A.k.a "The Metropolitan Bopera House"
Picture: Kenny Clarke (foreground), Fats Navarro, Gerry Mulligan, Allen Eager, Curley Russell and Tadd Dameron at the Royal Roost (1948, Herman Leonard)
The Royal Roost was initially a Broadway chicken restaurant that had live music from time to time. However, as Monte Kay, one of the later promoters of jazz at the venue noted, even when the Jimmie Lunceford band was appearing there the "the place was empty. I don't think there were 50 people there on a Saturday night. I knew there was an audience for jazz, but they were a little tired of standing up at the bar on 52nd Street and nursing a beer through a whole set for a buck or a buck and a half ."
In 1948, as Ira Gitler explains in "The Masters of Bebop", Kay and Sid Torin ("Symphony Sid") "decided to promote a Tuesday-night session with modernists Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro, Allen Eager, and Tadd Dameron. They drew 700 people the first night. After five successful Tuesdays, the sessions were held three nights a week, and finally became a full-time operation. Since Kay was his manager, Dameron became leader of the house band. He had Navarro and Eager and, for a time, Kai Winding. Later, people like Rudy Williams, Wardell Gray, and a young tenor man from Texas, Jimmy Ford helped fill the bandstand. [..] The Roost was an unusual success story. It happened at a time when the nightclub business in general was in one of its periodic doldrums. Even though the crowds had been amazing for the weekly sessions and continued to be large when the three-days-a-week policy was started, the management was leery when Kay suggested presenting jazz full-time. "Friday night about 8.30pm, there were some women passing by who would ordinarily come in for their chicken, and the owners of the place stood there and insisted that everybody be let in free who said they wanted to have dinner, because they didn't want to take a chance on blowing their business. They didn't think anyone would come. We didn't have any advertising – except that Thursday night, Sid had said it on the air, and we announced it to the people in the audience. Well, just off the street and from the word-of-mouth that had been around, we did 400 or 500 Friday night, had a packed house Saturday night, and we never stopped."
With so many leading bebop musicians playing at the Royal Roost, the club later acquired the nickname "the Metropolitan Bopera House," a punning reference to its proximity to the nearby Metropolitan Opera House. By the early 1950s, the jazz programming of the Roost was moved to "Bop City", the new club of the Roost's manager (Ralph Watkins).
The Tadd Dameron Quintet/Sextet (including Kenny Clarke) played as the house band for 39 weeks at the Roost in 1948/49. Several live recordings from August to October 1948 have been released under different titles, featuring Fats Navarro (trumpet), Rudy Williams (Alto), Allen Eager (Tenor), Tadd Dameron (piano), Curley Russell (Bass), Kenny Clarke (drums) and in some cases Milt Jackson (piano/vibes), Kai Winding (trombone) and Kenny Hagood (vocals).
The recordings provide a good representation of the band's regular repertoire at The Roost, including: Jumping With Symphony Sid, The Squirrel, Good Bait, Anthropology, Lady Be Good (Rifftide), Wahoo, (The) Tadd Walk, Symphonette, Dameronia, Our Delight, The Chase and Eb Pob.
Whole album links: