Mike Canterino the founder of the Half Note Club. Bares his soul in the book he authored The Half Note Jazz ClubMike Canterino, Cats and friends. 

You can Read all of the book here, as Mike Jr.and I are just starting to add photos, do the proofread and spell check. The finished product will be sent to the print house for the hardcover 1st run. This will take some time. So Enjoy The Half Note Jazz Club here as we update and Check back for additional on the stage live recordings from the Half Note Club (Mike’s Bag) all suggestions, stories and photos that you may have will help to make a better website and / or book.our main site for working on the book is HalfnoteClubSoul.com 

Coming soon, some more of Mike Canterino’s on the stage of the Half Note Club recordings. Mikes Bag is being transferred from tape to digital files. Here’s the first one, Al Cohn, Phil Woods and Mousey Alexander sharing the stage with Jimmy Rushing at the Half Note Club, New York. 

The Half Note Club on the corner of Spring and Hudson, New York Frank, Jean, Mike, Sonny, Judi, Tita

Join us on our Facebook group.


Jimmy Rushing Mr. Original artwork of Mike Canterino

Book jacket for The Half Note Jazz Club

Jazz Joint

The night Judy Garland came into the Half Note, we thought it was no big deal. We had King Hussein of Jordan in there sometimes. Tony Bennett always stopped by when he could. Steve Allen used to come in the place. We had lots of big name players and lots of show biz people, famous people, who came to hear the music. Even the Rolling Stones came in once in a while. I didn’t know who they were. Even after somebody told me who they were, I wasn’t sure who they were. To me, they were just some cats from England who always wanted to sit in the back so nobody would bother them. Nobody ever did. They used to come in sometimes when Wes Montgomery was playing, I guess to pick up a few licks. Wes practically reinvented guitar playing. Everybody learned from Wes.

To continue scroll just a bit… 

Judi Marie Canterino, Mike Canterino Jr. founded a nonprofit in honor of PaPa Mike Canterino. Who lived to be part of the Jazz music culture. 

Half Note Jazz Festivals is a nonprofit corporation  dedicated to raising the awareness of Jazz music. Our first Half Note Club Jazz Festival will be in New York on March 23 2022. To Honor PaPa Mike Canterino the founder of the Half Note club. All donations, completely go to raising cultural awareness of Jazz Music by hosting Half Note Jazz Festivals.Donate


Benny’s From Heaven Swing Jazz Style Judi Marie Canterino

Mike Canterino’s book 

The Half Note Jazz Club

Mike Canterino

Cats and friends


Mike Canterino 

© Copyright 2020

Jazz Joint

The night Judy Garland came into the Half Note, we thought it was no big deal. We had King Hussein of Jordan in there sometimes. Tony Bennett always stopped by when he could. Steve Allen used to come in the place. We had lots of big name players and lots of show biz people, famous people, who came to hear the music. Even the Rolling Stones came in once in a while. I didn’t know who they were. Even after somebody told me who they were, I wasn’t sure who they were. To me, they were just some cats from England who always wanted to sit in the back so nobody would bother them. Nobody ever did. They used to come in sometimes when Wes Montgomery was playing, I guess to pick up a few licks. Wes practically reinvented guitar playing. Everybody learned from Wes.


Tony Bennett Judi Marie Canterino the Swing Jazz Singer Mike Canterino founder of the Half Note Jazz Club 

Anyway, sure, it was an honor when Judy showed up. She was Judy Garland. And, man, everybody loved Judy. We were flippin’ out. But practically every night at the joint something great would happen, or somebody you’d never believe you’d ever meet walked in. So, it was just another terrific night in a long string of terrific nights. When I say it was no big deal, I mean that at first, it was great, but we didn’t know just how great it was till later.

It was about eleven o’clock on a Sunday night. The band had just started the second set. We had Ross Tomkins on piano, Zoot Sims on sax, Russell George on bass, Denny Siewell on drums and Anita O’Day singing. All the sudden, Judy Garland comes walking into the place. Man, I was glad the joint was swingin’.

Zoot Sims falling off the stage is a funny story my uncle Sonny would tell. Sonny catching Zoot Sims and throwing Zoot back up on the stage. Zoot Sims never missed a beat Zoot Sims played right through. 


It turned out that Anita O’day, who had just come back from Japan or somewhere, was staying with a friend of hers, a fellow by the name of Charlie Cochran. He was in show business in a way, a singer, cabaret style. He had a nice pad uptown. Anita was staying there, fat woman with the big chest, who used to advertise the eighteen-hour bras way back, was staying there and Judy Garland was staying there, too. When Anita came down to work, she didn’t say anything. We didn’t know Judy was coming.

Judy was wearing all black, a short skirt and a kind of long jacket. Nice, tailored- looking, but pretty average clothes. Nothing fancy. What stuck out about her was that she was so sickly-looking. Very thin.

Pop met her at the door and sat her down. He put her at table six, the best table in the house.

The joint had kind of an unusual layout, because it had originally been two rooms, which we’d turned into one. The bar and the bandstand were in the middle. The bar was shaped like the curved part of the letter ‘fi” and the bandstand, which was the same height as the bar, was behind  it, like the back of the “D.”  The bar faced the biggest part of the space, so in order for people sitting there to see the band better, we built a terrace. You had to walk up three steps, but the terrace was the same height as the bar and the stage, so if you were sitting at one of the tables up there, you could see right over the heads of the people hanging out at the bar.  You had a great view, except for this one pillar right in front of  the stage, left over from where we tore the wall out. We couldn’t get rid of it because it was holding the place up.

Pop put Judy at the four-top in the corner at the front of the terrace where you had the least obstruction from that pillar. My Judi, Judi Marie, took her order. I was behind the bar.

The Half Note Club was a nice looking place. We had actors’ pictures hanging up over the bar, jazz album covers and those Lancer’s wine bottles with the straw on the bottom hung up on the walls around the place. We bought some of that checkered oilcloth for the tables at Woolworth’s, and that looked nice. We had those straw bottomed wine bottles on every table too. Each one had a tulip in it. It was my job to get the tulips. I’d go over to the dower beds at the Holland Tunnel late at night, chop a bunch of them and bring them back.

The Jazz Joint (Half Note) could hold about 130 people, but there were only about twenty people that night, so everybody was sitting up there on the terrace. Nobody was in the smaller space behind the bar and the stage.

So, Judy was sitting up there on the terrace with everybody else, and everybody knew who she was, and everybody was probably as excited to see her as we were. People in the Village are a funny kind of people, though. They’re cool. They didn’t bother her, just like they didn’t bother King Hussein or Tony Bennett. Or the Rolling Stones—but, you know, in a joint like ours, they weren’t anybody anyway.JUDY GARLAND

Pop went back into the kitchen to cook Judy some food. I guess he thought he’d better hurry, from the looks of her. I got her a vodka, which Judi Marie served. Judi Marie introduced herself—in the nicest way, just being polite and acknowledging her. Judi wouldn’t ever bother anybody. But the other Judy, she was pretty friendly. Right away, she started doing that Cary Grant imitation, “Judy, Judy, Judy,” every time she wanted something or anytime Judi Marie passed by. So, my Judi started doing it right back at her, and they were both cracking up. It seemed pretty funny at the time.
Judi Marie brought out her food, which, if I remember  right, was pasta with meatballs. Practically everybody had Pop’s meatballs, one way or another, on a  sandwich, or with pasta, or by themselves. Pop was famous for his meatballs. They were light, soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, not like anybody else’s. Ask any musician who’s still around fiom that time. Judy said she loved the food, but Judi Marie told me she sure didn’t eat much.

Anyway, we fed her as best we could, and she had a few drinks. As soon as I could get away from the bar, I went over to say hello. I didn’t know what to say—so happy you’re here, great to meet you, we all love you, all the things you’ve done, the singing, the movies. …

She sat by herself for a long time, just listening to the music. Anita would go over and sit with her between sets.

Anita worked for us Fridays, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. She started working at the place in ‘57 or ’58, right after we opened.  She drank up everything and she was a little danky. One night I paid her, then she disappeared. Four years later, I got a call from Bangkok. She said was broke and she wanted to come back to New York. So, I scraped up the money for a ticket, wired it to her and she came back. Then, one time she had a late gig at the Village Vanguard. I went with her to make sure she got there okay. She walked out on the stage, told the audience she wasn’t singing that night and came back to hang out with us. Anita was just Anita. She’s still around, but she’s in her 80’s now.

Ross Tomkins, the piano player is still around, too. Man, could he play.

Zoot isn’t with us anymore.  He was a part of that place.  I remember times when the joint was dead, Zoot would come in, play three notes and the joint would be swingin’. He’d drink a lot of scotch and a case of beer, but he’d swing. We had those old, big Christmas lights strung around the stage, and Zoot would hold his glass up to one and turn it like it was a tap, like he was filling up his dririk. Zoot was like family. On Christmas Eve, Zoot, his wife, Ross, Major Holley and Mousey Davis would come to our place up in Riverdale for the evening. We’d be up all night. At seven AM, our son, Michael, would get up all excited to open his presents and we’d all be wrecked. Anyway, the joint was as much home to Zoot as it was to us.

Click the photo to find this and so much more Half Note Club History. Or just continue reading. 

The joint was home to all the musicians, and to practically everybody who came there. It was its own little music box, and everybody came there to be inside the music box.

Inside the music. On Saturday nights we’d get some people from the Upper East Side or some tourists who weren’t like that, but they were the only ones who had any dough.

Jazz wasn’t doing so well in those days. It seemed like the world had gone on to other things. We had about twenty people in the place that night, but some nights we’d have maybe three. It didn’t matter. The music would be just as swingin’ anyway. A lot of times there were more musicians in the place than customers. They came there to hang out. I remember nights when everybody sitting at the tables had a horn and was playing along with the guys up on stage, having a great time. Sometimes the musicians who came down would throw me some money, because they knew there was no bread there. A lot of guys came in and they worked for nothing. Wes Montgomery used to tell me, “Pay the rhythm section.” he’d say, “Don’t pay me, man. It’s okay, I’m doing good.” Cannonball Adderly used to do that too. And Zoot, he was always there for us.

Around that time my brother Sonny had to get a job because things were so bad. He went down to work on a truck to make some bread so we could keep going, because sometimes we made no money. Judi Marie checked coats and waited tables, I tended bar. We did whatever we could to keep the joint alive. Mostly, we were working for tips. Things  were tough back in those days, but we never worried about it. We didn’t need much money.

Guys came there to play their asses off. They didn’t care if there was only one person in the joint, it was okay, they’d play like mad. Coltrane—man, he played every tune as if it might be his last. Like he wanted to get it all out right now. Like he knew he was sick. I don’t know how he did it. He would play, like, an hour solo without stopping. The veins would be coming out of his neck.

The music was always great. It was great that night.

Judy seemed to be getting into it. A couple of cats at the bar were talking while Anita was singing. Probably musicians. It was mostly musicians hanging out at the bar. Most musicians don’t listen to singers anyway, you know. They just listen to the music.  And it was their Club, that’s how they felt about it. But Judy said, “Hey, there’s a great performer on that stage,” and shushed them. They shut up.

Finally, Charle Cochran showed up with his boyfriend, I think, and they sat with Judy.

I remember Anita inviting my Judi Marie up onstage to sing. Judi Marie did a few songs. What a voice she has. Musicians love Judi because she doesn’t treat them like background, you know? She sings with them, not in front of them.  Judi Marie was trained by the great LennieTristano, and she’s spent her life studying the best of the best, listening to all their phrasing, all their licks. Judi sings like an angel.  But, Judi and me too, we put the musicians and the singers we thought were great up on a pedestal. We weren’t  waiting for our break. Every time we got a chance to work with guys like Zoot, Wes, Trane or whoever, we felt like we’d already made it.

Doc Cheatham Judi Marie Canterino
The Half Note Club Mike Canterino’s originall art


The Half Note had to be the most unusual club in the world. It was 1969 outside the doors, but it was timeless inside the joint. We checked out of everything. People who came back after being away for a while, maybe years, would say the place hadn’t changed at all. All the problems and social issues didn’t exist in the Half Note club 

There was no trouble, nothing bad going on in there. Just music. Once in a while Trane would draw some black militants, you know, “Yeah, Trane, freedom now.” But Trane was just playing his ass off like nothing else mattered in the world. Even when guys sat in with him who couldn’t play—just so they could say they sat in with him-he didn’t care. He just played. The only way you could tell it was the sixties in there was the way people dressed. My Judi Marie would wear those white shoes with the high heels and thick soles, and mini skirts. Sometimes she wore pants under the mini skirts. She said she liked to be different. I had kind of long hair and mutton chop sideburns.

One thing, I guess, was that there were some drugs around. They were pretty much everywhere back then. Not too much, though. Guys would drink a lot, and maybe once in a while after hours if we were hanging around jamming, we’d smoke some shit.

Guys who did any of that would go down in the basement and keep it out of sight. That’s the way it was. Not much you could do about it.

About two AM, the guys in the band started getting on Judy to come up and do a few songs. Judy knew a couple of the guys. Ross Thompkins had been the piano player on the Tonight Show for a long time and he met her a couple of times when she did the show. Leo Ball knew her pretty well, too, from playing with her in some show. Leo was the musical director for Paul Anka, for a long time, and I think, later, for Liza Minnelli. He’s a regular guy, like part of the family for us, too. To this day, he shows up and sits in with Judi Marie and me every Thursday night when we do our steady gig in Larchmont village. 

Anyway, everybody asked her to sing, but Leo’s the one who really talked her into it.

At first, she didn’t want to do it. A lot of show biz people are like that, you know. She was frightened to get up on the stage. Leo kept saying, “Come on.”

I heard her say, ‘I’m so nervous.”

Leo says, “You? After all you’ve done?” ‘I’m so scared,” she says. “that’lI do?”

“Do what you do,” he says. He had to help her up the stairs to the stage. I didn’t know what was going to happen. She was just standing there, and she looked so thin and so frail and so scared. “Come on,” Leo says, “everybody loves you.” Everybody was encouraging her, but finally, Leo seemed to convince her to do it.

I heard that not long before that at some club in England that Judy went onstage, and I guess she wasn’t up to it, and the audience threw rolls from the breadbaskets and silverware at her, and she wallced oil the stage being hit by that stuff. What a drag. They should have just respected her. After all the entertainment she gave everyone.  That would never happen in my joint. It just wouldn’t. People wouldn’t do that.  Or if they  did, I’d throw the son of a bitches out.

Judy started with The Trolley Song.  She was a httle shaky for the first few bars, then all of the sudden, she was her old self. She was Judy Garland again. She went on, got  started, and just opened up. It was a gas. She started to swing. Man, the guys loved it, Then she sang Over the Rainbow. Everybody was in awe.

That was it. Two songs. Maybe ten minutes.  But, man, it was great.  Maybe she wasn’t at her peak, but she was still Judy Garland, and for those few minutes she was part of the music, she was in the music.

We had to help her down from the stage and back to her table. Then we sat down and talked, you know. We all gathered around Judy’s table—Pop, Judi Marie, the guys in the band, Anita, Charlie and his boyfriend. And we got pretty friendly. And me, at that time, I was wide open. I’d say anything. I said, “You know, you look too skinny, man. Very thin looking.” And my old man said, ‘Now that you know us, why don’t you hang out here? Maybe we can put some meat on you.” If Pop had his way, he’d have had her come in every night so he could cook her up some food.

She said, “I really can’t do that.” She said she was going to England in the morning. I think she just got married to someone there. But she said she really loved the place and as soon as she got back, she was going to hang out with us, that this was going to be her hang out. You can tell when somebody’s just saying something. I think she meant it. If you’d seen her, she seemed so happy there, just like we were. Just being in the music.

She stayed right till the end, about four AM, when we were closing the place. We wouldn’t let her pay, naturally. She was a little bombed. We all were, I guess.

Everybody said their good-byes. I walked her to the door. We sort of kept a little distance, you know. I mean we loved her, but you couldn’t hug her or anything like that. She looked too fragile anyway. It must have been hard being Judy Garland. Everybody in the world knew her. Everybody loved her. How could she hug everybody in the world?

She shook Pop’s hand.

Pop “ Frank Canterino and Ma “ Jean Canterino “

I went outside and watched her walk away with Anita, Charlie and his boyfriend. It was summer, and it was nice out. The joint was on Hudson and Spring, and they were walking east on Spring, I guess looking for a cab. The last thing I remember was watching her walk away into the dark. Her legs were like toothpicks.

It was a great night. But, you know, you just got nervous looking at her. There was something ominous, like she was sick or something. Like she was at the end of the line. She was like a shadow of herself—except when she was up on that stage. Then she was Judy Garland again.

You wanted to just grab her and keep her there, because for a little while she seemed so happy. You wanted to hold onto that. But what can you do?

I wish she could have come back and hung out at the joint. It was such a great place. A place where she could just get into the music. Where she belonged. Where people loved her. Like a home. One thing that Judy taught everybody is that there’s no place like home.

That was on June 15th. We heard on the news that a week later, on June 22 in 1969, they found her dead on her bathroom floor in London. I guess her body just gave out.

So, like I said, it was a bigger deal then we knew at first. The last time Judy Garland ever sang in public was at the Half Note Club. 

Jun 15, 2018 — @JudyGarlandExp.

These are the last known photographs taken of Judy Garland. They were taken in Manhattan on the evening June 15, 1969. . Possibly/probably the same night Judy Made her last public appearance when she sat in for two songs at the Half Note club.

Judy” “Judy” “Judy
Pop “Frank Canterino and Mike Canterino

https://www.youtube.com/embed/8KPlO6-bj24?feature=oembedA Night with Judi Marie Canterino 
“Swing Jazz SInger”

Half Note Club



From 1957 to 1972, The Half Note Club, at Spring and Hudson Streets, was one of the half dozen best-known jazz clubs in New York and worldwide. Despite a far from ideal location—it was in the southwesternmost part of Greenwich Village, a warehouse district that was totally deserted at night (no pedestrian traffic at all). Nevertheless, it was visited by people from all over the country and, indeed, worldwide; among its many visiting celebrities were Steve Allen, Merv Griffin, Tony Bennett, King Hussein of Jordan, the English actor Trevor Howard, Art Carney, and Jerry Stiller. The Half-Note was the scene of ABC live broadcasts and many live recording dates; several documentaries were filmed there, one widely distributed in France that featured Duke Ellington. During its 15-year tenure, virtually every jazz great played there: Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Zoot Sims, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Rushing, Camen McRae, Ben Webster, Lucky Thompson, Wes Montgomery, Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, James Moody, Jackie McLean, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Pepper Adams, John Coltrane, Anita O’Day, Maxine Sullivan, Jim Hall, Bobby Brookmeyer, Herbie Hancock—a Who’s Who of Jazz Greats!s

MIke Canterino and Duke Ellington on set at the Half Not Club for Duke Ellington picture a film by Louis Panassie’ title
“Laventure du Jazz”

Ultimately The Half-Note suffered a common fate with several other prominent jazz clubs: Birdland, the largest of all, closed in 1965, The Five Spot and The Jazz Gallery in 1972, the same year that the Canterino family, with outside financing, moved from their unpromising downtown location to a livelier midtown neighborhood and a roomier, more elegant venue, but the respite was temporary: after just two years, in 1974, the new Half-Note was sold and converted to a topless joint.

Marketing Plan

Mike’s colorful story will be supplemented by pictures of the club, bandstand action, and more significantly, by a CD of music, previously unissued, performed at the club—by two of the most significant figures in the history of The Half-Note and in the history of jazz, blues shouter Jimmy Rushing and saxophonist Zoot Sims. Actually, we’re blessed with a great deal of first-rate material to choose from, three separate live sessions. The CD strikes us as a perfect and perfectly logical supplement for a remarkable jazz room memoir.