Lucy Yeghiazaryan was celebrating her birthday at Mezzrow on West Tenth Street at the very end of January. She turned 29 on the 29th, a gentle embrace of the spheres. But don’t let her youth fool you into thinking she is merely skating along on the surface of her songs: she feels the music. . . . when she sings of passions, it doesn’t sound as if she’s texting us a message. And she doesn’t stand at an ironic distance from the song and view it skeptically as an ancient artifact.
Lucy at Mezzrow 1.28.20. Photograph by Jon De Lucia.
At her performance, she created many little worlds, inhabited by cats and rabbits, with plates of mashed potatoes, among other bits of set design, but her intense yet controlled reading of PRISONER OF LOVE left me open-mouthed (and, no, that wasn’t my sneeze you’ll hear). I associate this highly-charged song with Russ Columbo, Perry Como, and Lester Young — his 1956 recording remains a touchstone for me — but Lucygently moved into the song and made it completely hers, with lovely accompaniment from Stefan Vasnier, piano; Greg Ruggiero, guitar; Vince Dupont, string bass. Join me in the experience:
I’ve written about Lucy here recently, but you can expect to see more of her work on this blog. And you should bask in the emotional experiences she creates — some salty, some tender, some playful — first-hand. Or if you live far from her gigging orbit, her first CD is available here and all the usual places. (Thanks to Matt Rivera for making this encounter not only possible but inevitable.)
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.
Emma Fisk is a deep-rooted jazz violinist. Here, from her website, is the story of how she became one.
I first encountered Emma at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, where in the past three years she has been called upon to honor Eddie South, Stuff Smith, Stephane Grappelly, Joe Venuti, and others — see her in action hereand here. (Emma pops up here and there on my most recent videos from the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, and she’s always welcome.) Then I heard the CD, featuring Emma, as part of the splendid small group aptly calling itself DJANGOLOGIE.
Fast forward to November 6, 2015, where Emma was leading a stellar quartet that she whimsically called “the Hot Club of Whitley Bay,” herself on violin, Martin Wheatley, Spats Langham, guitar; Henry Lemaire, string bass. Here are the delights they offered us.
A sidelight: Emma is giggling through some of this set, and there’s good reason, if you see a youngish man sitting on the floor right in front of the band. That’s no Quintette-obsessed fan, but the fine guitarist / banjoist Jacob Ullberger. Emma told me, “I was laughing at Jacob coming to sit under a table to listen at the start of one of the songs. He looked like a little boy sitting cross-legged in the school hall, which tickled my funny bone. He told me afterwards that he wanted to come and hear the acoustic sound of the music.”
I have to come out with it: the seventy-five minute span of a compact disc is often too much for me. So when I loaded the first of three discs by the Royal Garden Trio into the car player, I expected the outcome to be the same: restlessness halfway through. No, the Beloved and I (she’s a stern critic herself) played the three discs nonstop during a six-hour drive.
They’re that good.
On these CDs, the RGT is made up of Mike Karoub (cello and string bass); Tom Bogardus (tenor guitar and clarinet), Brian Delaney (acoustic and electric 6-string guitars). And they have eminent guest stars: Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet); James Dapogny (piano); Bess Bonnier (piano, heard on JITTERBUG WALTZ below); Chris Smith (sousaphone), Louis Caponecchia (ukulele / vocal); Jo Serrapere, Paul King, Melissa Brady (vocals); Gian Paulo (string bass), Rod McDonald (guitar), Donn Deniston (drums).
What makes the Royal Garden Trio so delightful is their own restrained eloquence. The world is full of enthusiastic Hot Club spinoffs — very capable musicians, inspired by Django and Stephane. But often the result is “note for note,” which is amazing technically but less so aesthetically, or an overabundance . . . many notes, many choruses, fast tempos, dalling string virtuosity. One part of the brain admires; the other portion asks (in Lester Young’s words) to be told a story.
The members of the RGT have beautiful stories to tell. They are virtuosic as well, but they know that too much is not a good thing. So their solos are thoughtful speech, not diatribes; their notes ring and resound in the air. Each player creates compelling melodies, and they work together like a swing version of the Budapest Quartet.
Since I often find the heirs to Grappelli are given to excessive sweetness and high drama, I am thrilled by Karoub’s cello: earnest, dark yet lithe. Mike’s conception is never overblown, but his solos can be majestic. Delaney’s guitar is part Lang, part Lonnie Johnson. Bogardus romps on his guitar and his clarinet playing is easy, fervent, balancing Dodds and klezmer. And the trio works together to create something beautiful, varied, and cheering. Their performances are marvelous vignettes, the guitarists switching lead and rhythm, Bogardus playing a chorus on clarinet; Karoub bowing and then plucking in a propulsive manner (across bar lines) that recalls Steve Brown.
And they swing — without even trying hard.
Although much of the repertoire is familiar, the trio’s approach lifts it up: I never found myself saying, “Oh, another ST. LOUIS BLUES,” but was excited by what this band can do. And the CDs offer some less-played material as well: Ellington’s SATURDAY NIGHT FUNCTION, LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE (for the home-improvement minded among us, but this time with the verse), THERE’LL COME A TIME, RAGGIN’ THE SCALE, I’M FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES, GO INTO YOUR DANCE, a hidden track of APRIL KISSES, and some winding originals that sound like theme music for mid-Thirties screwball comedy films.
The RGT's debut CD, 2002
But you can hear and see the Trio for yourself courtesy of YouTube:
HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? (which Mike Karoub informs me was Moe Howard’s favorite song, a valuable fact):
JITTERBUG WALTZ (with the legendary Bess Bonnier on piano):
The RGT's second CD, 2005
To find out more, visit the Trio’s website: http://www.theroyalgardentrio.com/sched.html. And if you feel moved to purchase all three discs (I recommend this) ask for the JAZZ LIVES discount. These players (and their nimble friends) will bring joy, in or out of the car.
SWING OUT WITH PAYPAL! ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THE MUSICIANS:
I’d known the work of swing cellist Mike Karoub from his appearance on Jon-Erik Kellso’s CD, CHAPTER TWO, so I was very pleased to encounter this gently swinging duet performance of SWEET GEORGIA BROWN by Mike and guitarist Rob Bourassa — delightfully swinging!
Even for people like myself who have some nervous about the proliferation of “Hot Club of _____ ” groups, this is The Right Stuff! Rob has his own YouTube channel — “robourassaguitarist” — with more enjoyable jazz.
Often, when the Beloved and I go to a wonderful restaurant the second time, hoping to repeat the delicious experiences, Disappointment is one of the specials, on or off the menu. What was blissful now seems formulaic; the shine is off of everything.
So I am thrilled to report that I dared the Fates and went back to Banjo Jim’s last night to repeat the experience of one week earlier — seeing the Cangelosi Cards perform on a Monday night.
And I brought a friend: the clarinetist and reed explorer / jazz scholar / memoirist Leroy “Sam” Parkins, whose words you’ve been reading in these pages.
Or, rather, he couldn’t stay away. He had seen my January 30 posting about the Cards: CANGELOSI CARDS: SWEET SATORI! and wondered what they were like in person, and if he should bring his “Klarinette.” I gave him encouraging answers to both questions. The result was that Sam sat next to me right in front of the band for the first four songs (you’ll see them below) transfixed. In fact, if you listen closely, you’ll hear an astonished man’s voice commenting on what’s going on in a kind of jazz rapture.
Tamar and Jake were happy to meet him and delighted with the idea that he wanted to sit in once the band got itself into its groove.
The Cards began as a band-within-the-band (a neat trick for such a compact touring ensemble) in Hot Club style. Tamar Korn stood at our left, and you’ll see Karl Meyer on violin, Marcus Millius on harmonica, Jake Sanders on guitar, and Cassidy Holden on bass, pizzicato and arco both. Everyone was in splendid form, with solo honors often going to Jake and Cassidy, both of whom soloed at greater length than I had heard them do a week ago.
The set began unusually with a soulful rendition of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, one of those songs (like GOODNIGHT, SWEETHEART) I expect bands to play at the end of the night, the close of the gig. Here it was a wistful jumping-off place, quite remarkable.
Then, another piece associated with farewells (what was going through everyone’s mind?): AFTER YOU’VE GONE.
Gordon Webster, pianist of note, came in just in time to join the Cards on EXACTLY LIKE YOU — which I think of as ‘ZACKLY — and he was more than welcome.
Another admonitory song (in the “you’d better watch your step” mode) followed: SOME OF THESE DAYS.
Next to me, Sam alternated between rapture and impatience — this, after all, is truly his music, the sounds he grew up with. Ever the instigator, I suggested he politely let everyone see that his clarinet was assembled, the reed properly moist and seated happily in the ligature . . . and it worked. He was invited to the bandstand (an illusion at Banjo Jim’s) and, even better, the estimable trombonist Matt Musselman and Dennis Lichtman (usually on clarinet but initially doubling mandolin with great style and skill) came in.
Once the front line (actually leaning against the back wall and window) had settled itself in and introductions had been accomplished, someone asked Sam if he knew IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE. This courtesy made me smile: it’s graciousness of the highest order when the members of the band want to make sure that the newcomer is comfortable with their repertoire. But it was a kindness that Sam didn’t need, as he smiled gently and said that it was the first song he had learned to play as a young man in the Thirties. He has an innate gleeful sense of his environment, and he let them know how pleased he was that they had chosen something that was in his very capillaries.)
And did they swing out. Catch Matt grinning while Sam plays, and notice that although Tamar has taken her inspiration from Fats Waller’s recording (always a good idea!) that her scat singing goes deep inside. It’s plaintive and nearly primitive, reaching back before recordings.
After a sweet, long MOONGLOW and a deep-down TISHOMINGO BLUES (not visible here because so many eager, expert dancers — including the nimbly stomping Mimi Terris — obscured Flip’s view), the Cards decided to end their set with another surprise. Eddie Cantor’s theme, IDA, SWEET AS APPLE CIDER, is almost always done at a medium tempo. Red Nichols took it very slowly; Eddie Condon (twenty years later) repeated the same wonderful idea (Pee Wee Russell in charge, both times). But I’d really never heard it done as a stomp — which it is here. (Incidentally, all the percussive accents you hear in these clips are Tamar’s inventions.)
When this set was over, I was both elated and drained. I had said I would stay for the second one, but I ended up taking my leave by saying to Tamar, “I’m full! I don’t need to hear any more music,” and I happily drove home, thinking about the experience — which is at once jazz, country, Hot Club stomp, and music with a timeless yearning delicacy. And a good deal of my pleasure is that Flip and I can share essential portions of it with you.
It just might be that the Cards are a pleasure we can go back to again and again with no diminuition of joy or insight. At least I can testify that their brand of heartfelt, romping lightning struck twice — in the same place, no less.