Thursday, October 26, 2017

2017 New York City Accounts

Washington Square (Click to view full sized)
For the past couple of days I have been working on my New York City accounts and I can now report that my total trip expenses amount to $11,003.26. I was in the city for 87 days.

There is one important caveat to this figure, however. Due to the constant fluctuation in the exchange rates, this is not a completely true and accurate record of my expenses. The issue is that I went to New York City with around USD$3630 in cash, which I got on June 12, at whatever the exchange rate was on that day. Whenever I spent some of that cash during the following three months, I converted the figure into Australian dollars based on the exchange rate for that day before logging the expense.

Depending on whether the rate was heading up or down at the precise moment in time that I made the query, I might have been paying more than my original exchange rate or less. The only way to get completely accurate figures would have been to make my calculations using the same exchange rate I got in early June. Of course, I was not about to lose any sleep over this during my trip, and I am certainly not going to do so now. I’m happy to accept that my final expense numbers are very close to the mark, and even happier to put this baby to rest.

As readers will note, my expenses for this trip began in February, three months before my departure date. This was for a gig at City Winery with Dweezil Zappa, the son of the late, great Frank Zappa. I made this booking before I had even booked my flights! Speaking of which, I touched down at JFK international airport on June 16, and departed again from there on September 10 for a total of 87 days in the city.

For the record $11,000+ averages down to a daily spend at a fraction under $126.50 per day ($126.47 to be precise). This includes airfares, transport (taxis, ferries and trains), accommodation, food, entertainment, museum memberships, and other sundry expenses. Below you can see a breakdown by month of all the major categories I was accounting for.

Click image to view at full size
A few extra comments about these expenses may be in order. For instance, my food costs were spread over three categories, the main two being Eats and Groceries, with Rec (Recreation), also accounting for some additional expenditure. Eats, were light meals and snacks I bought when out and about in the city. These were mostly of the ‘coffee to go’ variety, which often included a sandwich of some type. Groceries were mostly supermarket purchases used when I ate at the apartment. All my breakfast meals and numerous lunch and evening meals are accounted for under this heading. 

Finally, any meal or drink purchased at a major event (such as gigs at City Winery, Highline Ballroom and such like), were included in my Recreation column. The main purpose of this column was to record expenses associated with fun! These included my MoMA and Metropolitan Museum memberships and visits to other museums, cinema outings, pre-booked gigs, and numerous other activities. Now that I think of it, book purchases ended up in this column as well.

Eleven thousand dollars may seem like (and is) a lot of money, but spread across three months it constitutes a real bargain when one takes into account the high cost of living in New York City.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a contact living and working in New York who is very accommodating and was able to offer me the use of his Washington Heights apartment for just AUD$2400.00. This breaks down to $27.48 per day for each of the eighty-seven days I spent in the city. Heck, you can't even find a flop house in the city at that price anymore. So if you are reading this Chris, Thank You for giving me a chance to really immerse myself into the life and rhythm of this truly great city. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

NYC Days 39 & 40: In Which Hollywood Comes to Town and I Go To New Jersey

My local neighborhood supermarket.
Click images to view full sized.
Well, wouldn't you know it, a light rain is falling over the city as I write, and the temperature has once again dropped down into the very cool 70s. Not for the first time have I noticed that the temperature is always cooler in Washington Heights compared to that at Midtown, especially at night. Last night for example, when I left the AMC25 cinema, Midtown was its usual hot, steaming self, as were the subways of course. But when I left the 181st street station the temperature was at least 10-15 degrees cooler. I'm tempted to buy a thermometer just so I can check the temp above and below ground in various locations. A little bit of empirical data can go a long way.

By the time the rain had eased off and then stopped completely, it was well into the afternoon, and there didn't seem much point heading downtown, so another day inside seemed to be the order of the day. In the end, I did pop out to do some more grocery shopping, which accounts for my total expense for the day.

When I went out, I immediately saw numerous brightly colored notices taped to trees and other convenient places along West 187th Street, my neighborhood shopping strip. Hollywood is coming to Washington Heights, and tomorrow is the filming day.

Hollywood comes to Washington Heights.
The Internet Movie Database has a listing for a thriller called Asher with a synopsis that reads: "When an ambitious college student infiltrates a militant religious cult for his thesis paper, he befriends a young devout member - who he comes to suspect is plotting a terrorist operation."

IMDb gives a release date of 2017, and only provides the names of four male actors, one of whom is Danny Glover, an actor that seems to have been missing from the silver screen since his peak years in the Lethal Weapon series of movies. No other information is provided but I'm wondering if this may be a series being made for Amazon. Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017: Hollywood Comes to Washington Heights

The lifting apparatus in the image above, is providing lighting for an indoor shot. Why this particular apartment in Washington Heights? How do decisions like this get made? Below are just some of the production trucks and units lining both sides of W 187th Street where filming was taking place. I would have liked to have hung around to catch more of the action, but I had places to go and things to do.

I caught up with my cousin Steve for lunch, after which I headed down to the Apple Store at the Oculus to take another look at the new 10.5" iPad Pro.

I figured that buying the device using credit (which I would need to do), might seem okay, but if I can't pay the card off pretty much immediately -- and I can't -- then the interest for say, two months, along with the currency conversion fees I would be charged will pretty much eliminate any 'savings' I might have made. On the other hand, I will have had a new iPad to work with, and surely that is worth the extra expense. Isn't it? If the Aussie dollar continues to go higher, I will be very tempted to buy. I will keep an eye on the exchange rate over the next week before taking the final plunge.

A 256Gb model will cost me the equivalent of AUD$1,025.00 here, whereas in Adelaide it would cost me $1,129.00. The young man I was speaking to seemed uninterested in encouraging my purchase, so I said I'd go have a coffee and think about it, and think about it I did. And decided not to buy at this point. I went to Brookfield Place for coffee, and then decided it was time to pay a visit to New Jersey.

Above and below: The views of the Manhattan skyline are quite spectacular from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Also below, pier supports for one of several long gone shipping jetties still visible on this side of the river. 

I went looking for the longest ferry trip I could find but due to my ignorance, didn't quite make the right choice from the numerous ferry routes available. So instead of going to Edgewater, NJ, which is opposite 138th Street on the Manhattan side of the Hudson. I ended up going to the Port Imperial ferry stop (roughly opposite West 54th St.). Having disembarked there I decided to explore further. Sadly, the main road was bereft of interest, so I walked along the river front for just over a mile to the Guttenberg/North Bergen Waterfront Park at North Bergen.

The walk along the river passes block after block of very fine looking apartment complexes, and I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw. The apartments facing the Hudson River (seen above), have great views of the Manhattan skyline, and the new developments are surrounded by lush flowerbeds, beautiful trees and shrubs, large areas of lawn, water features, and at least one development had its own swimming pool. I had to admit the location was perfect, except for one major problem - the awful stench of sewage that wafted over the neighborhood.

The foul odor could be noticed all along the section of walk I undertook, and I thought if this smell is here all year round, that would be a real bummer (no pun intended). There had to be an answer to the stink somewhere, and of course. Dr. Google provided it. A search for 'sewage works near Port Imperial' turned up not one but two sewage plants both within about half a mile of each other, and Google Maps provided the evidence.

In the image below at bottom left on Port Imperial Blvd (look for three circles that look like pearls), is one facility which seems to be nameless. At top right of the image you will find another three smaller pearl colored circles where the Woodcliff Treatment Plant is located at 7117, River Road, North Bergen, New Jersey. No wonder the air reeks with foul odors. And it was just my luck to have chosen the smelliest part of this lovely section of the New Jersey shoreline to take my walk! Some luck. I can only hope that these two facilities, and others like them are not pumping effluent (even treated effluent) into the Hudson River.

Above, a Google Maps screen shot of the offending facilities polluting the air along this section of the Hudson River. As for looking for places to eat - no thanks! 
After a short rest at North Bergen, I walked back to the Port Imperial stop and caught what I thought would be the ferry back to the World Trade Center stop near Brookfield Place. Instead the ferry bypassed that stop and continued around to the ferry terminal at the South Street Seaport, which was a nice bonus.

This area seems to have become a very popular over the past couple of years, with new fashion outlets, restaurants, and cafes springing up close to the waterfront. There is much new development still taking place in the proximity of the old Fulton Fish Market and I expect within another year or two this area will have been transformed into a very hip part of Lower Manhattan.

I found somewhere to eat in the area, then headed back to the apartment. And that dear reader is how I spent my 40th day in New York City.

The South Street Seaport is going off! 


Monday 24, July | Expenses $79.46 ($100.25)
Tuesday 25, July | Expenses $61.35 ($77.55)

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Story So Far... So Far...

No, that's not me in the image above, but it might as well be.

Just one week after returning from three great months in New York City, I walked head first into the tail-end of the annual cold/flu/viral infection season which has left me bedridden for several days while hawking up seemingly endless amounts of multicoloured mucus into the bin beside my bed.

Before the virus struck, I thought I was tired due to my constant exertions in New York while trying to make the most of my visit. However, I didn't know what tired was until I woke up on Tuesday morning aching all over and lethargic to the point of complete collapse. Since then I have run through the list of major symptoms and have ticked off pretty much all of them –– including diarrhea!

As if this post, I think I have bottomed out (no pun intended), and I am once again on the mend, but I am sure that I won't be completely virus free for several days yet. Maybe then, I will be able to get back to finishing off my daily New York City reports.

More Information
Norovirus infection - including symptoms, treatment and prevention...

Stay Well.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

New York City: The Story So Far...

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)

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.


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

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 [], 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.


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


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


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

David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
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.



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

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.


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.


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

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.

I met my Australian friend Clayton at The Malt House ( 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:, 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.


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

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.

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.


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

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.


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


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.
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)

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 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 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 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

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.


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
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

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 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.

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.

“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.
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.

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.

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

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.

NYC Day 70: The Robert Lehman Collection and Sara Berman's Closet

Thursday 24, August | Expenses $25.48 ($43.65)

Guggenheim No Go Zone
I made a decision to visit the Guggenheim Museum today. As far as I can recall, the last time I went would have been in 2010. Anyway, whatever the last year of my last visit, today I was going to make my return. I actually left the house around 11:00AM which is very early for me, and caught an M4 bus for the ride down Fifth Avenue. I got out near the museum and headed for the main entrance only to find that this much vaunted institution is closed on Thursdays. Of course I remembered this as soon as I was confronted by the closed doors and the many other visitors who were milling around the entrance wondering how their plans for the day had already started going awry.

Seriously, Guggenheim, what the heck? During the height of the tourist season, why close the doors and shut out hundreds, if not several thousand visitors? It just doesn't make economic sense. It's not as if you need to close down to do a stock take, or polish the floors, or install a new exhibition, or clean the toilets, or have a staff training session, or... [add your own spurious reason here}.

When other major museums find ways to stay open later than usual during the peak summer tourist season, the Guggenheim finds ways to justify closing its doors. I'm sure I'm not the only one who left in a confused huff, and ruled out returning when the museum was supposed to be open.

Robert Lehman Collection
Since I was in the vicinity, there was nothing for it but to head farther down Fifth Avenue and pay another visit to the Met Museum. The first thing I did once there, was join the 2:00pm tour of the Robert Lehman Wing. The wing was built to display the Robert Lehman Collection, "one of the most extraordinary private art collections ever assembled in North America. The collection of nearly 3,000 works of art––dating from the Middle Ages to modernity––was assembled by Mr. Lehman...and by his father Philip."

And further:  "...the display of this encyclopedic collection of European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture, frames, textiles, majolica, glass, and other decorative arts recalls the ambiance of a private house and radiates the fine connoisseurship of a remarkable American family."

The docent who led the tour was well versed in the collection (or at least she was extremely knowledgeable about those works she chose to highlight), spoke loudly and clearly, and deserved the appreciative round of applause and many expressions of thanks from those of us on the 80-minute tour. Indeed, an excellent indication of her skill as a tour guide is the fact that none of the group members left the tour before it was over, as often happens on these occasions.

Sara Berman's Closet
After a much needed break for refreshments, I went up to the American Wing in search of Sara Berman's Closet. Sara Berman was born in the village of Lenin in Belarus on March 15, 1920.


Marie Kondo, the Japanese woman who promotes the concept of decluttering your home would have been proud of Sara, had she known her and seen her minimalist closet in daily use.


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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

NYC Day 69: The Morgan Museum and Library

The modern main entrance of the Morgan Museum
Wednesday 23, August | Expenses $28.00 ($35.40)
Eats $15.00 ($18.95)
Recreation $13.00 ($16.45)

I am way behind in recording my daily New York adventures––or at least recording the main event of the day. as I count down to the final day of my stay in the Big Apple, I feel like I have more important things to do than spend a couple of hours updating the blog each morning. Therefore, I––and you, dear reader––are going to have to settle for basic placeholders until I find time to make a better accounting of each day. More than likely, this will not happen until I return to Australia in the second week of September.

A view of the Morgan Library

Wednesday 23, August | Expenses $28.00 ($35.40)

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

NYC Day 68: End Of The Line Game #3: Brooklyn By Bus

My route across Brooklyn as mapped by my Map My Walk app.
Today I had every intention of going for a long walk along Brooklyn Bridge Park, which follows the East River for some considerable distance. However, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and it didn't take long before the heat and high humidity dissuaded me from that idea. So what was I to do? After I surfaced from the A-train at the High Street/Brooklyn Bridge station in Brooklyn, I made a spur of the moment decision to board the nearest bus, and see where it would take me.

Yes folks, I was about to play the End Of The Line Game one more time.

The nearest bus turned out to be for the B25 route. I picked it up in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge on Front Street, and before too long I found myself wending my way along the miles long Fulton Street, towards Broadway Junction where I the bus was due to end its run. At Broadway Junction I boarded a B83 bus which was heading to what I assumed was a mall of some type called, Gateway Center, somewhere on the edge of Jamaica Bay (No, not that Jamaica!).

I have written before about my reasons for catching buses rather than taking the subway, which is invariably faster and more direct. However, the subway lines don't take you to every corner of greater New York City, and besides, you don't get to see much of the city while speeding through deep, dark tubes underground.

Let me just say that I am not all that familiar with the far reaches of the outer boroughs. While many parts of this vast city are well maintained, and even quite beautiful, I know that there are others parts that are in desperate need of maintenance and beautification. These areas include parts of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn.

In Brooklyn, despite the gentrification that is slowly transforming those neighborhoods bordering the East River, the farther away you get from the river and Manhattan the worse the borough begins to look. And so it was, that as I sat on my B25 and B83 buses, I found myself, and not for the first time, as the only non-person of color, or non-Spanish speaker, gazing out the windows as we passed through the neighborhoods of Fort Greene to Crown Heights to Brownsville, and finally to East New York.
Above and Below: A couple of images from my bus seat.
Above the Brooklyn War Memorial
It soon became apparent that these outer neighborhoods are among the poorest and least serviced areas of the city. I was amazed at the number of shopfront churches that line the main roads through these neighborhoods. On one short Fulton Street block, there were seven such storefront churches vying for the hearts and souls of the local residents.


Starting at 2077 Fulton Street and working your way up you will find The Melchizedk House of Prayer; the Spanish American Christian Church; the New Hope Pentecostal Church; the Blessed Assurance Church of God; Emanuel Christian Church; Gethsemane Baptist Church, and finally Saved To Serve Ministries Inc.

Other nearby churches sported names like Full Gospel Church of God #2 Inc, St. Paul's Pentecostal Church of God, and the St. Matthew Fire Baptist. The Full Gospel Tabernacle-Faith was right next to The Spiritual Israel Church and its Army, both of which were close to the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, and on and on and on. In fact all of the above churches were within a few blocks of each other as were numerous others.

If the neighborhood streets are not taken up by these 'churches', they are are filled with Crown Fried Chicken, and Kennedy Fried Chicken (and other fast food) outlets. Then there are the many Unisex Beauty Parlors, local deli's, small supermarkets and dozens of other small businesses eking out a living from some of the poorest citizens of this great city..

Above and Below: The Gateway Center.

After nearly two hours of slow, torturous bus travel through these outer Brooklyn neighborhoods, I finally reached the Gateway Center, only to find that it was not your typical enclosed shopping mall, but a series of well-known department stores and cafes laid out in a relatively new shopping complex (surrounded by acres of parking lots), just a mile or so from JFK airport.

I found a seat inside a Panera Bread outlet and sat down to a hearty Thai Salad and a long, cold lemonade. Since I had no need for shopping, once I had finished eating I found a B83 bus, and returned once again to Broadway Junction from where I caught an A-train back to Washington Heights.

Tuesday 22, August | Expenses $12.72 ($16.10)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

NYC Day 67: In Which I am Eclipsed by The Eclipse

Eclipse screen grab from The New York Times
Today was the day that millions, yes, millions of Americans have been waiting for. A total eclipse of the sun began soon after 9:00am on the east coast in Oregon, and made its way slowly across the mid-west before passing out to sea somewhere off the coast of South Carolina late in the afternoon. New York City would only experience about a 70 percent eclipse of the sun, but that did not stop a large part of the population from donning eclipse glasses to view this all too rare phenomenon.

Feeling like I was the only person who had not managed to get my hands on a pair of eclipse glasses I headed off to the American Museum of Natural History (at Central Park West and 79th Street), to see if they still had the special glasses for sale. Of course, they had sold out long before (possibly days before) I got there, and the glasses were not to be had for love nor money. Since I was at the museum, I thought I might as well make the most of the afternoon and visit this mighty institution.

Above: Dall Sheep diorama
(Click images to view full-sized)
Above: Gemsbok diorama 

Above: Big Horn Sheep diorama
I have been to the museum on two previous visits to New York, but I was keen to take another look at the magnificent diorama's the museum is justifiably known for. There are dozens of these diorama's near the main museum entrance, and all are beautifully maintained and presented. The diorama's went through a major refurbishment in 2011, and today they are even better to look at and enjoy.

Now if you are anything like me, you will look at the dozens of animals represented here and say to yourself, These beautiful creatures should be out running free in their natural environments, and not standing or sitting stuffed and mute behind glass.

And you would be right to say that. And the day may yet come that when the last of these magnificent animals has been wiped from the face of the earth, we will bow our collective heads and weep for our stupidity, short-sightedness, and inhumanity, which has already resulted in the extinction of so many animal species. However... Maybe, just maybe, the thousands of visitors who view these diorama's each year will leave the museum with a greater appreciation for these creatures and their place they occupy in our lives. Maybe.

Above: White Rhino, and Below, Black Rhino displays.

Above: The Alaska Brown Bear display.
I like to think that some of these thousands of visitors have gone on to join the fight to protect and preserve the natural habitats that the animals and creatures represented here so desperately need to thrive and survive. If these past and future environmentalists and conservationists can do this then the loss of the animals enclosed in these diorama's won't have been in vain.

By the time I emerged from the depths of the American Museum of Natural History, the partial eclipse of the sun, as it passed over the city of New York, had been and gone and I had missed it completely. C'est la vie!

 Above: A partial view of some of the diorama's as well as the elephant herd.

Panoramic images of the Bison display (above), and the Alaskan Moose (below)
In the evening I returned to City Winery at 155, Varick Street, Manhattan, for the third and last of the Michelle Shocked album performances, which tonight saw her and her fellow musicians perform in full her 1992 album, Arkansas Traveler.

Michelle was joined on stage with a quartet of young musicians who did an admirable job of bringing the music and songs to life. I got the distinct impression that everyone was 'winging it', and I would be surprised if they had had more than a day or two to run through all the songs together. Nevertheless, they pulled it off, thanks to their professionalism and obvious musical ability.

I should add that initially, the Pete Anderson Trio were due to back Michelle at this show, but for reasons that were never explained they were unable to do so, hence the scratch band that Michelle assembled in their place.

I shared a table with Gladys and Joe, two very amiable New Yorkers. Joe and I were talking about other shows we had seen at City Winery, and he mentioned Loudon Wainwright III, who was a particular favorite. Loudon Wainwright, is the father of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, two performers of outstanding ability in their own right.

As it happens, Martha Wainwright is performing later this week at the Rubin Museum of Art, and when I mentioned this to Joe he immediately went online and booked two tickets for that show. Apparently he and Gladys live just a couple of blocks from the Rubin, and they were delighted and excited to learn about her performance there.

It is little connections like these, with perfect strangers, that make travel so much more interesting, especially for the solo traveler like myself.

Monday 21, August | Expenses $129.52 ($148.40)

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