Tag Archives: Mona’s

AN ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE NOT TO BE MISSED: MONA’S HOT FOUR AND FRIENDS! (Tuesday, December 11, 2012: Rockwood Music Hall, New York City)

With all due respect to every other gig, concert, club date that I have agitated for in the past few posts, I feel that if you miss this one . . . well, SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY.

Can I be any less subtle?

Because I have a day gig that starts rather early, I have been to Mona’s, the long narrow rectangular club in the Extreme East Village (that’s Greenwich Village, New York City) exactly twice.  Once I had a very good time listening to the band, and the second time it was already so crowded that I couldn’t squeeze myself in.  But the Tuesday-late-night / early-Wednesday morning jam sessions are legendary.  They feature a band called MONA’S HOT FOUR — Dennis Lichman, clarinet; Gordon Webster, piano; Jared Engel, string bass; Nick Russo, guitar / banjo.  But everyone who’s anyone in the New York hot jazz scene has made an appearance at Mona’s, and the immense joy / hilarity / heat have become mythic.

For those of you saying, “I can’t go to a weekday gig that starts after 11 PM,” I sympathize.  But Dennis Lichtman is riding to the rescue on behalf of people who have to go to work and people who couldn’t shoehorn themselves into Mona’s.

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On Tuesday, December 11, 2012:  Mona’s Hot Four will be having a CD/DVD release party / concert / ecstatic gathering at Rockwood Music Hall (Allen and Houston Streets in the East Village) at 8 PM, continuing until 9:15.

The Hot Four will be there with special guests: Tamar Korn, Emily Asher, Gordon Au, Mike Davis, and many more great musicians.   Admission is $10.

Those who don’t have to be awake early on Wednesday may continue the celebration after the show at Mona’s (Avenue B between 14th & 15th Street, beginning at 11 PM and going until 3:30 AM at the least.

Now, just in case you might be wondering, “How does Michael get to be so sure that an ecstatic jazz experience awaits those voyagers bold enough to get themselves to Allen and Houston Streets?”  I have been listening over and over to the CD while driving to work and everywhere else.  And the other drivers are, I am sure, more than a little puzzled at the man in the aging Toyota who is grinning and laughing and pounding the steering wheel in swingtime.

If the music at the Rockwood Music Hall is anywhere as elating as the CD, it will be a seventy-five minute set to remember, to tell the imaginary grandchildren.  Here’s some information about the CD, which contains these tracks: MY BLUE HEAVEN / CHANT IN THE NIGHT / TIGER RAG / WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO / LAZY RIVER / FIDGETY FEET / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / AVALON / SUGAR BLUES / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.

In addition to MH4, there are guest appearances from Emily Asher, Ehud Asherie, Gordon Au, Bob Curtis, Mike Davis, Jim Fryer, J. Walter Hawkes, Tamar Korn, David Langlois, Dan Levinson, David McKay, Andrew Nemr, Jerron Paxton, Nathan Pick, Molly Ryan, Bria Skonberg, Dave Speranza, Chris St. Hilaire, and Miss Tess.

All I can say is that these recorded performances rank easily with the best music I have heard in New York City since I ventured out of my cocoon in May 2004.  I am still grinning at the sounds stuck happily in my memory from this CD.

And there’s more — a professionally-done DVD documentary (slightly less than twenty minutes) about the scene at Mona’s.  I have held off watching this on my computer because it will be shown on December 11.

The Beloved, a few years ago, taught me something about “non-violent communication,” which is a soulful way of expressing yourself without pushing your wishes on anyone.  So rather than saying, “If you miss this, you’re nuts,” or “You should go to this gig if you want some extra added pleasure,” I will say only, “Would you be willing to consider the idea of this evening?  I think it will make you very happy.”  And I do.  My idea of absolute bliss, of course, is this: attend Rockland Music Hall.  Buy CD / DVDs in plural, keep one, give the rest as gifts, support the music and the musicians who do so much for us.

Here’s the Facebook link.  Look for me there (and say “Hello!” after).

And if you live far away or are tied to some responsibility on Dec. 11, you can order the CD / DVD package here.

May your happiness increase.

GORDON AU LEADS THE WAY at MONA’S (May 24-25, 2010)

I am what Jo Jones called “a nine-to-fiver,” his way of saying I am not a musician; I have a day gig; I go to sleep when interesting things are happening.  My workday starts even earlier, which means that many late-night jazz bacchanals are impossible for me, a man yawning at 11:30. 

But one semester ended and the summer courses have not yet begun, which meant that I was free to stay up late.  So I could go to the late-night-Tuesday-into-early-morning-Wednesday jam session at Mona’s (Avenue B between 13th and 14th Street in New York City).  Mona’s doesn’t have a sign out front, but the music would let you know you were in the right place.  I went there on Tuesday, May 24.   

I am embarrassed to say that I only lasted one long set, and I was told that the music — starting at 11 PM — would go at least until 2 AM.  But what I saw was delightful. 

The jam session began with Gordon Au on trumpet and Mikey Hart on piano (and singing): soon Jared Engel, bass, and Nick Russo, banjo and guitar, joined in.  Mikey, Jared, and Nick are strong players.  Mikey coaxes a great deal of music out of that piano, and he has the patience to let his solos build; his singing is fervent, down-home.  Jared has a huge sound: he’s a one-man rhythm section.  And Nick (whom I’ve seen in many bands) can do Minton’s 1941 on his electric guitar or swing out 1929 Luis Russell style on the banjo. 

I save my greatest praise for the gentleman with the trumpet in the corner, situated underneath the bright cartoonish painting: Mister Gordon Au.  Gordon is comfortable in any idiom and is fearless . . . so he has no problem launching into a song that might perhaps be slightly unfamiliar to the other players and tugging them along by his energetic example.  He is not only a masterful improviser, he is a peerless bandleader, leading the way without saying a word.  And he’s having such a good time!  A model for us all, I think.

Hoagy Carmichael’s RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE (originally FREE WHEELING, when Bix Beiderbecke first heard it) is not your standard AABA song — it has dips and weaves, many little places in which someone could get lost, like a multi-strain ragtime piece.  But Gordon sets the tempo and leads his colleagues splendidly:

Then (after a brief talk-through) they launched into LONESOME BLUES, which I believe was Mikey’s idea.  He not only knows the song but the lyrics.  I include this in his honor as well as in honor of Louis’s Hot Five — this is the first time I’ve ever heard this rare tune performed live, which is more than enough reason to include it here:

Finally, a version of THE PREACHER, which would surely act to convert any unbelievers in the audience:

When I left (prematurely and with regrets) Gordon said, “This is a very quiet night.  Usually there are two or three other horns there,” and he pointed to the spot where he had been playing.  Very tantalizing.  So I’m trying to think of ways to stay up late and still be able to go to work on Wednesday mornings.  I invite any suggestions that are more healthy than caffeine pills.