Daily Archives: March 5, 2020

TRANSIT TIME: March 4-9, 2020

This post is more or less to amuse myself before the Jazz Bash by the Bay begins tomorrow, but you can come along as well.  I have just completed, or perhaps begun, the most intense loop of jazz travel I can recall.  It began with my happy viewing of Nancy Harrow and Will Pomerantz’s play, ABOUT LOVE, which is the subject of yesterday’s blogpost.  (“Don’t miss it” is the edited version).

Yesterday, I went to Philadelphia (the World Cafe Live) to hear, witness, and record Marty Grosz’s ninetieth birthday party, and after that I flew to Monterey, California, to the Portola Hotel and Conference Center, where I write these words.

I am sorry that Dan Barrett isn’t attending the Bash this year — for many reasons, but were he to see me with that button and ribbon pinned to my shirt, he would walk over and put his palm on the ribbon and push.  “It says PRESS.” But I shall go on.

On Thursday, at about 2 PM, I asked a favor of a neighbor who gave me — and my knapsack of video gear — a lift to the train station.  Once there, I found Amtrak (twenty minutes late) and eventually got to Philadelphia, where (once again) I imposed on a friend — this time Joe Plowman, a stellar fellow whether playing the string bass or not — to take me to the World Cafe Live.

The Marty Party was a delight, and, yes, if the Tech Goddess favors me, there will be video evidence.  I asked Danny Tobias and Lynn Redmile for a lift back to the 30th Street Station, and Dan Block and I rode back to New York City — arriving around 1:20 AM on Friday.  Dan went off to his home, about four subway stops away, but the next train to my suburban Long Island town was two hours later, so I asked the first cabbie in a line of cabs what he would charge; we settled on a price, and we were off.  (He had been a lawyer in Egypt, by the way).  Around 2:15 I was home and went to sleep for what I knew would only be a brief interlude.  My alarm went off, as planned, at 7; I did what was needed and got in my car to drive to parking for Kennedy Airport.  At 11:30 we were airborne; I arrived in Monterey close to 6 PM.  (I have adjusted none of this for New York and California time zones, but you can imagine that my eyelids are heavy.)

I really have no idea what time it actually is in my body clock, but will find out.  I can tell you that this travel rhapsody will have cost me about fifteen hundred dollars when it is all through.  I am blessedly fortunate to have that money, but the pleasure of seeing Marty Grosz, Vince Giordano, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Danny Tobias, Randy Reinhart, Brennan Ernst, Joe Plowman, Jack Saint Clair, Jim Lawlor, meeting people in the flesh whom I’d only known in cyberspace — one night! — as well as receiving an autographed copy of Marty’s autobiography, IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE: MY LIFE IN JAZZ (Golden Valley Press) . . . .and from tomorrow on, seeing Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Hal Smith, Le Jazz Hot, and more — that pleasure is and will be uncountable in mere currency.  And unless you knew my past life well, the immense freedom to do what I want is bliss, a bliss I hadn’t always been able to have.

And I can sleep next week.

May your happiness increase!

“ABOUT LOVE”: A PLAY WITH MUSIC AND SONGS, by NANCY HARROW, script and direction by WILL POMERANTZ

Before I met the extraordinary singer / songwriter / playwright Nancy Harrow, I knew of her theatrical career, but last night I had my first opportunity to see what I had only heard of blossom fully in front of my eyes: the “play with music and songs,” ABOUT LOVE, inspired by Turgenev’s FIRST LOVE.  This production closes on March 22, so I urge you to revel in it while it is here and not simply something you wanted to see and missed.  Nancy’s music is part of a genuinely captivating theatrical experience.

I will speak only vaguely of the plot, because it has surprises in it that I wouldn’t want to spoil.  But for those who crave spice in their spectacle, even though the story is set nearly two hundred years ago, it offers all sorts of modern enticements, romantic and erotic.  (Turgenev’s words, by the way, resonate as comfortable spoken English — not artificially modernized, but not the creaky translations we read as college students.)  The spine of the plot deals with Peter, sixteen at the start of the evening, although we learn later that he is an adult remembering one tumultuous summer and a love affair with the daughter of a princess who lives nearby.

What makes this more than a dramatized reading of FIRST LOVE is the combined inventiveness of Harrow and Will Pomerantz.  The half-dozen actors, all impressive without being overly showy, offer Nancy’s songs as not only musical interludes but emotional chorales that comment on the events and move them forward.  This isn’t new in musical theatre, but the songs — striking on their own — are poignant in the context of what Peter tells us and what we see him and his fellow-players experience.  There is a small gifted instrumental quartet in the back of the stage providing delightful sounds.

But my description of the experience might make it seem static: a play about a young man’s losses (I write the plural intentionally, and I am not referring to the cliche of “this is the summer I was no longer a virgin,” but something much deeper) of innocence — with music.  What director Pomerantz has done is to subdivide the lines that Peter would — on the page — speak for himself among the actors.  So it is nearly kaleidoscopic, as each of the actors gets a segment, in sequence, of the words.  The jazz equivalent, I think, is close to “trading fours,” although what happens onstage is more entrancing than that formula.

Here’s a sample, although — as we know — video is only part of the experience one has in real time with real people performing:

and an excerpt from Nancy’s song, sung beautifully by Silvia Bond,  that I admired long before I knew it would be part of this play:

One of the pleasures of the production was its energy: the actors (lovely and with wonderful singing and speaking voices) always seemed to be in a slow-motion whirl, as if I had wandered into a country dance.  When one or two stood stock-still to speak or sing, it was arresting.  And the elements of the production: Nancy’s songs, their simple yet powerful lyrics, the actors in sound and motion, the plot — all fused.  At no point could I, or did I want to, lift one element out to examine it.  The ninety minutes whirled by, and the audience was rapt.  And although Turgenev’s story is, in some ways, vehemently dramatic — characters not only being passionate but retiring to their rooms as an escape from their passions and the passions of others — the production was not all primary colors and loud voices, but we experienced the shadings of emotion beneath.

I could go on, but, instead, you should visit the Black Box Theater at the corner of Elizabeth and Bleecker Streets while you can.  If you don’t, you might be Blue:

ABOUT LOVE plays a limited engagement through March 22 at The Sheen Center (18 Bleecker Street at the corner of Elizabeth Street, NYC) in the Black Box Theater. Tickets are available online at OvationTix.com, by phone at 212-925-2812, or in-person at The Sheen Center box office Monday to Friday noon to 5 PM and one hour before performances. About Love plays Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. Preview tickets (through March 3) are $25. After opening, all evening performances are $39 – $59. Rush tickets will be available at the box office an hour before any performance for $25.

May your happiness increase!