Tag Archives: Chez Josephine

AN ISLAND OF BEAUTY: CONAL FOWKES and DAN BLOCK (Chez Josephine, June 6, 2015)

Island palm tree

You would hardly expect musical beauty to be so generously evident in a busy New York City restaurant on a Saturday night, but it happened again on June 6, 2015.  The creators were Conal Fowkes, piano; Dan Block, clarinet. The unlikely spot is Chez Josephine on West 42nd Street in New York.

And here are six charmers.

Never mind the darkness, the waitstaff crossing back and forth (it’s what they are paid to do and diners want their food and drink right now), the occasional tendency to use the top of the piano as a service area.  Instead, concentrate on the lovely music.

Harold Ross — beloved and idiosyncratic editor of The New Yorker — once said, “Talent doesn’t care where it resides.”  We bless Conal and Dan for filling the air with such lovely sounds . . . for those who can hear them, subliminally or directly.

The videos are odd, but the sound of the piano and clarinet is clear and distinct. And I’ve given up hopes of an Oscar for cinematography, for 2015 at least.

IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN (the first song of the night, and I caught it in progress, as they say):

I’LL GET BY:

MY IDEAL:

MAKE BELIEVE:

PRELUDE TO A KISS (I think playing a ballad in a rather conversational place is a heroic act; see what you think):

A SHINE ON YOUR SHOES:

May your happiness increase!

MORE OF THE GOOD STUFF: CONAL FOWKES and DAN BLOCK at CHEZ JOSEPHINE, MAY 30, 2015

A number of people wrote in enthusiastically about the music I’d posted yesterday — Conal Fowkes, piano and vocal; Dan Block, clarinet — playing WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD at Chez Josephine on West 42nd Street in New York — and asking kindly if there was more like that in the JAZZ LIVES audio larder.

There is!  (There are?)

Here are five more beauties from that gig, one week ago.

Early Ellington, a song I’ve never heard live, SWEET MAMA:

Another rarely played one, THE SECOND TIME AROUND:

SWEET SUE:

JUST FRIENDS:

Bechet’s SI TU VOIS MA MERE:

And I was at Chez Josephine last night, with camera and enthusiasm, and you will hear and see more from Conal and Dan soon. A privilege to be there.

May your happiness increase!

“WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD”: CONAL FOWKES / DAN BLOCK at CHEZ JOSEPHINE (May 30, 2015)

WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD music

I think Irving Berlin’s 1929 song, WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, is one of his most beautiful.  And no, I don’t worry whether the solo on the Whiteman record is Bix or Secrest.

WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD

What moves me so about this song is nothing new: there were many songs before or after it that chronicled the weary traveler returning home.  But think of the universal desire to find peace and contentment at a familiar place where your loved ones dwell.  Think of the idea of being able to put your weariness aside, your burden down.  As is usual with Berlin, there isn’t an intricate rhyme in the verse or chorus; no Hart or Porter cleverness.  No words that would puzzle an elementary-school student, although the movement from thorns to roses is something a lesser songwriter would not have thought of.  But it’s the common tongue and thus the emotions come right through.  And the melody!

The lyrics, verse and chorus:

Weary of roaming on, yearning to see the dawn
Counting the hours till I can lay down my load
Weary but I don’t mind, knowing that soon I’ll find
Peace and contentment at the end of the road.

The way is long, the night is dark
But I don’t mind ’cause a happy lark will be singing
At the end of the road.

I can’t go wrong, I must go right
I’ll find my way ’cause a guiding light will be shining
At the end of the road.

There may be thorns in my path
But I’ll wear a smile
‘Cause in a little while
My path will be roses.

The rain may fall from up above
But I won’t stop ’cause the ones I love will be waiting
At the end of the road.

On a related subject — with no paragraph transition, hence points deducted. One of the most rewarding aspects of being “back in New York” is slowly finding places where fine music is played — places I’d never ventured to before.  I offer for your delectation a French restaurant at 414 West 42nd Street (west of Ninth Avenue on the south side of the street) called Chez Josephine, which has jazz duos on Saturday night.  I know that heroes Terry Waldo and Tamar Korn appear there regularly, but I was around this last Saturday, May 30, to record some impromptu classics.  (Good urban food and drink, too; nice service.)

I felt as if I had the privilege of absorbing the music made by a trio — Conal Fowkes, piano; Dan Block, clarinet; Conal Fowkes, piano — making their way through this beautiful song, balancing sentimentality and swing at a fine old-fashioned medium tempo:

(Conal and Dan will be creating musical transformations at Chez Josephine today, June 7, as well.  And I will have more music to share from this evening.)

I hope everyone has — or will have, someday — a place to go to of the kind Berlin imagined for us, a home, a respite, a welcoming spot.

May your happiness increase!