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SEPTEMBER

IT IS ADVISABLE TO CHECK IN ADVANCE WITH THE VENUE THAT THE GIG IS ON

SUNDAY 20

Vieux Carre Hot 4 - Spanish City, Spanish City Plaza, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG. Tel: 0191 691 7090. 12 noon. Free.

Riviera Quartet - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. 8:00pm. A limited number of seats are available which MUST be bought in advance online. £7:50 or £5:45 live stream only.

THURSDAY 24

Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

Maine St Jazzmen - Sunniside Social Club, Sunniside Road, Sunniside NE16 5NA. Tel: 0191 488 7347. 8:00pm - 10pm. Free. Note earlier start/finish.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Reflections on New York - December 2019

(By James Henry)

In recent years, for just four or five weeks in late November and December, it has been possible to fly directly from Newcastle upon Tyne to Newark Airport, New Jersey. Free from the need to transfer in Heathrow, Schiphol or other monuments to lost luggage and missed connections, one can leave Newcastle at 9.00am Monday and be in the Big Apple at lunch time, given the element of time travel gifted in transatlantic flight. That is, if one’s chosen airline hasn’t left the ULDs in Manchester  (ULD- Unit Load Devices- those big aluminium containers seemingly essential to loading baggage onto wide bodied airliners- things I didn’t know a month ago). Never mind, a bit more CO2 in the atmosphere and our plane makes the round trip to Manchester, returning replete with the missing ULDs and we make our way to NY in time for tea, glad we had booked nothing for our first afternoon or evening.

New York doesn’t disappoint: after decades of watching New York “policiers” (remember Kojak, Cagney and Lacey and the rest?) and Woody Allen films (whatever his fall from grace, Annie Hall and Manhattan are as good as it gets), it is a bit like most of our life has been spent in preparation for this trip. 

Daylight on Tuesday morning finds a moderate snowfall, and we make our way to Central Park. Soon we find the ice rink, and we are minded of John Lewis’ wonderful Modern Jazz Quartet composition Skating in Central Park: disconcertingly, the ice rink is now operated by Trump Enterprises. Later we happen upon a tenor sax player, busking solo in the crisp cold, taking the horn to new places: difficult not to think of Sonny Rollins and his sabbatical on the Williamsburg Bridge, back in the day. 

Tuesday evening finds us in Birdland at the first night of the Joe Lovano Ensemble’s residency there. Birdland is in its third home, and is now not so far from Times Square. We are lucky to be able to get a table at short notice. Lovano and his 10 piece ensemble gave a cracking performance, with a mix of stuff including part of the Streams of Expression suite, a hymn-like Lovano original called Our Daily Bread, and a goodly bit from his 52nd Street Themes album (Tadd Dameron’s On a Misty Night being especially memorable). 

The playing is tight and the sound big and bold, but with some anarchic moments to offset the general order and close ensemble.  Leaving the club we get the chance to speak to Joe and to thank him for a memorable session.  We remind him of his gig at the Gateshead Jazz Festival back in 2014, he remembers our wonderful Queen Elizabeth Hall: we note that the world is a big place, with lots of venues.

And Birdland itself: a pleasant place, interesting menu, standard New York prices. I would particularly recommend the seafood gumbo. Tuesday night found the venue about two thirds full, and despite the bar and the restaurant, there was no chatter or noise during the performance.

Thursday finds us at the Bluenote Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, where Arturo Sandoval is in a four day residency with a quintet.  We had booked this in advance, and wisely so, as the gig is a sell-out, and the venue packed. Sandoval, a Cuban exile and a protégé of Dizzy Gillespie is now 71 and celebrating 60 years in performance.  The gig reminds me very much of the one time that I saw Gillespie (Edinburgh, 1982) in its energy, sense of fun and spontaneity. One tune segues into another, with only minimal introduction, and Sandoval moves confidently from trumpet through keyboard, percussion, vocals (some amazing scat) and jaws harp. 

Mike Tucker on tenor is the perfect foil to Sandoval, and is an exciting presence in his own right. Sandoval gives us a homily on his disdain for the concept of Latin music (which he seemingly doesn’t play: why would he celebrate a dead language?) and Afro Cuban music (this is what he plays!). He dedicates a flawless version of When I Fall in Love to his sister Cynthia (in the audience on her birthday), identifies his proctologist at the bar, and delivers a scatological five minutes on the difficulties of English as a second language.  A very different vibe to Lovano and Birdland and equally fine in its own way. We have Manhattans and snack on cheese and fruit (note to UK jazz clubs: think about this: beats crisps and beer every time). Despite the venue being packed, there is utter respect for the music, with barely a whisper when the band play.

Of course we find our way to other attractions in NYC: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Staten Island Ferry, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Twin Towers memorial and museum, Grand Central Station, the subway, yellow cabs and the rest. In four days we only scratch the surface, and we leave an awful lot of jazz unheard.

I would thoroughly recommend a few days in New York: both the jazz and the city are infinite. Check out the “New York JazzRecord” just to get a feel for the breadth and variety of the jazz on offer. I’m sure we will return, having left so much unheard and unseen.  
James Henry

4 comments :

NeilC said...

Thank you James for sharing your experience with us it gives a great insight into a great city . I was lucky enough to go a few years back at around the same time and the atmosphere everywhere is just electric . I think in 4 days I had about 4 hours sleep in total I remember being at a Jazz Club until the wee small hours and then grabbing some breakfast and a good few coffees , a quick hours snooze and then out again . Its sadly so true that you leave so much unheard Jazz behind, like you I hope to return soon to see something of what I missed .I, like you , loved every second.

Lance said...

Yes a great city indeed! I made but one visit and, even though my written memories have been lost (or misplaced?), they are permanently lodged in my mind and my heart.

Steve T said...

I've only been once, in the mid eighties, and with so many places in the world to visit, have no plans to return, but never say never. We went to a jam session in the village and I recall lots of black musicians turning up with their horns and sitting in for cuts, mostly from Kind of Blue. I sometimes wonder if any of them made it.

Jen said...

I worked at United Nations New York in the mid 70's and lived in 5 different appartments in Manhatten, latterly on 44th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue. It is the most fantastic city in the world. I remember visiting many jazz clubs in the lower East and the Village. Partying through the night, walking out for a newspaper at 2 am feeling perfectly safe! Highlight was seeing Sinatra live at Maddison Square Gardens in 1974 - this film was recently on TV - and happy memories came flooding back. It is indeed the city that never sleeps. Saw New Year in at Times Square a few years ago and would have no problem returning again and again.

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