This isn’t about Dostoevsky or his grim-pre-existential narrator.

No, the subject is much happier and equally profound. 

I had learned from trumpeter Gordon Au that there would be a below-ground wingding on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010: he and the Grand Street Stompers would play an hour’s gig down on the subway platform, the F train at Second Avenue for those taking notes.  Even better, they would be joined by New York City swing dancers in vintage attire.  Then, everyone would board an antique subway train (circa 1960 with yellow / blue rattan seats), do a round-trip out to Queens and make way for a second train trip. 

I could only take the vintage subway a few stops uptown, but I did capture the vivid action on the platform.  The Grand Street Stompers began as a trio — Gordon, Pete Anderson on clarinet, Rob Adkins on bass — but soon became a quartet when guitarist Mikey Freedom Hart arrived.

Their first number was a nicely rocking / sentimental BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA, perhaps a homage to Louis, who began his concerts with this sweet old song for nearly twenty-five years:

Then, in the first acknowledgment of the season, IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS in two tempos, the dancers dipping and whirling even in the confined space (everyone was fully aware that overdramatic dancing would take them and us too close to the edges of the platform):

An unusual (and brave) choice for the context, Hoagy Carmichael’s NEW ORLEANS, with Gordon growling passionately, Rob bowing in the best old-New-Orleans manner:

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN (the song that made J. Fred Coots financially secure forever) here sounds as if BLUE MONK was not far in the background — it’s really a good, simplistic Thirties song:

I don’t know if Fats Waller ever took the subway, but he would have been pleased by this pretty — although brief — version of his 1929 hit AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’:

Finally, the pop lexicon’s version of the primal scene — Freudian or out of PEYTON PLACE? — I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS.  Let’s hope it was Daddy in the red suit, shall we?

I delighted in the lovely playing of the quartet, the delicious incongruity of the music and the setting — but the real pleasure was in watching the dancers reflect the music in their bodies, singly and in pairs, switching off, having a fine time.  Lynn Redmile, who appears in the beginning of the last video (to the right), promised she would tell me the names of the spirited and agile dancers we so admire here.  

The Home of Happy Feet for the price of a Metrocard swipe — !

3 responses to “NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND (Dec. 19, 2010)

  1. Superb videography…the quality of sound is amazing (especially the first few holiday songs! even the subway annoucements seem heavenly for a change)….thank you for all this amazing footage! I love Gordon Au and his band Grand St. Stompers (with special guests Mikey Freedom Hart (who has his own band called Mikey & Freedom Hart & His Lucky Dogs) and Rob Adkins of Baby Soda Jazz). Grand St. Stompers’s swingy arrangements of holiday favorites and other treats were really classy, smooth, heartfelt and inspiring.
    Thank you for showcasing their amazing talents and also featuring moments with the dancers as well.

  2. Thanks so much for your kind words! A little bird told me that you are one of the graceful terpsichoreans, too — so the admiration goes both ways! Cheers, Michael

  3. Michael, thank you again for such a fabulous record of an incredible event. Gordon Au always pulls such talented musicians to join his band – and the dancers just love the Grand St. Stompers, regardless of how little space we have to dance! It was a real treat to see Rob, Mikey, and of course you know Pete Anderson well – he also plays with Vince Giordano, Michael Arenella, and often with his twin Will.
    The MTA truly treats us with this event every year – each Sunday for a month, from the end of November to end of December, they run the vintage train on the F track, from 2nd Ave to Queens Plaza and back. Many of the dancers attend every year, dress in vintage style (or original vintage clothing, if they have it!), and prepare to thoroughly enjoy themselves!
    Some of the dancers who were in your video clips are:
    Rik Panganiban, Christina Oppold, Francesco Michelassi, Mafa Edwards, Kepfram Cauley, Michelle Coursey, Mark Gillman, Voon Wai, Charles Herold, Laurel Carpenter, Michael Ingbar, Patrick Soluri, Natalia Boesch, Lynn Redmile.
    We are collecting video and photos at this site – feel free to visit!

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