Thursday, May 24, 2007

NYC diary May '07

While the space to stretch out en route is welcome, sold-out trains always wind up being more eventful. I wound up sitting beside two raucous teenagers, one of whom is a budding actor, who obsessed over their vices of smoking and drinking. In the cafĂ© car, I overheard a loud gaggle of girls gossiping over their lives, and one of them asking if Canadians spoke English (because Mawntreawl is French). To which one replied, “Yeah, like Celine Dion. She’s French but she speaks English too.” The train wound up taking twelve hours instead of ten, and then we all had to get to where we were going. I felt too tired to haul out to NuBlu and check out Butch Morris’ conductions.

I wound up staying at a different hostel this time, in the East Village, a few blocks from Union Square. The immediate area didn’t really suggest anything to do – either walk the few blocks to Union Square or down to the Lower East Side. The vibe in that area was a little strange – it indeed felt like a village with all the small storefronts and restaurants, but it also felt a little lifeless compared to a few blocks down. As I returned to the hostel from the BMI meeting, a guy flew in front of me and wrestled down the guy attempting to steal his bike.

I was able to maintain my Tuesday morning bagel routine, at David’s Bagels on 1st Ave. Afterwards, my friend had asked me to go pick up some coffee for her at Porto Rico on Bleecker Street. I walked the wrong way out of the subway, again, and wound up standing in front of Bleecker Street Records, a very very dangerous record shop with tons of hard-to-find (in my experience) R&B/soul compilations. In the tradition of many Montreal used book stores, a cat slept beside the entryway to the poster department. My coffee mission took precedence and I forced myself to leave empty-handed. I am convinced that Heaven must smell like the entrance to Porto Rico, with the various rich aromas of their fresh beans mingling together wonderfully.

Mike Holober ran the BMI meeting this time around, and once again gave very specific guidance and places to revisit. It was great to see everyone after my absence, and to hear what they’re working on, from revisions to new pieces. We seem to be having trouble securing a venue for our year-end concert, as Merkin Hall is under construction and some of the rental fees for other halls are astronomical. Watch this space, and/or MySpace, for more information. Given the calibre of stuff I’ve heard in the readings, the concert promises to be a strong one.

In my perusal of All About Jazz-New York, trying to figure out what to do this week, my first NYC visit post-Tonic, one listing jumped out at me: Eli Degibri, Mark Turner, Ben Street and Jeff Ballard at Louis 649 in the Lower East Side. Walking distance from the hostel, one of my favourite drummers ever who I’d had yet to see live, and a killer chordless quartet. I made sure to go. I got there early to secure a seat, which proved to be a truly wise decision, as Louis is smaller than anything I expected and was crammed to standing-room-only capacity. I only stayed for the first set, which consisted of an abstracted “Bye Bye Blackbird,” a backbeat tune (possibly original) that I didn’t know the name of, and a scorching “Walkin’.” Eli Degibri was listed as the leader, whose work I only know from one Herbie Hancock DVD he’s on. He’s a typical post-Coltrane, post-Henderson, post-Brecker modern tenor, with the requisite grasp of false fingerings and multiphonics. He was just flying all over the horn all set, and though there were moments that were interesting and promising, usually during trades with Mark Turner, I found myself paying more attention to Ballard and Street’s hookup. I’ve never heard Jeff Ballard play standards and swing for that amount of time, and he’s a monster at it. The second tune allowed him to unleash his modified Latin-influenced “Poinciana” beat that he does so well, and at one point he hinted at the drum ‘n’ bass groove he’s so adept at (Mehldau’s cover of “Knives Out” or Ben Allison’s “Riding the Nuclear Tiger”) but never went the whole way. Ben Street was really solid, and made walking solos sound interesting. I was fascinated by Mark Turner’s playing; in stark contrast to Degibri, the editing and process he went through was visible and audible, and the precise, intervallically diverse lines he played had such strong conception and conviction.

I ended my stay in New York by speaking a lot of French. At Louis, I was sitting beside one woman who lived in Montreal for a few years, along with two of her college friends from France. Back at the hostel, two French girls had checked in, in addition to the Franco-Ontarienne. There was a lot of confusion over sleeping accommodations, to the point where we addressed another roommate (a guy presumably from the South or Southwest, by his accent) in French out of habit.

PS: Happy belated birthday to Darcy. I arrived in town two days after his concert (which I am about to go listen to) and unaware it was his birthday.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Mmm, coffee, NYC, music and cats. Sounds dreamy.