The Harlem Song musical, which opened at the Apollo Theater in Harlem itself, is a celebration of 20th century history and culture in one of the most important African-American communities. That's a laudable endeavor, and the music does reflect Harlem's journey from vaudeville, gospel, and swing jazz to bop and soul, though it's heavily tilted toward the earlier 20th century forms of jazz. Some of the material is even adapted from the repertoire of estimable musical and literary legends like Jimmie Lunceford, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Richard Wright, and Langston Hughes. It's more 20th century African American music as filtered through Broadway than it is an undiluted representation of the sounds that gave Harlem its soundtrack, though. These are slickly executed, theatrical distillations of African American music of the period (or periods), performed by the cast with a slightly hammy cheer.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
|Harlem Song, musical revue|