LIC musical talent lines up for stardom

It’s been my privilege over the last two years to listen to a number of highly talented musicians playing at venues just 5 minutes from my door. Two venues, LIC bar (licbar.com) and Domaine Bar a Vins (Domainewinebar.com) have stood out in their offerings: with the pleasing recent addition of music at John Brown Smokehouse and at various bars and restaurants who offer some musical accompaniment to diners and drinkers.

Astoria- born graduate of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Jeanne Marie Boes (http://jeanneboes.com) has been heard in the LIC  music scene for a while. I’ve listened to her play  at LIC bar and eGarage.tv . Many of her previous recordings have been covers, showing an accurate, stylish voice with good interpretations of other writers’  work. She has a strong soul voice and powerful presentation that makes you listen from the first notes.  Her latest single is, to my knowledge, her only available recording of a song she has written herself.

Jeanne Marie Boes at Webster Hall

“The One”  is a muscular, bluesy song, reminiscent of Amy Winehouse in style and, even more so in Jeanne’s vocal interpretation. This is so much an advance on previous recorded material that it’s as if she has suddenly discovered her voice as a writer and interpreter of her own songs; and had the (well guided) courage to present it on CD. The recording has been expertly self-produced with a full, driving sound that pushes Jeanne’s voice straight across a great mix of,  unbelievably, just three musicians: Jeanne on vocals and piano, and  husband and wife team (from the Queens duo “Ekra”):  Brendon Press (Guitar and bass) and Lee Press(Drums). (http://www.ekrasound.com/)

Jeanne Marie(http://jeanneb.bandcamp.com/track/the-one-single-studio-version)

This single deserves a lot of attention, it has “star” written all over it – so buy it (from bandcamp, or itunes) and tell your friends and catch Jeanne when she’s next playing:

May 24th, 2013 / Greenpoint Gallery Art & Music Series (Brooklyn, NY) 9PM

June 21st, 2013 / Queens Council on the Arts (Astoria, NY) 2PM

June 28th, 2013 / The Giving Tree Yoga Studio (Astoria, NY) 8PM

July 20th, 2013 / Kennedy Plaza “Women’s Day” Event (Long Beach, NY) 12PM

Jeanne plans recording a full length album when she can accumulate the funds, I’m looking forward to hearing this.

jeanne promo
Jeanne Marie Boes

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In my last post I talked about some newly released, or soon to be released, albums from musicians associated with LIC Bar – Niall Connolly, Shelly Bhushan, Natalie Mishell and Anthony Mulcahy.

Anthony had his CD launch party at Rockwood Music Hall last week and showed himself to be a relaxed, highly skilled performer of his own music. He clearly has the warm regard of his band of Taryn Lounsbury (violin and vocal), Jenny Dunne (vocal), Barry Kornhauser (‘cello) and Anthony Crowder (drums), which was augmented by bass-player Brandon Wilde. Brandon produced the album and played on a couple, of tracks on the album “For my Sins” so was very familiar with the music. This was the first time that he had joined the band on stage and his professionalism shone through as he mixed his accurate, percussive bass against the more languid lines of the ‘cello. I’ve had a chance to listen to the whole album now, as well as attending the launch and am continuing to be impressed and urge you to buy it.

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Jenny Dunne and Anthony Mulcahy

Anthony’s music is deceptive. Heard in the background it sounds like nice, folk-style music with clearly Celtic undertones. It’s when you get closer to the words and the way that Anthony sings them that you get a real sense of depth of this man’s appreciation of humankind in all its joy and pain, romance and tragedy. On the album he shares vocal credit with Jenny Dunne (the best singing I’ve heard from her), in solo and in harmonies that are best shown in his immediately memorable song “Soft Spoken“.  Bowed and plucked violin and ‘cello feature on tracks in ways that remind me of some of the music  that is coming out of the bluegrass fusion movement that mixes traditional Celtic/Appalachian with 21st century classical styles from artists like Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and the Kronos Quartet; listen particularly to the title track, “For My Sins“.

Anthony was initially reluctant to put the track “Cúilín” on the album, not because it is weak, more, I think, that it is a very personal and nostalgic evocation of his childhood experience on a beach where a river meets the sea in his home town. “Cúilín” paints pictures in which we, too, can recall our innocent childhood play, placing it next to “All Our Sins” of adulthood. This track epitomizes Anthony’s gift for language, making this an album deserving of frequent listening, and careful attention to his lyrics.

Anthony Mulcahy and his band at Rockwood Music Hall

Anthony Mulcahy and his band at Rockwood Music Hall

You can buy the album on:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/for-my-sins/id650018901

and:

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/AnthonyMulcahy

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Some stunning Jazz at Domaine Wine Bar

It never ceases to amaze me how such a small local bar, that sits just over the entrance to the 7 subway Vernon/Jackson station, on the west side, can have such hugely talented jazz musicians in a small space. Last week I caught my old favourites the Broc Hempel, Sam Trapchak, Christian Colemen Trio there the other night, playing with sax virtuoso Greg Ward III. Here’s a few pictures.

Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman

Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman and Sam Trapchak

Christian Coleman and Sam Trapchak

Greg Ward III

Greg Ward III

Christian Coleman also contributes his exceptional jazz drumming to a Happy Hour jazz session every Wednesday (5pm-7pm) at local BBQ restaurant John Brown Smokehouse (http://www.johnbrownseriousbbq.com/). He joins local LIC musicians Martin Kelley (Saxophone) and Diallo House (bass) plus guests as “Affinity” for sessions which can be indoors or outside, depending on the weather, in the spacious yard.

The quality of the music is great, as is the food in this casual-style smokehouse environment where you can have stylish domestic and foreign beers, plus everything  you’d expect from an establishment that has, in a short time, become judged one of New York’s best barbeque Joints. the brisket, burnt ends and ribs are superb, as are the moist cornbread and fresh salads.

John Brown Smokehouse has space, and an audience for high quality music. Tell the owners, so that it can become another LIC music venue that will benefit the residents, the businesses and the musicians.

Martin Kelley's Affinity in the Smokehouse  yard.

Martin Kelley’s Affinity in the Smokehouse yard.

Postscript from the LIC Bar – WHO relationship

Regular readers will know that LIC bar suffered in Hurricane Sandy, with the loss of musical gear. The UK rock band “The Who” came to the rescue with the purchase of new gear and the bar repaid the debt with a tribute concert. The concert raised over $7000 for The Who’s charity Teen Cancer. Last week  the cheque was presented to Roger Daltrey by Gus Rodriguez (LIC Bar music promoter) and Rob Basch (who first contacted The Who).

Rob Basch, Gus Rodriguez and Roger Daltrey

Rob Basch, Gus Rodriguez and Roger Daltrey

Last but not least a reminder about Natalie Mishell’s CD Launch at Rockwood Music Hall 2 on Allen Street Lower East Side this Thursday, May 24th, with Julie Kathryn as support.

Natalie Mishell at a Van Morrison tribute at LIC bar

Natalie Mishell at a Van Morrison tribute at LIC bar

Listen to my interview with Natalie and hear some of her music on:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/artist-portrait-natalie-mishell/id523786622?i=153661157&mt=2

and

http://earthsounz.podbean.com/mf/web/396dh/Artist_Portrait_Natalie_Mishell.mp3

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Artists in Residence at the LIC Bar

Every month LIC Bar (www.licbar.com) has a new “Artist in Residence”. February sees TWO, Jo Williamson and Xavier Cardriche.
LIC Bar is a popular venue for local, national and international artists who might be building up to a tour, making a come-back or preparing for a recording. Jo Williamson is such an artist, having recently taken a break from performing she joins a line of high calibre artists who use the LIC venue to hone their skills before embarking on tours or recording projects. Most frecently Jim Keller (famous for his hit 867-5309 with Tommy Tutone) has been such an artist, sharpening his performances before a tour with Nick Lowe.

Jo WilliamsonJo’s most recent recording is her album, Be the Man, produced by Martha Wainwright and released in 2011 as her third CD offering. As a singer songwriter, she writes and performs in a folk style which has a story-telling quality with a range between ballads and torch songs. She has a strong clear, accurate voice and a highly musical feel to performances which have powerful, intimate quality reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell, yet strong like Patti Smith and clear like the great British folk singer Sandy Denny.

In her first LIC Bar performance on Feb 4th she played acoustic guitars and an electric bass, using loop electronics to good effect: pushing the boundaries of traditional singer/songwriter performance. I was impressed by her honest professional approach and her visceral musicality.

Jo plus Bass

Jo looping with bass

Check her out on http://www.myspace.com/jowilliamsonmusic.

Jo’s performances at LIC Bar are at 7pm on Mondays throughout February; nights when three other performers are presented each week, as well as free food at 9pm, courtesy of Parnell’s Restaurant (http://www.parnellsny.com/)

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Xavier Cardriche

Xavier Cardriche

Xavier Cardriche is well known to LIC Bar regulars, he is a strong singer with a rich bluesy voice and a confident performance style that connects immediately with the audience. Playing with both a band and solo his songs are powerful and melodic, with variations in style that makes for interesting sets, as can be heard on his self-titled 2012 album. In his performance on Feb 6th he added another dimension to his artistic presence by including a stylish performance from dancers Lauren Engleman (http://laurenengleman.webs.com) and Kyla Ernst-Alper (http://www.kylaernstalper.com/) , who will be joining him again throughout February.

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Xavier with dancers Lauren Engleman and Kyla Ernst-Alper

For this residency he is performing solo, with dancers, at 10pm every Wednesday night throughout February. Check him out on http://xaviercardriche.com/

LIC Bar Calendar:

Monday, Feb 11th

7pm Jo Williamson

8pm The Cowmen

9pm Sam Trapchak

10pm Anthony Cekay Group

 

Wednesday, Feb 13th

7pm Sabina Saragoussi

8pm Cheer

9pm Remy De Laroque

10pm Xavier Cardriche Feb Residency

 

Thursday, Feb 14th

9pm Fireside Valentines Day Special

invite that special someone to hear love ballads

for this special Valentines Day concert by the

LIC Bar fireplace! Performances by Silbin Sandovar & friends

 

Saturday, Feb 16th

11pm

Magic Bones

 

Sunday, Feb 17th

5-8pm

Big City Folk Sunday Social

Obscure in the Round

Niall Connolly, Anthony Mulcahy and Matt Sucich. 

 

8:30pm Ali Silva’s Fireside Ghost Stories: The Valentines Day Show

Tales that explore the dark side of love by the LIC Bar

fireplace!

 

Monday, Feb 18th

7pm Kjersti Kveli

8pm Tango Mediterraneo

9pm Tipsy Oxcart

10pm Nik Westman

 

 

Wednesday, Feb 20th

8pm Frealane

9pm Lee Ann Westover’s Battle Annies

10pm Xavier Cardriche Feb Residency

 

 

 

Saturday, Feb 23rd 8-11pm

SPECIAL EVENT: “WHO” CARES ABOUT LIC BAR!

In honor of The Who helping LIC Bar post Hurricane

Sandy, we’re celebrating with live music by

The Ultimate Who Tribute Band “WHO’S NEXT”

WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED GUITAR BY

PETE TOWNSHEND and lots of other great prizes!

Tix $20—all proceeds go to The Who’s official charity: THE TEENAGE CANCER TRUST

 

11pm Silbin & Friends

 

Sunday, Feb 24th 5-8pm

Big City Folk Sunday Social

feat Jesse Cohen

Anthony Lanni and Friends

 

Monday, Feb 25th

7pm Jo Williamson

8pm Antonio Parisi

9pm Kat Calvosa

10pm Kelly Ash

 

Wednesday, Feb 27th

8pm Stacy Rock

9pm Dana Athens

10pm Xavier Cardriche Feb Residency

 

Good cheer brewing up in LIC

The Rockaway Brewing Company, is not, as its name might suggest, an evacuee from the storm ravaged Rockaway coast, but a new brewing venture set up in Long Island City.  Owners Marcus Burnett and Ethan Long are two friends who have been enthusiastic home brewers for years in their Rockaway bungalows and who decided last year to extend their hobby into a part-time business, employing 3 staff and taking up the offer of space in LIC to start up in April 2012.

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Locally-produced food and drink are the current enthusiasms of New York consumers; aware that local jobs are important and that food is usually fresher when produced in the region. RBCO is a “Nano-brewery”, a technical difference from a Micro-brewery, terms that relate to the number of barrels of beer produced. The company is currently producing 8 barrels per week of four different ales, two light and two dark, which are sold to local restaurants, supermarkets and bars: The malty ESB (Extra Special Bitter), a more hoppy Pale Ale (both of these deliberately softer than the more common hard-hitting and hop-driven IPAs around from other breweries), a Porter and Stout (“Black Gold)”. Not content to stick to these four brews RBCO is also experimenting with new brews, including a Scottish ale and an IPA (India Pale Ale). They also sell their draft ale in growlers directly from the brewery, from taps behind a newly built counter, with music from Vinyl LPs and a 1960s Heathkit valve stereo.

Brewer Flynn stirs the mash

Brewer Flynn stirs the mash

Beer is basically a fermented mix of water, yeast, hops and barley malt. The tradional German quality  standard allows no further additions, however variation is obtained by RBCO adding flavour enhancing ingredients (such as toasted woodchips marinated in single barrel bourbon, in the soon-to-be available Scottish ale) and using different types of hop that offer bitterness and aroma. For the highest quality, RBCO source their hops from Hop Union in Washington State (http://www.hopunion.com) , but have also used fresh local hops, with honey, in their seasonal summer ale. The owners have even attempted to grow their own hops in Rockaway, but hurricane Sandy put that idea on the back burner until another year.

Marcus draws some Scots beer to sample.

Marcus draws some Scots beer to sample.

RBCO use up to eight different varieties of hops supplied to them in a form which is freeze dried so that enough moisture remains to ensure that the essential life qualities of the hop remain. This is different from the traditional way of hanging them in well ventilated buildings, called Oast Houses, some of which can still be seen in England – but these days they are more often converted into living accommodation. All RBCO ales are unfiltered, with no artificial ingredients; therefore, whilst the brewers strive for consistency in their brews they are aware that variation in seasons will create the kind of subtle differences that set craft ales apart from their mass-produced cousins.

Columbus Hops

Columbus Hops

The brewery produces a mix of pressurised keg and hand-drawn, non-carbonated cask ales, which are destined for bars and restaurants (like “Alewife” at 5-14 51st Ave, between 5th Street and Vernon) who have the skills and equipment to care for and serve beers in the traditional way. Demand is strong with the owners anticipating that it will outstrip supply in the Summer season.

CaptureAs well as buying direct from the brewery, at the corner of 46th Road and 5th Street in Long Island City; you can buy growlers from the “Food Cellar” supermarket on 47th Avenue, by Center Boulevard (http://foodcellarandco.com), and drink at local venues Alobar (http://alobarnyc.com), Alewife ( http://alewifequeens.com), John Brown’s Smokehouse (http://www.johnbrownseriousbbq.com/) as well as establishments in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and, of course, Rockaway.

For more information check out www.rockawaybrewco.com.

This article is an extended version of a piece published in www.licspot.com   an excellent local news blog

Rich culinary pickings, and a little jazz

It’s been a while since I put together a whole blog, overseas travel and other responsibilities have meant that I have been contributing to an excellent local news blog www.licspot.com; a simpler option with a word limit that means I can just write something quickly and send it off. This edition of Sometime in Long Island City contains a compendium of these short pieces, mainly about local restauraunts and some music.

Manetta’s Italian Restaurant, Hunters Point

What makes a good restaurant REALLY good is not always the food quality, not even the wine list; it is the establishment’s ability to maintain its standards on a very busy day. I took some friends to Manettas (10-76 Jackson Avenue) at the beginning of the holiday period to show off some LIC Italian cooking. We were fortunate to get a table in the main room, close to the fireplace, a homely feature  that makes this place feel authentic and welcoming on a cold winter’s day. The restaurant was very busy with work and family groups and the staff were moving fast and efficiently from table to table.

Manetta’s has a blackboard to support the verbal “specials” list from the waiter and we chose a mix of menu items and specials. To start we had the house salad (Insalata Della Casa– $7.50) and breads to start, enjoying the variety in the salad, which arrived promptly and with a smile. The salad is a delicious mix of leaves, hazelnuts manchego cheese and apple, with a delicious balsamic dressing all wrapped in a cucumber slice nest.

For the main dish I chose the special of the day, a fish-driven home – made Ravioli  – Bacala, Pinoli and raisins in a Grand Marnier Sauce ($17) that sat temptingly on the plate and  did not disappoint in the subtlety of its flavours, the sauce complementing and not overpowering the fish filling. My companions chose the Linguini alle Vongole (Clams, $17) and the Spaghetti alla Carbonara ($13), an interesting mix of eggs, and cheeses with Pancetta. All dishes were well liked.

Linguini with Clams

Linguini with Clams

Desserts, too, did not disappoint, especially the excellent Crème brûlée ($6, creamy with a not too crisp cap), the Panne Cotta ($6.50) and the melt in your mouth Tiramisu ($5.50). Crème Brulées are a test of the skill and care of the dessert  chef. Too often they can have a cap that is thick and brittle. This was light and flavorsome, with a cap that was thin and crisp; melt in your mouth rather than stick in your teeth. The tiramisu, too was excellent (yes I did have a taste of this as well); once again a light dish that did not leave you feeling over-fed at the end of the evening.

Creme Brulee

Crème brûlée

I note that the prices of Manetta’s entrees are getting expensive, with some dishes getting close to $30, making this restaurant definitely one of the priciest in the neighbourhood, however the range of dishes and prices will suit a range of pockets. My lasting impression was, however, that this is an extremely well run restaurant with high standards in its cuisine and an attention to high service standards that shone on this busiest of days, with cheerful staff and a friendly greeting. It isn’t surprising that it is often busy, and deservedly so.

Café Henri

Cafe Henri

If you can’t get to France, come to Vernon Boulevard.

Hunters Point is a little neighborhood on the edge of LIC, where the roads end and the 7 line takes its last breath before diving under the East River. The village is dominated by the spire of St. Mary’s church, in whose shadow sit four eating and drinking places that have claims to be French; in influence, if not always by nationality. From Cranky’s French Creole, Café Henri and Tournesol to that cute little wine and jazz bar known as Domaine Bar à vins. We have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in food and wines that have their origins in land that time forgot, where respect for tradition and the arts of the farmer, chef, sommelier, vintner and cheesemaker has not been blunted by the dead hands of EU bureaucracy.

I popped in to Café Henri last night, for the first time in two years. The mix of coffee house, café and restaurant is traditional, but here a little cramped and austere. Henri offered some classic French dishes in the evening, along with the compulsory burgers and some interesting crêpes, both savory and sweet. I tried the steak au poivre vert, served freshly cooked with a little dish of the green pepper sauce, some quite cheesy gratin potato, a small salad and nicely cooked carrots. The steak (not too big!) was cooked to my taste, tender and trimmed of fat. The sauce had that classic French taste and texture, green peppercorns in a light creamy base into which I could dip each forkful of steak. I washed it down with a small bottle of Normandy cidre bouche, hard farmhouse cider for those of you who think of cider as apple juice. The cider complimented the steak well, not too sweet with that slight rough taste and texture that is true to the origins of this time-honored beverage. At just over $20 the steak pushed the local price average (most main dishes locally are priced between $15 and $20) but was not overpriced for the quality. This was a classic dish cooked well, the quality that one would expect in a French café or hotel restaurant, so a pleasant experience.

My companion had the coq au vin, which she found to be not quite up to French standard she would expect. Café Henri also owns the new Mexican restaurant on 49th, Casa Henrique, and the chicken in red wine sauce was reminiscent of their chicken in Mole sauce, the dark color of the slightly sour tasting sauce and the way that the chicken appeared to have been cooked separately, and the sauce then poured over it. Not as authentic as the steak, even though the chicken itself was tasty.

So, we had a mixed experience in a friendly little local café. It’s worth a return, if only to sample the wide range of crêpes.

Casa Enrique, Mexican Restaurant

Casa Enrique

Casa Enrique

For my last review I visited Café Henri, opposite the Vernon Entrance of the 7 subway. Just up the road, next to (what used to be) Shady Park sits their sister establishment Casa Enrique.  I believe that “Henri”, or ”Enrique” is the name of the small black dog on their logo and who sits outside Café Henri on fine days.

As you might guess this is a Mexican restaurant, set out simply with mainly white decor with friendly and attentive staff. This wasn’t my first visit and I’m surprised to find that the owners still do not have a full liquor license, although you can bring your own, with no corkage charge. Being the festive season the plain decor was augmented with a tasteful placing of green and red combinations of pine tree and ribbon, with nice plain white trailing lights on the exterior.

Unlike some restaurants Casa Enrique does not require you to listen attentively for ten minutes whilst the waiter reads a litany of “specials”, most of which you won’t remember. Here there were thankfully just two additions to the menu, one of which, a seafood cocktail, Agua Chile,($13), I chose as a starter, together with some pork and pineapple tacos al Pastor ($8 for two), leaving room for their delicious take on crème caramel, simply called flan ($7). My companion chose the meat ball starter – Albondigas en Chipotle ($8) and chicken tacos and we shared the flan, accompanying the meal with a bottle of Beaujolais Villages which we had brought from home.

Pride of place for this light, uncomplicated meal was, for me, the seafood cocktail: a well-presented mix of shrimp and octopus, with avocado and cucumber in a subtle juice of lime, cilantro and chilli. Anticipating customer enthusiasm, the dish was accompanied by a soup spoon, so that the bowl could be completely drained of its juice. The cocktail was served with some crisp nacho-style chips, however I preferred to dip the soft tacos provided for my companion’s meat balls, and she preferred the chips. The meat balls were reportedly excellent, in a chipotle sauce served in a nice rustic bowl that contrasted well with the painted white table.

We both felt the tacos were a little dry. My mix of pork and pineapple was tasty, in a finely tuned sense, with subtle flavours. We would have a valued a couple of pots of chipotle mayo and salsa to add some moisture.

The flan was a superb ending to what was a nice, simple meal, promptly and cheerfully presented. That this is my third visit shows proof of my appreciation of this more recent addition to the Hunters Point restaurant scene.

Review: Jean-Michel Pilc at the Domaine Bar à Vins, Dec 16, 2012

Jean-Michel Pilc

Jean-Michel Pilc

 

The gift of an artist is that they can convey something of moments in time, with all the skill at their command. Jazz pianist Jean-Michel Pilc is an artist of great skill and exquisite sensitivity. The moments at the Domaine Bar à Vins on Sunday night were, like a game of football, in two, quite distinct and different halves.

Bars are not easy environments for musicians. Pilc had perhaps two audiences; one who had definitely come to hear him play, and another, perhaps unwitting or unwilling, who were just there for a drink and a chat. Thus we had a first half in which Pilc had to compete with loud conversations about relationships and responded with improvisations which were variations of “Santa Claus is coming to town”, “A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square” and (in style, if not in content) Beethoven’s classic “Rage over a lost Penny”. This was a stormy, mixed set in which, as Pilc admitted afterwards, he did not feel at ease with himself or the music. This doesn’t mean that it was not entertaining, and at times enthralling, such is the man’s command of the keyboard, just that it was quite a different experience after the intermission.

The second half transcended the first by a factor of five to one, subtle phrasing and intensity of emotion (which for me drew thoughts of the children gunned down two days previously) provided a musical experience that was astonishing in its dynamic, melodic and rhythmic range. The chatterboxers had gone elsewhere and Pilc played to a select group of appreciative music lovers who concentrated in parallel with Pilc. The beginning of what was a single-movement improvisation reflected the misty day we had just experienced, with bell-like chimes that were reminiscent of Vaughan Williams’ evocation of the Thames in London in his symphony of that name. There were moments, again, of rage, but of a different quality and other moments that evoked tears of grief. This is the power of music in the hands of an artist improviser such as Pilc. For me he had distilled the tragedy of recent days and allowed our griefs and our joys to combine in ways that reflect our common humanity. Maybe that was just my take on the music, it’s not “truth” just my reactions to the music that Pilc was able to bring forth into this little bar in Long Island City on a cold wintery night.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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 (http://www.jeanmichelpilc.com) 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 (www.LICBar.com), 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 (http://www.reverbnation.com/label/bigcityfolk).

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:

(http://jokroger.com/wordpress/)

I also enjoyed Chris Mills’ style and energy (http://www.reverbnation.com/chrismillsmusic) . 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 (http://www.mulmusic.com/) 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. (http://www.brandonwildemusic.com/)

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

ARTIST PORTRAITS

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 www.earthsounz.podbean.com or from http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622?mt=2

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

FOOD AND DRINK CORNER

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 (http://www.ihawan2.com) 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 (http://anablebasin.com/) 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 (http://www.crankyscafe.com/). 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.

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/