Inspired in LIC

It’s been a while since I blogged. I’ve been overseas and also busy finishing my first series of “Artist Portrait” podcasts (see below). Meanwhile I’ve been listening to some impressive music making in the neighbourhood.

The Domaine Wine Bar had a Summer Jazz festival last week and I was very fortunate to catch my favourite trio (Broc Hempel, Sam Trapchak and Christian Coleman) in full swing with guest Greg Ward on sax on the first night. Greg Ward is an impressive player, a real star who travels widely around the world with his music. To be able to hear these talented artists so close to home is a real privilege.

On Wednesday we had the extra privilege of hearing jazz virtuoso Jean-Michel Pilc ( perform two solo piano sets. This man is a genius of the piano. In what seemed to be a series of extemporisations, he drew from the history of western music (especially 20th century classical, jazz and popular music) in creating moving and exciting sounds from the bar’s small upright instrument. If you search for  Jean-Michel on the internet you will find video of him playing grand piano in grand spaces, solo or with small groups. Here we had him by himself, playing for  us in a little bar just by the subway entrance on Vernon Boulevard.

Jean-Michel Pilc playing at Domaine bar a vins

For me this was one of the most profound and enjoyable musical experiences of my 18 months in New York. In bar settings like this you can always expect a mixed audience, but the contrast between the sheer wonders of Jean-Michel’s playing and the loud bar crowd, who for the most part did not seem to want to listen, was a challenge to my ability to focus and just enjoy the music. Fortunately they did not get in the way of my enjoyment, I didn’t allow them to; but it’s a challenge for Domaine to attract a more appreciative audience (who might be tempted to pay a few dollars to hear an artist for whom they might have to pay up to $100 for a ticket in a big concert hall).

The previous weekend had seen the “First Annual Big City Folk Festival” at the LIC Bar (, all Sunday afternoon. This is LIC Bar at it’s best. A hot sunny day, sitting in the courtyard in the shade of huge willow trees and listening to a series of excellent musicians brought together under the Big City Folk Collective umbrella, by Niall Connolly (

I’ve often wondered how such large willows remain strong in this semi-industrial part of town, and quite a way from natural watercourses (the East River, and the Anable Basin). There are three trees, each of  which must be 30 feet tall at least, with heavy cascades of green that flow over the road and into the courtyard. The word on the street ( a phrase which, in New York, has extra relevance – as the streets are full of words) is that the tree roots tap into the public water supply, a worthy gift from the people of NYC.

I didn’t catch all the artists that afternoon, 7 hours in the sun at a bar is a long session, but I did  catch many I knew, plus two who were new to me, Jo Kroger and Chris Mills. Big City Folk is an active collective, with members swapping roles as members of each other’s bands and joing in to offer backup vocals. Whilst Chris Mills offered solo singer songwriter material Jo Kroger was supported by Jasper Lewis, a young and talented guitarist and singer in his own right. Jasper also played in the Sky Captains of Industry, one of whom, singer and guitarist Eric W Harris, managed the sound for the afternoon and also played in the band that accompanied Casey Black. Also often seen was Brandon Wilde; bass player, guitarist and singer, who appeared with his own band – The All-Night Chemists, played bass for Niall Connolly and offered backup vocals for Warren Malone.

I’ve written about Casey Black before. He’s a strong singer and songwriter who hails from Nashville, and it’s to his home town that New York is losing this talented man, who has graced our clubs and bars for the last couple of years. At LIC Bar he played with Don Paris Schlotman (bass), Peter Lanctot (violin), Eric W. Harris (guitar) and Neal Nunziato on drums, with some vocal support from Michele Riganese.  He has just played his last shows as a New York resident and is flying south to his homeland. Let’s hope we see and hear him again  soon.

Casey Black and the Big City Folk Festival band

Jo Kroger is an experienced singer songwriter who knows how to relate to her audience. She was quick to point out that she was the only woman headline performer that afternoon, and one of only three who would appear on stage. The others were Michele Riganese, who supported Casey Black and Matt Sucich on back-up vocals and Matt’s old friend and musical collaborator Jessica, who also provided vocal support to two of his songs.

Jo Kroger and Jasper Lewis

I enjoyed Jo’s music, she has a strong accurate voice and writes good songs in a classic American folk/country style with interesting lyrics. Check her out on:


I also enjoyed Chris Mills’ style and energy ( . He’s clearly been around a while and sings from his experience of life with great craft as a songwriter. He’s quite different to Jo Kroger in that he has more of a straight line kind of style. By that I mean he sings very much on the beat rather than that kind of bluesy style that rides the beat like a jockey rides a horse, rarely resting on the saddle and flowing with the movement of the song. There’s nothing wrong with his kind of style, it’s an approach that brings focus more on the  words of the song rather than the melody and rhythms that the words inspire. He has a strong voice and brings his words home with a power that makes you listen and take notice.

Chris Mills tells it straight

It’s hard to single out any particular artist from that afternoon – Anthony Mulcahy ( writes such beautiful songs; Matt Sucich was great, renewing his partnership with his old  singing partner  Jessica; Warren Malone played a $50 Telecaster that he had rescued from oblivion; Niall Connolly was as energetic as I’ve seen him, and even more powerful as he belted out his insightful and intelligent lyrics with his all-star band of Warren Malone, Len Monachello (drums), Brandon Wilde (bass), and Dennis Cronin 0n trumpet ; Brandon Wilde’s collaboration with Len Monachello on guitar and Brad Gunyon on drums- the All Night Chemists – were a delight, Brandon writes and sings such melodic songs. (

I was sorry not to catch Kevin Goldhahn’s “Gantry” – This is an exciting band that I’ve yet to hear properly.

I usually enjoy the Sky Captains of Industry, I like their ironic Sci-Fi style, with skilful lyrics and performance. On this occasion I must say that I found them to be too loud, and distorted. The crew had a reasonable quality PA for the afternoon and Eric W. Harris had managed the sound mix and volume well for everyone else. Then suddenly the volume rose, the sound was distorted and I couldn’t hear the words; we had to go inside the bar, but even then the  distortion in the sound spoiled what I believe to be a good band. I know that this sounds rather curmudgeonly, maybe it is – I do like to hear lyrics though, and also love purity of sound. Deliberate distortion can be an art with intruments, but overloading voices into a small PA is something else.

However, everyhing else was superb. So congratulations to Niall and the BCF crew for putting together the first of what could become an annual event.

Niall Connolly belting it out


I’ve just finished uploading the last of the first group of six “Artist Portraits” podcasts onto the web. In these interviews with local musicians we talk about their lives, their musical experiences and their development as musicians. The interviews include excerpts of the music they talk about and some full length recordings of their own music.

The podcasts can be downloaded from or from

You can also hear them directly in this Blog (click on the link beneath the photo):

Michele Riganese

Artist Portrait – Michele Riganese

Jeneen Terrana

Artist Portrait – Jeneen Terrana

Little Embers

Artist Portrait – Little Embers

Matt Sucich

Artist Portrait_ Matt Sucich

Warren Malone

Artist Portrait – Warren Malone

Shelly Bhushan

Artist Portrait- Shelly Bhushan


I’ve made some return visits to a couple of lower-priced restaurants in the Hunter’s Point are over the last few weeks. Casa Enrique is proving to be a popular eating place locally, judging by the numbers in there as I’ve walked past. I took some friends there a few days ago and we were worried that we might not get seats, so we reserved our table for 7pm. As it happened this was not necessary as there were only four other tables occupied when we arrived. However, when we left there was a line at the door of people waiting for vacant tables! There were 5 of us that night and we enjoyed a range of dishes, starting with two servings of freshly prepared Guacamole ($8 each), mild and medium spiced at our request and with offers of more chips if we needed them (a nice touch – it’s so frustrating to run out of  chips). The restaurant makes a point of letting you know that the dishes are prepared to order, so it’s important to have some kind of starter. Between us we had the Lamb Shank (“Delicious, and so good to have the meat  falling off the bone”) – which no doubt was not prepared to order, it needs long slow cooking to get it to taste that good ($20); I had the Cochinito Chiapaneco, Pork Ribs with chilli, rice and beans ($16), very tasty and interestingly spiced beans; The Market fish (Striped Bass) was very nicely prepared and presented, clearly cooked to order ($22).

As always the service at Casa Enrique was pleasant and unhurried. The surroundings are plain white, with little decoration. We sat at the rear of the restaurant, where the ceiling is low. With plain wooded tables and chairs the acoustics are quite “lively”, which makes loud diners with high pitched voices  intrusive at times, as well as the clash of cutlery on plates. This could be remedied  with some softer furnishings in the space; maybe plain, lightly-decorated rugs on the wall, or painted acoustic tiles on the ceiling.

We had to resist desserts as we were returning to our friend’s for those, but we would definitely have had their most delicious flan. At present Casa  Enrique only have a restricted liquor licence, which meant we took our own wine; not really a problem, and also cheaper (they don’t charge corkage).

At a  lower price level, the  local Filipino restaurant Ihawan2 ( beckoned us again as a prelude to a late night social event in the city. This time there were just three of us, choosing the oxtail in peanut sauce (Kare Kare), the Combo Barbeque and the Bicol Express (spicy belly pork in liver sauce). Filipino cuisine is new to me, I found the mixture of ingredients, flavours and textures interesting and tasty. Belly pork can be quite fatty and I prefer it crispy (as in their grilled version), rather than soft in this dish: but that’s  just my preference. Two of us had drinks and the check for three came to just over $45 – a good, reasonably cheap meal to start the evening. This is a restaurant which will grow in popularity as it becomes more well known in the neighbourhood.

Just up the East River from us is a little riverside bar at Anable Basin. It’s hard to find places in New York where you can sit at a table right next to the water drinking a cool beer and eating a tasty barbecue snack. The Anable Basin bar and Grill ( is just that, a bar and a grill in a kind of makeshift building with classic all-in-one bench tables that sit next to what is a mini marina, where you can park your yacht or dinghy. You can also walk or drive there, to the end of 44th Drive, next door to the Waters Edge restaurant (white tablecloths, and which looks like it suits large groups of well-off diners). It has a beach/island feel – casual with a small, but interesting selection of beers and wines and a short menu of international barbecue specialities – Brazilian Steak (Pikanya), Bosnian sausages (Chevapi – with a delicious ajvar relish), Bratwurst, Bison Burgers, salads, corn and vegeburger. This is a peaceful venue, a place to sit and watch the fish jump, the geese beg for scraps and the occasional boat passing by. It’s as close as you’re going to get to a beach bar in New York, and then you also get the impressive Manhattan skyline, especially when the sun is going down. It may not be the Pacific but it sure is peaceful. I note that they advertise “speciality cocktails”, well I might just have to go down there again.

The mooring at Anable Basin Bar and Grill

Some news from Cranky’s ( It’s sad to see that Lindsay and Cranky’s have parted company. She’ll be missed. Meanwhile I’ve tried a few more of their lunchtime dishes and can throughly recommend their flank steak salads – either straight (with warm corn, tomato etc) or as a steak caesar. The chef Alan has created an exquisite marinade for the steak that makes it melt in your mouth. He’s also created an excellent caesar sauce for the salad – straight caesar, chicken or steak. It’s good to see that the “Eating Theater” evenings are continuing and proving very popular.

I note that there are a couple of new eating places appearing in the Hunters Point area. “Cyclo”, a new Vietnamese Noodle and Sandwich cafe is just about to open, on 46th and Vernon next to Petey’s Burger, and “Spice”, one of a chain of successful Thai restuarants on the site of the, often empty, previous Thai cafe on Vernon Boulevard.

That’s it from me for another week – watch out for new “Artist Portrait” blogcasts over the next few weeks.


Back in LIC – excited by the prospects of a summer of music.

I’m just back from a few weeks overseas and am catching up on the local scene. A new feature in  Hunters Point is a little gallery known as 10-10 Studios, at 10-10, 47th Road at Vernon Boulevard ( Last night I was just passing and was invited in by the host, offered a glass of wine and was able to appreciate some  very fine photos by Micah Rubin (, in an exhibition called “Uncommon Threads” featuring scenes from South East Asia. The exhibition is short-lived (15-17th June) but I hope that this new artistic venue will continue to flourish.

I note, too, that the studio is hosting a fundraising event for Queens Jazz Overground ( this Saturday, 16th June from 7-11pm featuring music by:
Josh Deutsch/Nico Soffiato duo
Brian Woodruff Quartet with Hashem Assadullahi, Amanda Monaco, Mark Wade
Mike Baggetta Trio with Zack Lober, RJ Miller

A visitor from Finland

The LIC bar ( occasionally hosts overseas artists, however, to my knowledge Saara Markkanen ( is the first singer from Finland to appear at this respected venue in  Long Island City.

Saara Markkenen (photo courtesy of the artist)

Saara is a singer of rare individuality. Originally from Finland,  she moved to Berlin last year and is touring the US for the first time in June, with her first gig at the LIC Bar on Wednesday 20th June, at 7pm, following that with a tour along eastern USA, ending with an appearance at the Nebraska Pop Festival in Omaha.

Saara has a pure, often unworldly, voice and accompanies herself on the guitar in a self-taught style that can sometimes seems as if she’s playing a harp. Her music has a European folk quality that  at times conveys a kind of chilly innocence. Her language is Finnish so, except for those in her US audiences who are Finnish ex-pats, she will offer what she calls “creative ways ” of explaining her songs, most of which are in her native language. She is touring with cellist Elise Mélinand and a Canadian filmaker who is making a documentary of the the tour.

Unable to meet her in advance of the gig I interviewed Saara using a skype connection whilst she was in a cafe in Gothenburg, Sweden – (so the sound quality is variable).

Check this out by clicking on this link:

Saara Markkanen – interview plus two songs

You can catch more of her music on her website ( and on youtube.

Saara’s tour dates are:

20.6. L.I.C. Bar, Queens, New York
21.6. The Space/The Outer Space,Hamden,Connecticut
23.6. The Barking Dog location in College Park Maryland
24.6. Epicure Cafe in Fairfax Virginia.
25.6. The Garage, Charlottesville Virginia.
27.6. Deep South The Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina.
26.6. Bottega Art Bar & Gallery, Wilmington North Carolina.
28.6. Underbelly, Jacksonville, Florida.
29.6. Dada, Delray Beach Florida.
30.6. Tallahassee Florida.
3.7. Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, New Orleans.
4.7. Artmosphere in Lafayette Louisiana.
5.7. Hopkins ice house, Texarkana,Arkansas
11.7. Nebraska pop festival, Nebraska

New Album from Ryan Roger’s “Amateur Blonde”

Amateur Blonde is a band put together by LIC-based singer songwriter Ryan Roger O’Toole. (Take care if you google “Amateur Blonde”, you’ll get a lot of stuff that is, well, rather different from the well crafted music that this album demonstrates!)

Well known on the Queens and Brooklyn club and bar circuit, Ryan is an energetic collaborator with local music projects and it is not surprising that a band and an album have emerged that celebrate both collaboration and Ryan’s talent as a songwriter and performer.

Amateur Blonde’s first, self  titled, album has sought funding through a local  funding group which includes Gustavo Rodriguez and Brian Meece – “Rockethub” ( It credits 9 artists: Ryan himself (Voices, Guitars, Drums, Pianos, Organs & Omnichord); regular Drummer Jeff Gretz, bassist Peter Brendler and pedal steel Philip Sterk; plus drummers Seth Fragomen and Brendt Cole; bass players John Lang and Matthew O’Toole (Ryan’s brother, who also plays the family Dobro), with another LIC regular Anthony Rizzo (of Little Embers) – on Lead Guitar. Of course they don’t all play on all tracks, only Ryan does that, but the mix of players does reflect the mix of styles across the whole album. This is a self-produced album, recorded mainly by Ryan in his home studio, with some help with drum recording from Brian Speaker at Brooklyn Tea Party in Bushwick.

Some time ago, in fact in 1968, CBS released the first ever “sampler” album “The Rock Machine Turns You On” to an eager European market. Half the price of a standard LP the disc featured tracks from a range of in-house Columbia artists including Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Spirit, The Zombies and Tim Rose as well as classically named bands like the “Peanut Butter Conspiracy” and “Moby Grape”.

Amateur Blonde’s first album reminds me of this in its variety of songs and arrangements. Ryan does not stick to one genre and the album benefits from this. There is a real mid-Atlantic 60’s and 70s feel to Ryan’s music, yet this is not retro rock and some of the tracks, such as “Sobriquet” have an Indie feel, even if it quickly moves on to echoes of Lennon rocking New York City in the 1970s. Anthony Rizzo (Little Embers) in his only appearance on the album offers nice jagged guitar work against waves of over-dubbed and overdriven guitars and makes this song a great start to an album that developes nicely from track to track.

Scaffolding” moves away with a not-quite-twangy-enough Duane Eddy-type guitar intro that leads into a drum driven insistent beat and simple guitar riff.  Ryan’s half-hoarse vocals, together with his la-la chorus give us a song that moves like an Chevrolet convertible driving through dusty cities early on a sunday summer morning and heading for the coast.

There’s strong heavy rock too, “Chills” features roaring vocals and a thumping beats with Ryan screaming into the mic in a rough distorted style that has a live late night basement club feel, (even if it does revert to another Beatlesque ending).

“Just Obey”, has a real 60s “Doors” feel, check out this live performance:

“In a minute” is a dreamy atmospheric track in which the harmonised lyrics take center  stage, with the next song:  No Worries”, proving to be another,  winding, atmospheric track that grabs you in its circling harmonies with  a catchy intermittent ringing guitar riff that takes you down subtle passageways.

“Airplane Mode” is, for me, the least memorable song on what is a very good album indeed, it starts with a Coldplay – esq keyboard arpeggio riff that reappears during the track, with soaring wordless harmonies that makes me think that it would suit a video or movie, as it generates a feeling that might better accompanying images. Ryan is, in fact, a  film-maker so this  may well be an appropriate comment! (later comment – this track actually grows on you and improves with repeated listening).

“Waiting Place” has over- and undertones of Pink Floyd with Ryan self-harmonising against a smooth-running river of nicely arranged and recorded guitar, omnichord and pedal steel. “Novocaine” is an effective, memorable track with a catchy riff that takes you through nicely put together harmonies.

The final track “Leaving Time” is a kind of fairground fantasy, with New York as the fairground; boys in leather jackets hanging round subway entrances glancing at skirt through the rain and steaming streets. The excellent mix brings out the strumming omnichord in a ways that urge nostalgia for hot lazy days, and the kind of seaside teenage love affair that, for most, ended up as “Leaving Time”.

This is a really good album, with good songs, great arrangements and production. It’s also an interesting album, worthy of close listening – especially late at night when the party is winding down, with its rocking tracks giving way to a smoother, almost ambient vibe as the mist drifts over your eyes and your brain. I really like albums like this, there is always something unexpected as you move from track to track. I urge you to  buy it!

Catch some pre-release tracks on: watch out for availability online ( and at live shows.

Ryan Roger (photo courtesy of the artist)

Gigs to look forward to:

LIC Bar is hosting, on Monday June 25th, three bands that are worth turning up for early to catch a seat. Leah Gough-Copper’s “Human Equivalent”; “Whiskey Spillers” and Mercedes Figueras’  avante garde jazz group Black Butterflies. I have written before about Human Equivalent and Black Butterflies but I don’t think I’ve mentioned Whiskey Spillers (, a duo of Corey Lewis and Patrick Ryan (from “Animal Pharm” – I’m impressed by Corey Lewis, he sings intelligent songs in ways that defy pigeon-holing and with an energy that radiates from his, not especially slender, form.

Corey Lewis

LIC Bar now have regular outdoor events on Sunday afternoons, from 4 until 7, when the  doors of the Carriage House open to create a stage and appreciative drinkers can sit in the sunshine on what usually proves to be a feast of brilliant music.


Sometime in Long Island City can now be HEARD on podcasts, featuring material from the blog and also a new series of Artist Portraits in which Eric Hathaway talks to local musicians about their life and their music.

Subscribe to these on itunes:

or directly from Podbean:

First edition: “LIC Bar and the Queens of Queens“:

Listen to this episode
Download this episode (right click and save)

Artist Portrait: Michele Riganese:

Listen to this episode
Download this episode (right click and save)

Artist Portrait: Jeneen Terrana:

Listen to this episode
Download this episode (right click and save)

Attist Portrait: Little Embers

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)

Artist Portraits in production include:

Shelly Bhushan, Warren Malone and Matthew Sucich.

Universal Life Church, ULC, We Are All Children Of the Same Universe

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………….. .


Check out the first ever podcast of “Sometime in Long Island City” .:- or

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)


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 ( 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.





It’s been good to catch up with Anthony Cekay‘s saxophone playing at LIC bar ( ) 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 (, 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 ( 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 ( 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” – ), where they produced improvised mood music (check Anthony Cekay’s Podcast of this on . 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 ( A couple of weeks ago I went down to LowerEast Side to catch Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent ( 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” (   or 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 ( 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 (, 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!! (

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


 LIC Bar

Wednesday, May 16th

Thursday, May 17th
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 19th
Fiends and Fools

Sunday, May 20th
Big City Folk Sunday Social
Emily Mure, Kevin Goldhahn, and more

Monday, May 21st

Wednesday, May 23rd

Thursday, May 24th
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 26th
Magic Bones

Sunday, May 27th
Live music outdoors in the garden (weather permitting)
from 2-8pm

Monday, May 28th

Wednesday, May 30th

Thursday, May 31st
w/Stephanie Holmes

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 (

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 ( 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, ( ) 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 (, 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 (

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 ( 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.


At last I have ventured into podcasting. Check out my first effort: or on itunes:

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: