More and Even More Music

The last few weeks have offered great musical fare in LIC, some old favourites and some new discoveries. I’ve also had the chance to check out some new recordings. This will be my last blog for a while as I’m off overseas for a  few weeks, so it’s longer………….. .

Blogcast

Check out the first ever podcast of “Sometime in Long Island City” .:- http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622 or

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)

PHOTO EXHIBITION

If you’re n New York check out an exhibition (until mid-June) of my photos of local and international musicians: “EarthSouNZ – A World of Diversity in Music” at Cranky’s French Creole Restaurant (http://www.crankyscafe.com/) on the corner of Vernon Boulevard and 49th Avenue in Hunters Point.

Salif Keita – Great Malian musician and advocate for the rights of alibino poeple.

 

(http://www.salifkeita.us/)

(http://www.myspace.com/music/player?song=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.myspace.com%2Fsalifkeitamusic%2Fmusic%2Fsongs%2Ffolon-69436465)

Jazz

It’s been good to catch up with Anthony Cekay‘s saxophone playing at LIC bar (www.LICbar.com ) for a couple of sessions recently. I’ve heard two late night improvisation sessions with Christian Coleman (drums) and Broc Hempel (keyboard) that I’ve really enjoyed. Readers of this blog will know that I am no expert on Jazz. I’m beginning to appreciate different types of improvisations having heard some that are very “free” to others which slightly free within modes and others which are around established melodies and/or chord progressions. I would put Anthony’s between the last two categories, but am open to contradiction (and education!). These two sessions (one just saxes and drums and the other saxes, drums and keyboard) were interesting and enjoyable. It’s was a pleasure to hear two talented musicians listening intently to each other and producing engrossing music that expressed a range of emotions, especially when you know that it is all improvised.

Anthony Cekay – Improvised jazz at LIC Bar

I’ve also caught Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman playing at Domaine Wine Bar (http://www.domainewinebar.com/), with Peter Brendler on bass and Dave Scott on trumpet. This is a really good venue for this understated kind of jazz. Dave Scott came across as a thoughtful player of intricate music that matched well the playing styles of the other musicians. For those of you who do not know the Domaine Wine Bar (my University of Wine and Jazz) it is a small space that, at most, would house around 45 people (check out my “Jazz in Small Spaces” blog (http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-12). It is not somewhere where you would want to be blown to the back of the room by a pounding bass and tough brass section. As such it suits interesting and well played music in a range of styles,with vinicular accompaniments.

Dave Scott at Domaine Wine Bar

Christian Coleman, Broc Hempel and Peter Brendler

I’ve appreciated the Avalon Jazz Band (http://www.avalonjazzband.com) playing at Domaine. They are a French-style Jazz group who I would hesitate to call a “Band”, which to me sounds like a “Big Band”, which is certainly not the case. They are  Violin (Adrien Chevalier), Guitar (Koran Agan), Bass (Eduardo Belo) and Voice (Tatiana Eva-Marie) a group who offer themselves as a nostalgic look at Paris in the 1940s, playing in a mix of styles that they describe as ” … a bridge between the old world and the new, between French charm and American glam, with just a pinch of burlesque and a spoonfull of swing”.  I liked the Django/Grappelli-style Gypsy swing Jazz, but not so much so much some of the sweetly sung romantic French songs. Fortunately there wasn’t too much of the latter and I enjoyed Tatiana’s singing of standards, with a little bit of scat that showed  off her vocal ability. The guitar and violin playing was very stylish and showed great skill. Bass players rarely come forward but I appreciated the solos that Edourdo offered in the sets that I heard whilst I gave in to the temptation of freshly shucked oysters and a glass of chilled Jurançon, a wine that matched perfectly the Blue Neck Oysters on offer that night from sommelier Chip behind the bar.

Avalon Jazz Band at Domaine Wine Bar


Occasionally in New York you meet people in unexpected places. As a follower of musicians around town I get to know those that have a really distinctive sound. One of these is the combination of Charlie Rauh (guitar) and Concetta Abbate (violin). I first heard them accompanying Ali Silva’s reconstruction of 1940s radio plays at the LIC bar winter “Fireside Ghost Stories” series (check out my blog “Live Radio in LIC” – http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-4X ), where they produced improvised mood music (check Anthony Cekay’s Podcast of this on http://page4music.com/2012/03/18/podcast-ghost-stories-by-lucille-fletcher/) . Then I came across Charlie playing with Mossa Bildner in her musical adaption of T.S.Eliot’s “Four Quartets” (see my “Now and again in Manhattan” post (http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-bL). A couple of weeks ago I went down to LowerEast Side to catch Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent (http://www.myspace.com/humanequivalent) in an early evening set at a hideaway little bar (the “Recoup”) and who should I hear playing in the Delauncey Street subway station – Charlie and Concetta.

Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate

A few days later I went on to hear them play at LIC bar. I think when I listen to improvised Jazz I’m listening for fragments to which I can relate, whether fragments of melody or mood. If the latter I think I those fragments have to fall on fertile ground. If they dont quite fit my mood of the moment then they fall on stony ground. Not they have to match, it’s great when music can lift me out of the moment. If they jar, though, whether in mood or tonalities or just in the sound the instruments make, then I might be distanced. The latter is not the case  with the music I have heard from Charlie and Concetta. It is interesting and does not jar. even  when the tonalities wander. The styles of the players, and the timbres of the two instruments match well; with Charlie playing with a muted amplified guitar that supports the flight of the fiddle as it winds around melodies, scales and arpeggios.

Queens of Queens

Readers of this blog will know that I have been enthusiastic about the Queens of Queens residency at LIC Bar Wednesday nights during May. So far we’ve had two sessions from Michele Riganese, Shelly Bhushan, Little Embers and Jeneen Terrana; the first where they sang all their own material and the second where they mixed their own songs with songs by other writers. The first was dogged by some technical hitches but the four women showed how much their good humour and obvious cameraderie would get them through. The second show presented them more as a cohesive unit, helped by their agreement to each wear black and not to overcomplicate their instruments by expecting too much from the small PA system: handling four vocal mics on top of guitars proved tricky in session one. In session two they only ever had one guitar, plus keyboard and mic-based instruments like the Melodica and harmonica. The more I hear these women the more I appreciate their individual talents and the chemistry of this combination. It was good to hear old favourites from the singers – including Michele’s “Learn to Love” – as well as classics like Dolly Parton‘s “Jolene” (this must be one of the most played American Country songs ever) and “You’re no Good”, written by Clint Ballard Jnr and associated in the US with Linda Rondstadt and as a hit in the UK for 1960’s Merseybeat band The Swinging Blue Jeans ( I’m slightly embarassed to say that I might still have a 45 of that back in NZ).

Check out Little Embers song from the first show:

Before your name  ( an audio file that should play in your default audio player)

And this video

Julie Kathryn

Regular LIC Bar singer/songwriter Julie Kathryn has just released a new EP of her music, “Broken Love” (http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/julie-kathryn/id366405519   or http://juliekathryn.bandcamp.com). She showcased this at the Rockwood Music Hall on 22 April in a superbly professional show which started an evening of LIC Bar- related musicians, with Brian and Silbin and friends and Toronto-based Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party ending the night with their mix of European style rock.

Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party. An exciting band from Toronto who rock the night with their blend of klezmer/circus rock and good time rolling.

On stage Julie shows great skill in relating to her audience and performing finely crafted songs in ways that  show an almost visceral sense of rhythm as she supports herself on guitar or piano and links with the group of fine musicians with which she surrounds herself. So we had cello and violin as well as the usual bass, guitar and drums. Check out this video from Carly Massey.

The EP “Broken Love” has just four songs, each of which is emotionally direct and disarmingly personal. Listen to all four at one sitting and you’ll need to sit back and process for a while. Julie sings with an understated intimate style and an exquisite sense of timing that makes you feel that only you and she are in the room.  “I don’t want you back”  is a  lovely subtle production and arrangement for a nicely crafted and performed song. “Not the Same” – presents a nice change of tempo and mood,  I like the lilting simple child-like rhythms and chorus. “Broken Love“, is a  gently rocking song  with spotlit  bass and sweet downward-flowing guitar arpeggios – a song that anyone who has had a broken first love will relate to, a song of lost, but not forgotten innocence that Julie’s singing so beautifully puts across. The last song, “Let this be” is my favourite, (being an incurable romantic and of a generally melancholic disposition). I challenge anyone to listen to this and not reach for the Kleenex! This EP is a gem that I hope will do a great job of taking Julie a long way in her career.

Julie Kathryn at Rockwood Music Hall, Lower East Side

Rachel Wolf

Now, Rachel (http://rachelwolf.bandcamp.com/)is a performer who will take you by surprise, especially if you have no idea what to expect. I saw her play at the LIC Bar in what, I believe, was her first perfomance there. She stands on stage and plays an Indian portable harmonium that has its origins in instruments carried by Christian missionaries and which were used to accompany those Victorian hymns that were a gift from the Queen to an Empire of cheap labour and raw materials. Not that Rachel sings anything like those often turgid and predictable tunes (not all, I should say). As soon as she opens her mouth you know that this is a young woman of great talent. She has a bluesy soulful sound which reminded me of Adele and Pink, with rich texture and accuracy that knocks you back. You just don’t expect this. It’s not just bluesy though, there’s a Joanna Newsom quality too, not just in the way she sings some of her songs but also in the ways she has crafted her music, a  story-telling aspect that also reminded me of 1960s UK folk group “The Incredible String Band”  especially when they incorporated the girl singers Licorice and Rose (not they had anything like Rachel’s quality of voice. At times I would  have appreciated a little more variety in the accompaniment – the portable harmonium isn’t exactly a Hammond and I think some of her songs could have used that  kind of sound. She sings quirky, original songs, check out “Murder Ballad” –

“I’d have been your lovin’ wife, right ‘til the day you died
But cross me and you’ll cross the river Styx.
I’m young and I’m sweet and I’m ripe as a peach,
But bite too hard you’ll get the bitter pit”

Watch out for this young woman, she has a great future!

Rachel Wolf

Kat Spina

Another bluesy voice comes from Kat Spina (www.katspina.com), a who played a set at LIC bar recently. There she played guitar with a  partner Brian Forbes on nicely wrought and understated Fender Strat. Kat has a good accurate voice and takes care to carry the meaning of the words she sings, whether her own or “covers” such as Dylan’s “It’s all over now baby blue”. (When does a cover become a “standard”?). LIC Bar is not an easy venue at the start of an evening. There might just be a dozen in the audience, and some of those might be the supporters you’ve brought along. Some artists just get on with it and others, who look for affirmation from the audience might feel constrained in their delivery. I sense that Kat was a little restrained in this way. I dont think she’s naturally extravert and the sensitivity of her singing requires a steady confidence that for some is inner driven and for others is a product of audience response. Most singers like to get energy from the crowd, making early evening shows a hard road to take.

I enjoyed hearing Kat and have since appreciated her 2009 album “Engaging the Muse“. This is not an album that makes you go “wow!” It’s more of a sit down and listen, or put-in-the-background work. Kat’s easy singing style comes across as more bluesy than in her LIC Bar set and she has the advantage of a backing band that supports her in a range of songs, all of which (except for a Beatles song – “I’ve just seen a face”) she has had a role in writing. What comes across most with Kat is the quality of her voice, soulful yet not strongly so; accurate, yet not sterile; pleasant to listen to, yet not boring. The album has a rather old-fashioned feel, older than 2009 yet not really dateable in the styles and types of music put across by Kat and her band. The heritage is clearly 60s soul, with bluesy shifts; late night music when you need to relax, not get hyped for a night on the town. The track “Constant” is a nice example of Kat’s songwriting, and more in the style that I heard at LIC bar. It’s mainly guitar and voice, with a touch of sensitive violin from Gwen Laster and background keyboard bass; my favourite on the album. I also enjoyed Kat’s take on the Lennon/McCartney song – “I’ve just seen a face, I can’t forget, the time or place, where we just met” a superb example of their talent for lyrics – cleverly adapted slightly by Kat in a  way that reflects the way a pop song can wedge itself in your own life where the universal meets the personal. I also like the way she takes a new look at the rhythm of what was originally a relentlessly fast moving song from the movie “Help”.

Kat Spina and Brian Forbes @ LIC Bar

Quick Mentions:

Really appreciated Chris Michael at LIC Bar – looks as if he’s going from one bar to another if he passes his final exams!! (http://eatthatguitarchrismichael.wordpress.com/)

Chris Michael in the Open at LIC Bar

And last but not least some photos from Brian and Silbin‘s gig at Rockwood Music Hall:

Silbin Sandovar, Brian Meece and Jeneen Terrana

Brian Reece, Jeneen Terrana and Jens Kramer, violin

Anthony Cekay on Sax

Jeneen Terrana, Danny Mackane and Jens Kramer

Rachel Swaner

COMING UP

 LIC Bar

Wednesday, May 16th
8pm ZOE SUNDRA
9pm MIEKA PAULEY
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 17th
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 19th
11pm
Fiends and Fools

Sunday, May 20th
5-8pm
Big City Folk Sunday Social
Emily Mure, Kevin Goldhahn, and more

Monday, May 21st
8pm LEIGHANNE SALTZMAN
9pm EMILY WOLF
10pm AYAL TSU BERRY

Wednesday, May 23rd
8pm MEGAN KERPER
9pm FIFE AND DROM
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 24th
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 26th
11pm
Magic Bones

Sunday, May 27th
LIC BAR’s MEMORIAL DAY FEST!
Live music outdoors in the garden (weather permitting)
from 2-8pm

Monday, May 28th
8pm ROKI SOFI
9pm KAT CALVOSA
10pm BECKY MIMIAGA

Wednesday, May 30th
7pm LAUREN ELDER
8pm MELODY KILLS
9pm SWEET SOUBRETTE
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 31st
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

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Italian again, Creole and Filipino in LIC.

Since I last wrote about the local restaurant scene I’ve tried out a couple of new places, Italian and Filipino, and returned to some old haunts.

Italian restaurants are in the majority in the Hunters Point area of LIC, not surprisingly when the area  has such family connections. I’ve always been intrigued by the little Italian Club on Vernon, Societa’ Sant’ Amato Di Nusco. Recently Queens Buzz have featured the club and provided helpful stories about the club’s origins (http://queensbuzz.com/societa-sant-amato-di-nusco-cms-691).

Manducatis Rustica is part of a family of Italian restaurants in Hunters Point (Manducatis, Manettas and Manducatis Rustica) which were part of the community before Gantryfication and remain as stalwarts of Italian family dining.

I haven’t yet been to Manducatis (Latin for “you eat”) at 13-27 Jackson Ave, corner 47th Avenue and Jackson (www.maducatis.com). This is has an unappealing exterior that, I understand, is no indication of the restaurant behind the (rather grey) net curtains. However, I have tried, for the first time, Manducatis Rustica, (http://www.manducatisrustica.com ) on Vernon Boulevard. This restaurant is hard to get a sense of from the outside, it doesn’t have a big “street presence” and looking through the windows is like looking into someone’s house, peeking through the curtains and wrought iron. In that way I guess you have to already know that it’s there, as it’s a little north of the main Vernon Boulevard restaurant area. The welcome, however, is warm – especially from owner Gianna Cerbone, (Mamma Gianna), a tireless stalwart of the local community.

Manducatis Rustica

Manducatis Rustica is both a gelato shop and a restaurant. They’ve good reason to be proud of their gelato judging by the three flavours I tasted so far. the restaurant itself has a homely feel, although the mix of brick walls and office-style ceiling lights is rather odd and makes the place not as attractive as Manetta’s down the road. The food and wine, however, were good; honest, homestyle Italian cooking that is unpretentious, well cooked and tasty. I enjoyed a starter of Atlantic (as opposed to New Zealand) mussels, cooked just right in a tomato sauce followed by Orecchiette broccoli rabe & sausage, a nicely presented and flavoursome dish, with very tasty italian-style sausage and  crisp, sharp greens that set off the textures of the “ears” and meat very well. This was a well thought- out dish that did not overwhelm with heavy sauce, providing instead a fresh mix of flavour and texture.

Orecchiette broccoli rabe & sausage

PJ had a tasty salad and Rigatoni with meatballs and we enjoyed the house wine. We didn’t need dessert but managed a simple selection of three delicious flavours of sorbet. It’s a place to which I would return (note, though, that it is closed on Mondays). One day maybe we’ll starve ourselves and go for the full Italian menu; with the antipasto, primi, secondi and dessert options.

I went to Manettas for the fourth time the other day and, once again, came away convinced that this is one of the best eating experiences in the neighbourhood. The place was packed with family groups, some celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and we were lucky to get a table for seven reserved the same day – in fact a pleasing effort from owner Rose-Ann in enabling us to eat in the main dining room, when the side area (near the display case full of tempting desserts) had seemed to be the only option (although not a second class option, just a brighter setting closer to the entrance). We had a mix of antipasto options and salads, then large pizzas and a variety of entrees which were well liked by everyone. I had the John Dory (sometimes known as a St.Pierre), a fish of mainly Southern Hemisphere origin that is less common this side of the globe. The fish had a fresh texture and was nicely cooked, not too long, not too short, with some quite strong herb flavours that were marginally a little powerful for the subtlety of the fish – yet did not prevent me from enjoying the dish, one of the many specials available on the night. Another guest had the pork chops, which looked interestingly prepared, and were also well liked.

Strangely Manettas does not have a website, perhaps underlining its reputation locally as a place that does not really need to advertise. I guess, too that it does not provide a delivery service. Who would want their food delivered rather than a pleasant night in the  special environment that the owners have created here?

The Dawning of a New Awning

Talking of welcomes, I’ve become aware of the differing impressions given by the exteriors of local restaurants. It’s good to see that Cranky’s have upgraded their awning and entrance to underline their transition from coffee shop to full service French Creole restuarant. The new black and white awning is much more classy than the previous drab and faded red, and they have ditched the canvas and plastic door entrance. I’ve eaten at Cranky’s a few times recently and am pleased that they are extending their Creole cuisine into the lunch menu, including a very tasty crabcake sandwich and “Po’boy” shrimp sandwich. It’s was also good to attend one of  their “Eating Theater” nights where customers were entertained by a very professional group of actors, who performed two short plays set in a restaurant. These evenings were highly successful, advance bookings were essential and well worth the owner’s experiment, especially since they had to stop regular music sessions. I understand that the theater group will return in June/July. Meanwhile check out the delicious Gumbos (soup and main), for which the ingredients are cooked fresh to order. You can’t beat shrimps and mussels cooked just right, especially when the spice mixes are prepared with such finesse.

Eating Theater

Whilst we’re talking about welcoming exteriors, here’s a contrast: Dominies Hoek (http://www.dominieshoek.com), next door to Cranky’s, has one of the most colourful and interesting exteriors. They’ve recently opened a new bar (just called Dominies) in Astoria, ( 34-07, 30th Avenue, NY11103) which is already building a reputation for fine Jazz helped by the Hempel, Trapchak, Coleman Trio, who have a regular session there. Check their video filmed at Domaine Wine Bar (http://www.domainewinebar.com).

Dominies Hoek on Vernon Boulevard

In contrast, how about this? Skinny’s Cantina must win the prize for the least welcoming greeting for potential customers.

Keep Out?

From Sushi to Filipino

Just up 50th Avenue from the Vernon Boulevard subway station exit sits a small restaurant which, until recently was an Asian sushi bar. It is now the sister to a same-named restaurant in Woodside: Ihawan2 (http://www.ihawan2.com) and now serves a Filipino menu. I hadn’t been there in its previous incarnation but we popped in there one evening to try it out. Our yardstick for a cheap meal with a drink is that the check comes to $40 or less. Between the two of us we paid $33, including two drinks. I had an grilled eggplant (with sambal paste) starter (an unbelievable $3) and the grilled marinated pork belly ($8) which was a very large portion. PJ had a salad and the barbeque chicken, also a large portion. The food was excellently cooked and interesting. The setting of this restaurant is clean and modern, unpretentious and friendly. This is certainly a local venue that is a welcome addition to the variety of cuisine, and is well worth a second  visit. I had  no previous experience of Filipino cuisine and would like to experiment more, with minimal damage to the bank balance.

Blogcast

At last I have ventured into podcasting. Check out my first effort: http://earthsounz.podbean.com/feed/ or on itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622

LIC Arts Open

This is the time of year  when LIC opens its doors to local artists who show off their talents. Check out the website:

http://www.licartsopen.org/