It’s not everyone who celebrates her 65th birthday with a debut as a jazz singer, but that’s exactly what Lorna MacDonald Czarnota did in March. And she didn’t pick just any place for her debut, which also doubled as a birthday celebration. She chose the famous Colored Musicians Club, located at 145 Broadway in downtown Buffalo.
The Colored Musicians Club was founded in 1918 as a social club for African-American musicians. The musicians who joined the social club were members of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 533.
They formed their union chapter in 1917, after Local 43, which was the original American Federation of Musicians chapter in Buffalo, refused to accept any African-Americans into their ranks. Buffalo was one of a number of cities in the United States that had segregated chapters of the musicians’ union. In 1934, the Colored Musicians Club moved into their current home on Broadway. The building was originally a storefront, designed by architect Joseph Geigand for Charles Zifle, business owner. It was built in 1910.
The two chapters of the American Federation of Musicians merged in 1969. The Colored Musicians Club remained as a social club, a place for jazz musicians to jam, and as a location for fans of jazz to enjoy excellent performances from both established artists and emerging artists. Many famous musicians have performed at the Colored Musicians Club, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.
Both instrumentalists and vocalists are welcome to perform at jam sessions at the club. In addition, the club, which is now part of Buffalo’s African-American Heritage Corridor, sponsors jazz festivals, which feature some of the greatest jazz performers.
If you are a fan of jazz, as I am, you ought to visit the Colored Musicians Club, which is open Wednesdays through Sundays. From October 11th through the 13th, it is sponsoring Jazzfest at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center on the campus of Buffalo State College.
For a more detailed history of the Historic Colored Musicians Club, take a look at this article: history of the Colored Musicians Club.