Last Time In Long Island City (for the moment)

The sun goes down on NYC

The sun goes down on NYC

I’m writing this from Glasgow, Scotland. I’ve made sad farewells to the many friends I made in Long Island City and  wider New York and hope to see them again soon. However, there is unfinished business and this edition of my blog will chronical some of my more recent experiences in the weeks before I left.

LIC Bar (www.licbar.com) is where it all started for me in LIC and it’s where I’ll finish off. My last visit was to a fund-raising event where musicians performed in aid of the medical costs for a young person called Julia, a close friend of LIC bar’s favorite barmaid, Steph. Some of the musicians I knew (Xavier Cardriche and Corey Lewis), some were new to me and my long term friend and music impresario Gus Rodriguez performed a few songs with local sax player Anthony Cekay.

Gus Rodriguez - a man who knows most songs written in the 20th and 21st century, has a superb eye  for talent and is wonderfully self-effacing.

Gus Rodriguez – a man who knows most songs written in the 20th and 21st century, has a superb eye for talent and is wonderfully self-effacing.

Xavier Cardriche

Xavier Cardriche

Corey Lewis (Animal Pharm)

Corey Lewis (Animal Pharm)

Anthony Cekay

Anthony Cekay

New to me was a young woman who calls herself Dana Danger Athens (http://www.reverbnation.com/danaathens#), fronting her three piece band Damage Control. I’ve been overwhelmed by a few new artists recently and she certainly comes close to the top of my list of musicians I’d like to hear again. Dana is one of those musicians who can come onto the stage and give all her energy to the first notes of her first song. She has a strong soulful voice that rocks, is accurate and stops you in your tracks; forcing you to listen to an artist who deserves a lot of attention on the music scene. Background enquiries show that Dana is, in fact a dancer; that makes sense as she has a gift for performance, though dancing was not what  she was doing at LIC Bar – she was Rocking! Obvious comparisons with Amy Winehouse are welcome but comparisons only serve as a guide to style, energy and image. Performers who do not try to emulate, or be a “tribute band” deserve to be known for who THEY are, and Dana and this band definitely need to be more well known.

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Dana Danger Athens

Damage Control in the courtyard at LIC Bat

Damage Control in the courtyard at LIC Bar

This Saturday afternoon of charitable music making was a  superb example of LIC Bar at its best, a warm sunny day (only a little rain), people sitting outside, listening to great music, chatting and raising money for a good cause. I’d invited poeple over to say farewell and I was pleased to see Christian Coleman, Broc Hempel and Sam Trapchak – a Jazz trio who I came to know well from their performances at the Domaine Wine Bar just down the road. I have consistently been impressed by their music making, often joined by sax player Greg Ward III. Domaine has been a major challenge for me as a photographer, the light is very dim and the musicians (especially sax players)  move very fast.

Hempel Coleman Trapchak Trio in the low light of Domaine Bar

Hempel Coleman Trapchak Trio in the low light of Domaine Bar

Greg Ward III

Greg Ward III

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Christian Coleman

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Broc Hempel

Christian and Sam

Christian and Sam

Back to LIC bar- for one of my last visits I caught one of the outdoor sessions promoted by Planet QNS, a local music promotion setup involving Gus Rodriguez and Neil Nunziato. This one was themed “Hootenanny”, and featured music that paid homage to the folk and country traditions of North America. That meant we had music originally performed by artists like Joni Mitchell, The Band, The Byrds, Neil Young etc – all artists from my youth, and remembered by a large number of the customers in the courtyard. I was pleased to catch some of the talented artists I have known over the past two and a half years: Shelly Bhushan, Julie Kathryn, Jeneen Terrana, Neeley Bridges and her partner Andy Jobe (Walking for Pennies), Neil Nunziato, as always so supportive on drums, Pauline Pisano, PJ O’Connor, Arthur Lewis, John Christopher Alan, Annalyse McCoy and Ryan Dunn (2/3 Goat), Neil Cavanaugh and the ubiquitous Gus Rodriguez. There were a couple of artists who were new to me, Lauren Elder and Matthew Kiss

Check out photos here

I was hugely impressed by Matthew Kiss (http://www.matthewkiss.com) at the Hootenanny show and more so by a full set that he performed at LIC bar a week later. He is a young man with great confidence and ability who sings a wide range of music. From just a 45 minute set it’s clear that Matthew has a great voice and who shows real attention to detail for both his own performance (voice, guitar and harmonica) and that of his band. Like a lot of musicians of his generation Matthew’s music shows influences that span the years from the early 1960s through to the present day. I look forward to hearing more of him.

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Matthew Kiss and Band

Matthew Kiss

Matthew Kiss

Well that just about wraps it up for “Sometime in Long Island City”, over its 18 months of publication it has had over 10,000 views from well over 80 countries – check out the archived editions and my podcasts of interviews with local musicians.  Search “Sometime In Long Island City” on itunes, ( or stream/download from podbean www.earthsounz.podbean.com)

Watch out for my companion blog “www. earthsounz.wordpress.com” which is currently devoted to world music, and for any publications that emerge from Glasgow.

POSTSCRIPT: By the way on my second evening here I came across Mike Heron, part of the Incredible String Band and Shelagh McDonald, a re-emerging folk singer  from the late 1960s. A chance conversation led to steps down into a crypt and an evening of great folk music from these two, plus (playing with Mike Heron) the Trembling Bells.

Shelagh McDonald playing in the crypt of an old Glasgow church, now a bar/restuarant/venue Òran Mór.

Shelagh McDonald playing in the crypt of an old Glasgow church, now a bar/restuarant/venue Òran Mór.

Mike Heron co-founder (with Robin Williamson) of 60s folk icons The Incredible String Band.

Mike Heron co-founder (with Robin Williamson) of 60s folk icons The Incredible String Band.

Mike Heron and the Trembling Bells

Mike Heron and the Trembling Bells

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LIC musical talent lines up for stardom

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

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

Jeanne Marie Boes at Webster Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jeanne promo
Jeanne Marie Boes

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

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

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Jenny Dunne and Anthony Mulcahy

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

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

Anthony Mulcahy and his band at Rockwood Music Hall

Anthony Mulcahy and his band at Rockwood Music Hall

You can buy the album on:

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

and:

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

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Some stunning Jazz at Domaine Wine Bar

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

Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman

Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman and Sam Trapchak

Christian Coleman and Sam Trapchak

Greg Ward III

Greg Ward III

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

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

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

Martin Kelley's Affinity in the Smokehouse  yard.

Martin Kelley’s Affinity in the Smokehouse yard.

Postscript from the LIC Bar – WHO relationship

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

Rob Basch, Gus Rodriguez and Roger Daltrey

Rob Basch, Gus Rodriguez and Roger Daltrey

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

Natalie Mishell at a Van Morrison tribute at LIC bar

Natalie Mishell at a Van Morrison tribute at LIC bar

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

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

and

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

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.

Residency

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 http://www.jeffersonthomas.com

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. (www.tammyscheffer.com)

Tammy Scheffer

Tammy Scheffer

Jazz

Monday jazz also sees Sam Trapchak, (www.samtrapchak.com)an 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. (www.emilywolfmusic.com);

LIC residents Sam Trapchak and Anthony Cekay

LIC residents Sam Trapchak and Anthony Cekay

Emily Wolf

Emily Wolf

Newcomers

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 http://rockwoodmusichall.tickets.musictoday.com/RockwoodMusicHall/moreInfo.aspx?event=154241&outlet=2315.

http://niallconnolly.bandcamp.com/track/samurai-3

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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dictators

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:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgCv8XgQ1O4

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:

http://www.licbar.com/eventcalendar/evcal.html

Inspired in LIC

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

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

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

Jean-Michel Pilc playing at Domaine bar a vins

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

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

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

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

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

Casey Black and the Big City Folk Festival band

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

Jo Kroger and Jasper Lewis

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

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

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

Chris Mills tells it straight

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

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

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

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

Niall Connolly belting it out

ARTIST PORTRAITS

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

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

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

Michele Riganese

Artist Portrait – Michele Riganese

Jeneen Terrana

Artist Portrait – Jeneen Terrana

Little Embers

Artist Portrait – Little Embers

Matt Sucich

Artist Portrait_ Matt Sucich

Warren Malone

Artist Portrait – Warren Malone

Shelly Bhushan

Artist Portrait- Shelly Bhushan

FOOD AND DRINK CORNER

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

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

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

At a  lower price level, the  local Filipino restaurant Ihawan2 (http://www.ihawan2.com) beckoned us again as a prelude to a late night social event in the city. This time there were just three of us, choosing the oxtail in peanut sauce (Kare Kare), the Combo Barbeque and the Bicol Express (spicy belly pork in liver sauce). Filipino cuisine is new to me, I found the mixture of ingredients, flavours and textures interesting and tasty. Belly pork can be quite fatty and I prefer it crispy (as in their grilled version), rather than soft in this dish: but that’s  just my preference. Two of us had drinks and the check for three came to just over $45 – a good, reasonably cheap meal to start the evening. This is a restaurant which will grow in popularity as it becomes more well known in the neighbourhood.

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

The mooring at Anable Basin Bar and Grill

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

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

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

Poetry and a little Jazz

A touch of Jazz and some poetry this week, including some experiments in sound and video.

JAZZ

It’s so good to hear jazz artists who have great affinity for each other and play together without printed music, just concentrating on each other to produce that mix of improvised and written/arranged music that sets makes jazz stand out as a great art form.

Sam Trapchak and Adam Lomeo

I heard bassman Sam Trapchak playing at LIC Bar (www.licbar.com) on Monday April 2nd with guitarist Adam Lomeo in an hour long set that consisted of a range of pieces that allowed each artist to express their individual skills to a high degree as well as show off their attunement to each other. Regular readers of this blog will know how high I rate Sam Trapchak as a player and writer. I haven’t heard him in a duo setting before and recognise how this combination of guitar and bass can be exposing of skill, imagination and creativity. This was a set that combined intimacy with intricacy, Lomeo’s subtley amplified1940s Gibson standing well with the big, but unassertive double bass. Whenever I see a  bass I’m reminded that it is not a bass violin, it is in fact the last remnant of the ancient viol family of instruments, built to play in domestic environments, generally in a consort or supporting instruments such as recorder, crumhorn, virginals and rebec; that in themselves are not loud. So it’s nice to hear it played in this way. LIC Bar isn’t always the easiest place to play intimate music, catering as it does for regular drinkers, sports watchers and random dogs. Fortunately Monday night was not too noisy and the attentive audience were treated to a form of subtle jazz that relied more on intricacy of playing and expresssion than volume and excitement. However, this was not introverted performance. I have been to some jazz sessions where I felt that the presence of an audience did not matter, such were the players concentrating on themselves. Here the two players were definitely aware of their audience and played a range of new and more well known pieces and arrangements, some of which had great energy and movement that engaged you as a listener. Foot tapping if not head banging.

Check out this video of Charlie Parker‘s classic “Moose the Mooch” –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73M1zmnjRqM&context=C435fabeADvjVQa1PpcFMezaDO8tw95GDrZqtYjfH6QNdjIrt7YAA=

I’m still learning how to use photo software and sometimes I get results that surprise me, so I thought I’d show this one of Adam Lomeo:

Adam Lomeo

In Manhattan

I took an excursion across to Manhattan the other week and caught the reunion performance of the band Nonononet at Drom (http://www.dromnyc.com/), in East Village. Nonononet (http://www.sus4music.com/nonononet.asp) is a brass group of nine players (hence “nonet”) who play a range of well arranged music that spans a range from Duke Ellington, through the Beatles to Led Zeppelin, via some of their own compositions. The band consists of leader Robert Susman on trombone, two saxes (one doubling flute and clarinet), two  trumpets, tuba, French horn, drums and percussion.

Nonononet playing at Drom

There is something about brass, that combination of lips and reeds, rich harmonies and strength. I used to enjoy brass band competitions when I lived in the North of England and used to catch my nephew’s brass group “Fat Lips” in clubs around London. Nononononet had a great sound, with lively and skilful ensemble. I love the use of tuba as the bass line, the characterful Dale Turk underlining the ensemble with real aplomb. Though not all were members of the original (and quite youthful) band from the early1990s I imagine that they faithfully reproduced their energy and skills. They played two sets, a good chance to really listen and to allow the planned performance to spread across a couple of hours and to offer a good spread of fast/slow, traditional and new: all music that is designed to entertain. This was real music, real arrangements with real instruments; and played by real people. A very satisfying night.

Drom is a bar/supper club so there was a small cover charge and expectation that you buy food at the table – not unlike other places in Manhattan. In return for this I hope that the band were paid. A nine-piece is an expensive proposition. Here’s a video of one of Nonononet’s own pieces “Aloneness” featuring original member, French Horn player Jeff Scott.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V35qrF7zi4&context=C45c350fADvjVQa1PpcFMezaDO8tw95CStABVUESzdtbdTa1HxQD4=

Check out some more photos on:

POETRY

It’s apparently National Poetry Month, who would know it? Where is the  spread of posters across town, on every street corner, in bus stations, on subway walls and tenement halls. Where are the poets competing to be heard across Times Square, in gated Florida communities and, just as you’re about to fall asleep, grabbing you by the heart, flying screaming from the TV?

There’s http://www.nyc.gov/html/poem/html/home/home.shtml, and http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/41 but would you know about these if you weren’t already into poetry?

I’ve met a few poets around LIC and I want to give some of them an opportunity to share their work on this blog. So asked them for some written examples of their work and some have offered audio/video recordings.

Click on the links to hear the readings.

Three are represented here: Lee Goffin-Bonenfant, Audrey Dimola, and Robert Bell Burr

Lee Goffin-Bonenfant is an LIC-based actor, poet and musician. This is her tribute to Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and George Starbuck.

Lee Goffin-Bonenfant

AFTER CLASS, BEFORE THERAPY

Skipping,
stumbling,
sauntering,
soothing, seducing
into the Ritz with a dirty martini

Each one, in turn
looks past the first, beyond the second
and into themselves again
convinced they are someone else’s Different

And Everyone is staring at Anne
exuberant, forceful, loud
constantly the center of attention
accidentally intellectual
like the gaudiest ring in the jewelry shop –
not what you came here for –
a ridiculous thought in the first place
bu so jam-packed with precious stones and eye catching glints
that you can’t help but stare at and long for her
forgetting that a ring is nothing but a beautiful circle around
a gaping hole

(And she is every one of us
setting off all our bells and whistles
because she is more aware than anyone
of the emptiness pressing against her insides
constantly threatening to escape
and expose the nothing she always knew she was)

Little Sylvia
perpetually separate
in a slightly darker shade of burgundy
standing behind herself
with her hand on her own shoulder
giving herself some sympathy or empathy
or the friendship she so desperately needs
and can’t let herself have

instead of letting them find out for themselves
she wears her insecurities like chain-mail
sinking (slumping) slightly under the weight of them
and arming herself with a set of goals
and forced, if objective, confidence

And the spirit self
that watches her body interact
like watching an old TV with the lights on
and your reflection
flickering in shadow behind the players heads
takes constant notes
and reports the minutes to the physical self
for comparison
deconstruction
and conclusion

And where is George in all of this?
The libra holding the scales
The intellectual diving block
from whence these two launch themselves
The Man Overlooked.
While the women stare at each other
through the large hanging mirror on the opposite wall
and cleave to his elbows
in hopes that one of them will win
the prize that loses all (glamour)
once won.

Robert Bell Burr is a poet who lives in Hunters Point

SMOKED OUT, THE FIERY RANTS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhr4cBsTxcE

I see the rainbow where the century ends,

the gold where it begins: a turned frail, white-backed

dinosaur in leg irons astride a world cracked

by famine and drained reserves (that now depends

on quick money schemes). Writhing with loss, it sends

its flame-filled screech out over waste drums long stacked

on desert sands, its arteries and veins part-placqued

from what it daily consumes, feeling “the bends.”

The rights of people, too, seem less than real,

while that same dragon sleeps beside its pile,

guarding its wayward stocks — its vacant smile,

long unctuous, come out of all it doesn’t feel —

there, just dozing, awaiting its finest deal

to top its many all too foul ones. All wile

and no play works its way through its dreams. And vile,

it’s true then, are contracts wearing its seal.

Tears

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZNChG4P2jU

And when he’d stand to take in our applause,
He’d first bow briefly, noting then our joy,
Before he’d sit again, the room grown quiet.
Nor did he seem to tire of the strings,
Each piece so brightly conjured in his hands,
“Recuerdos De La Alhambra” brought tears.
An artist (only) does this, I think.  Tears–
Wondrous surely, gauged by the fierce applause,
Not Pavlovian drops atop clapped hands–
Were there because of some exquisite joy.
The “little orchestra,” so called, six strings,
Our Maestro says, needs fingers that are quiet.
A month has passed.  I’m in my room.  It’s quiet.
No yelling in the hall.  The shouts with tears
My neighbor’s daughter makes, followed by strings
Of curses, then by laughter, and then applause,
That quick-smart kind that means now let’s have joy,
Have stopped.  I take my guitar in my hands.
Artless thick-set fingers, a fat-cat’s hands,
That turn their pages, crispness cutting quiet,
Have flipped to find their favorite, “Jesu, Joy…”
Time was, my proud attempts brought me to tears.
For praise, oh well, my head could make applause.
And yet, as now, the thrill was in the strings.
Once threads of gut, not temperate nylon strings,
They would require much tuning, extra hands,
Applied with swift elan during applause
(Nor can the timpanist tune when it’s quiet).
But I digress.  To get back to my tears,
Or ours, or theirs, they don’t just come from joy.
My waxing here, didactic?…That’s called joy.
But when you’ve heard the bell-tones of the strings
Just before they melt into bright tears,
Nothing’s more pure in all the days of hands.
No other solace matches them for quiet,
Or better lends itself to grand applause.
Are tears in the applause not tears of joy;
Who would know the quiet blush of strings
And suffer his two hands to find such tears?

Query

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vefb2bcUGK4

The light came in upon you while I read
a page or two and wrote enough to fill
a sheet torn off the hotel notepad. Still,
the way it crossed your leg, your hip, your head,
then continued with a gentle pulse to spread
itself, as though its source above the sill,
below the blind, a bright square hole, might spill
forever, got me up from my own bed.
Like a voyeur from some peep-holed realm, I thought
but felt quite differently, in fact. What rocks
or sways the mind to find such fiction where
there’s no intent to startle or to scare?
That morning early, while you slept, I taught
myself merely to be a camera box

Audrey Dimola describes herself  as “an editorial acrobat and lifelong lover of words whose mantra is:

burn bright, never regret it. She writes, sings, reads, and dreams her way through life in her native Long Island City and Astoria, Queens, usually wearing leopard print and always rediscovering the magic of everyday. Audrey is best known around town as the former Managing Editor of LIC’s only glossy arts magazine, Ins&Outs, and she has helped to promote and support the arts and culture in Queens for years. Recently, the Queens Poet Laureate selected her for inclusion in the inaugural Queens Poets & Poems exhibition in Queens Borough Hall for National Poetry Month. You can find her portfolio online at audreydimola.com, and the wild multimedia blog she edits at sugarnthunder.com.”

Three poems from Audrey:

for always

For Always audio file

forked tongues in careless mouths
and the tempers rise again.
frivolous arguments
and apologies murmured
through gritted teeth.
how far will it go tonight?
or how deep will the subsequent
silence be
when time again we’re faced with the fact
that we’ve said all we can say?
our paths converged what seems like
forever ago
and still we cannot quite figure out
where to place this
fascinating
frustrating
perfectly
beautiful
torment..
that burns us at the stake
yet comes to salvage the charred remains.
we get older and we stay
to sling the stones of words
we’d like to – but can never –
ever –
forget.
trying to force your words
to fade away
was always the problem.
you never fade.
and if you start to –
one strand of recollection
ignites your memory
and floods my soul with color
the way you always do.
you were all the good things i had lost –
the unapologetically alive.
just being near you
made me more than myself –
vibrant
and amplified.
yet still
i could look at you
and not know what to do.
only now it seems we do know
and are afraid to act on the truth.
you’ll be what i think of –
like our old gravel-voiced friend sings –
when i’m dead in my grave..
because even then i’d wish for
another chance
to fly too close and melt my wings.
in another lifetime, perhaps,
we’ll be what the other needs –
or, perhaps, we already have been
and all this time
have been chasing that dream.
i can only remember you
and being whole –
laughing
and finding my place.
seeking the solace and affirmation
now regressed to the point
where no words can express
the bottomless disappointment
in one defeated breath.
you were everything –
that stubborn archaic hope
that drives men to build
waxen wings
and keep dreaming
what they were never meant to dream.
you were, are, will be –
everything.
that one last riddle
between the sphinx’s paws
i’ve always wished i could solve.
somehow –
the futile hope never dies in me.
another time, another place
another life, another plane –
i’d still be waiting,
wishing for you.
and perhaps,
in another guise
in some time beyond my reach
i’ll feel that familiar hope
that electricity and madness
so breathtaking and infuriating
so perfectly alive –
and all at once
for now and ever
i’ll know –
i’ll know it’s you –
and i’ll love you
just as endlessly
as every time before.

this is for you,
for always.

 


validation

Validation read by Audrey Dimola

it seems to me

validation

is the muse’s silent killer..

you write

and stand on a street corner

holding a sign,

or shouting from a mountaintop,

or thrashing in the sea,

waiting for someone to notice.

we writers have to ask ourselves

over and over –

does it matter?

in so many ways

the greats, and others like them,

have said – write not for an

audience.

the purest writing comes from you,

unadulterated.

praise or criticism may come

afterwards –

or alternately, you may

have only silence.

but whatever you are faced with,

i tell you –

picking up the pen is your

validation.

you have realized

the grand illusion –

created something

out of nothing.

and do you know what else?

have you considered

how much of your audience

is invisible –

simply part of the pen and ink,

the walls of your heart,

the fragments of memory..

spirits of the past,

circumstances of the present,

possibilities of the future –

star-trails and planets

and the universe all one –

it all moves to an

infinite,

luminous bloom

when you take that breath,

that step – to create.

how much more validation

do you need?


four pieces

Four Pieces read by Audrey Dimola

brother
still learning
i worry about you.
you’re tied to me on a thinning string –
i know you grow so weary of the world
you can feel your immortality.
you traverse the streets at night
in your thoughts you wander, too –
but you’re a step ahead of me
because i’m too afraid to leave my head.

sister
such a pure soul
loving wholly, truly
clinging too tight.
stay little –
i only wish i could control my temper
(sometimes it’s hard to know what to say).
you’re afraid, but just like i am
your anxieties always get to you
but i hope they don’t keep you from sleeping
like mine still do.

father
restless spirit
i wish you could believe.
you fight tirelessly against everyone,
against yourself.
take those hands that mend the world
and know how much they are needed –
i wish i could alter your alchemy
to free you from your own mind.

mother
beautiful mother
walking paths i hope to follow –
the light that illuminates your spirit
colors the soul in me too.
undeserving shackles and clipped wings
cannot subvert your hunger for knowledge
you know the things in books before you read them
– you always do.
your calls for inexistence – an end to this – pain me
because no one shines with the light of god like you do.
see yourself the way i see you
because even when you are gone
i will wander endlessly to find you, wherever you are.

the self
my self
the heart in me is clenched –
a volatile soul
watching for the prism of light
splitting through the cracks in the darkness.
intuitions spark
and only confirm what is already inherent –
i only wish i could be the being
i know we all have the potential to become.

four pieces
of this heart to push and pull –
it’s been so long, this back and forth
my spirit almost cannot know another way.
chaos and normalcy walk hand in hand
in this house so weighted by its energy
i cannot leave any piece behind –
or bear to be the one that is left.
all those years ago i was the little girl
just wishing for the pieces to fit.
but through time’s graying lens
it seems i simply want
each piece to find their own peace.

disassociative

“Disassociative” read by Audrey Dimola

and i can’t write to save myself
because the words don’t rhyme
and the feelings don’t flow
like they used to.
i feel like ever since november
i’ve laid to rest the part of me
that could feel pain–
the part that fought
the part that believed
but most of all
the part that survived.
now one day fades unintelligibly
into the next
and sometimes i don’t even remember
falling asleep.
i lose myself
and my thoughts and my words
are mangled and pieced apart
by the train rides and the late nights
and the girl in the mirror
who knows she can’t feel anything at all.
i’m drifting, but so violently
that i seem to destroy everything i touch–
and sometimes i wish i had
a bottle, a drug, a cigarette light
to help me drag this soulless body
through the night.
i burn my bridge to the outside world
and let the embers settle in my throat
until i can’t breathe
and it’s a relief–
because it’s my only chance to get
myself to go away.
every time i close my eyes
the grenade goes off and i see him–
my angel with his secret heart sewn shut.
his halo flickers like a fluorescent bulb
and paranoia sparks a fire in my blood
as i watch him catch a light
on a pair of smoldering eyes
and he savors the smoke
and her smile
without ever knowing i was there.
constellations of
scars and doubts and memories
stare down from the heavens,
laughing in my face
and i wonder
if you ever really know anyone at all.
BOUNDLESS TALES – ASTORIA

Boundless Tales Reading Series, founded by Aida Zilelian, is one of the only reading series in the borough of Queens. Readings run the third Thursday of every month at Waltz-Astoria (23-14 Ditmars Blvd), and Audrey Dimola is excited to be hosting for the summer months. Come out to support local writers and submit your work (fiction/non-fiction, poetry, plays, novel excerpts) if you want to read! See: http://boundlesstales.blogspot.com/

 

A jazz virgin in LIC

I know I’ve written about jazz before, (https://sometimeinlongislandcity.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/jazz-in-small-spaces/) but I still feel new to it. LIC is blessed with resident musicians, and some who have the misfortune to live elsewhere and come into town to play. I’ve written before about the venues Domaine wine Bar (http://domainewinebar.com/) which I consider to be my university of jazz and wine; and the LIC Bar (licbar.com), to which I must add Manducatis Rustica (www.manducatisrustica.com), a restaurant I have yet to visit but which hosted the LIC Jazz Alliance (http://www.licja.org/)  jam session on Saturday Feb 25th. LICJA  also have jam sessions at the Domaine every Monday night. You can’t frequent jazz bars for long and remain a jazz virgin!

LIC Bar hosted a jazz evening last Monday, featuring Emily Wolf, (http://www.emilywolfjazz.com) Kat Calvosa (http://www.katcalvosa.com) and The Black Butterflies (www.theblackbutterflies.com) . This was a good, if challenging, mix. I’ve heard Emily before (see Jazz in Small Spaces). She’s an Englishwoman with an American jazz singer for a father and as such her singing comes from a strong tradition of jazz singers whom she will have heard, either live or in recordings. She told us that hearing recordings of Nancy Wilson was a major influence on her embarking on a career as a jazz musician. I like her mix of music, her own material and standards. he standards give us common points of reference and give Emily opportunites to shine through her own arrangements. She varies her performance style in a way that is entertaining but not over the top – suiting the LIC’s intimate atmosphere. She uses scat improvisation very effectively, the voice-as-instrument technique that, I understand, originated with Louis Armstrong. (If you haven’t been, DO go to his house in Corona, Queens, which is now a museum and is just as it was when he lived there, with evocative recordings of him talking – as if he was still there http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/)

Emily Wolf with bass player Danny Weller

A new member of Emily’s band for the night was Leah Gough-Cooper, a graduate of both the New Engkand Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, but originating from the South Eastern part of Scotland. Leah looks younger but plays older than her years. I was very impressed by her easy fluid style, her sense of movement in the music and her great tone. Unlike some sax players, who move around the room a lot, “performing”, Leah just stood there letting the music speak and move for itself. I really want to hear her again, and will have the chance at LIC Bar on March 12th, when she plays with “Human Equivalent” at 9pm.

Emily’s band also included Jason Yeager on keyboard and Matt Rousseau on drums, a fine combination of players that Emily has created!

Leah Gough-Cooper

Emily’s band also included Jason Yeager on keyboard and Matt Rousseau on drums, a fine combination of players that Emily has created!

Emily Wolf and her quartet

I hadn’t heard Kat Calvosa before. Like Emily she presented a mix of compositions and arrangements, including two compositions from her guitarist, Perry Smith.  I enjoyed the differences and similarities between her and Emily. I especially enjoyed Kat’s arrangement of one of the greatest, and probably most arranged standards, Nat King Cole’s “A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square”, with the guitar offering chord changes that reminded me of Jimi Hendrix at his most lyrical. Kat has a relaxed confident singing style, once again very suited to a bar/club environment. There was nice interplay between her and the musicians in the band (which also included Ross Pederson on drums and Sam Minaie on bass) and, like Emily, she connected well with the audience.

Kat Calvosa and band at LIC Bar

The third band of the night was a 6 piece group led by Argentinian Mercedes Figueras: “The Black Butterflies”. This was quite different music. I was having an alcohol-free night at the LIC Bar (great fruit cocktails, though from Stephanie behind the bar) and felt that maybe I was missing something when listening to this band’s material. I should have been “on” something to appreciate the trance-like tracks they presented, maybe I needed to listen  more intently than I did last thing in the evening. At first I was intrigued: an interesting introduction to the first track played by Tony Larokko on a tiny 5 (?) note zylophone and the smallest balafon (an African zylophone which uses gourds to develop it’s tone) I have ever seen – pentatonic note patterns which the band expanded in a style which said to me “this is going to be music which brings in a great range of musical traditions”. This was an entertaining band to watch as well, especially conga player Bopa “King” Carre and Larokko’s variety of instruments. However, I found that I pulled back from the seemingly random improvisations  for which maybe I was not prepared, or “in the mood”. I think this is another kind of jazz that I need to understand more. Check them out for yourself on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj9zw5id4UQ . It’s not that I have closed ears (or I think not, having hosted a World Music Radio show for 8 years), and I’m fine with long raga’s, 5 hour operas, Gamelan concerts or wide extemporisations on the Kora.  I need to hear them again.

Mercedes Figueras and Nick Gianni

Mercedes Figueras and Nick Gianni

Virgin Jazz reviews

I’m going to spend a little time now reviewing some CDs, but first an apologia that you can skip if you like.

The Apologia

“What’s this guy doing reviewing Jazz? He doesn’t know his Ornette from his Maynard?” Well that’s true. Since coming to Long Island City I’ve had opportunities to meet, and hear some people who I consider to be really talented and who describe themselves as playing Jazz. Many have been to Jazz school, some more recently than others; some actually teach at Jazz schools, so I guess what they play IS jazz.

I had little exposure to Jazz when growing up, even though my father and his brother were musicians (military band). We didn’t get a proper (i.e. 45 and 33 rpm) record player until I was a teenager, but always had a piano in the house around whcih people would gather at parties and sing everything from “Velia” to (my mother’s party piece) “Stormy Weather”. The latter was probably my only exposure to anything that might be called jazz. British TV and radio didn’t offer much except what in the UK is called “Trad” jazz, played by people like Acker Bilk dressed up in bowler hats and striped waistcoats, with banjos and smiling faces. As a teeneger I became deeply involved in the Blues. This was the time of the British Blues boom. I gave up my piano lessons (I always wanted to change the rhythms of the pieces to something more funky) and took up guitar, queueing for hours to hear Hendrix at the Marquee, Clapton at the club down the road and Peter Green with the only real Fleetwood Mac. Occasionally I might hear some jazz/blues by people like Manfred Mann (especially in their latter “Chapter Three” incarnations) and did actually go to hear people like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine on their university circuits. I enjoyed their music but didn’t really understand jazz. As a guitarist I was one of those people who can’t really remember swathes of chords, who prefers to make them up without knowing what they’re called. I’d watch jazz guitarists playing one chord per note, moving up and down the fingerboard and stretching out the fingers in what seemed superhuman chord shapes. “much too hard”, said I, never having had a guitar lesson until middle age.

Over the years I have heard some great jazz artists: Sarah Vaughan, Ornette Coleman (three basses in that band!), Stefan Grappelli as well as other combos that I have come across be accident, and I bought some records and CDs – Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Django Rheinhardt, Duke Ellington etc. Nothing that stretched me, but which I enjoyed and appreciated as very different music than the blues I had grown up with; music that I increasingly recognised as being as complex and skill-requiring as the classical music that is my frequent companion (now don’t get me talking about that!).

So here I end up in Long Island City with two venues that regularly feature jazz (LIC Bar and the Domaine wine bar) and I go along and find that I am starting to really get into this music, not everything mind; but it’s not just the music but also the people, the players whom I photograph and talk to. Some even live down the road! I’ve even been to a jazz club (Jazz Standard’s Mingus Dynasty) in Manhattan and heard music that knocked my socks off (where on earth does than phrase come from?), I end up listening to jazzers live and bringing their CDs home, three of which will be the subject of this blog post.

The Albums

Two of the people that I have seen most around here are Sam Trapchak (bass) and Christian Coleman (drums). I suppose if anyone has turned me onto local jazz it’s these two. There is something about this combination that allows me to get inside the music and appreciate where it’s going. Not technically, but intuitively and emotionally. I’ve heard these two in combination with a range of other players – Broc Hempel – (what a skilled keyboard man he is), Greg Ward (man he’s so talented, his sax will take him to the top one day), local sax player Martin Kelley (a skilled musician and teacher), Anthony Cekay and many talented others!

Broc Hempel

Sam Trapchak

Greg Ward

Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Sam and Christian have CD’s out at the moment, featuring them playing with other musicians and not each other. I’ve also come home with an album from Tammy Scheffer, a singer of great accuracy and flexibility. Whether I’m considered credible enough to review these I will leave to you, the Blogabond (I asked some friends for words to describe you, and that was one suggestion – the other was “Bloggard” but I think that probably better describes me).

I’ve talked about Tammy Scheffer before (see my “Jazz in small spaces” blog post) and you’ll know how I was impressed by her singing and musicianship in live performance. Tammy hails from Belgium via Israel and is a graduate of the New England Conservatory. Her debut CD “Wake up Fall Asleep” features 9 of her original compositions and arrangements for sextet which consists of Andrew Urbina– alto sax, Steve Pardo– tenor sax,Chris Ziemba– piano, Brad Barrett– bass and Ronen Itzik– drums.

Tammy’s style, which involves much wordless singing reminds me of medieval and renaissance music where the singers’ vocal abilities are used to not just express lyrics but also to express the music through variation of sound and rhythm. Music before the 18th century was often meant as a basis for improvisation by singers and instrumentalists, who developed their music skills in learning contexts where this was expected, much like jazz is today and in folk music traditions around the world.  Good examples of this can be heard in recordings by that pioneer of the early music revival, David Munrow (who blew his recorders, crumhorns and cornamuses like a jazzman) and the group L’ Arpeggiatta, appearing at Carnegie Hall in March. I’m also reminded of the vocal interpretations of classical music (especially Bach) presented by the “Swingle Singers” in the 60s and 70s. It would be great to discover whether Jazz schools might also offer studies which place the jazz improvisational tradition with the contexts of both World and European “art” music.

Tammy’s voice is the lead instrument of her sextet; sometimes she’ll use it to sing words but mostly it’s wordless vocalisations of intricate runs, arpeggios and decorations around the melodies, some of which appear to derive from her Hebrew/Israeli heritage (one song , “Home is where my laptop is”  includes a quote from “Nama Yafo”). I’m not sure Tammy’s singing is technically “scat”, which I understand to mean improvised wordless singing. I think that Tammy’s music is a mix of improvisation and music that she has written specifically to sing without words.

In “Kum, Shan”  (“Wake up, Fall Asleep” Tammy sings  Hebrew words which she uses to form the base of her voice-as-instrument extensions of the melodies. A slow hauntingly beautiful melody moves into some more highly charged sax playing before easing off with Tammy’s voice, like a bird flying into the mists. You can see a video of her performing this at the Shrine NYC on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_lbf7GPiUc

I particularly enjoyed “Hakol Yihiye Beseder (Everything’s going to be just fine)”, which starts off with some nice piano from Chris Ziemba before Tammy comes in with some very easy-feeling vocalising, the rest of the band sitting gently in the background. Yes, you really do feel as if everything’s going to be just fine. A good track to end the album.

Tammy Scheffer

This is an album which grows well on repeated hearing. I now prefer to listen to one track at a time, with space between to digest and feel that sense of peace which arises well from Tammy’s singing and the band’s playing. You can download or buy the CD from http://www.tammyscheffer.com/ .

The album “Lollipopocalypse” (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/samtrapchak), from Sam Trapchak‘s “Put Together Funny” contains the one piece that opened my eyes to jazz here in LIC,  Sam’s composition  “Precious View”. I first heard this played by the Trapchak, (Broc) Hempel, (Christian) Coleman Trio at the Domaine Wine Bar on one of my first visits there. The band on the album here consists of Sam Trapchak on bass, Greg Ward on alto sax, guitarist Tom Chang, and Arthur Vint on drums, so we get a different arrangement, with  sax rather than Hempel’s keyboard.  I love this piece’s early unsettling meandering around rhythm and time signatures with a catchy riff  which is picked up on soloing bass and then smoothing out into more regular melodic solo, (on the album here from Greg Ward’s meticulous soulful alto, riding over the continuingly unsettled rhythm section ). It made so much sense to my untutored ears, I don’t know why, technically, but it did make sense and it is oddly moving.

Precious View doesn’t showpiece the guitar playing of Tom Chang. His musical background apparently includes heavy rock and sometimes you can hear this in solos that take me back to 60’s and 70’s rock/jazz (Zappa especially, but also oddly the Paul Butterfield band’s “East West” experiment; long tracks with “oriental” improvisations). I particularly liked Chang’s composition “On the Cusp of Cancer”; a driving track which allows guitar and sax to snake around and blow the dust from the lightshades.

Five of the seven tracks on Lollipocalypse written by Sam Trapchak and the other two (On the Cusp of Cancer and Tongue and Groove) by Tom Chang. The title track “Lollipocalypse” is a game of two halves, just when you think you are swinging along with nice soaring sax adventures in comes Chang’s screeching chords and jagged edges to push you to the edge of your bar stool and threaten your ability to remain sane, and upright.

This is an album which entertains; it’s interesting, occasionally exhausting and sometimes moving. It stands repeated hearing, not because the tracks are easy listening but because you’ll hear something new every time, such is the variety in the writing and the virtuousity of the players.

The Christian Coleman‘s Trio’s “Pigments” album features Christian on drums, Gavin Ahearn on piano, and Matt Gruebner on bass, with Australian Dale Barlow guesting on Tenor sax. (It’s coming soon to iTunes and cdbaby, in the meantime check out some earlier recordings on http://www.myspace.com/christiancolemandrums, which include Ahearn, together with Chris Riggenbach bass and Mike Dopazo on sax). Three of the four players (Coleman (7 tracks), Ahearn (2) and Gruebner (1) take writing credits in what is, to my ears, more of a mainstream album than Lollipocalypse. It’s Coleman’s drums and Ahearn’s piano that are the stars on this album. Just listen to Coleman’s intricate patterns that dance around the melodies, enhancing the other’s playing – the soloist at the back, a jester and magician painting the stars in the sky and weaving fine webs of percussive lacework around tunes for which he has taken such an important role as writer and leader.

My impressions on having heard this album all the way through on a few occasions is that I occasionally wanted the band to let go a bit more. I liked it better late at night at home, when I don’t need music to lift my energy levels. The second track,  “5th Street Stoop”, starts to swing part way through, and then falls back to a lazy style which suits the music.

I particularly liked the piano playing of Gavin Ahearn – fluid and sharply articulated. His composition “If you were then” is one of my favourite tracks on the album, based around a memorable melody fragment that consists of almost chiming chords. His other composition “Zelenec” is also enjoyable. bass player Matt Gruebner’s single contribution to the writing credits here, “Sere“, is an enjoyable piece that starts with Coleman’s brushes sounding like artful sandpaper on a sailor’s 5 day beard. The a single line piano enters with melody decorated nicely with Gruebner’s bass line and more from Coleman’s exquisite technique.

In fact I have begun listening to this album wondering if I can discern a difference in the way that a drummer writes in comparison to a pianist and a bass player, after all the music of the classical composer Berlioz (a violinist, not a keyboard player but a genius in orchestration) is noticably different to his contemporaries, who would have often written using a piano. Do percussionists think more in rhythms and sound colours; do single line instrumentalists think more in single melodic lines whilst chordal players use harmonies and polyphonic ideas more? This would take further listening and is an example of how my introductions to jazz at the Domaine Bar University of jazz and wine are leading me in interesting directions.

Dale Barlow plays on six of the ten tracks. I thought his tenor playing was well articulated and artful. I found, though, that I wanted to hear more adventure from him. It’s as if, when playing this music, he had to play obediently. Maybe this is something about recording jazz, a music which is part improvisational and part written;  so when you are laying down a track do you hold back in a way that you wouldn’t in a live performance?

Lastly hats off to Christian Coleman for an interesting album with great playing that deserves concentrated listening; yet it also stands in the background at dinner party or social gathering where people want to talk with a smooth jazz background.

Well, congratulations on getting this far down what has been a long blog post. PLEASE comment – I’d love some feedback.

Jazz in small spaces

I’ve always liked Jazz but haven’t been “into” it – it’s a separate crowd, who always appear incredibly knowledgeable and can reel off names of obscure players and compare styles with what sounds like a high degree of listening and musical skill; not an easy world to break into without seeming an imposter, fool or an outsider. So when I approach jazz events in this neighbourhood I have been careful about not getting into too deep a conversation with people who, I assume, know a whole lot more about what is being played than I do. I realise that this, in itself is a stupid position and am now boldly going forth and enjoying long conversations with talented and knowledgable folk!
I’ve heard Jazz at the LIC Bar, the Domaine Bar à vins (www.domainewinebar.com)and at Cranky’s. I’ve also caught some brilliant Jazz/Gypsy violin playing at the Madera Cuban restaurant (www.maderacubangrill.com) from a player whose name escapes me for the moment but who is playing there again in a couple of weeks . This is alomst a secret location, they don’t advertise their musicians anywhere but, like many cafes and restaurants around New York you can often be surprised by the quality of musicians finding a way to earn their keep in a highly competitive market. Madera has a nice little bar and the food is good and the welcome is generous, as are the cocktails. Musicians play on Friday nights.
The main Jazz venue here is Domaine, where you can often catch a band on different nights of the week, sometimes by surprise as you leave the subway station and are tempted in by the sounds and the thought of a pleasant glass of wine and a selection of cheeses and or charcuterie (you can even get $1 oysters in their happy hours, but no live Jazz at these times.). This little bar has a great selection of wines that are “off the beaten track”. Certified sommelier, Cipriani (“Chip”) Toma will guide you through their interesting cellar and make matches with the wide range of great European and American artisan cheeses that are available on the menu. You can expect attention to detail which matches the very high quality of the jazz. Why go to Manhattan when there is this standard so close to home?

Sam Trapchak

Domaine is a venue for the Long Island City Jazz Alliance with a jam session every Monday night (www.licja.org ). There are some regular artists that you will catch around the area. I especially like the rhythm section of Christian Coleman and Sam Trapchak, two very talented composers and performers. They play with various instrumentalists like Broc Hempel (keyboards), Greg Ward, Martin Kelley and Anthony Cekay (saxes). Sam writes great tunes. You can hear some of his compositions on the album Lollipopocalypse , featuring one of Sam’s bands “Put Together Funny” (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/samtrapchak). I especially like “Precious few”, a track that starts off meandering around and then settles down into a really nice melodic line. Christian doesn’t play on this album but has joined Sam with this band when they have played at LIC Bar, check out his CD “Pigments” – available very soon.

Christian Coleman - a mean drummer - the best

Greg Ward (www.gregward.org) is a very impressive sax player, you can tell that he is in the music and the music is in him. It was a great joy last night to hear him play with Broc, Sam and Christian at the Domaine accompanied by an interesting Malbec, a Cotes de Rhone and a taste of my favourite (as Chip remembered) Gaillac ( and I mustn’t forget cheese to die for). Check out this clip of Hempel, Coleman Trapchak at the Domaine – www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWAdDFHRLTw

LIC bar often has some great jazz. I was fortunate to catch a great line-up a few weeks ago -three bands fronted by differently gifted women, two singers and a violinist with three different cultural origins, Belgium born Israeli, Japanese and English.
I arrived later than I would have liked and entered in the middle of Tammy Scheffer’s set. I was immediately sorry that I had missed some as she grabbed my attention as soon as entered the door. Tammy has an extraordinary pure and accurate voice that could hold its own in any genre. Her preference is for jazz, presenting a mix of improvisation/scat, arrangements of standards and songs that she has written herself; often with their origins in Hebrew folk tunes. She was supported by a small tight band of bass, drums and guitar. Tammy has an album “Wake up, Fall asleep” which shows off her talents as a singer, composer and arranger. (check out http://www.tammyscheffer.com/

Tammy Scheffer at LIC Bar

Another singer, Emily Wolf (emilywolfjazz.com/), ended the evening. English-born and living in NYC, Emily showed her roots in a classy Sarah Vaughan/Cleo Laine range of styles, a mix of standards, lots of scat and s sassy attitude. In the cause of following the previous Hebrew and Japanese themes, I wanted her to connect with the cultural themes and present some material that had English origins, remembering jazz interpretations of songs from Shakespeare such as those in Cleo Laine and John Dankworth’s classic 1960s album “Shakespeare And All That Jazz”. Emily has a great smile that connects her with her audience, she knows how to put on a show and to pull together her band.

Emily Wolf

Tomoko Omura (tomokoomura.com/live/), is a clever jazz violinist and composer who creates compositions that draw on folk songs from her native land. She plays in a brilliant, but not flashy style that extends the violin beyond the not insignificant legacy of Stephane Grappelli. Supported by a talented group of bass, drums, guitar and keyboard. It’s hard for a violinist to front a band, playing it is often an introverted activity. Tomoko did well to connect with attentive audience and gained deserved approval for her music.

Tomoko Omura

Well that just about wraps it up for today. I’ve had a busy weekend music-wise, a lot to report on in the next music blog. I’m off to the LICJA jam session tonight at the Domaine – looking forward to hearing Amanda Monaco on guitar.