Tag Archives: Upper West Side


A decade ago, I became an intermittent denizen of the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the best reasons.  Although that period of my life has ended, for all things change and shift, I remember those days and nights with fondness.

One of the pleasures for an even more brief period was hearing music at Roth’s Steakhouse on Columbus Avenue in the Nineties.  It closed sometime after 2010, so I can now say that the food was indifferent.  But the music was sublime.  Here is a tender musical souvenir of days gone by — but not days beyond recall.  It is a leisurely yet rhythmic exploration of Irving Berlin’s ballad from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, a sentiment few would deny, THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL — performed by two musical romantics who also like their romance to move along at the right tempo, Jon-Erik Kellso and Ehud Asherie, brass and piano, respectively.

In his very admiring chapter on Mr. Berlin in AMERICAN POPULAR SONG, Alec Wilder says nothing about THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL, but I will fill in for him for one sentence.  Originally, the music for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN was to be composed by Jerome Kern, who died suddenly before he could create the score; I hear faint tracings of Kern in Berlin’s arching melody line, especially evident if one plays or sings the song as a very slow ballad.

Here, Jon-Erik and Ehud create their own world in praise of love not yet realized or never forgotten:

I’ve left the end of the video intact — with the waitperson pushing the specials on hopeful diners — to add to the Rothian ambiance.  Another place where one could dine on extraordinary music, gone, but the sounds remain.

May your happiness increase!

JAM WITH DAN! (October 16, 2009)


This installment in the Barrett Chronicles 2009 takes us to what was once called Roth’s Westside Steakhouse (Columbus Avenue at 93rd Street in Manhattan) on October 16, 2009. 

The fun and frolic began with a series of duets between Dan and Ehud Asherie.  Roth’s gets high marks for encouraging jazz, but it is a typical restaurant: dishes and silverware crash, the bar patrons were especially excited by some sports event on television, and there is a good deal of loud oblivious chatter.  On the other hand, Roth’s is the only jazz event I’ve ever attended where the governor of my home state — in this case David Patterson — came in late in the evening.  Whether he was in the groove or merely addressing his dinner I was too preoccupied to notice, but if he missed out on the music he missed something special.

Not incidentally, I’ve been admiring Dan’s recorded work since 1987, and have seen him live a number of times (with Becky Kilgore and Rossano Sportiello, at Jazz at Chautauqua, and at a series of concerts put on by Joe Boughton, where his colleagues included Vince Giordano, Duke Heitger, and Kevin Dorn) . . . as well as an early-Eighties Newport in New York tribute to Billie Holiday directed by Ruby Braff.  But this gig and his appearance at Smalls have given me an even greater admiration of Dan’s creativity, because no one else was in the way.  I was reminded often of hearing Vic Dickenson play — with Mike Burgevin and Jimmy Andrews — in 1974.  The same swing, the same full understanding of what this music is all about.  But on to the videos!

Here are Dan and Ehud caressing THAT OLD FEELING, a ballad everyone knows but few jazzmen actually play.  Who could be insensitive to the beauty of Dan’s pure sound?  And Ehud accompanies him perfectly — then launches into his own ruminations, which embody the whole history of swinging jazz piano, delicate and pointed at once:

And a Barrett original (his lines have the same bounce as his solos), WITH’EM, which will reveal its roots in a flash.  At first, when I didn’t recognize the line, I thought it was something written by Don Byas or Johnny Hodges, evidence of its authentic pedigree:

Another fine neglected Forties tune (courtesy of the Ink Spots) at a jaunty tempo, without recitative, IF I DIDN’T CARE.  The crowd was getting a bit more noisy, but I didn’t care:

And a slow-motion DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE, its mournful tempo getting at the loss that is at the heart of the lyrics,  Savor Dan’s lovely opening cadenza, a composition on its own (while the dishes clatter):

Who else would have the musical wisdom to offer up IF YOU WERE THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD, a fine song to improvise on:

And (for me) the piece de resistance — a genuine Hollywood-style jam session.  Lovers of jazz on film will know what I mean.  The model comes from the 1947 film THE FABULOUS DORSEYS, where the scene begins with the briefest clip of Art Tatum playing in a club . . . we know this because there’s a sign outside saying so.  Then, as if by magic, a whole host of jazzmen appear — their horns at the ready — as if from nowhere.  No one has to warm up, adjust a reed, or use the facilities: they just spring into action.  Well, it happened at Roth’s.  Attillo Troiano was there with his clarinet, to the left; Jon-Erik Kellso rose from his dinner, ready for action, and Luigi Grasso, seated to the right, just happened to have his alto saxophone with him.  And someone called HIGH SOCIETY — which resulted in what Dan, at the end, said was “really jazzy,” and then started to laugh.  It has the wonderful swagger of the Blue Note Jazzmen, transported to the Upper West Side, with all the strains in place, everyone knowing the right melodies and countermelodies. 

It was a privilege to be there, and I don’t write these words casually.  I won’t forget this evening!


The GINA Gallery (Gallery of International Naive Art) occupies a beautiful space on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (454 Columbus Avenue, to be precise).  Athough “naive” might sound pejorative, the work of these untrained painters catches the eye and won’t let it go.

What caught my eye most recently is a lively and affectionate painting by the Swedish artist Per-Olof Olsson, called BAKERY JAZZ, reproduced here courtesy of the gallery:


The painting captures the happy energy of the players, and if you get close enough, you can smell the coffee and sugar.

Here are two more, not precisely about jazz.  Their ostensible subject is the tango, but that dance combines ritual, sexuality, rhythm, and heat — subjects hardly alien to jazz!  The artist is the Argentinian Eduardo Ungar, and the first one is called TANGO SHOW:

ungar-tangoshow1-ginaand here’s the companion piece, TANGO LESSON:

ungar-tangolesson1-ginaVivid, energetic, hot!

The whole classification of an art form as “naive” made me think that jazz was, in its formative stage, heroically naive: none of the players went to the conservatory or took voice lessons.  They learned by playing, by being, by doing — and although I don’t discount a formal musical education, it seems that some of the best instruction comes from experience on the bandstand and off.

So do visit GINA in person if you can, or check the gallery’s website at www.ginagallerynyc.com., and feel the energetic vitality of these and many other paintings.

Update (as of November 2012): sadly, the gallery closed many months ago — to be replaced by an upscale children’s clothing store.  No comment.


I know that it’s not an exact translation from the Latin axiom — but it sums up what Dawn Lambeth accomplished with the Boilermaker Jazz Band last night at an Upper West Side swing dance. 

For finicky viewers, I must offer a caveat (that’s an even better tidbit of Latin): the video in this post is imperfect.  There’s a good deal of noise from the dancers.  But I think that’s a delightful thing.  It did my heart good to see so many young people who wanted to swing.  Their bodies reflected the music in three dimensions, and I didn’t hear anyone say a word about Jazz Being Dead.  It isn’t and it wasn’t for them. 

Next time (when Dawn and the Boilermakers are in New York during the third week of April — mark it down!) Flip will try harder to get better videos.  But he was distracted by the dancers, and I couldn’t blame him.  Anyway, the Beloved was busy giving me a crash course in the basic Lindy Hop — slow slow quick quick.  I’m good on 1 and 2 although 3 and 4 tend to become a blur.  I do apologize to the three people whose toes I stepped on while going backward.  I hope I caused no permanent damage.  But I learned enough of the dance, to an uncritical eye, to get up on the floor several times at a medium tempo.  All credit goes to the Beloved: a far better dance instructor that the long-suffering woman I tried to learn from for ten Firday nights in a row.  If you’ve taken up another line of work because of me, Robin — something like munitions — I’m so sorry.      

My model in terpsichorean endeavors is one of my readers, a noble fellow named Ray Cerino, who’s a really fine dancer.  He’s also one of those generous people who believes in sharing pleasures, and it was at his birthday party in 2004 tha I met, face to face, Kevin Dorn, Jon-Erik Kellso, Mark Shane, Vince GIordano, and Dan Levinson.  What a band, and what a constellation of people to meet!  Thank you, Ray!   

But back to Dawn Lambeth.  To hear Dawn at her best, check out one of her CDs — details available at her website (www.usoniajazz.com); the same goes for the Boilermaker crew (www.boilermakerjazzband.com).

But here they are in person.  The song is one everyone associates with Billie Holiday, I’M GONNA LOCK MY HEART (AND THROW AWAY THE KEY).  But bless Dawn — she doesn’t try to be Lady Day.  Rather she approaches the song as a new text, on its own terms, and sings it for herself, which is what the great artists do.  Notice her unaffected, conversational delivery, her mellow voice, her easy glide over the rhythm. 

If you don’t know her work, you should . . . .



“Who do you think is coming to town?  You’ll never guess who!”

The wonderful singer Dawn Lambeth is sneaking away from her California haunts to make a one-night appearance in New York City tomorrow night — Saturday, February 7with the Boilermaker Jazz Band.  She and the band will be doing it in style on the Upper West Side.  Here are the details:

Saturday February 7th 2009
334 Amsterdam Ave by 76th Street
swingremix feb09

Swing Remix Extravaganza is Saturday February 7th 2009 at our brand new venue, the JCC on the Upper West Side at 334 Amsterdam Ave by 76th Street. Doors open at 7:30 general admission. Free beginner dance lesson at 7:45pm. Live band at 8:30pm, event ends at 1:00am.

Boilermaker Jazz Band

February 7th 2009 features the Boilermakers! who have joined us in the past with great Fan Fare! Band leader Paul Consentino will also be featuring singer Dawn Lambeth from California. She brings her lilting effervescent style to this authentic hot jazz, ragtime and swing ensemble. Read all about them here.

Dance Workshops
Swing Remix is featuring one fabulous workshop for Saturday February 7th with two fabulous instructors! Please note that we have a huge floor for these classes providing plenty of space for all attendees! Our special reduced price for online advanced sales is available only until NOON on Friday Feb 6th!

Workshop Schedule instructors: Maggie Moon and Paolo Pasta Lanna
6:15-7:30 LINDY HOP/SWING: Let’s get Crankin’ (Prereq: Swing/Lindy knowledge)

Workshop Pricing:
online: $16 Workshop, $28 workshop and dance combined. Available here for this reduced price thru Feb 2nd. Price may increase after that date.
at the Door: Drop ins: $20 workshop

Dance Pricing:
General Admission: $15 at Door, $13 in advance, $12 JCC members in advance. Doors open at 7:30 for general admission 7:45pm Free Beginner Lesson, 8:30pm Band begins.

DAWN LAMBETH might not be a household name to New Yorkers, but that’s something that can be fixed easily.  She is an engaging natural singer.  She doesn’t strain; she doesn’t overact.  She’s no clone.  She knows the changes (she’s also a swinging pianist).  Although she can romp along on something like “Let’s Misbehave” or make the parallel suggestion at a much slower tempo, “Let’s Get Lost,” I think her forte is what musicians used to call “rhythm ballads” — combining sweet sentiment with a medium-tempo swinging surge.  I’m so glad that she managed to sneak past the California authorities — who seem to have guarded her, kept her for themselves — to make this New York gig.  Dust off your Capezios, if you’ve got them, and join us!