The people spoke, “Can you post more from that October 17 session at Cafe Bohemia?” And I said, “Yes, I can.”
The sounds come from here (on the map, it’s 15 Barrow Street, New York City):
Good sounds, created by Evan Arntzen, tenor, Felix Lemerle, guitar, Andrew Millar, drums; Alex Claffy, string bass:
There are more beautiful notes to come from sessions at Cafe Bohemia, including one last night with Jon-Erik Kellso, Evan and Arnt Arntzen, Jared Engel, and a surprise visit from Mara Kaye. And more after that!
To me, this is living, breathing music. Listen and see if you don’t agree. And here’s one of the places it flourishes — Cafe Bohemia at 15 Barrow Street, New York City.
On October 17, Evan Arntzen (tenor sax, clarinet, vocal), Felix Lemerle (guitar), Alex Claffy (string bass), and Andrew Millar (drums) played two sets of lively, varied, heartfelt music. And here’s a sample, Charlie Parker’s MOOSE THE MOOCHE:
Cafe Bohemia is hallowed ground — more about that hereand here — BUT it is not a museum of archaic sounds. Nothing’s dusty at Cafe Bohemia, and that includes the tabletops and floor — the music is alive, and that counts a great deal.
And it’s happening tonight: get tickets for a splendid evening of vivid sounds with Jon-Erik Kellso, Jared Engel, Evan and Arnt Arntzen here (the early show) and here (the late show). Before and after the music, as well, the Fat Cat (that’s Matt Rivera) will be spinning his rare and delightful records, and you will hear vibrant music.
Because you love this art, come visit it in its native habitat.
Postscript: if any more skeptical readers ask, “Michael is pushing this new club with enthusiasm. I wonder how much they are paying him?” The answer, dear Skeptic, is that I am not asking to be paid nor am I being paid: I want people to share the joy of fine music in a friendly new place with deep roots. And as we know, sitting home soon means there is nowhere else to go but home.
New York City is full of vanished landmarks: one checks the address of what was once a place both sacred and thriving only to find that it is now a nail salon or, even more common, that its facade no longer exists: it’s now luxury apartments or university offices. But resurrection, however rare, is possible and delightful. The “new” CAFE BOHEMIA, thanks to the labors and vision of Mike Zieleniewski and Christine Santelli, is one of those urban(e) miracles.
There will be divine music there on Thursday, October 24, featuring Jon-Erik Kellso, Evan Arntzen, Arnt Arntzen, and Jared Engel as well as the Hot Club. Tickets here for the 7:00 show; here for the 9:30 show. And for those who “don’t do Facebook,” tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.
Now . . . .
and another view:
LIVE MUSIC for sure. And there’s also Fat Cat Matt Rivera’s HOT CLUB, which I’ve written about here.
But let’s go back to some of that LIVE MUSIC, performed on September 26, before the Club’s official opening — a delightful all-acoustic jazz and blues evening featuring Mara Kaye, vocal; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Brian Nalepka, string bass. Incidentally, only people who regularly attend live-music events know how rare “all-acoustic” is, and how pleasing.
BLACK SHEEP BLUES:
For Billie, I WISHED ON THE MOON:
Also for Lady Day, NO REGRETS:
“How sad I am,” with a grin, for MY MAN:
I’ll have more music from this night, also from October 17 (Evan, Andrew Millar, Felix Lemerle, Alex Claffy) but I urge you to tear yourselves away from those electronic devices and visit the Cafe on the 24th. It’s tactless to remind people but necessary that clubs, concerts, and festivals need actual human attendees (what a thought!) to survive. So . . . see you there!
You might be walking along Barrow Street, on the Bleecker Street side of Seventh Avenue South (all this conjecture is taking place in Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, the United States); you could look up and see this sign.
You might just think, “Oh, another place to have an ale and perhaps a burger,” and you’d be correct, but in the most limited way.
Surprises await the curious, because down the stairs is the sacred ground where the jazz club Cafe Bohemia existed in the Fifties, where Miles, Lester, Ben, Coltrane, Cannonball, Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Pettiford played and live sessions were recorded.
Here’s the room as it is now. Notice the vertical sign?
This isn’t one of those Sic Transit Gloria Mundi posts lamenting the lost jazz shrines (and certainly there is reason enough to write such things) BECAUSE . . .
On Thursday, October 17, yes, this week, the new Cafe Bohemia will open officially. This is important news to me and I hope to you. So let me make it even more emphatic.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, THE NEW CAFE BOHEMIA OPENS.
That is as emphatic as WordPress permits. I was there on September 26, for the club’s trial run (more about that below) and I was delighted to find very friendly staff, good food and drink, pleasing sight lines and a receptive crowd, so it was a nostalgic return to a place I’d never been.
But back to current events. On this coming Thursday, there will be two shows, an early show at 6:45 and a late one at 9:30. These shows will be, as they say in retail, “value-packed”! Each show will feature wonderfully entertaining and enlightening record-spinning of an exalted kind by Fat Cat Matthew Rivera, bringing his Hot Club to the Village on a regular basis, AND live jazz from the Evan Arntzen Quartet including guitarist Felix Lemerle, string bassist Alex Claffy, and drummer Andrew Millar. Although the Bohemia hasn’t yet posted its regular schedule, their concept is both ambitious and comforting: seven nights of live jazz and blues music of the best kind.
Buy tickets here for the early show, here for the late one. It’s a small room, so be prepared. (I am, and I’ll be there.) And here is the Eventbrite link for those “who don’t do Facebook.”
If you follow JAZZ LIVES, or for that matter, if you follow lyrical swinging jazz, I don’t have to introduce Evan Arntzen to you. And if, by some chance, his name is oddly new to you, come down anyway: you will be uplifted. I guarantee it.
But who is Matthew Rivera?
I first met Matt Rivera (to give him his full handle, “Fat Cat Matthew Rivera,” which he can explain to you if you like) as a disembodied voice coming through my speakers as he was broadcasting on WKCR-FM a particularly precious musical reality — the full spectrum of jazz from before 1917 up to the middle Fifties, as captured on 78 RPM disks.
It isn’t a dusty trek into antiquity: Matt plays Miles and Bird, Gene Ammons and Fats Navarro next to “older styles.” Here’s Matt in a characteristically devout pose, at Cafe Bohemia:
and the recording (you’ll hear it on this post) that is the Hot Club’s theme song:
About two weeks ago, I visited the Fat Cat in his Cafe Bohemia lair and we chatted for JAZZ LIVES. YouTube decided to edit my long video in the middle of a record Matt was spinning, but I created a video of the whole disk later. Here’s the nicely detailed friendly first part:
and the second part:
and some samples of the real thing. First, the complete WHO?
DEXTERITY, with Bird, Miles, and Max:
and finally, a Kansas City gem featuring tenor player Dick Wilson and Mary Lou Williams and guitarist Floyd Smith:
Cafe Bohemia isn’t just a record-spinning listening party site, although the Fat Cat will have a regular Hot Club on Monday nights. Oh, no. When I attended the club’s trial run on September 26, there was live jazz — a goodly helping — of the best, with Mara Kaye singing (acoustically) blues and Billie with the joyous accompaniment of that night’s Cafe Bohemia Jazz Band: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Brian Nalepka, string bass. Here’s their opening number, ST. LOUIS BLUES:
The first word Mara utters on that video is “Wow,” and I echo those sentiments. Immense thanks are due owner Mike Zieleniewski and the splendid Christine Santelli as well as the musicians and staff.
See you downstairs at Cafe Bohemia on Thursday night: come over and say hello as we welcome this birth and rebirth to New York City.
Looking back on my 2017, one of the memorable pleasures is the privilege of meeting and hearing Nancy Harrow (in the company of fellow-singers Daryl Sherman and Hilary Gardner, too). You could call Nancy “a singer,” and then add “composer,” but she is more, an inspiring artist of great scope. I imagine her as someone who realized, early on, what her paths were, what her purposes might be, and set off to fulfill them — as she continues to do, with warmth, perception, humor, lightness, and strength.
I’ve written about Nancy here, but I couldn’t let this year conclude without shining a light on her latest work, her 2016 CD, THE SONG IS ALL. It’s not just that she’s recorded infrequently in this century — her preceding CD, recorded with Don Friedman in Japan, was in 2009, and even Tom Lord hasn’t noted it. But THE SONG IS ALL shows off Nancy in all her facets and reflections.
Nat Hentoff wrote this about Nancy’s 1981 sessions with John Lewis (THE JOHN LEWIS ALBUM FOR NANCY HARROW, Finesse Records): Nancy’s style is Nancy. There are no masks, no trickery–of sound or personality. What impressed Buck [Clayton] and a good many others . . . was the absence of artificiality, the directness of her sound and emotion. The presence, in sum, of someone real. . . . Nancy moves inside the lyrics, and as she tells each story there is that touch of autobiography that all lasting singers suggest. Again, it’s real. And that, I think, is why people who have heard her keep on wanting more. Hearing that kind of probing of memory and imagination is infectious. You start probing your own.
In the opening track of THE SONG IS ALL, Nancy sings the lines, “When I was small, no friend called, I played all the parts by myself,” which beautifully characterizes what she’s been doing for years — creating literary / musical imaginings based on Willa Cather, Hawthorne, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and several “children’s books” with deep meanings for adults as well. Nancy has written music and lyrics — songs that stand on their own as well as interludes in the plot — then performed them, an actress without artifice. THE SONG IS ALL is thus the multi-colored, emotionally intense Nancy Harrow Repertory Company.
Here is IF I WANT TO, drawing on Nancy’s improvisations on Cather’s A LOST LADY, combining pride, tenderness, vulnerability, and self-knowledge:
Ordinarily, if you offered me a CD solely of one artist’s originals, I might look at it with skepticism, for not every musician is a successful composer, but I embrace THE SONG IS ALL because of its depth and variety of feeling — the toughtness of SELF-ESTEEM, the wry wit of PUTTING ON AIRS, the mournful recollections of MY LOST CITY, the quiet intensity of I AM TOO SHY, and more. Many CDs pall after a half hour because of sameness, but this one moves from scene to scene with grace and power.
Although I take great pleasure in hearing Nancy with spare accompaniment, here she has assembled a thoroughly entrancing stock company of (mostly young) musicians: Chris Ziemba, George Delancey, Robert Edwards, Owen Broder, Alphonso Horne, Carrie Dowell, Monica Davis, Sarah Whitney, Eleanor Norton, Alex Claffy, Britton Smith, Carl Clemons Hopkins, David Linard, Nathan Bell, and veterans Dennis Mackrel and Rufus Reid. (If I’ve made anyone improperly “young” out of my ignorance, I trust I can be forgiven.)
Another piece of music that has become part of my daily pleasure — I cannot share it with you here (it never became a CD in this country)– is Nancy’s 1981 performance of MY SHIP and her version of AS LONG AS IT’S ABOUT LOVE from the record with John Lewis, and I have had the strongest urge to get out of my chair and put my ear close to the speaker, to best hear her songful message. I think of Whitman, “This hour I tell things in confidence, I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.”
Her voice, so endearingly personal — vibrato-ed or vibrato-less, tender or fierce — conveys emotions and ideas that it seems only she can convey, even if the song is familiar, with many singers trying to make it their own. And when she sings her own words and melodies, she quietly fills the room.
Here is an extraordinarily deep article on Nancy (with many of her own words and insights) by Wayne Zade, and here is Nancy’s website, a good place to read, listen, dream, and purchase CDs.
I close with the words by Chekhov — chosen by Nancy to be what someone sees having opened the cardboard sleeve of THE SONG IS ALL:
“Why are your songs so short? Is it because you are short of breath?” the songbird was asked. The bird replied: “I have a great many songs and I should like to sing them all.”
“When it’s true, I can move you,” Nancy sings, and she does: