Tag Archives: National Underground

GOOD NEWS FROM OUR FRIEND, JOHN GILL

TONIGHT!  May 30, 2012.  10 PM.  The National Saloon Band.

John Gill is a profoundly gifted musician — but someone who wears his substantial talents lightly.  Catch him as a singer, raconteur, banjoist, guitarist, drummer, trombonist . . . .

And here he is, with bells on, back for our listening and dancing pleasure.

John will be starting his own once-a-month gig at The National Underground on May 30th at 10pm.   He calls the band The National Saloon Band or just The Saloon Band.  The band members on May 30th will be Simon Wettenhall-trumpet, Will Anderson- reeds, Kevin Dorn -drums, Steve Alcott- bass and John on banjo, guitar and vocals.  I’m going for a old time concept and will be avoiding swing and mainstream cliche.  The repertoire will draw from many sources including pop music, jazz, ragtime, blues, gospel, and country.  While the band will perfrom instrumental hot and sweet numbers, most of the material will feature vocals by John and other band members.

And John says, wryly, “So that’s the story and we’ll run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes.  I don’t know if I can garner any support from the youngster/hipster/jazz world so I have no idea if this will suceed or not; it will be good musically, however.”

The National Underground is located at 159 E. Houston Street, New York, NY 10003 (212) 475-0611.  I could use a good deal more sleep but I would like to be there!  (Can anyone loan me a nap?)

May your happiness increase. 

GOOD SOUNDS ON EAST HOUSTON STREET

I’ve been reading about John Gill’s National Saloon Band all summer, and tonight the Beloved and I decided to pay them a visit at the National Underground (159 East Houston Street, near Allen Street).

We weren’t disappointed: it’s a truly multi-tasking band.

John Gill is steeped in American pop from Bing to Elvis, from Turk Murphy to Fats Domino. He is a virtuoso banjoist and guitarist, a compelling singer, a hot trombonist. Next to him is Bruce McNichols of the Smith Street Society Jazz Band. Bruce triples on banjo, soprano saxophone, and ensemble vocals. Terry Waldo offers solid ensemble piano, ragtime and stride solos, and vocals. The rhythm section is completed by Brian Nalepka on tuba, bass, and vocals and Kevin Dorn on drums. Kevin doesn’t sing, but watching him in motion is more than enough reward. McNichols, Gill, and Nalepka switch from one instrument to another in the course of a song, singing solo or offering propulsive harmony parts.

We could only stay for the opening set, but this band showed its wide range in less than an hour, offering Twenties pop hits (“When You’re Smiling,” “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”) and New Orleans standards (“Down By The Riverside,” “Bourbon Street Parade”). John has recently completed the first volume of a tribute to Bing Crosby, and he favored us with a soulful “Out of Nowhere,” complete with verse, showing off his beautiful baritone. He also got to shine on a rocking “Ain’t That A Shame,” associated with Fats Domino. And he displayed his gutty plunger trombone on “Wabash Blues.”

At the end of the set, another jazz multi-tasker came in to join the fun: Jim Fryer, who also sings, plays cornet, trombone, and euphonium.

Smaller than the massive Whole Foods down the street, the National Underground is intimate and thus easy to miss, but the drinks were honest and people were devouring their char-grilled burgers. Duggins King, the club’s manager, told me about the weekly bluegrass night. Another esteemed banjoist-singer, Eddy Davis, has an enthusiastic small group on Wednesdays. Given the paucity of New York jazz spots, this one is surely worth investigating.

JOHN GILL’S NATIONAL SALOON BAND

Heat and humidity make August a terrible time in New York City.  Therapists flee; Yorkshire terriers and Great Danes pant; air-conditioners drip; the asphalt shimmers in a most unappealing way. 

But Bruce McNichols, of the Smith Street Society Jazz Band, just sent me good news. 

John Gill, that understated virtuoso of the banjo, National guitar, and trombone, and a compelling, loose-limbed vocalist, has got an August gig — Sundays from 7 to 11 PM at the National Underground.  What’s more, he’s assembled some of my favorite individualists — Terry Waldo on piano and vocals, McNichols himself on banjo, soprano sax, and vocals, Brian Nalepka on bass, tuba, and vocals, and the pensive but ferociously swinging Kevin Dorn on drums.  You’ll have to visit the club every Sunday in August to see if Kevin can be enticed to croon a chorus by the end of the night.  I imagine the joint will jump with John’s own mix of ragtime, hot jazz, blues, and rockabilly.  I won’t be there and I’m sorry I won’t hear John sing: he knows the lyrics to both “Tishomingo Blues” and “Did You Ever see A Dream Walking?”  How many men can say that? 

The National Underground is at 159 East Houston Street (at Allen Street) (212.475.0611) and this band is a rare treat.  Bring several large handkerchiefs, a bottle of water from the freezer.  Don’t miss it!