Tuesday, March 15, 2016

All that Jazz

Our visit to Manhattan was a great excuse to check out jazz clubs. We started the official Jazz Safari Friday evening and managed to squeeze in three venues.

I really enjoy live music in smaller settings; the condensed visuals, tight sound, and the intimate and personal interaction between players and audience.

So many memorable moments.

Alfredo Rodriguez, at the 'Jazz Standard', with fingers spreading over the piano keys, powerfully and precisely striking, and then switching in the blink of an eyelash to barely caressing. Occasionally I have to remind myself that the piano is a percussion instrument but after his performance this realization will never be lost.

Then the tiny but vibrant 'Zinc Club' where the waitresses could barely navigate the crowd, yet the audience found room to dance and swivel to the Latin beat.

At the iconic Birdland, linen white table cloths and candle light set the stage for beautiful Molly Ringwald. With an actress' sense of timing she surprised the audience between songs, by reading Billy Holiday's letter to her former lover, Tallulah Bankhead. Before Billy published 'Lady Sings the Blues,' the publisher sent a preview copy to Tallulah, who then threatened to sue. Molly read from the letter,  "Read my book over again. I understand they sent you a duplicate manuscript. There’s nothing in it to hurt you. If you think so, let’s talk about it like I wanted to last month. It’s going to press right now so there is no time for monkeying around. Straighten up and fly right, Banky! Nobody’s trying to drag you.... And if you want to get shitty, we can make it a big shitty party."

Saturday night started in Tribeca at the Roxy Hotel, hosting a classic trio of piano, sax and drums in the atrium. Downstairs was Django, with a big Latin jazz band.

Later, to the Rum Bar at the Edison Hotel. Just three hours earlier I had watched the movie Birdman, so the scene where actor meets movie critic was fresh in my mind. Jaymz Bee pointed out this was the same bar, and suddenly I could see Michael Keaton sitting on a stool delivering his diatribe.

Smalls Jazz Club was the tiniest club we visited but it had the biggest band, the Justin Mullens Octet - French horn, 2 tenor sax, bass clarinet, bass, piano, drums. All the musicians had the score in front of them, but they were clearly improvising within the structure. The drummer did a physical warm up before starting, massaging his forearms and rolling his shoulders, which I thought was a bit theatrical, but after watching the physical strain of his performance, and the endurance it required, it was so clear the drums were just an extension of the real instrument -  his body.

Experience is the best teacher, and visiting these jazz clubs brought new appreciation, insights and learning about music.

Unfortunately, this trip we didn't make it to the Village Vanguard, Bluenote, Dizzy's Coca Cola Club, or Marie's Crisis Cafe. Woody Allen was playing with his New Orleans band at the Carlyle on the Upper East side, but it was sold out. Maybe next time!

my new uke! (on the left)
During our walking tours we also happily stumbled past the Chelsea Hotel and the Brill Building. The Chelsea, where Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Janice Joplin hung out. The Brill, which by 1962 contained 165 music businesses and hosted one of my favourite composers, Carole King.

In Greenwich Village I bought a new ukulele at Matt Umanov Guitars. This is the first uke I've actually purchased as my own, the others have been borrowed or stolen from Rob. As soon as I walked in the store I saw it posing on the counter, and it was love at first sight! A perfect souvenir for the NYC trip.

- this blog was guest-edited by Rob -

Friday Itinerary:
Jazz Standard - Alfredo Rodriguez....Cuban pianist. 
Zinc -Gregorio Uribe Big Band
Birdland - Molly Ringwald

Saturday's clubs:
Rum Bar (Edison Hotel)

Kitano - Ms. Blue

Smalls - the smallest club and biggest band!

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