Charlie Caranicas, trumpet / fluegelhorn player by night, lawyer by day, is an often under-acknowledged New York jazz hero. He can lead a “Dixieland” ensemble with power and grace, then turn around and play Monk with subtlety and deep feeling. Or he can create jazz that both enhances the melody but doesn’t scare away the uninitiated. I first heard him perhaps five years ago with Kevin Dorn’s band at the Cajun, and have delighted in his playing ever since.
New Yorkers have new opportunities to hear Charlie in low-key, intimate surroundings at two restaurants.
One of them, Pane e Vino, is in Brooklyn (www.panevinony.com). It’s located at 174 Smith Street, thirty seconds away from the F train’s Bergen Street stop. The music begins at 8:30 PM and goes until 11, more or less. Charlie appears there with his own trio — a guitarist and bassist, the latter often the admirable Kelly Friesen. The trio will be there on Tuesday, May 4th, and on May 18th.
I visited Pane e Vino a few weeks ago and was impressed by its quiet atmosphere (the trio plays near a small collection of overstuffed chairs and sofas) and cozy darkness. (The darkness defeated every camera that I had with me, but it lent the music a lovely intimacy.) With Charlie that night were Kelly on bass and the very fine guitarist Mark McCarron. The trio must have felt like honoring Benny Carter, because they began their first set with a walking WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW (Charlie played his solo into a red-and-white metal derby) that showed off McCarron’s subtle chording and Kelly’s fine flexible pulse. After a version of DINAH that began medium-fast and then went into double-time, with Charlie bowing to Louis’s 1933 Copenhagen version, the trio returned to Carter with a yearning ONLY TRUST YOUR HEART, for which Charlie picked up his fluegelhorn, filling the room with his warm, cushiony sound. A pulsing THESE FOOLISH THINGS made me think I had gone back in time to hear Harry Edison, George VanEps, and Ray Brown — names to conjure with! Singer Lisa Hearns sat in for a trio of Basie-infused standards, APRIL IN PARIS, CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS, and OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY.
Wednesday morning beckoned with its chill finger, so I stayed for only the first set, but it was convincing jazz — relaxed but focused swing. I was amused to see that Charlie’s derby doubled as a tip jar, and some of the listeners seemed to know what it was for.
I haven’t been to Charlie’s New York City gig, but he’ll be at BOOM on Tuesday, May 11th. It’s a restaurant / lounge in Soho, also with a trio, 8:30 until 11:30. BOOM is at 152 Spring St., just east of West Broadway (www.boomsoho.com). Charlie’s website is www.charliejazz.com, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you asked to be added to his email list. He’s worth hearing!