and two still photographs to verify that it actually happened on October 13:
Here’s another view, with your videographer at left, next to an voluble woman from the British Isles who had enthusiastic stories to tell. Thanks to Neal Siegal, my Associate Producer for the set, who graciously offered a seat at his table.
Photograph by Doug Pew.
Before this, I had only heard Albanie on a recent CD, where her emotional force (and I don’t mean volume) impressed me greatly. She was and is even more delightful in person, even though my camera was not close to her.
Her single-string playing has some of the ease and substance of early Django and the best acoustic players of the Thirties, and on her one vocal, her multi-hued voice is poignant without being melodramatic. Surrounded by players she admires, she wasn’t intimidated, but created concise, memorable statements as well as adding a great deal to the ensemble. On the basis of this short acquaintance, she’s someone to admire.
Albanie, 2018, photograph by David Conklin.
Here’s the musical evidence. I was wrestling with camera and tripod (and gravity — things fell and had to be retrieved) in a small space, so it took a little time for me to get everything together and to progress to complete performances. But I think the results are quietly spectacular — and that praise includes my heroes Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar, Pat O’Leary, string bass. (In an early draft of this post, I’d typed that Pat was playing “strong bass,” which is true, as you will hear.)
MY GAL SAL:
I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME:
If you have patience for only one performance, make it this one, a supercharged WILLIE THE WEEPER, dangerously heating up the whole block:
I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS, with a wonderful Albanie vocal:
GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU, Magic of Mutation thanks to Jon-Erik:
HOW COME YOU DO ME?:
For the finicky: The Ear Inn is dark, and people talk. But The EarRegulars provide irreplaceable experiences. And my sole words to Albanie are, “Come back soon!”
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.
Readers of JAZZ LIVES know how deeply I and others treasure the Sunday-evening gatherings of kindred enlightened souls that take place at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. Here is some joy from June 10, with the personnel listed above: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet and special mutations; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, reeds and brass cross-species permutations [translation: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet; miniature French horn]; Neal Miner, string bass.
The EarRegulars, June 10, 2018. Photograph by Neal Siegal.
Here are a few highlights, delights all.
Some Fats by way of Louis, BLUE, TURNING GREY OVER YOU:
YOU BROUGHT A NEW KIND OF LOVE TO ME (its beginning excised because of a collision between my camera and an eager patron):
Don Redman’s soulful plaint, GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU?:
More Fats! I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING with Scott’s loping, tender solo reading of the verse:
See you at The Ear around 7 some sweet Sunday. And save me a barstool.
The back covers of the long-playing records of my youth often were adorned with thumbnail photographs of other record covers, and this solicitation, “If you’ve enjoyed this LONG PLAY record, you’ll be sure to enjoy . . . .”
If you savor beautifully recorded chamber jazz, swinging yet leisurely, you’ll be sure to enjoy the new CD by guitarist James Birkett and violinist Emma Fisk, devoted to the music of Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang.
Since Eddie’s death in 1933, there have been many attempts to recreate the magic the two Italian boys from Philadelphia created: Venuti himself always looked for guitarists who could come close to Eddie’s splendors: Dick McDonough, Frank Victor, Tony Romano, Bucky Pizzarelli, Carl Kress, Perry Botkin, Bobby Sherwood, George Barnes, Tony Gottuso, Danny Perri, Barney Kessel, Lino Patruno attempted to fill that role on record dates and more.
As I write this, Nick Rossi, Kris Tokarski, and Glenn Crytzer are involved in similar small group projects, and I know I am leaving someone out. Matt Munisteri does a peerless Lang behind John Gill’s Bing. Martin Wheatley and Spats Langham both understand him deeply.
Venuti was a hard act to follow — I am leaving aside the sometimes cruel practical jokes — but he was often in love with speed and execution, and many violinists have tried to out-Joe Joe, playing his intricate originals faster and faster. (Performance speeds have been inching up for decades: consider the Django-phenomenon.) And for most instrumentalists, not just string players, tone gets sacrificed to speed.
Emma Fisk, a romantic at heart, doesn’t turn Joe into unicorns-and-rainbows on this CD, but she does remind us of Joe’s affectionate side, the part of his character that would linger over long tones and leisurely phrases. She doesn’t slow everything down, but she does change the mood from headlong briskness to a kinder, easier embrace. In this she is partnered splendidly by the elegant guitarist James Birkett, who is lyrical beyond everything else. He is new to me, but he is kind to the ears at every turn, without being overly sentimental. So even the faster numbers on this disc — RAGGIN’ and MY HONEY’S — are sweet saunters instead of being mad sprints. The music breathes comfortably and well.
Here you can witness Emma and James making music — video and audio — through the media of Vimeo, Soundcloud, and YouTube. And here you can celebrate the Spring, reward yourself for good behavior, or warm someone’s heart — by buying one or more of these life-enhancing discs.
A delightfully mournful sample, James’ EDDIE’S LAMENT:
Good times, fine sounds. the calendar says they’re gone; we know they aren’t.
The Ear Inn has been host to gatherings of joyous insight on Sunday nights since July 2007, and I think I was there for the second gathering of The EarRegulars — who may not have been named just yet (Jon-Erik Kellso, Howard Alden, Frank Tate): I was converted rapidly, although going to work with an early teaching schedule has made me at times a lax postulant.
Here’s a delightful interlude from the summer of 2009: SOME OF THESE DAYS, played so buoyantly by Matt Munisteri, guitar; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Neal Miner, string bass. And the final minutes of this — with Duke evoking another New Orleans boy who made good — give me chills of the best sort:
You don’t need to climb the Himalayas for spiritual uplift: visit the Ear Inn on Sunday nights; your pilgrimage requires only the C or the 1 train or perhaps an automobile . . . see you there sometime soon! In the interim, watch, hear, and marvel.
Count Basie and his Orchestra recorded this fast blues, two sides of a 78, on August 8, 1940. They had good reasons for that title: look up the date in a history of the Second World War and you bang into the Luftwaffe and the Battle of Britain, its thirtieth day.
And if you’d want other evidence of cosmic distress, Johnny Dodds died on that day, age 48. (How come no one writes about him as short-lived, one of jazz’s early deaths?)
But here’s Basie.
Part One, with that glorious rhythm section, Buddy Tate, the trombone section featuring the under-featured Vic Dickenson, the saxophone section leading in to Lester Young (with Jo Jones commenting behind him):
Part Two (with apologies for the intrusive advertisement) with a little more Lester, Walter Page and that rhythm section, then riffing alongside a very explicit Jo Jones, more from Walter, Lester out in the open over stop-time chords, trumpet section hosannas, more Jo . . . . and a s low-motion ending:
I write this post — oddly enough — with only a tangential although reverent nod to Basie. If you are a sentient informed adult, you might think at many points during your day that, yes, the world IS mad. If you think everything is just peachy, I envy you your sweet oblivion.
For me, Basie’s title is correct but one consonant is off. I propose, rather, THE WORLD IS SAD. Thanks to Matt Munisteri, I read this article this morning:
It is terrible, and terribly worth reading. The answer to the rhetorical question posed by the title is YES. Now, it would be easy to shake our heads at “those dopey kids and their phones,” and since I have taught 17-21 year olds for decades, I know the difference between THEN (pre-phone) and NOW — the article says that 2012 was the tipping point, when more than fifty percent owned a smartphone. I see the manifestations as attention deficit disorder, inability to concentrate, unwillingness to have what we used to think of as normal social contact (i.e., speaking to the person next to you), a world shrunk down into a tiny bright screen. What the article says that is new and saddening is that the young people who are addicted to their phones are not only socially crippled and terminally insular, but that they are depressed and world-weary: weary of a world they don’t care to engage in.
And I see the manifestations in my generation: the couple at dinner who are silently staring into their phones; the couple I once saw on the subway, all snuggly, she half-asleep on her handsome Beau, who took the opportunity to scroll down and see what had happened in the four minutes he’s been away.
I wonder where this willful isolation will lead us as a culture. The smartphone world is the complete antithesis to dancing to Basie, listening to Basie on the radio, playing your new Vocalion 78 for your pals, or even (heaven forbid) learning a musical instrument and starting a band.
At one point, when cellphones were new, I said whimsically to a friend that I wanted them to be prohibitively expensive, with certain exceptions: you could call and say, “I’m going to be late,” “I miss you,” “I love you,” “Is there anything you wanted me to pick up on the way home,” “You don’t sound right. Is everything OK?” — those calls would be free OR the provider would pay you for making them. Now I think that my whimsy was too tame. I’d like to see people’s smartphones self-destruct if they took them out in the middle of a conversation. I’d like to see smartphone use socially relegated to private places, in the same way that flatulence, onanism, and inside-the-nose interior decorating are (among those who have some tact).
It won’t happen, but now when I go back to teaching in September, I will get to add another toxic side-effect to the smartphone’s power, not just boredom, inertia, narrowness — but despair. Who would have thought?
I’m a relic, so I seek the company of other people rather than my phone. Human contact — with the right people — is my joy. But don’t tell anyone. I don’t want the authorities to arrest me for rampant archaism.