Pianist / vocalist / scholar / composer Terry Waldo leads his Gotham City Band several Sunday afternoons every month (from about 5:45 to 8) at Fat Cat, 75 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York City.
Fat Cat is an unusual jazz club, even considering that it is roughly parallel to two other basement shrines, Smalls and Mezzrow: Greenwich Village’s answer to the long-gone Swing Street. A large sprawling room, it is filled with the furniture one would expect from a college student union: ping pong tables, pool tables, and the like. One may play these games for $6 / hour and many young people do. The bar also offers homemade pomegranate soda for $3, a remarkable boon. Another distinctive feature of this establishment is the singular adhesiveness of their low couches: once I sit down, I drop below sea level, and know I will arise only at the end of the last set after embarrassing flailing.)
On this Sunday, Terry’s band was particularly noble: Jay Lepley, drums; John Gill, banjo; Brian Nalepka, string bass; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and soprano; Jim Fryer, trombone; Jon-Erik Kellso, cornet instead of his usual horn. Terry had been leading the group in his usual cheerful egalitarian fashion. Then I saw a distinctly recognizable fellow — musician and friend — appear to my left. It was the Sage of several states (California and Arizona), friend and protege of Willie the Lion Smith . . . Mister Michael Lipskin, known to himself and us as Mike. He asked Terry if he could play a few . . . and he did, shifting the repertoire to two numbers rarely called in such ensembles (by Ray Noble and by Ellington) with splendid results. And here they are:
THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (at a very Thirties rhythm-ballad tempo, entirely charming):
I’M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT:
The latter title may be slightly ironic given the intense belowstairs darkness of Fat Cat, but the music shines brightly.
May your happiness increase!