Tag Archives: New York nightlife

FINE TIMES at FEINSTEIN’S with HARRY ALLEN and FRIENDS (Oct. 3, 2011)

The first Monday night of every month has taken on new significance since Harry Allen and his world-class musical friends (courtesy of Arbors Records) have been appearing at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency in New York City (540 Park Avenue (at 61st Street, 212-339-4095). 

The Beloved and I went there for the festivities of October 3, 2011, for what was whimsically but accurately called a Cavalcade of Singers.  The singers?  Rebecca Kilgore, Nicki Parrott, and Lynn Roberts — backed by Harry Allen (tenor sax); Mike Renzi (piano); Joel Forbes (bass); Chuck Riggs (drums), and guest star Dan Barrett (trombone). 

Feinstein’s at the Regency is a very warm place — we got a friendly greeting and a very nice table with a good view of the stage, in a comfortably appointed, intimate room.  The atmosphere was very relaxed: a few of the musicians made their way from table to table, greeting old friends and making new ones, chatting and joking.  By the time the music started, the room was full, a very good sign — and we talked with Bill and Sonya Dunham (celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary!), Will Friedwald and friends, photographer Alan Nashigian, jazz friends Steve and Dafna, singer Melissa Hamilton, and a sweet surprise — I finally met Jeanie Wilson (whom I’ve known in cyberspace), the great good friend of Barbara Lea.

Everyone felt included, as if we had come to the most hip living room for a great yet casual evening of music.  And this warm feeling was firmly established even before I embarked on the Bloody Mary I had ordered, of a size and depth to require the Coast Guard.  The well-chosen soundtrack / background music was authentic Swing Era hits, entirely in keeping with the music we had come to hear, sweet and propulsive both. 

The instrumental quintet — Harry and Dan in the front line — began with a chipper PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, perhaps a nod to the weather that night, then moved to a sweet EMBRACEABLE YOU, where Dan showed off his Tommy Dorsey blue-steel control in the upper register, a rocking BEAN AND THE BOYS that featured some heartening cymbal playing from Chuck, a solo feature for Dan on a plunger-muted THE GLORY OF LOVE.  They ended the set with a deep-down version of Harry Edison’s blues, CENTERPIECE, which Dan introduced with the appropriate suggestion, “Turn out all the lights.”  Harry Allen usually looks serious, unflappable (unless he’s laughing or has his tennis racket), but he was rocking from side to side while the rhythm section was playing, and his solos soared throughout the set.

The Cavalcade of Singers began with our Becky: a cheerful PICK YOURSELF UP (“Good words to live by”), I’M JUST A LUCKY SO-AND-SO that moved from a pensive start to deep improvising in the second chorus, with Harry purring obbligati behind her.  Nicki Parrott joined Becky for a duet on BETTER THAN ANYTHING, and took off on her own sultry BESAME MUCHO and an unusual WHERE OR WHEN — taken at a fast tempo with the verse.  Lynn Roberts (whose experience dates back to Tommy Dorsey in the Fifties but looks perky) joked with the audience before singing in her trumpetlike way THE LADY IS A TRAMP and a forceful AFTER YOU’VE GONE.  At the end of the set, the three women of song stood side by side and floated a deft S’WONDERFUL over Mike Renzi’s powerful chording, Joel’s splendidly deep bass, and Chuck’s floating hi-hat.

After a break, the band assembled for a vigorous LADY BE GOOD — Dan and Harry playing Lester Young’s 1936 solo in unison, before Lynn offered I’M CONFESSIN’ and a medley of Sinatra’s “saloon songs.”  Nicki created a sweet HEY THERE in honor of Rosemary Clooney, and then moved from the wistful to the straight-ahead with THE MORE I SEE YOU.  Becky returned for a sweet OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY in honor of the Dunhams’ anniversary (her singing provoking the Beloved to turn to me and say, “She has an understated elegance,” which is entirely true) and — in amusing contrast — an energetic THIS CAN’T BE LOVE.  The three singers assembled for a proper finger-snapping rendition of FEVER, for which they received great applause. 

When we went out into the night, we had been cheered, amused, elated, and warmed.  Great music, good value, and fine times at Feinstein’s at the Regency.

And for the future — the first Monday in November will be Harry’s Brazilian evening, and the December show will be John Sheridan’s Christmas extravaganza, with reindeer and drummer boys in residence elsewhere . . . not to be missed!  Visit http://feinsteinsattheregency.com/. for all the useful details.

LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING

It’s always exciting to hear of a new club featuring jazz — and this one has all the right ingredients.  The music will be curated by tenor saxophonist Vito Dieterle, someone whose taste I trust.  (I heard Vito several times with Joel Forrester and Claire Daly: Vito’s a late Lestorian who likes to float his own melodies in the air — and a gracious fellow in addition.)  The club itself is inside a 154-year old Tribeca townhouse.  White tablecloths, interesting cocktails, beers, and wines.  A French chef creating small plates full of flavorful food.  A well-tuned piano.  And the best musicians in town.  I mean MUSICIANS.

On Wednesday, August 24, from 9 PM to midnight, Jon-Erik Kellso, Chris Flory, and Kelly Friesen will be there.  That’s a wonderful trio — capable of creating the best kind of seismic disturbances.

Appropriately, this new place is called SILVER LINING, and it’s on 75 Murray St. between Greenwich and West Broadway, 212.513.1234.

I’ll have more to say about looking for — and finding — this SILVER LINING — when we are back in New York City in September . . . and my spies tell me that Michael Kanan and friends will be there one night, too.

The room seats about 100, so you might want to inquire about reservations: enterprises like these are worth supporting.

A NIGHT AT THE EMBERS

b_cd022_bushstuff

Although I keep muttering to myself, “I really don’t like jazz violin all that much,” I find myself entranced by the new CD that the jazz violin scholar Anthony Barnett has just issued on his ABFable label.  It features about an hour of live jazz from the Embers night club — with pianist Joe Bushkin, violin wizard Stuff Smith, under-praised bassist Whitey Mitchell, and the irreplaceable Jo Jones.  In addition, there’s a fourteen-minute solo private tape of Stuff, solo, exploring some of his compositions, as “Sketches for a Symphony.”

Is it the rarity of the performances?  I admit that might initially be captivating — but if you gave me the most unknown / rarest music by someone whose work I couldn’t tolerate, I would listen for sixty seconds and take it off.  The music itself is splendid: Bushkin’s energetic playing (his characteristic arpeggios and ripples) never falters, and he seems to be having the time of his life, and his trumpet playing is much more convincing than I remember it as being.  (He must have been practicing!)  Stuff, although not featured throughout the hour, is in peak form, able to swing ferociously with the minimum of notes, possessed of true jazz passion.  Whitey Mitchell plays so well that he had me fooled: I would have sworn that Bushkin’s regular bassist, the beloved Milt Hinton, was there under an alias.  And then Jo Jones is in prime form, delighting in playing in this band.  He and Bushkin had a special rapport — I saw it once, years later, when they came into the midtown Eddie Condon’s and sat in with Ruby Braff and Milt Hinton for an extended, riotous YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY that became MOTEN SWING perhaps ten or twelve minutes later. 

But what captured me more than anything else was the intimacy of the two sessions presented here.  I was not attending jazz clubs in 1964, being too young, but the taping of the Embers session is done from the bandstand microphone (as far as I can tell) so we get all the musicians’ asides, the teasing, the inside jokes.  It has the feel of being part of the band — and part of a vanished scene, as when Bushkin ends the set by saying that they’ll be back at 2 AM, but they can be found at P.J. Clarke’s or The Strollers in the meantime.  And the private tape that Stuff made (for himself, or as a demonstration of themes for a larger work?) is entrancing because it is quite clearly a composer playing for himself: you can hear him breathe.  It’s a divine kind of eavesdropping on a Master. 

Barnett’s CDs have always been wonderful productions: the music is presented as clearly as the original sources allow, there are many rare photographs, the annotations are through without being stodgy. 

But wait!  There’s more!  Something to look forward to. . . .

b_cd024_lucidinThis one is scheduled for 2010.  Did you know that Stuff Smith had a radio gig (sponsored by an eye lotion, Lucidin) for which he assembled an all-star band, drawing on his own group and Chick Webb’s aggregation — including the youthful Ella Fitzgerald?  (An early broadcast for Lucidin had him leading a small combo with Jonah Jones, Ben Webster, Teddy Wilson, with vocals by Helen Ward.)  I’ve heard some of this music, and it is spectacular — the height of the Swing Era, I think.  So look for this next year!  For more information (and to order any of Barnett’s CDs and books), visit www.abar.net.  Even if you think you don’t like jazz violin!

ABFable discs are available in the United States from CADENCE — the honest Jazz journal: www.cadencebuilding.com.