I had a few extra days to hang, so in addition to visiting with old friends, I did get to hear some music; I caught a set of saxophonist Samir Zarif at the Bar Next Door in Greenwich Village. Zarif performed some intriguing original music with an all star trio of Henry Cole on drums and Fima
When I first moved to New York, I didn't go to public jam sessions as much as the private sessions at people's apartments. The first two apartments I lived in were big enough to have rooms for music, so we would have a lot of "sessions" there. I remembered doing sessions with people who are superstars now: Bill Stewart, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Donny McCaslin, Brian Blade, and tons of musicians who aren't household names but are incredible nonetheless. On this trip, I was glad to be included in a session with bassist Jim Whitney, drummer Rob Garcia, saxophonist Kenny Brooks, and vocalist Debbie Deane. Sometimes it's more fun to organize an informal session than go through the arduous task of booking a gig; oftentimes it's more worthwhile, and more stimulating. Music is music, and in this case, we played some hip Kenny Wheeler tunes and standards. It made me very nostalgic for the late 1990's when I was doing this sort of thing all the time.
Walking around Manhattan and Brooklyn, I got even more nostalgic. It's been almost 20 years since I moved to the Big Apple, and the city has transformed itself in some ways good and in others not. It's arguable safer, however, it's also impossibly expensive. When I look at people renting a tiny one bedroom in the East Village for 3000 a month, and probably the same for Park Slope, Brooklyn, I wonder how my students would be able to afford even a security deposit for a place if they decided to take the plunge. It seems as though New York is even more of a playground for the ultra-rich than ever before. Is it viable for jazz musicians to pursue their dreams here? Regardless, folks are doing it by hook or by crook. New York and the jazz scene is still there, and probably will be for a long time. I appreciate the comfort of my home in Portland, but I hope to continue to keep figuring out ways to get back to the Apple just to stay inspired.