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

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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.

The Music: Part One

New York is a city of Music. On any night of the week you can catch live music being played anywhere from Carnegie Hall through subway stations to the many pubs and clubs that play host to musicians struggling to make a living from the dollar bills placed in a jug that is passed around. My first live music experience here in NY was a trip to a venue in Brooklyn called the Bell House. I know, this isn’t in Long Island City, it’s across the border into another of the five boros that make up New York City. However my excuse is that I wasn’t living in LIC at the time and was attracted by a chance to hear an artist who I hadn’t heard for over 40 years, Bert Jansch.

Jansch was part of a folk revival movement that spanned the late 1960s and early 1970s. I had seen him in a club in London called Les Cousins. A friend of mine insisted on pronouncing it as if it was French, not the name of the guy who ran the club! At that time Jansch was famous as a solo artist for songs like “Needle of Death” and was a classic singer songwriter of the era, someone who’d hitch hiked around Europe and played guitar with a style that mixed the English folk tradition with that of American finger-style blues. I had been around a few folk clubs, most of which were rooms upstairs in pubs where the crowd drank cider and or beer and joined in with songs they knew, often in that rather pinched folk style that often required a finger in the ear to ensure pitch. Les Cousins was more like a London music club, still serving beer and more dimly lit. Jansch went on to join another guitarist, John Renbourn to create the first folk supergroup, Pentangle, along with bassist Danny Thompson, singer Jaqui McShee and drummer Terry Cox.

Bert Jansch at the Bell House, Brooklyn

This was my first chance to hear Jansch for many many years, and the first of two occasions in New York; and now he has passed away, from the lung cancer he would have been carrying as I listened to him, voice hardly changed and guitar playing still immaculate. He had fairly recently formed an friendship with Neil Young and was not surprising that on this occasion at the Bell House the support band was Pegi Young, Neil’s wife. The thrill was (and this is sooo New York) that husband Neil was playing rhythm guitar in the band. He did not play the star, just standing there in the background playing in his check jacket and his trademark white Gretsch, only once letting loose and taking the band to heights that it may not have anticipated.

So that was my first NY music experience, I since went on to hear Young and Jansch at a much more expensive venue a few months later. (more of that another time).

Back to LIC – it took a while after moving here to discover the LIC Bar. This is a real pub, over a hundred years old, with a wonderful ornate tin ceiling, wooden panels, alcoves and a really warm welcome. The story is that it was owned by two brothers, who one day argued and locked the place up – not to be opened  for years, finding glasses still on the bar.

The place consists of a bar, narrower at one end than the other, a courtyard area (with dramatic lighting and a giant willow tree) and a room the other end of the courtyard which is known as “The Carriage House”. LIC bar (www.licbar.com) has music at least three times a week: always on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays, sometimes late Saturday nights and occasionally other nights. On Thursday they have a quiz and comedy show. The music here is curated by Gustavo Rodriguez, a talented singer/guitarist/songwriter whose other talent as an impressario is spotting and connecting with talented musicians from the area. Another talented musician, Irishman Niall Connally, organises the Sunday evening show in the winter, a show that has a folk orientation, whereas other nights might be a mix of jazz, country, rock and blues.

LIC Bar

The space at LIC bar is well used for music. In the summer the wall of the carriage house draws back to enable the space to be used as stage for music to be performed to an audience in the courtyard and through the open windows of the bar. In the winter an area of the bar provides accommodation for bands and singers.

Jefferson Thomas Band in the Carriage House – Gustavo Rodriguez on guitar at right

Enough of the location, what about the music? Well I’ve been here a while now and have heard a large number of musicians at the LIC Bar. Rarely have I gone and not been pleased with the quality of the artists. Some stand out, for various reasons, and it speaks volumes for the skills and taste of Gus Rodriguez that the standards are consistently high. Some of my favourites are Matt Sucich, Redwood Summer, Jefferson Thomas, Emily Mure, Michele Riganese, Sam Trapchak, Tammy Scheffer, Julie Kathryn and Mieka Pauley. Each deserve lengthy reviews, as do others that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing and meeting. These will come as I balance recent gigs with those that are yet unblogged.

Matt Sucich is a singer songwriter in the tradition of Paul Simon and David Gray, with a light country/folk feel that shows allegiance to early rock and roll. He writes intelligent personal lyrics and moves with his music in a way that lets you know that these are his songs and say things about him as a man and a musician. Catch his latest album http://music.esmatteo.com/album/jubilation-jealousy; an album that emphasises Matt’s deeply personal approach to melody and lyrics. The songs are, to use an old fashioned word, “catchy”, with memorable choruses that stay with you from the very first hearing. The production has sweet, simply layered guitars, voices, keyboard and percussion that allow Matt’s understated, breathy voice to lay his heart in front of you. This is not soppy romantic stuff; there can be an edge to Matt’s songs such as in “Brake Lights” a classic rock metaphor with a strong mix of acoustic and electric guitars. I’ve heard Matt sing on a couple, of occasions now and appreciated his use of pedal steel player to augment some of the songs. This is only hinted on the album through his use of reverb and tremolo.  On the album he plays most of the instruments and has engineered the album himself, with excellent post production and mastering from Devon C. Johnson.

Matt Sucich at LIC Bar Labor Weekend 2011

I like Matt’s sense of realism in his songs. “All Love” talks about the ups and downs of relationships, about staying for the long haul through light and dark times. The album is rooted in New York, not in a brash, show-biz sense but one that expresses the everyday life of subways, classic cars and emotions that are softly spoken, not screamed across the street.

Check also his “Holiday 7 inch Digital EP” – http://music.esmatteo.com/album/yule-a-holiday-ep

What you don’t get from the album is the sight of the way that Matt moves with his music; yet you can actually sense it here. You know that his feel for the pace of his songs is embedded in each performance, he has that exquisite sense of timing that is the mark of a true artist.

This is an album that survives repeated listening and is deserving of wider exposure