Sunday, March 22, 2015

Charles Lloyd graces the stage at the Vanguard

                  After dropping off Emma Tess and her college mate at the Guggenheim I drove down the village.   It was my first trip to the Village Vanguard.  For a fan of jazz the mere suggestion is an insult to the city as well as the national treasure. Yet, I have seen my share of jazz concerts and a few in the city stand out, Miles Davis at Indigo Blue, Betty Carter at the Bottom Line, and McCoy Tyner with Ravi Coltrane at Lincoln Center.  Let’s add the Ron Carter’s 80th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall which included the living members of the Miles David Quintet Herbie Hancock and Carter and…Wayne Shorter on saxophone who I saw perform with his quartet, Brian Blade on drums at Lincoln Center.  Last point, saw Blade with Pharaoh Sanders at Birdland and had the honor of interviewing Mr. Sanders between sets.

                Last week, the Village Vanguard celebrated its 80th anniversary.  Before the show started Lorraine Gordon, Max Gordon’s widow (the original proprietor & no relation to me) sat in the back and spoke loudly, so loudly in fact most of the establishment was turning their heads to see who was making a scene.  “I wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him.  Oh, look everyone is looking at me, they can hear me.”  Who is that?  The owner.  The Vanguard as it is commonly known is an intimate club.  Anyone can hear anyone if they project their voice.  After waiting outside for a good twenty minutes in the frigid March wind, eventually the line moved which wrapped itself around the block, moved. I passed through a narrow and short red door and filed with the rest of the line down steep steps.  I could feel the rumbling of a subway under my feet.  I checked in and was taken to a seat where I would share a table and get to know who my neighbor was.  There is a one drink minimum and a good tip as per the web site is a dollar or two per a drink.  I felt sorry for the usher since he had to maneuver in the close quarters.  His buttocks brushed against elbows and his gentle excuse me… was whispered.  Before I go on, God bless Lorraine Gordon who is 92 was there and ready to see Charles Lloyd.  My sincere gratitude - for keeping the Vanguard open...  This is the place where most of the icons of jazz took the stage and she’s keeping more coming back…

              The lights dimmed, the sold out room clapped and cheered as Charles Lloyd, dressed in a long grey coat, wearing a small hat, darkened glasses and a scarf, took the stage.  He pressed his hands together and warmly bowed to the audience as well as to his band.  Jason Moran who coordinated six nights to celebrate the Vanguard’s anniversary, introduced Charles Lloyd and declared this was a dream to share the stage with Charles Lloyd at the Vanguard.  My seat was close to the stage.  Mr. Lloyd played his horn with a tilt and blew with precision, pushing the chords with sharp accuracy.  I was blown away.   I’m a late adoring fan of his music as well as the man.  I have asked if I can interview him for this blog and perhaps there will be a segment when/if provided I am given the opportunity.  His spirituality flows through his music, the tone, his style… resonates…he is a pure master displaying his unique form.  There is some semblance of free jazz and yet his music and style is distinct.  In addition to the sax, he played the flute as well as another instrument called the tarogato.  His band played the songs like a fluid machine.  Each distinct song flowed from one song to the next like a brook of water tumbling over smooth stones.  On bass, the accomplished Reuben Rogers and on drums the ever present stick of precision Eric Harland and of course the master Jason Moran on the piano.  Thank you Charles Lloyd for sharing the set of songs from the first gig: 1) Part 5 Rumination 2) Nu Blues, 3)Abide with me 4)Requiem 5) Little Peace 6) Ramanujan 7) Hymme to the Mother 8)Dance. 

              Charles Lloyd is playing at the NEA Jazz Masters at Lincoln Center on April 20.  His US premier of his composition Wild Man Dance Suite will be performed at the Metropolitan on Saturday April 18 and if you’re patient he plays in our area again next January at Lincoln Center. 

The picture in the Vanguard is copied from the NY Times article on the show...

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

When Henry Rollins tells you to see Suicide YOU go and witness punk history

3/8/15

Driving into the city last night with the radio tuned to WNYC. Johnathan Schwartz's soothing voice as he described Bob Hope and how his name has faded from our fabled American history.   Bob Hope.  He was a celebrity who I’d watch on TV, especially when he was visiting the troops.  And then Schwartz played a Bob Hope song and it brought a smile.  This radio show is a gem.  Not that I want to spend my Saturday evenings lulled to the radio listening to old songs from an ancient age, but I knew what I was doing.  The ride was a solitary voyage into the city since my two likely suspects were not going in with me.  Here;s a secret, I didn’t want to go into the city.  I was ready to find an excuse not to go, but I drove on since I was committed to seeing Suicide in concert.

 Suicide is one of Henry Rollins’ favorite bands and I asked him in an email if he would see them, “Mike, if Suicide are playing, don't pass it up. I cannot vouch for the quality of the show but they are real history. If I was in town, I would be there. Henry.”  What kind of man am I that I would be influenced so much that I’d buy a ticket and see this band?  I have listened to their first album and can appreciate how influential they have been for electronic music, but I have not been a real fan of this genre.  Why go?  If I didn’t find a parking spot since I refuse to pay $30.00 for parking, I would head back home with the memory of the beauty of the Manhattan’s skyline.  I drove in from the LIE, taking the BQE and Manhattan Bridge, and found a spot on 3rd and Broadway and headed up to Webster Hall. I walked past the shops around NYC, passed clusters of students and a homeless man slowly pushing a stuffed shopping cart, with a little dog and Spanish music on the radio. 

I went into Webster Hall, had my ticket scanned and went up the stair case and entered the main hall.  I was hit with a wall of sound.  The Vacant Lots were on the stage.  It was close to a sellout.  I went up to the balcony and bought a beer.  I watched the duo and took a sip and was impressed with the eighties children with dyed blonde hair or jet black, pale faces and faded fatigues.  I was back. When I was a youth and the place was The Ritz.  The Vacant Lots were evicted and the stage was bare.  Within a few minutes the stage was set.  A folding chair was in ready.   Finally, Suicide came on the stage.  In a smoke screen, tunnels of lights and a sound which pounded my chest and screeched in my ears, through a series of howls, guttural screams which contained the ample evidence of a tormented and pained soul.  The thin Martin Rev on the keyboards, decked out in a black rubber or plastic outfit, wild permed hair came to the stage.  Alan Vega appeared frail.  He walked out to the stage very slowly, holding a cane, wore a black sweat shirt and a knit hat.  This band is credited as being the first to use the name punk.  And I took a step back from my critique, my feeble willingness to find an escape and appreciated these men for the art they created.  This is history.  Maybe it was not my style, but here they were playing perhaps their last live show in front of an adoring crowd who barely moved.  They were mesmerized.  Before leaving the stage Vega thanked the audience for coming out and he waved and kissed the crowd like a gracious king who was departing into the night of his distress.


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