Daily Archives: December 4, 2012


When a friend gives me a first novel to read, I worry.  Not that I doubt the intelligence, wit, feeling, of my friends — but what if I don’t like it?  What can I say?  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but neither do I want to read a page of something I do not like.  So I am delighted to report that the jazz guitarist / composer / singer Davy Mooney, New Orleans native transplanted to Brooklyn, can write.

Hometown Heroes

In fact, Davy Mooney is a novelist.  His first book, HOMETOWN HEROES, combines the qualities of “a good read” and “a page-turner” with a seriously observant eye for social commentary and occasionally satire.  I won’t give the plot away, but in its 202 pages, you will learn what it feels like to be an improvising musician giving lessons to uninterested middle-schoolers; what’s involved in being a barrista; how it feels to play a jazz solo.  But that’s only the thin edge of it.  Mooney has seen and thought about all kinds of behavior: what Astoria, Queens, and New Orleans feel like in mores, climate, and affections, for one thing.  And he also has a deeper interest in what’s required to be an artist — not that all the guitar players in his book are heroes, martyrs, or geniuses.  One is hugely successful, has a television career, and an incredibly erotic girlfriend; the other might be a fine player, is struggling, and feels despair often.  (The second one, Joe, also tends to philosophize about his ground-level view of the world; Mooney does a lovely job of showing Joe as both sincere and in love with the sound of his own voice, but it’s never irritating.)

But there’s more.  Witches.  Not the Halloween crones, but women with power.  And I mean power — not the comic-book sort, but the energy to repair wrongs and to cause them, to reward the downtrodden and to punish the successful.  Rather like first-rate Golden Era science fiction or the best work of David Lynch, this novel makes a reader feel that there are undercurrents and shifts going on all around us while we drink our coffee, read the newspaper, engage in pleasant conversation.  “What’s going on that we are not aware of?” is one question that the book asks, and in a lightly witty way, “Who runs the show, and why?” is another.

Here’s the story that has been echoing in my head while reading the novel.  In 1942, I think, Billie Holiday and Lester Young (for a moment) joined forces on the West Coast.  Billie had heard and worked with Jimmie Rowles, then quite a young man, and tried to get Lester to invite him into the band.  Lester was suspicious.  Rowles hadn’t a long string of jazz credentials (even though Ben Webster had looked out for him) and, let’s face it, Rowles was “a grey boy,” a Caucasian.  So Lester had to be convinced.  Billie retold the story to Rowles on their 1955 rehearsal tape, “I said to him, ‘I don’t know . . . boy   can   blow!'”

Davy Mooney can blow — at the computer keyboard as well as at the guitar.  HOMETOWN HEROES is worth a good look.  You’ll have fun.

May your happiness increase.

May your happiness increase. 

AN ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE NOT TO BE MISSED: MONA’S HOT FOUR AND FRIENDS! (Tuesday, December 11, 2012: Rockwood Music Hall, New York City)

With all due respect to every other gig, concert, club date that I have agitated for in the past few posts, I feel that if you miss this one . . . well, SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY.

Can I be any less subtle?

Because I have a day gig that starts rather early, I have been to Mona’s, the long narrow rectangular club in the Extreme East Village (that’s Greenwich Village, New York City) exactly twice.  Once I had a very good time listening to the band, and the second time it was already so crowded that I couldn’t squeeze myself in.  But the Tuesday-late-night / early-Wednesday morning jam sessions are legendary.  They feature a band called MONA’S HOT FOUR — Dennis Lichman, clarinet; Gordon Webster, piano; Jared Engel, string bass; Nick Russo, guitar / banjo.  But everyone who’s anyone in the New York hot jazz scene has made an appearance at Mona’s, and the immense joy / hilarity / heat have become mythic.

For those of you saying, “I can’t go to a weekday gig that starts after 11 PM,” I sympathize.  But Dennis Lichtman is riding to the rescue on behalf of people who have to go to work and people who couldn’t shoehorn themselves into Mona’s.


On Tuesday, December 11, 2012:  Mona’s Hot Four will be having a CD/DVD release party / concert / ecstatic gathering at Rockwood Music Hall (Allen and Houston Streets in the East Village) at 8 PM, continuing until 9:15.

The Hot Four will be there with special guests: Tamar Korn, Emily Asher, Gordon Au, Mike Davis, and many more great musicians.   Admission is $10.

Those who don’t have to be awake early on Wednesday may continue the celebration after the show at Mona’s (Avenue B between 14th & 15th Street, beginning at 11 PM and going until 3:30 AM at the least.

Now, just in case you might be wondering, “How does Michael get to be so sure that an ecstatic jazz experience awaits those voyagers bold enough to get themselves to Allen and Houston Streets?”  I have been listening over and over to the CD while driving to work and everywhere else.  And the other drivers are, I am sure, more than a little puzzled at the man in the aging Toyota who is grinning and laughing and pounding the steering wheel in swingtime.

If the music at the Rockwood Music Hall is anywhere as elating as the CD, it will be a seventy-five minute set to remember, to tell the imaginary grandchildren.  Here’s some information about the CD, which contains these tracks: MY BLUE HEAVEN / CHANT IN THE NIGHT / TIGER RAG / WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO / LAZY RIVER / FIDGETY FEET / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / AVALON / SUGAR BLUES / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.

In addition to MH4, there are guest appearances from Emily Asher, Ehud Asherie, Gordon Au, Bob Curtis, Mike Davis, Jim Fryer, J. Walter Hawkes, Tamar Korn, David Langlois, Dan Levinson, David McKay, Andrew Nemr, Jerron Paxton, Nathan Pick, Molly Ryan, Bria Skonberg, Dave Speranza, Chris St. Hilaire, and Miss Tess.

All I can say is that these recorded performances rank easily with the best music I have heard in New York City since I ventured out of my cocoon in May 2004.  I am still grinning at the sounds stuck happily in my memory from this CD.

And there’s more — a professionally-done DVD documentary (slightly less than twenty minutes) about the scene at Mona’s.  I have held off watching this on my computer because it will be shown on December 11.

The Beloved, a few years ago, taught me something about “non-violent communication,” which is a soulful way of expressing yourself without pushing your wishes on anyone.  So rather than saying, “If you miss this, you’re nuts,” or “You should go to this gig if you want some extra added pleasure,” I will say only, “Would you be willing to consider the idea of this evening?  I think it will make you very happy.”  And I do.  My idea of absolute bliss, of course, is this: attend Rockland Music Hall.  Buy CD / DVDs in plural, keep one, give the rest as gifts, support the music and the musicians who do so much for us.

Here’s the Facebook link.  Look for me there (and say “Hello!” after).

And if you live far away or are tied to some responsibility on Dec. 11, you can order the CD / DVD package here.

May your happiness increase.