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 ( and Domaine Bar a Vins ( 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 ( has been heard in the LIC  music scene for a while. I’ve listened to her play  at LIC bar and . 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). (

Jeanne Marie(

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


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.


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:



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 ( 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:



March Music Treats at LIC Bar

March treats at LIC Bar:

LIC Bar, on Vernon and 46th Avenue, is the foremost LIC music venue; a place of character, good cheer and great musical talent. You can hear live music 5 nights out of 7, and DJ music on friday nights from 10pm – 2am.Whether you like country, jazz, rock or sounds indescribable, you are sure to find entertainment that will bring you back week after week, day after day….even if you travel over from Manhattan!!!

Apart from the excellent range of music, LIC Bar is also establishing a credible record for performances featuring actors, the spoken word and classical music, for both  adults and children (by the fireside in the carriage house, across from the bar).

March offers a mix of all these attractions so “Why go to Manhattan?” when so much is in LIC! I’m off to the southern hemisphere for a while so will miss most of March in NYC  so here’s the highlights of what will be a great month as Spring leaps into gear.


Wednesday night is residents’ night. March 2013 is Jefferson Thomas month. JT is a supremely talented rocker who can turn his talents from straight country, through folk/rock to gutsy/rocky/blues that will shake your pants off. His sets will be at 10:00pm every Wednesday thru March. Be prepared to stay late, JT sucks up the energy of the crowd and performs until his seeds have run dry. Check out

Jefferson Thomas

Jefferson Thomas

Mondays is often a jazz night (although not always) and free food is served at 9:00pm. I’m pleased to see that some one of my favorites, Tammy Scheffer, is also resident in March. She has a versatile, accurate voice that rides high around the skills of her band; jazz with with real vocal flair with intricate arrangements that span traditional Hebrew melodies and classic jazz standards. (

Tammy Scheffer

Tammy Scheffer


Monday jazz also sees Sam Trapchak, ( LIC-based bass-playing jazz composer on the rise to stardom (March 11, 8:00), another LIC resident, sax-man Anthony Cekay, whose late night improv sessions are becoming quite the cool place to be in LIC (March 8, 9:00). Another jazz favorite, Emily Wolf, plays on March 25th (8:00). She is a classy jazz singer and writer who pulls together a fine group of musicians. (;

LIC residents Sam Trapchak and Anthony Cekay

LIC residents Sam Trapchak and Anthony Cekay

Emily Wolf

Emily Wolf


I should say here that I am only mentioning people I have heard before. The joy of LIC Bar is hearing people who are new to me, like Zoe Sundra, who I heard on March 3rd and so many others who delight with their talent.

Zoe Sundra at LIC Bar March 3rd

Zoe Sundra at LIC Bar March 3rd

The Talent Spotters

Musical organizing is mostly curated by Gus Rodriguez, with the Sunday events hosted and organized by Niall Connolly of Big City Folk. Both are musicians in their own right with a great eye for local and international talent. Niall is an intelligent, astute and sometimes acerbic songwriter who is one of those singers who can make my spine tingle. He has a new single, Samurai, that is making great waves on both sides of the Atlantic and which will feature on an album, “Sound” to be released in April (CD release party is at Rockwood Music Hall 2 on April 13th), catch this before it catches  you by surprise and you  wish you had heard it before your friends. Tickets from

Gus Rodriguez and Niall Connolly

Gus Rodriguez and Niall Connolly

Punk hero

March 13th sees a 9pm solo acoustic show by Andy Shernoff of the legendary punk band The Dictators. This is typical of LIC Bar; just when you think it’s safe not to go, a star will choose to play and blow all your laziness out of the window and drive you back to this fundament of music making, just up from the 7, across from the G and down from the E. (sounds bit like guitar chords!) check out:

Late night Bones

If you haven’t caught Brandon Wilde and Len Monachello you have to get down on Friday March 15th 10pm-midnight to hear cover duo “Magic Bones” in a set that will entertain, enthrall and amaze.

Saint Patrick’s Day

There may be a new Pope, or maybe not, but the weekend on March 16/17 will be as green as you can get here in NYC. Saturday night, March 16th features another great LIC celebration of the music of Van Morrison. These tributes are a strong tradition for the musical family that surrounds the venue. Singers of the caliber of soul icons Shelly Bhushan and Arthur Lewis mix up with Xavier Cardriche, Little Embers, Julie Kathryn, Silbin Sandovar and Chrissi Poland to create their own interpretations of one of the great Irish musicians of the rock era, supported by a class house band that will feature talents like Neil Nunziato on drums and mystery guitarists and keyboarders, as well as wind artists yet to be confirmed as members of the church of Van the Man.

A crowded LIC Bar from last year's Van Morrison Tribute

A crowded LIC Bar from last year’s Van Morrison Tribute

That night you can be sure of a good feed with a free gourmet style corned beef brisket for our customers that is out of this world, courtesy of Parnell’s Restuarant, (www.parnellsnyc

Later that night, in the traditional LIC Bar midnight slot (well, from 11 ‘til 1:00) you can hear Brooks Wood and Cameron Mitchell. An upbeat acoustic duo, real crowd-pleasers.

March 17th features another in Ali Silva’s popular “Fireside Ghost Stories” evenings in the Carriage house, across the courtyard from the main bar. Not to be upstaged by Van Ali is presenting an evening that will be imbued with Celtic magic and dark green fear, with live musical improvised mystery from talanted duo Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate.

Fireside Ghost Stories in the Carriage House

Fireside Ghost Stories in the Carriage House

The session starts at 8:00 so be sure to arrive early to get a seat. That means you have to get in straight after The Locksmiths, a fun local Queens band led by bassist Pete O’Neil that will play a mix of Irish rock and traditional songs as well as a nice serving of their own original tunes from 5 until 7pm.

Peter and the Wolf

March sees the welcome return of Peter and The Wolf in the Carriage House on March 23rd at 2pm and 4pm. This has proved to be a popular event; a performance for families with children, featuring puppets, Ali Silva and The Washington Square Winds. The last show was so packed they were turning families away. This time they are performing two shows back to back so more folks can see it.

Guitar Porn

Sunday March 24th from 5 ‘til 8 sees the first of what might become a house standard. Silbin Sandovar presents: Guitar Porn! A big neighborhood jam featuring some favorite local guitarists including Anthony Rizzo, Danny MacKane, Anthony Lanni, Dennis Del Gaudio, Andy Stack, Mark Marshall, Jefferson Thomas and more! This will be a great afternoon of amazing and blazing guitars!

This is the time when opening up the courtyard to music becomes a real possibility, so if it’s a warm sunny day bring along your shades and sip the cocktails of pickers and thrashers.

Little Embers

March 27th, popular local singer/songwiter Little Embers returns with guitarist husband Anthony Rizzo (and maybe some special guests) for a late night mix of country and rock at 9pm.

Check this:

LIC  Bar is open 7 days a week 4  until 4am, with earlier opening at the weekend for daytime shows.

Check out the full calendar at:

Japanese Arts in LIC

RESOBOX ( is an exciting arts venture on 27th Street just north of Queens Plaza. Owned by Takashi Ikezawa and Fumio Tashiro, this small space offers a range of classes, exhibitions and performance events that have their roots in Japanese culture and a spirit of creative collaboration which draws from the owners’ philosophical, musical and business backgrounds. The name “Reso Box” reflects the owner’s wish for the space to be a box within which artistic ventures may resonate with each other and form unique creations, some of which may be “of the moment” in the form of improvisations involving musicians, dancers,  fine artists and others offering finished artwork which may be exhibited and purchased.

Takashi Ikezawa and Fumio Tashiro, co-owners of ResoBox

Takashi Ikezawa and Fumio Tashiro, co-owners of ResoBox

Fumio Tashiro ( was born in Kumamoto, Japan and moved to the US in 1991 to challenge himself as a musician. He plays upright bass and creates original musical compositions, he is also well known on the New York Jazz scene under his stage name “Bomb Sun”,  with solid skills in experimental improvisation. He is especially interseted in creating synergies between artists across genres, including the visual arts, with strong links to celebrations of Japanese cultural expressions. He originated the RESOBOX project in 2009 and is currently CEO.

Takashi Ikezawa, the Manager of RESOBOX has a background in Wall Street finance and, artistically as a violinist (although he does not see himself as a professional musician he acknowledges his links, as a player,with jazz and experimental music). He and Fumio opened the gallery in June 2011 and together they have enabled classes to be offered to people who have ranged in age from 4 to 75 years old, they have also had synergistic, improvised events, most recently involving Shakuhachi (flute), painters, Butoh dancers and Fumio’s bass. They usually have exhibitions every 3 weeks and prefer group shows to be more collaborations rather than exhibitions of individual artists: “Let them work together to make one, or several pieces and present those as a different kind of group exhibition”. RESOBOX hopes to open a second gallery in Manhattan in the next year.

Currently the space is occupied by an exhibition of art from Japanese born and Queens resident Ayakoh Furukawa ( . “Who Was Not Created By A Woman?” is a collection of pieces that demonstrate the artist’s craft in drawing, painting and knitting, all presented with an emphasis on themes around femininity, in its social, spiritual, psychological and political dimensions. Most striking in the exhibition is a set of knitted (or are they crocheted) vaginas, each of which present aspects of femininity, sometimes entertaining and humorous and sometimes striking in their beauty. “Knitting is soft and warm, like your mother”, she says as she presents these 12 larger than life, pieces.


Also offered are drawings of women and children, created by the artist from texts which are repeated to form the lines and shades of these often life-size images. Furukawa takes her short texts from a range of sources: herself, Coco Chanel, Mother Teresa and Oprah Winfrey and weaves them into images that are, themselves, quite beautiful, and then, when you get close to read them, more meaningful through the conjunction of text and image. “You can compare the image and the words and make your own conclusions”.

Most interesting were her full length text drawings of women and children from Thai mountain peoples, who, like some African women, wear rings as collars from childhood, extending their necks in ways that betray a kind of bondage, but also, via tourism, give these women the power to earn in ways that their men folk cannot: “…it looks like they are trapped in a coil, but in reality they make a lot of money for their family”.


“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty” – Mother Teresa


In a large text drawing of the Japanese god Amaterasu, ruler of the sun and heavens and opponent of her brother Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon and ruler of the night, Furukawa uses her own text to create a figure which, to me, showed stylistic influences that were Oriental, Indian and European-Classical. For her text she writes: “Mother I have been inside of you for ten months and listened to your heartbeat in every moment of your life, you created this perfect shrine for my soul, my body is an entity of the ancient secrets of life that your womb remembers“, and in doing so makes homage to motherhood, femininity and, what Jung called the “Collective Unconscious”.


Ayakoh Furukawa

Furukawa also shows her skill in as a painter with two paintings with a “Little Red Riding Hood” theme, where the young girl is seen, in one, with her foot on the wolf’s tail, and in another, having tamed the wolf. These paintings combine images of 18th century romantic encounters, where the male is seen as the powerful seducer, with elements that draw upon  rural designs that have their origins in wallpaper, and, in her own admission, a shower curtain. In describing these works Furukawa voices her awareness of children’s sexual vulnerability and the destructiveness of male violence.   Yet the themes of the paintings, to me, are of the woman rising above histories of abuse and powerlessness and facing her assailants with compassion, rather than animosity.

Little Red Riding Hood Tames the Wolf

Little Red Riding Hood Tames the Wolf

The above painting reminds me of the scene in “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, where the fox acknowledges his  taming, and agrees to be tamed. In that way his power and strength do not become subserviant. So, in this painting, a culture of oppression and abuse does not persist, and is replaced by one of freedom, compassion and collaboration.

 “Who Was Not Created By A Woman” can be viewed at RESOBOX, 41-26, 27th Street, LIC, NY 11101 until February 1st.
Reso Box also offers classes for adults and children in: Japanese Classical Dance, Okinawan Dance, Samurai Sword, Ink Painting, illustration, Karate and Stick Fighting. Check out

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; 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 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 ( 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:

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Artist Portrait: Jeneen Terrana:

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Attist Portrait: Little Embers

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Artist Portraits in production include:

Shelly Bhushan, Warren Malone and Matthew Sucich.

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