Imagine it’s 1927 in the Harlem district of New York City during prohibition. Alcohol is illegal, but it’s easy to pay off the police in the mainly black district. Owney “The Killer” Madden, an English gangster, owns a club that is only the rich white clientele can enter called the Cotton Club. It employs solely black entertainers and waitstaff. The club was bought to be able to sell Madden’s bootlegged whiskey, and it sold well to its upper class clients like CBS sportscaster Ted Husing.
This evening’s brand new house band is a name that no one in the room will recognize. The group is from Washington, D.C. and they’re playing jazz music – another taboo on top of the bootlegged whiskey, and being white in a black neighborhood.
The front man of the band’s name? Duke Ellington.
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