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:


The Return of the Queens

Wednesday night, January 23rd, is a special night at LIC bar, (corner of Vernon Boulevard and 46th Avenue, Local stars Jeneen Terrana and Little Embers offer new and old favorites in a night of music which starts with Astoria resident, the very talented singer/songwriter Michael Zuko ( in a return visit to this iconic LIC venue.

Jeneen Terrana ( is almost as well known as a TV cook as she is a singer, from her recent appearance in “Home Made in America”, the Food Network showcase for down-home American cooks. In this show she demonstrated her four layer chocolate cheesecake (absolutely delicious!), and describes how she used her abilities as a pastry chef to raise money for her last album. Parts of the show were filmed at LIC Bar. You can view it here:

Jeneen Terrana with Neil Nunziato (Drums), Anthony Lanni (Guitar), Gus Rodriguez (guitar and Voice), Michele Riganese (voice) and Dan Ke'enthaahal (Bass)

Jeneen Terrana recording for The Food Network at LIC Bar with Neil Nunziato (Drums), Anthony Lanni (Guitar), Gus Rodriguez (guitar and Voice), Michele Riganese (voice) and Dan Ke’enthaahal (Bass)

As a singer Jeneen has a pure, accurate voice and writes memorable and lyrical songs in a folk/country style with a tip of a hat to her Italian roots. She will be playing with a full band that includes talented guitarists Antony Lanni and Charlie Rauh, together with violinist Concetta Abbate this week in a session that starts at 9:00pm, with Michael at 8:00 and Little Embers at 10:00.

Little Embers and Anthony Rizzo at LIC Bar

Little Embers and Anthony Rizzo at LIC Bar

Little Embers ( last appeared at LIC bar in August, in her last show before the birth of a baby daughter, Lucianna in November. This week’s show, like the previous one, will be an intimate performance with her husband, Anthony Rizzo on electric guitar. She sings a mix of country/rock songs in an individual style that can sometimes evoke tears and sometimes rock the house down, especially when she plays with a full band.

Together with other local singers Shelly Bhushan ( Michele Riganese (; Jeneen and Little Embers have collaborated as the “Queens of Queens” in performances in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as a residency at LIC Bar last May. Don’t be surprised if there is more creative collaboration this Wednesday night.

The shows are free, with an expectation that you buy drinks and offer donations to the tip jar for each performer. If you haven’t been to LIC Bar you are in for a treat!

For more on Jeneen and Little Embers check out my podcasts on itunes:

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.

More and Even More Music

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


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

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)


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

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





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

Anthony Cekay – Improvised jazz at LIC Bar

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

Dave Scott at Domaine Wine Bar

Christian Coleman, Broc Hempel and Peter Brendler

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

Avalon Jazz Band at Domaine Wine Bar

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

Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate

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

Queens of Queens

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

Check out Little Embers song from the first show:

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

And this video

Julie Kathryn

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

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

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

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

Julie Kathryn at Rockwood Music Hall, Lower East Side

Rachel Wolf

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

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

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

Rachel Wolf

Kat Spina

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

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

Kat Spina and Brian Forbes @ LIC Bar

Quick Mentions:

Really appreciated Chris Michael at LIC Bar – looks as if he’s going from one bar to another if he passes his final exams!! (

Chris Michael in the Open at LIC Bar

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

Silbin Sandovar, Brian Meece and Jeneen Terrana

Brian Reece, Jeneen Terrana and Jens Kramer, violin

Anthony Cekay on Sax

Jeneen Terrana, Danny Mackane and Jens Kramer

Rachel Swaner


 LIC Bar

Wednesday, May 16th

Thursday, May 17th
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 19th
Fiends and Fools

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

Monday, May 21st

Wednesday, May 23rd

Thursday, May 24th
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 26th
Magic Bones

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

Monday, May 28th

Wednesday, May 30th

Thursday, May 31st
w/Stephanie Holmes

LIC Bar and the Queens of Queens

This is unashamedly an LIC Bar edition. There are lots of audio files and video clips – so check them out.

The boundaries of “Long Island City” are indistinct. Originally an actual city, covering much of Queens, the area is bureaucratically unclear, and colloquially variable. If you look on the New York City district map LIC is labelled as separate from Hunters Point and Ravenswood yet local businesses, aware that LIC is becoming “the place to be” are labelling their Astoria cafes and galleries as in LIC!

Roosevelt Island is not, nor has ever been, Long Island City. It is a longish island, but only in shape not real length. It used to be called “Welfare Island” and was the depository of New York’s sick, destitute, and mentally infirm. These days it’s the home of  two hospital complexes (complices?) and apartment blocks that are the homes for a wide range of families, a few community facilities, churches (some quite characterful) and a general windswept, almost eastern bloc feel. You can walk over the bridge from Ravenswood, or take the cable car from 59th Street on Manhattan, or the F line. I run around it and, the other day  took the cable car for the first time (not an easy thing for me to do, but I have to “feel the fear….” etc etc).

Here’s the view:

A view from the Roosevelt Island Cable Car

May is going to be a busy month at LIC Bar. Each Wednesday at 10 pm the Royal Standard will fly and the Queens of Queens will be in residence. For those of you who haven’t read my previous posts the Queens of Queens are Shelly Bhushan, Michele Riganese, Jeneen Terrana and Little Embers –  individual voices who meld together to create great harmonies and special interpretations of their own, and others’, songs.

Music at LIC bar ( has developed over the past four years under the wise and energetic counsel of Gus Rodriguez.

Silbin Sandovar

Gus is a good musician in his own right, supporting others on stage and playing with a band (“Brian and Silbin” – catch them at Rockwood on April 22nd) as Silbin Sandovar. He’s a left hander who can play  his guitar both ways up (or down, whichever way you look at it). He seems to know every song that’s been written since 1950, and perhaps even earlier than that. He’s also a self-effacing promoter and encourager of local musicians. Listen to my interview with him, recorded in the carriage house, as he talks about the LIC bar music scene and the Queens of Queens.

AUDIO FILE       Gustavo Rodriguez – Interview at LIC Bar

Rory Sullivan

The other night I checked in at LIC Bar and heard four sets from local musicians, three of which involved Queens of Queens in other guises. The only non-Queen was Rory Sullivan, an intuitive singer who is a good guitar player and has a great feel for music. I’d heard him perform at the Van Morrison tribute, his renditon of  “Sweet Thing” showing a great sense of timeing, and a soulful voice. He played some interesting songs, mainly his with some covers. Like a lot of singer songwriters he sang with his eyes shut most of the time (caution: old fogey moment coming up) and I felt that this constrained his connection with the audience. It’s as if there has been too much practising in the bedroom at home and not enough singing to people and wanting them to sit up and listen to what you have to say. To connect you have to look at people.

This was quite different approach to that from Jeneen Terrana, who offered an early evening solo acoustic set, using the occasion to introduce some new material. You’ll often find that here, artists will use the venue as a test-bed for performing new songs as well as an opportunity  for increasing their performance hours – as they move towards the classic 10,ooo hours that seem to be one of the keys to success.

Jeneen Terrana

Jeneen is a competent and confident artist who connects with the audience from the very start. She looks around, smiles and catches eyes.  Her classically trained, voice rings out as clear as a bell, whether she’s singing her own songs or classics like “O Sole Mio”. Some of her songs betray her Sicilian heritage, and you can hear an Italian influence in some of her compositions. Watch her performance of “Time” a new song in its first airing at LIC bar.


Of course this is a rough, home produced video that doesn’t really do Jeneen justice. Check also an audio clip of a  song from her latest album “See the Light”:

Raise your voice

( and also on itunes)

Little Embers is an interesting and complex singer. Unclear whether she is a band or a singer she carries a tradition that varies from honest American country/folk, through punk rock to her own personal styles that carry all that background plus a kind of raw physicality that comes across the more she gets into a performance. I suspect that she prefers to perform collectively, whether with her husband Anthony Rizzo as a duo; as a band with him and others; with the Queens of Queens or, as she was at LIC Bar the other night, as one of the duo “Darlin’ Clementines“, ( with Danel Verdugo. This is a quirky outfit; spoof country? yes, but often with some serious thought, and classy music making. Check out their song “Boobs all up in your face” on their myspace site. ( and you’ll get a sense of what they’re about.

Danel Verdugo and Little Embers: The Darlin' Clementines

The evening rounded off with a top class performance from Shelly Bhushan. It’s amazing that just three musicians can offer such a strong musical experience. Backed by John Celantano on drums and Harry Cordew on bass Shelly delivered a diverse range of soulful and rocking songs to a very apprecative audience. Shelly plays piano and guitar, but doesn’t hide behind these when she really wants to belt it, leaving the guys to play the music whilst she just out-and-out performs. Keyboard man Benjamin Hoffstein joined the band for a couple of numbers and Shelly was able to let go of the wood and metal and just sing her heart out. It’s this kind of talent that makes LIC bar a very special little venue.

Shelly Bhushan and her Band - letting it rip

A special mention here for bassman Harry Cordew, who provided more than just a bass line. His playing used all the potential of his 5 string electric bass, from slap to intricate counter melodies that made for a very full musical experience.

Harry Cordew

Check out an audio clip of Shelly performing “Picking Daisies” from her 2008 album of the same name:

Picking Daisies


Queens of Queens

I’ve already mentioned Shelly, Little Embers and Jeneen. Michele Riganese has been wowing audiences on the West Coast (California that is) before returning East for her more local commitments, including the May residency at LICBar. Before talking about the four as a whole  I’d just like to point you in the direction of Michele’s latest EP, “Kaleidoscope”


Here’s a song from it:

Back To You

Michele Riganese

I had the pleasure of attending a Queens of Queens rehearsal in a tiny practice space on 8th Avenue in Manhattan. These are strange places, rusty old elevators, dark paint-worn doorways behind which mixtures of music beat out a concurrent mix of styles that Charles Ives would have loved. It was like a time capsule: rock and roll, Beatles covers, strange electronics – all billowing around the dimly lit hallways. “So this is where the magic happens?”

Here’s a recording of our interview, in which they talk about themselves as a collective, about LIC bar, Gus and their plans for the residency – all against the background of a rehearsal of Shelly’s song ” I’ll never let you go”.

AUDIO CLIP   Queens of Queens Interview   

And here’s a perfomance video the four singing Michele Riganese’s  song ” Learn to Love”, at Spike Hill last year.


The Queens of Queens will be performing at LIC Bar every Wednesday throughout the month of May, 10pm.

Put that in your diary, they won’t be playing the same set each week so if you want it all, you have to attend them all!!


First ever Sometime in Long Island City Blogcast available on:

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)

A Spirit of Musical Community

There are a many singer songwriters in LIC, folk who perform solo or with a band. It’s not unusual to find them doing a solo gig at one place and then being joined by others later in the night at a bar or club in the next district. There are some, though, who have regular collaborations with other singer songwriters and where you see a great chemistry develop between the artists. One of these collaborations is that between Michele Riganese (, Shelly Bhushan (, Jeneen Terrana ( and Little Embers ( These four women are talented artists who all live in the Queens area and who play regularly at venues like the LIC Bar, Spike Hill in Brooklyn and Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan. They each have their own bands, but you’ll frequently see one or other of them supporting each other on vocals.

The Queens of Queens at the Living Room Dec 2011

This group have played together as the “Queens of Queens” for gigs at the Living Room in Manhattan ( and Spike Hill in Brooklyn. For these appearances they built on their experience of supporting each other to perform “in the round” and perform each others’ songs, providing mainly vocal support to the writer of the song.

Jeneen Terrana and Michele Riganese

Jeneen Terrana

Little Embers

Shelly Bhushan

…………………………The Queens of Queens are coming together for the third time to present a series of five “residency” shows at the LIC Bar during May, every Wednesday at 10pm. I have had the pleasure of interviewing these women; to produce both a series of “Artists Portraits”to be available in a few weeks time, and in the production of a brief promotional item. This is a group of four individuals whose characters differ in ways that prompt lively creative cooperation. Watch out for future blogs featuring audio interviews, and perhaps even podcasts!

Good luck to Michele Riganese on her trip to the West Coast, where amongst other gigs she is playing at the Viper Room in Los Angeles on April 1oth.

Little Embers are appearing at Arlene’s Grocery on Friday April 13th and Jeneen Terrana is currently recording.

Congratulations to Shelly Bhushan in doing so well to get into the final group of 5 in the competition to represent Queens in the “Battle of the Boroughs”. You can still catch her performance in on

Shelly and her band will be appearing at LIC Bar on Wednesday 11th April, don’t be surprised if there are other singersongwriters in support.

Another great combination of singer songwriters is Warren Malone and Niall Connolly. Both hail from the other side of the Atlantic; Warren from the North of England and Niall from Ireland. You can catch more of the Irish in Niall than the Lancashire in Warren, who has more of a North American feel to his songs. Both Warren and Niall have distinctive voices and clear guitar picking styles that lend themselves to collaboration. I caught them both, in duet, at the LIC Bar’s first venture into the open air the Sunday before last. Two out three of the acts were able to perform outdoors before the drop in temperature caused the declining audience to clutch their beer glasses for warmth and we went indoors for the final act of the day. I’ll write more about Warren on another occasion, and review his album (“The Ants ate the Bee“). Suffice it to say that he has great talent and an attention to detail in his guitar playing which makes for beautiful music.

Niall Connolly and Warren Malone in the open at the LIC Bar

Niall and Warren are part of the musician collective “Big City Folk“, who run sessions at LIC Bar on Sunday evenings in the winter months and at Ceol ( in Brooklyn – as well as appearing at various other venues around New York, including, famously, Niall playing a very early Wednesday morning spot at the Red Lion on Bleecker Street ( at which the artist formerly (and now formally) known as Prince is rumoured to have been seen. Niall sings a range of finely crafted songs with intelligent lyrics that demand attention – whether for their sharp political comment, philosophical musings or their stories of relationships, won and lost. His voice is instantly recognisable, a real advantage in this world of copycat, almost karaoke performers, and his stage manner direct; self assured yet unassertive. He lets his songs speak for themselves.

Recently members of the Big City Folk collective released an album of  Niall’s songs as a birthday tribute; such is the respect he has earned on the local music scene. The album aNiallated” features artists like Warren, Casey Black, E.W.Harris and Don Paris Schlotman (Sky Captains of Industry), and Magic Bones (who are Brandon Wilde and Len Monachello). Bones”. Check it out (and buy) on

This is a good introduction to Niall’s music as well as being a tribute to the collective musicianship that surrounds him. It shows that his songs stand tall in others’ interpretations. This is not a collection of bland re-interpretations, each musician embeds their own talent and style on the song they have chosen to present to Niall on this album.

Brandon Wilde

Brandon Wilde ( and Len Monachello are freelancers on the local music scene. Brandon plays Bass in Niall’s band, has a recording studio and plays frequent late Saturday night gigs at the LIC Bar ( Len as the Magic Bones, a “cover band” that is a duo with an in depth knowledge of the  songs they perform to the late night crowd. You’ll catch Len as a drummer in Niall’s band, or as a guitarist – in Magic Bones he alternates guitar and bass with Brandon. On “aNiallated” they offer a classic cover of Niall’s song “Skin and Bones“, a anthem that has developed into a crowdpleaser and crowd involver in bars everywhere that he plays. Being superb musicians enables Brandon and Len to present a cover that is a true to the original, not just in its notes and lyrics but also in its public bar appeal to simple philosophising that “We are just skin and bones and blood, without love, without love”.

Don Paris Schlotman, E.W.Harris and Casey Black as a trio comprise most of the band “The Sky Captains of Industry” (; regulars on the Big City Folk scene. They’re a skilled band who sing sometimes cutting, sometimes offbeat, and occasionally highly comedic songs. On this album they each get a chance to give individual tribute to Niall.

At the end of Sky Captains gigs Don offers a brilliant spoof of early rock songs that is reminiscent of 60s group “The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band” , known best for their “Death Cab for Cutie” on the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie,  but see: . Usually Don is the bass player, but in this final act of craziness Don hands his bass to Casey, usually the drummer and takes the stage in virtual drainpipes and a relationship with the microphone that is acrobatic, yet verges on pornographic. On “aNiallated” he offers “Summer Dress“a song which is easy to think of as a sideways look at adolescent male fantasies, especially hearing Don singing it, with memories of his teen idol antics still fresh in my mind. This is Don in a Lou Reed meets Johnny Cash mode, with the banjo and reverberating whistling adding to a sense of understated, yet mysteriously present, anarchism. It’s a kind of mix of Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day”, with a bluegrass ketchup. But, it might be completely straight and I’ve just coloured it with my own trickster mixer.

Casey Black

Casey Black (make sure you get is well established locally as a powerful singer and songwriter. I have written about him previously and you will know how much I respect his professionalism. On this album he offers his interpretation of  ‘You’ve got to look in to look out for yourself’, a highly personal  song from Niall’s book of most-well-crafted songs. This is taken down to its heart by Casey, his strong deep voice giving the lyrics an intensity that squeezes every bit of meaning from the lyrics.


E.W.Harris is the third member of “Sky Captains”. In many ways he comes across as the leader on their gigs, although I hesitate to talk about bands having a leader in this collective context. He is the singer most of the time and plays  a beautiful retro guitar. If not leader he is certainly the man up front. On this album his version of “99 cent dream” is inbued with his liking for scifi effects, ironic statement and the generally offbeat (check out his album “a waste of water and time” This song suits him, in its ironic turns and goes well with the sound effects produced by Harris for this tribute to Niall.

Warren Malone’s contribution to this album is “Inland to Mercy”, a travelling-to-love song  that is actually typically of Warren’s own style and thus suits him well. The line “Oh little bird without a footprint, a measure of the strength of your tiny wings” exemplifies the poetry in Niall’s lyrics.

Other artists on his tribute are Diana Jones, Chris Mills, Chris Michael, Colin Campbell, Justin Storer, Ryan Morgan and David Rynhart. All contribute well in their own ways, only one, Justin Storer, managing to sound a lot like Niall himself when he sings “America”. This is what used to be called a “protest song” :

“In the name of all the chapters, Torn from your history books. America, I love you,won’t you tell me the truth.”

Niall Connolly contemplates driving the Snakes out of America

Music Gluttony

This is New York, and you can hear great music any night of the week and many times in a night. Yes, I do go across (and under) the sea strait (“East River”) into Manhattan, and across the creek into Brooklyn (check out my “Now again in Manhattan” blog). Over these past couple of weeks I’ve been to quite a few. “Do you go to music every night” said one of my friends as we met for the third night running in different places. Of course I said the same to him. It’s like that here; a big place but a village feel, especially in Long Island City where you can hear live music on at least four, if not more, nights in the week. Check out: LIC Bar (Sun,Mon,Wed and Sat – see; Domaine Wine Bar (Jazz on Sun, Mon and more); Dominies Hoek (Wed.), Madera Cuban restaurant (Fri.). Occasionally you might get music at the New York Irish Center on Jackson Ave. ( at Creek and Cave on Jackson ( LIC Art Center complex (

Last night I went to a charity event in a nearby apartment building, Avalon Riverview North, organised by opera singer Kirstin Olson. This was in aid of her trip to Paraguay to join in a Habitat for Humanity project where volunteers spend time building houses for poor communities; a charity with real practical tasks that involve people on a very direct level, good for the communities and also good for fostering international understanding. ( This event was just across the road from my apartment building, and a triumph for the community spirit of local businesses including Shi (, Skinny’s Cantina and Manducatis Rustica ( provided the food and drink, as well as the many others who provided raffle prizes and silent auction vouchers.

Kirstin Olson - operatic dramatics

Three local Jazz artists were involved in this charity event; Anthony Cekay, Christian Coleman and Broc Hempel, offering some nice, finely wrought at the beginning of the evening.

Christian Coleman and Broc Hempel playing for Habitat for Humanity

Kirstin  offered a range of opera, lieder and “songs from the shows” that showed that she has a great talent. She’s a young singer, properly trained and starting to make her way in her career. Her operatic training  showed in both her ability to express a wide emotional range and also to project her voice across a talkative audience. As the evening progressed the two other singers, P J Lovejoy and Sally Swallow suffered from a lack of amplification. They had nice voices but struggled to make themselves heard over the increasing hubbub of the crowd. Sally Swallow (, in particular has a good theatrical presence, showing that she is a professional and well used to entertaining an audience with a nicely chosen range of songs from musical theatre. Piano accompaniment for the evening was very ably provided by Scott Wheatley, an expert and expressive pianist who played some challenging music with great skill, which showed especially in the complicated and ernergetic lied “Hexenlied” Op 8/8 by Mendelssohn.

Sally Swallow

I had seen Anthony Cekay and Broc Hempel earlier in the week at an LIC Bar evening which also included singer songwriter Danny Mackane and Leah Gough-Cooper’s “Human Equivalent” band.

Leah Gough-Cooper ( played in Emily Wolf’s “Project” band a few weeks previously (see and was impressed then by her alto sax playing. “Human Equivalent” allows her to show that she has a wide range of taste and has considereable writing ability. This is a jazz band that rocks in ways that reminded me of Weather Report and Frank Zappa, with driving bass lines from Bryan Percivall, bluesy tough liquid guitar playing from Andrew Baird and solid drums from Bob Edinger.

Leah Gough-Cooper

Leah herself was superb in leading this  band and providing sinuous and provocative sax lines that showed she has a huge musical talent. The contrast with her playing for Emily Wolf shows that she has the flexibility and real musicianship that will hopefully offer her lots of work opportunties in an environment where making a living is hard, even for the most talented of musicians.

Originally from South Eastern Scotland, Leah has trained in the US for the last few years and has been very active on the local scene for the past year or so.  She chooses her band well. This night’s band had a completely  different lineup (except for LGC) to the Human Equivalent that features on their first album “Future Pop“, yet the music has the same rock/jazz feel and shows that  she is a young artist who really knows how she wants her music to sound and who chooses musicians who are of like mind and capabilities.

Human Equivalent

Check out .

Anthony Cekay

Anthony Cekay is one of those local musicians who pops up on many different occasions at LIC Bar; whether offering sax backing to a tribute show, as part of the band of folk/pop singer Julie Kathryn or, as on this occassion, pairing up with local keyboard man Broc Hempel for a late night improvisation session. Anthony plays a big saxaphone. The tenor sax sits one down from the baritone sax in size and, in a small space can take up a lot of room, both in physical presence and in sound. Anthony himself is not a small guy and in the past I have felt that his habit of moving around a lot on stage has detracted from his music making. However, I was pleased to see that this late night session offered a part of Anthony that I had not seen before. He offered performance that showed considerable concentration. The almost meditative stillness of the music matched stillness in his body. This was not the Anthony who seemed to be showing off, this was the Anthony who just demonstrated skilled music making.

Broc Hempel

I have great respect for Broc Hempel. He is a hugely talented keyboard player whose playing is always interesting; whether thoughtful and introverted or sparklingly exuberant. I realise that in the past week I have heard him three times (at Domaine Wine Bar on Sunday with Sam Trapchak, Christian Coleman and the amazing Greg Ward, just back from Africa; at LIC Bar on Monday and last night at the Habitat for Humanity event. I do not tire from hearing this man’s music making. he is one of a small group of local musicians whom I credit with having turned me on to Jazz (see my previous blogs”Jazz in small spaces”  and “A Jazz Virgin in LIC”).

Danny Mackane ( is a singer songwriter who shares his thoughtful and intelligent songs with a self-effacing but carefully considered performance style. He reminded me, in presence, of the younger Neil Young – hair falling over his face as he moved from guitar to keyboard. Although he does not have Young’s individual voice he shares a perfectionist attitude to the sounds that he wants his guitars to make, whether in themselves as instruments (he had three on stage with him) or in the way that he uses electronics to create the sound he needs. He is a performer who demands to be heard with attention, not an easy task in a popular place like LIC Bar. He did, however, bring his own fans and will have hopefully given others, like me, a first opportunity to really listen and want to hear him again – especially in his own material.

Danny Mackane

Singer songwriters are not just solo folk artists who sit at the mic in bars, some also have band incarnations within which they express aspects  of themselves that more intimate settings do not permit. One such local artist is Little Embers, a young woman who often shares the stage as a backing singer with other singer songwriters like Michele Riganese, Shelly Bhushan and Jeneen Terrana. In fact this  group of four (currently known as the Queens of Queens) are coming to LIC Bar in May as a resident act for the five Wednesdays of the month. Embers also has own band and also shares the limelight with Danel Verdugo as the “Darlin’ Clementines“. I caught her full band version of herself at Mercury Lounge last week, when they were the support act for Wormburner. The Mercury Lounge is a popular venue on East Houston Street in that area between East Village/Bowery and Lower East Side that is a true nest of venues like the Living Room and Rockwood Music Hall.

Little Embers - burning brightly

I was pleased that they sold earplugs at the bar as the sound there was one of the worse I have heard in New York City. It was not so much the volume but the quality and frequency spectrum produced by a combination of the system and the sound engineer’s choices. This made it hard to listen to the music, and especially the lyrics. Little Embers writes songs to be both heard and appreciated lyrically. I know I might be sounding like an old grump but, in my defence, I must say that I am not averse to loud music. I have sat 6 feet away from Jimi Hendrix playing “3rd stone from the sun” in the Marquee club in London (a small venue) and only a few weeks ago listened with great pleasure to rock band Alamance ( a great band with a lot of potential) playing loud, energetic and powerful  music at the Bowery Poetry Club They have a sound system and engineer that I would place in the top 5 of the sound systems I have heard in small clubs around the world.

Alamance at the Bowery Poetry Club

Fortunately I was able to buy ear plugs at Mercury and listened carefully to the music from Little Embers; a forceful rock/melodic set that offered energetic performance from Embers, her man, guitarist Anthony Rizzo, Shelly Bhushan (vocals), Rachel Swaner (keyboard, vocals and Accordian), Tony Oppenheimer (bass) and Dave Burnette (drums).  I have their album on the rack to listen to next, and I know that they’re are due to go into the studio again in the next few months. I enjoyed this music making and look forward to hearing them again in a better acoustic environment.

Little Embers and Band at the Mercury Lounge

I’m aware that there is much music that I haven’t written about here, in fact I’m getting behind with putting band photos up on my facebook page (!/profile.php?id=100001041228357) as well. That means I will have to do a catch up sometime soon and talk about Runaway Dorothy, Sam McTavey, Niall Connolly (how have I not praised this man’s music yet in this blog?), Warren Malone, the Sky Captains of Industry, Janeen Terrana, Jefferson Thomas as well as numerous others whom I have had great pleasure in hearing over the past year or so in LIC.

Here’s a plug (is that term used in the US?) for tonight’s show at LIC bar. In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, an impressive line-up of musicians will present a Tribute to Van Morrison from 7-9pm. Also come along on Sunday 18th from 5 until 8 to hear Niall Connolly and Anthony Mulcahy in a Big City Folk special.