Thursday, September 7, 2017

New. York City: The Story So Far...

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The story so far... is that I have been so preoccupied making the most of my final weeks and days in New York that I have not made the time to update this blog. However, for the record, here are my main events and activities up until Spetember 6th. This will be my last update until I return to Australia next week. Once I settle in back home, I will return to make a full accounting of the days noted below, and for the remaining four days in this amazing city.

Dateline: New York, New York : Day 74
Monday 28, August | Expenses $14.00 ($17.70)

KATH AND JOE ARRIVE IN NEW YORK
I met my friends Joe and Katherine (who had driven all day from Niagara Falls to New York), at the Tavern On The Green in Central Park at 6:30pm and we settled in for a long night of seafood and catching up. We ordered a massive seafood spread that was mostly King-sized shrimps (prawns), crab claws and lobster parts, and oysters of various types, plus several dips and condiments to perk them up with. We shared a bottle of champagne, and finished off with coffee and cake. My friends insisted on paying for the evening, hence my very modest expenses for the day.

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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 75
Tuesday 29, August | Expenses $182.62 ($234.32)

HANGING OUT WITH KATH AND JOE
I met with Kath and Joe for brunch at one of the Bluestone Café outlets on Fifth Avenue. It was my turn to play host for the day, which explains the more than usual high expenditure today. From the Café we went to the Met Museum where I used two complimentary passes to get them in for free. They were happy to let me lead them to some rooms that I thought they would be interested in, especially the period rooms, the American Wing (where we saw Sara Berman's Closet, the monumental painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, and the even more monumental Master Piece by Cristóbal de Villapando, The Brazen Serpent and the Transfiguration of Christ.

We spent several hours at the museum before leaving at around three. We agreed to meet again at The Comic Strip (at 1568, 2nd Avenue), at 7:30pm, for an evening of drinks and laughs. The best of the comedians was Steve Marshall [stevemarshallcomedy.com/], a Jewish guy who spurned the stage and performed his routine while walking among the audience. His was by far the most dynamic, humorous and seat-of-your-pants routine. There were five main acts –– three male and two female. The MC added plenty of laughs, and the night ended with three young comedians who got to try out their five-minute routines on a well-lubricated and receptive audience. The main players each got around 15 minutes each for their acts.

The comedy formula seems to be a mix of self-deprecating personal stories, exposés of family members and their weird habits, and poking light-hearted fun at audience members.

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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 76
Wednesday 30, August | Expenses $61.24 ($77.55)

KATH AND JOE DEPART NEW YORK

I go back to the Museum of Modern Art yet again.

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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 77
Thursday 31, August | Expenses $23.12 ($29.19)

David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
7.30PM. JAZZRAUSCH BIGBAND **FREE**
Founded in 2014 as the house band of a Munich club, the 40-piece ensemble, Jazzrausch Bigband (rausch is the German word for intoxication) has been quietly revolutionizing the German club scene with endlessly inventive performances of everything from hip-hop and house to dubstep and classical. Over the last two years they have become a regular presence at several renowned Munich music venues, including the famed jazz club Unterfahrt, indie spot Cord, and techno club Harry Klein, probably making them the only resident big band of a techno club in the world. With German fans already won over, the band has begun to attract a fervent international following soon to include Lincoln Center audiences. http://www.lincolncenter.org/show/jazzrausch-bigband

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September

Dateline: New York, New York : Day 78
Friday 1, September | Expenses $64.70 ($81.58)

WALKING TO NEW JERSEY
I was a fine cool day as I set out to walk across the George Washington Bridge to Fort Lee, New Jersey. I first did this walk in 2010, and as I remember it, I encountered maybe half-a-dozen other people on the walkway on that occasion. Today, to my surprise, during the time it took me to complete the walk, I estimate that at least 40-50 people were walking or riding bikes across the bridge.

Once at Fort Lee, I spent some time looking through the small but interesting displays on show in the museum there. I also explored the park more this time, and was surprised to see a number of reconstructed buildings and battlements in the park. These are used for historic reenactments which take place from time to time on the site.

On my last visit, I had seen a deer wandering nonchalantly through the grounds, and I wondered if it, or its kin were still there. Sure enough, during my walk through the grounds I spotted another deer (surely it could not have been the same one). I couldn't help wondering if other visitors had seen it. It occurs to me that most people walk through nature, not in nature, and therefore miss much of the beauty of the natural environment. This fact is made even worse today, when people close themselves off from nature and the physical world with smartphones and ear buds that drown out natural sounds with a constant stream of social media posts and updates, music, games, and video streaming.

From Fort Lee, I decided to walk to the Edgewater ferry stop and take a ride back to Manhattan. I made the journey in time to catch the first ferry of the afternoon which deposited me at 79th street. I was by this time very tired, and my feet were killing me. My right ankle was especially sore, and I was grateful for the relief the 12 minute ferry ride gave me, despite its briefness.

I mapped the walk and it totaled 10.2km, which is the longest walk I have made during this visit to New York. Ask me tomorrow morning if it was a good idea. I did a little grocery shopping before settling in for the evening, and thus ended Day 78 in New York City.

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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 79
Saturday 2, September | Expenses $19.00 ($23.85)

I arranged to meet a friend from Adelaide at the Brooklyn Museum at 2:00pm. The museum offers pay-what-you-wish admission on the first Saturday of the month, and after a ridiculously convoluted fight with the dysfunctional subway system (the 2 and 3 trains which run closest to the museum a not running at all this weekend!), I finally reached the museum some ten or fifteen minutes after three.

I had a quick look at a new exhibition, The Legacy of Lynching, and that was about it, before leaving with Clayton and heading back to Manhattan and Greenwich Village, where we dropped into the Bitter End for the last hour of the Saturday open mic. He had to return to his future in-laws place at Cobble Hill, where his son is also staying. After we parted, I was going to treat myself to a decent meal, but then decided to return to Washington Heights and eat in––a decision which made for a very cheap day out.

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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 80
Sunday 3, September | Expenses $78.00 ($98.00)

WASHINGTON SQUARE
Dropped by the square on my way to the Bitter End. The place was buzzing with visitors and locals including a Japanese jazz combo, and the usual group of guitarists bashing out old pop hits.

THE BITTER END
I met my Australian friend Clayton at The Malt House (www.themalthousevillage.com/ at 206 Thompson Street, Greenwich Village), where we both had a burrito and a beer. We made it to the Bitter End in time to see an exciting young singer-songwriter called Alex Creamer who played and sang with lots of confidence and wrote songs with a strong political focus. I bought her four-song EP ($5.00), and will follow her development and career with interest. She is online in all the usual places: facebook.com/alexcreamermusic, alexcreamer.com and elsewhere.

Alex was followed by a male and then a female singer who were both okay, but I didn't get the sense that they were going to set the world on fire anytime soon. The last act was a guy from England by way of Tokyo where he lives and works and has his own group. He was very entertaining, both with his songs and his introductions. He also played a very affective 'Mouth trumpet' using only his pursed lips, and a powerful set of lungs. I wish I had made a note  of his name, but I was enjoying his performance too much to do that.

We stayed to catch the first hour of Luba Dvorak’s Acoustic Ramble, which I thought was really rocking more than usual. A local New Yorker who shared our table said that Luba had moved to Houston, Texas, and that he was now pursuing his musical career there. His guitar playing and his stage persona have improved greatly since I saw him last year, and his is another career that is worth following.

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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 81
Monday 4, September | Expenses $33.80 ($42.55)

MET MUSEUM MONDAY
Once again I made my way to the Met Museum for possible the penultimate time. I made a point of visiting galleries I had not previously been to, including the Middle Eastern ones, as well as several others. While I was passing through the Oceania rooms, it occurred to me that neither the Met or MoMA have any contemporary Australian works on show. This was borne out when I asked a staff member about the lack of Australian representation in the museum. She immediately used her iPad to search through the online site and pretty much all she could find were aboriginal artifacts.

I later did my own search and sure enough, there appears to be no major Australian artists like William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Arthur Boyd, Arthur Streeton, Albert Namajira, or others. However, there do seem to be plenty of cartoons by Mark Oliphant, but the big names are conspicuously missing. I will undertake a more detailed search of both sites to see who they have in their collections, and try to establish whether any are on show.

BOOK BUYING AT HOUSING WORKS
From the Met, I bussed it down to Crosby Street where the Housing Works Bookstore Café was having a 30%-off sale on all stock this past weekend and holiday Monday. I went in hoping to find one or two Rebecca Solnit books to add to my collection, but I could not find one, which is not to say they didn't have one or two of her books. I just was unable to find them, if they had them.

You know what I'm going to say now, of course––since I couldn't find Solnit I bought other books instead; namely If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, by William Faulkner (($4.00; $5.03, 290pp); The Unvanquished, also by William Faulkner (($4.00; $5.03, 254 pp), and One of Ours, by Willa Cather ($4.00; $5.03, 370pp). Tomorrow night I will add Jesmyn Ward's new book, Sing, Unburied, Sing, and that will definitely be my last book purchase for this trip.

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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 82
Tuesday 5, September | Expenses $73.85 ($92.30)

MET MUSEUM and JESMYN WARD: SING, UNBURIED, SING
In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage The Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. 
Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise. 
Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 83
Wednesday 6, September | Expenses $21.00 ($26.25)

WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Monday, September 4, 2017

NYC Days 72 & 73: All That Jazz and Charlie Parker Too

Panoramic view of Tompkins Square Park audience.
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Dateline: New York, New York : Day 72
Saturday 26, August | Expenses $8.00 ($10.05)
Eats $6.00 ($7.55)
Other $2.00 ($2.50)

25 YEARS OF THE CHARLIE PARKER JAZZ FESTIVAL
Each year the City Parks Foundation assembles some of the finest musicians in the world who reflect Charlie Parker’s musical individuality and genius, to promote appreciation for this highly influential and world-renowned artist. This year the organization celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, a vibrant – and free – celebration of jazz in New York, bringing together stories, veteran players and the next generation of jazz artists.

I caught the final two concerts over the weekend of August 26 and 27, and these account for Days 72 & 73 of my New York City stay. The first four hour feast of Jazz took place from 3:00pm to 7:00pm at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. On the bill, in order of appearance were Charenee Wade, Louis Hayes, Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, and finally, the Lee Konitz Quartet. The second four hour event took place at Tompkins Square Park where I believe the festival had its beginnings 25 years ago. On the bill that day were Alicia Olatuja, Tia Fuller, Lou Donaldson, and Joshua Redman.

Above: Charenee Wade
CHARENEE WADE
Charenee Wade is described in the program notes as "a brave new voice on the modern jazz frontier, intent on using her gift to address social change." I didn't get the name of all her fellow musicians, but I did note the name of her brilliant saxophonist Letitia Benjamin.

LOUIS HAYES
Louis Hayes has a jazz resume that goes back to the heyday of jazz when he was a drummer for John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Cannonball Adderley, to name just a few of the greats he has played with. Given the people he performed with, you won't be surprised to learn that Louis Hayes is now 80 years of age, and still drumming with a sure hand and a steady beat.
TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON
Terri Lyne Carrington is a rare phenomenon, not just in jazz but in pretty much any other music genre you care to name since she is drummer, and a great drummer and percussionist at that. Terri and her fellow musicians perform as Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science. Terri's original jazz compositions also offer something rare within the genre with one of her band members adding beats and hip hop style vocals to some songs––several of which are quite political, something else which I assume is fairly rare in modern jazz. I managed to  jot down some random lines from one song which will give you are sense of her concerns: "Complacency has its price"; "The battle has just begun," and "How long can freedom wait?"

Above: Lee Konitz, 89 years young
LEE KONITZ QUARTET
The final group of the day was the Lee Konitz Quartet. If I thought Louis Hayes was old at 80, I was in for a bigger surprise when the 89 year old Lee Konitz walked on stage with his relatively young trio of supporting musicians behind him. From time to time Lee's onstage antics bordered on farce when he kept refusing to stand or sit in one place––specifically, directly in front of the microphones––and kept wandering around the stage while he played his alto-saxophone un-miked, much to the consternation of the sound crew and his fellow musicians.

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Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Dateline: New York, New York : Day 73
Sunday 27, August | Expenses $29.55 ($37.20)
Eats $23 55 ($29.65)
Shopping $6.00 ($7.55)

FREE: SUMMERSTAGE: Joshua Redman Quartet / Lou Donaldson / Tia Fuller
CHARLIE PARKER JAZZ FESTIVAL MUSIC : JOSHUA REDMAN QUARTET / LOU DONALDSON / TIA FULLER / ALICIA OLATUJA
3:00 pm - 7:00 pm. Tompkins Square Park, E. 7th St. and Avenue A, Manhattan
Jazz veterans and rising stars pay tribute to innovator and Bebop master, Charlie “Bird” Parker.


Above Alicia Olatuja
ALICIA OLATUJA
Ever since Alicia Olatuja took center stage at President Obama’s 2nd inauguration, as the featured soloist with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, this luminous songstress has been in exceedingly high demand. It wasn’t long before she put together her very own backing jazz ensemble and released 2014’s aptly named Timeless, a testimony to her ageless voice. Reared in St. Louis, with the echoes of venerated blues and jazz artists past coursing through her veins, Olatuja emigrated to New York to complete her Master’s degree in Classical Voice & Opera at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Migrating from strictly opera and musical theater performance, she began feeling her gospel and soul roots, as she shared the stage with legends Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans and Christian McBride. Shortly thereafter, famed composer Billy Childs tapped Olatuja (praised by the New York Times for her “luscious tone”) for a nationwide tour of original works honoring Laura Nyro. Performing with her own band at virtually every jazz festival under the sun, this velvet voiced woman, with soul to spare, has only just begun to shine.

Above: Tia Fuller
TIA FULLER
Tia Fuller is a saxophone virtuosa, a touring artist and full-time professor (at the Berklee School of Music). Having been featured on the cover Saxophone Today, Jazz Education Journal, and JazzTimes Magazine, she is a one of the world’s best jazz multi-instrumentalists. Tia was selected to be a member of the all-female band touring with Beyoncé, as part of the I AM..Sasha Fierce and Beyoncé Experience World Tour promoting the superstar’s CD’s, where Tia has played in various venues throughout the US, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. She is a featured soloist on the Beyoncé Experience DVD (Me, Myself and I), I AM Yours I DVD (Wynn Theatre) and also appeared on number of major television shows, such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today Show, Good Morning America, BET Awards, American Music Awards and Total Request Live, and the 2010 Grammy Awards. She has also performed as the featured soloist with Beyoncé for President Obama at the White House. Tia has recorded four albums with her quartet. The first was 2005’s Pillar of Strength, followed by 2007’s Healing Space, an offering of “melodic medicine.” Her third album, 2010’s Decisive Steps, took the #1 JazzWeek rating for two weeks straight, and nominated for their Best Jazz album. In 2012, she released her 4th album, Angelic Warrior, which received praise from Wall Street Journal, New York Times and numerous jazz publications. Tia’s quartet has performed all over the world at many prestigious venues and she’s received numerous awards, winning Downbeat Critic’s Poll-‘Rising Star’ two years in a row for Soprano Sax (2014), Alto Sax and Flute (2013). Between balancing her teaching and tour life, Tia feels that she is fulfilling her purpose here on this earth, that is to “serve as a light for others.”


The irrepressible Lou Donaldson on stage.  
LOU DONALDSON
When someone mentions the greatest alto saxophonists of all time, only one name truly stands out: that of “Sweet Poppa Lou” Donaldson. With origins as the bandleader of Blue Note Records in the 1950s, Donaldson had already established himself as a new voice in jazz at only 25 years of age. As he directed many albums at this time, Sweet Poppa Lou was proud to collaborate with the biggest jazz instrumentalists of the day. With numerous recordings in the bag, Donaldson broke out with 1967’s Alligator Bogaloo, a revolution in the form, as he boisterously showcased his virtuoso status. His long and storied career has garnered him too many achievements to list; but his induction into the International Jazz Hall of Fame and the his naming as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master (the absolute zenith of awards in the jazz realm) can not be left unmentioned. His bluesy, unmatched style is still on full display, as he dazzles and amazes crowds with his nimble fingers and crystal clear sound.

JOSHUA REDMAN
“Unparalleled among horn players today,” is the way JazzTimes (and a host of other noteworthy publications and critics, in so many words) describe longtime jazz legend Joshua Redman. Often referred to as one of the top sax men of his generation, Redman has worked with some of the most treasured jazz artists of all time, counting McCoy Tyner, Brad Mehldau, The Bad Plus, and Brooklyn Rider. While he has the ability to seamlessly blend into an ensemble and flawlessly synergize with the group, he can just as easily break out into a solo that drops the jaws of jazz fans of all ages. While his globally-successful recorded albums are a delight, many posit that his live shows are simply the stuff of legend. Aside from his stellar saxophone majesty, Redman is a stupendous composer and bandleader. With longstanding friends and collaborators at his side (Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers, and Gregory Hutchinson), Redman leads The Joshua Redman Quartet to unprecedented heights of musical innovation. With stylistic motifs that date back to the ‘50s, the Joshua Redman Quartet is still a cutting-edge, thoroughly modern enterprise in jazz celebration.

NOTE: All artist information gratefully supplied by City Parks Foundation website.

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

NYC Day 71: The Marvelous Musical Muse, Martha Wainwright

Livingston Taylor, next up at the Rubin Museum's Naked Soul series on September 8.
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Friday 25, August | Expenses $68.69 ($88.47)
Martha Wainwright Tix $36.00 ($47.30)
Groceries $32.68 ($41.17)

4:00PM. Museum of Modern Art: Children of Men
2006. USA/Great Britain/Japan. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Screenplay by Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby. With Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Julianne Moore.

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MARTHA WAINWRIGHT @ THE RUBIN MUSEUM
7:00PM. With an undeniable voice and an arsenal of powerful songs, Martha Wainwright is a beguiling performer and a refreshingly different force in music. Martha was born in New York City to folk legends Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. She is Rufus Wainwright’s sister, and they often collaborate in shows and on records.

This performance is part of the Naked Soul series which presents performances without microphones or amplifiers, as if the music were, acoustically speaking, naked. The musicians in the series draw upon the universal themes inherent in Himalayan art—spirituality, peace, tolerance, wisdom, compassion—on select Friday evenings.

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NAKED SOUL
The Rubin Museum's Naked Soul series of summer performances for 2017, has (and continues) to feature a stellar lineup of great singer-songwriters in one of the most intimate performance venues in the city. The concept behind Naked Soul is that performers sing without microphones or amplifiers, as if the music were, acoustically speaking, naked. The musicians in the series draw upon the universal themes inherent in Himalayan art––spirituality, peace, tolerance, wisdom, and compassion.

Among the thirteen acts appearing this year along with Martha Wainwright are Susan Werner, Martha Redbone, David Wilcox, John Doe, New Cicada Trio, Livingston Taylor, Tim O'Brien, Toshi Reagon, and Brooklyn Raga Massive: Raga Cubana.

Naked Soul is one three major music series that take place at the Rubin Museum. Others are the weekly Wednesday evening Spiral Music performances that take place at the foot of the museum's spectacular spiral staircase––hence the series name. To quote the museum's summer guide: "Artists who specialize in music from the Himalayas and South Asia are invited to forge a connection between their music, and the art in the galleries."

The other program is the Rhythms Of India series: "From timeless ragas to contemporary fusion, Rhythms of India performers explore the varied traditions of Indian music..." in the Rubin's "intimate, cherrywood-lined theater."

Tim O'Brien appears on November 17, 2017
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More Information
Rubin Museum of Art...
150 West 17th Street, New York
TIX: Adults $15; Seniors & Students $10; Kids 12 and under Free

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.
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