The Back Room Speakeasy (102 Norfolk Street, off of Delancey Street, New York 10002) is authentic in several ways. One is that you need to know the password to enter — for one of Svetlana Shmulyian’s Monday night gigs, the password is issued that day and you may message Sveltana for it. Alcoholic beverages are served in porcelain coffee cups (with saucers) to give the illusion of Prohibition-era behavior. “The room prefers classy — though not formal — attire and there is a no-fur policy,” which brings us into this century. And vigorous swing dancing is encouraged.
When I visited there for the first time, on October 15, Svetlana was delighted to have the gypsy jazz guitar master Lollo Meier with her — as well as the native guitar wizard Ted Gottsegen, reed master Adrian Cunningham, the fine bassist Brandi Disterheft and drummer George Mel.
Here are two classic selections that will give you a flavor of the scene, of the enthusiastic band, and of Svetlana’s fine graceful singing.
I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE:
Tomorrow, Monday, November 12, Svetlana will be back with her Delancey Five and special guest Stéphane Séva (the splendid washboard virtuoso and romantic singer). Adrian Cunningham will return; Jesse Gelber will offer his own individualistic piano stylings; the excellent rhythm section will feature guitarist Ilya Lushtak, string bassist Tal Ronen, and drummer Stephan Schatz.
Svetlana and her Cast of Characters are there every Monday — except the first Monday of the month — so knock three times to enter an authentic Scene.
Ask Svetlana for the password (you won’t get in without it — and, regrettably, it’s not “JAZZ LIVES sent me”) and have a Singapore Sling in my honor.
And when you come out onto the street, you can resume your normal shade, whatever it might be.
P.S. Troy Hahn, who runs the Monday night soirees at the Back Room, tells me that the password and photographs are posted on the room’s Facebook site every Monday night . . . so check it out here.
May your happiness increase.