I had a delightful evening last Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at the Cupping Room Cafe (359 West Broadway, New York City). I’d never been to the CRC before, but it’s a very amiable place with great food — and great music, in this case provided by the Grand Street Stompers, Gordon Au’s splendidly flexible little band.
That night, the Stompers were a quartet: Gordon, trumpet, compositions / arrangements, vocals; Oran Etkin, clarinet, tenor; Davy Mooney, guitar; Rob Adkins, string bass — and Friends, two engaging singers, Molly Ryan and Jessie Rogowsky. The large-screen television to my left provided an amusing surrealistic backdrop for the singers, but the music was triumphant.
Gordon began with a pop tune from 1927 — notable for the recordings that showcase a young Jack Teagarden — but it remains an irresistible melody:
SHE’S A GREAT, GREAT GIRL:
Gordon’s compositions mix comfortable phrases with surprising turns of harmony in delightful ways. Here’s SOIGNEE (which means “sophisticated, elegant” — appropriately:
Wisdom, it’s said, is embracing one’s Not Knowing. In that spirit, here’s I NEVER KNEW:
Molly joined the Stompers for a pretty WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MADE:
And she found new ways to imbue I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME with sweet delight:
The Stompers took their time, gratifyingly, with AUNT HAGAR’S BLUES:
Not only did Gordon write music and lyric for a sweetly off-center love song, SOMEHOW THE WORLD HAS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN, he delivers it most winningly:
Back to 1917 for FIDGETY FEET:
And another, more obscure song of that time — with patented Stompers choreography, CLEOPATRA HAD A JAZZ BAND:
Doctor Ryan prescribes a new level of curative relaxation, LET YOURSELF GO:
Something for Louis (and Mildred), SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH — Molly stretches out luxuriantly on the final bridge:
Jessie Rogowski, posed against a background of Giant football, pays it no mind, and offers a sweet DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME:
And we close off with Gordon’s own SUN TIME:
You can tell how fine the music was, but what you’ll have to take on faith for the moment is that the CRC is such a pleasing place — great attentive service and huge platefuls of food, and an overall quiet ambiance, so different from other places we know where music is played. This night was also my first introduction to reedman Oran Etkin — with his delightfully bright clarinet and floating tenor sax lines. And the Grand Street Stompers brought a wonderful floating intensity to their performances — a modern version of an imagined Kansas City Four.
May your happiness increase.