Monday, December 24, 2012

December in New York

No hookers, no crack dealers. Unfortuntely, it's 4:30, so all of these cabs are "OFF DUTY"...
New York City has changed a lot in the past two decades. It's believed to be safer (although it's still New York in the sense that ANYTHING could happen ANYWHERE. So , sure, ride the subway at 1AM. But don't be a fool, and please TRY not to look like a tourist…), it's a LOT more expensive, and Times Square is not full of hookers and crack dealers. It is still the jazz capital of the world in that there are more jazz clubs than any other city in the world and there are more jazz musicians concentrate within the tri-state area than anywhere else in the universe. It's way harder to make a living as a jazz musician now than it was when I moved to New York in 1995. Still, the energy of the city and the level of great music you can experience on a daily basis makes me miss New York. Wow, I can't believe I just said I MISS New York. I spent ten or so years trying to figure a way to get OUT of New York! Well, it's nice to head back east every now and then.( I don't know why I just said BACK east. What does that mean? For me, the east is the FRONT……)

I began my trip in Portland. My flight from PDX to Newark was at 5:50 AM, and I got home from

my gig at the Camillia Lounge with David Valdez at 12:30, so I decided that sleep was pointless. I flew to Newark, took New Jersey Transit to New York Penn Station, and then took the F train to Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I had booked a "bed and breakfast" for one night. (Actually, it was a room in someone's apartment; people all over the world are making their houses or apartments into a sort of "hotel alternative". If you are interested, check out If you can be flexible in terms of accommodations, you can save a lot of money.) My lodging happened to be a few doors away from an apartment I rented in the late 90's. Park Slope has really changed a lot. Apparently, in the 80's it was a very dangerous neighborhood; now, it's mostly yuppies and millionaires.

I went for a nice run around Prospect Park. I'm still determined to keep up with my diet and exercise. Sometimes, after not sleeping and traveling all day, my first inclination is to collapse in a heap on the bed and watch TV or even just pass out. Instead, I hope that exercise will energize me to get through the rest of day. Most of this trip, I was able to either run or weight train enough to feel good.

Todd Marcus
The next morning, I took the subway back to midtown and hopped on the Bolt Bus to Washington
D.C. I was due for an engagement at Bohemian Caverns, one of my favorite east coast clubs. I was playing with clarinetist and bass clarinetist Todd Marcus. This was a CD release(Marcus' latest is called "Inheritance", on the Hipnotic label), and a reunion of the same band which recorded on the CD; this band included Eric Wheeler on bass and Warren Wolf on drums. I was ecstatic to get a taste of the musical fire of east coast musicians. (I was also able to get a live interview with Warren Wolf, who is an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist. Hopefully I can get that posted on jazztruth very soon.)

I didn't get much sleep that night; I was determined to get to a gym before my next trip, so I got up at 5:50 AM to lift some weights. I got back on the Bolt Bus at Union Station, and made it back to New York City. After having a bite with a former student from Winnipeg who was visiting New York, I
Larry, Jack, and me
went to Port Authority Bus Terminal to catch a bus to upstate New York; I had scheduled a recording with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Larry Grenadier. The next day we recorded in Castkill, N.Y., at NRS Recording,  the studio of engineer and bassist Scott Petito. It's hard for some people to imagine doing a whole CD of original music in one session with no rehearsal. Well, when you work with professionals, it's possible. The music really came alive; DeJohnette and Grenadier had an instant hook up and everything sort of "played itself." With a little mixing, editing, and mastering, it will be a great album. Hopefully, it will be out some time next year.

The next day I headed back to the City. I had a few days to hang out with some old friends and drink in some of the New York electricity. I also had planned to teach some private lessons in Manhattan. Since now I'm the Jazz Area Coordinator at Portland State University, I'm mostly working with ensembles, teaching lecture classes, or doing administrating. I kind of miss working one-on-one with eager students. I was glad to have the opportunity to get a chance to do that on this trip.

Warren Wolf
The only music I got to hear on this trip was the Christian McBride "Inside Straight" band at the Village Vanguard. This is a real powerhouse unit; McBride on bass, Carl Allen on drums, Steve Wilson on alto saxophone, Peter Martin on piano, and Warren Wolf, this time on vibraphone (which I believe he considers to be his main instrument). Although everyone in this group is an undisputed virtuoso, I was most blown away by Wolf; his solos, while full of playful spontaneity, were so technically impressive that they almost sounded like etudes that a mortal mallet player would have to spend years practicing.

My last event was a gig with my band at a new space called the Shapeshifter Lab; this is a new space
ShapeShifter Lab
 in Brooklyn run by master electric bassist Matthew Garrison. It's a huge room, and it is also an art gallery. I was booked to perform with my "New Songs" project which features Debbie Deane on vocals, Lonnie Plaxico on bass, and Donald Edwards on drums. I think the holiday plus bitter cold affected our turnout; however, the music was slamming and overtime I work this project, I have an increasing belief in it's potential. (I just have to come up with a good band name. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.)I think Shapeshifter Lab is going to have a great futures an alternative venue for many different types of bands and presentations. I'm hoping to have a return booking next year at some point.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.