo, Lena Horne, John Denver, Johnny Mathis, Petula Clark, and Connie Francis. Other accomplished pianists substitute when Owens is otherwise engaged like on Friday, October 9, Frank Owens was conducting the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra at the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem as part of a salute to choreographer/dancer Norma Miller. Ms. Miller was a contemporary of Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Ethel Waters and is the first dancer to be honored by the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, Inc. Her biography, Swingin’ at the Savoy: A Memoir of a Jazz Dancer, and many documentary films recall her youthful jazz heydays (https://youtu.be/EANKZMcPV4k).
On Wednesday, October 14, 2015, Cobi Narita was honored by The Jazz Drama Program along with Jon Hendricks (the father of Jazz vocals) at the DiMenna Center, 450 West 37th Street. Then on Friday, October 16th many came out to congratulate Lady Narita in person at her Open Mic. Come on out one Friday and sing, recite a poem, or just kick back and experience the blessing Cobi continues to be to so many aspiring, or retiring, performing artists. Light refreshments are served all for a nominal fee—don’t forget to bring your sheet music!