[JPL] New York City and All That Jazz

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Thu Oct 18 10:23:28 EDT 2007


New York City and All That Jazz

By Jordan R. Young
Much has changed in New York City over the years, but it¹s still the hub of
the jazz world. New Orleans may be the birthplace of the syncopated stuff
and Chicago its breeding ground, but it was in New York the music truly
flourished in its heyday ‹ from the 1920s to the 1960s ‹ and still thrives,
in all its many styles.

Les Paul
Visitors to the Big Apple (a nickname bestowed on the city by jazz
musicians) will find many more opportunities to listen to live jazz than
they have time. From Greenwich Village to Midtown Manhattan to Harlem to the
outer boroughs, there are innumerable choices on any given night, and
visitors come from all corners of the world to avail themselves.

On a typical Monday evening, you can take your pick between guitar icon Les
Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club in the Theater District, and
filmmaker-clarinetist Woody Allen at the Café Carlyle on the Upper East
Side. Touring headliners turn up frequently at such clubs as the Village
Vanguard, the Blue Note, Birdland, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie
Hall, where Benny Goodman¹s legendary swing-era sessions etched a high

Greenwich Village still swings to the backbeat, from early evening to the
break of day. The frenetic activity is anchored by two landmark clubs: The
Village Vanguard, an inviting basement-level venue which opened in 1935, has
been called ³the Carnegie Hall of jazz² for its stellar acoustics; the
venerable club is renowned for the live albums it has generated, with
recordings by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins,
and more recently Joe Lovano.

The Vanguard¹s biggest neighborhood competitor is the prestigious Blue Note,
where serious jazz aficionados sit elbow-to-elbow in a cramped but
electrically charged atmosphere. Since opening its doors in 1981, the club
has featured such names as Sarah Vaughan, Tito Puente, B.B. King and Chick
Corea. Celebrity patrons are often called up on stage from the audience.

Midtown Past and Present

Fifty-second Street between Fifth and Seventh avenues was Jazz Central in
the ¹30s and ¹40s, with an abundance of clubs competing for customers on the
two-block stretch ‹ ³like being in a candied heaven,² according to one fan.
Small wonder, with such luminaries as Fats Waller, Louis Prima and Nat
³King² Cole routinely holding court.

About the time the 52nd Street scene fell into decline, Birdland opened a
few blocks away on Broadway. Charlie ³Bird² Parker, the opening night
headliner in 1949 (for whom the club was named), once called this Midtown
hotspot ³the jazz corner of the world.² Nearly every star in the firmament
spent the night on that corner at one time or another. Now in its third
incarnation, the stylish club still hosts names like Diana Krall, Lew
Tabackin and Toshiko Akiyoshi.

Carol Hughes
Vince Giordano
The nearby Iridium, its state-of-the-art sound system upgraded at the behest
of Les Paul, is another club favored by artists for recording live albums.
The Mingus Big Band, perpetuating the magic of bassist-pianist Charles
Mingus on Tuesday nights, is lead by his widow, Sue Mingus. Vince Giordano
and his Nighthawks, who re-create the sound of the ¹20s and ¹30s, are among
the groups regularly heard at the club.

Rhythm Renewal on the West Side

Jazz at Lincoln Center Productions presents a year-round schedule of
performance events in three venues. Frederick P. Rose Hall, its base of
operations in Columbus Circle since 2004 ‹ ³a spectacular world-class home
for jazz,² says New York Magazine ‹ includes the 1200-seat Rose Theater, the
600-seat glass-walled Allen Room overlooking Central Park, the intimate
Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, and the Jazz Hall of Fame. The Center¹s resident
15-piece orchestra is led by artistic director-trumpet wunderkind Wynton

Seven blocks north, Central Park¹s celebrated Tavern on the Green, an ornate
restaurant patronized by residents and tourists alike, offers a variety of
music on summer evenings. The jazz-oriented Garden All-Star Band is a
mainstay of the long-running series in the Crystal Garden, known for its
club-quality sound system and dance floor ‹ as well as its whimsical

Club Hopping in Harlem

The vibrant African-American enclave that bloomed during the Harlem
Renaissance of the 1920s and ¹30s is enjoying a multiethnic resurgence. The
vintage Lenox Lounge, recently renovated to its original Art Deco splendor,
featured Billie Holliday and Miles Davis in its illustrious past and remains
one of the community¹s top jazz venues.

There¹s no telling who might turn up to promote their current gig or latest
CD at EZ¹s Woodshed Cafe, an afternoon and early evening club that serves as
a shrine to Harlem jazz. The space in the rear of the Big Apple Jazz Store
serves Bebop Coffee and displays jazz-themed art.

EZ¹s is one stop on the three-hour Friday night Harlem Jazz Walking Tour
that explores the historic district known as Jungle Alley, centered on 133rd
Street. Local jazz expert Gordon Polatnick visits the sites of famed clubs
and speakeasies that characterized the Prohibition era when, he says, ³all
roads led to Harlem to party the night away.² Polatnick also leads custom
jazz tours throughout the city, and often ventures off the beaten path in
search of ³a hidden neighborhood scene or a fresh talent destined for

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, founded in 1998 and still in search of a
permanent home, offers a number of popular events around town; the bill of
fare includes a free course called Jazz for Curious Listeners, a lecture
series, and a Friday night concert series. The museum's holdings include a
major archive of Duke Ellington memorabilia.

On the Trail in Queens

Brooklyn boasts a surprising amount of jazz activity, including Puppets Jazz
Bar, which dishes out live music six nights a week in the hip Park Slope
neighborhood. While there are fewer opportunities to hear music in Queens,
its unique history makes it a destination for jazzhounds.

That history comes to life the first Saturday of each month when the
Flushing Town Hall Trolley explores the Queens Jazz Trail. The tour takes
you through the districts and neighborhoods where an astonishing number of
jazz performers made their home ‹ notably Addisleigh Park, where Count
Basie, Lena Horne and more than a dozen others hung their hats over the

Jordan R. Young
Louis Armstrong House
The highlight of the afternoon comes in the quiet neighborhood of Corona,
during the 40-minute guided tour of the Louis Armstrong House, where
³Satchmo² lived with his wife Lorraine from 1943 until his death in 1971.
The couple¹s presence is keenly felt in the authentically furnished home ‹
which opened to the public as a museum in 2003 after a $1.6 million
renovation ‹ especially in the beloved trumpeter¹s second-floor den.


Attractions and Tours

Harlem Jazz Walking Tour, (212) 283-5299 (Big Apple Jazz Tours). Departs
from Columbus Circle, 59th St and 8th Ave, Fri at 7:30 pm. Tour $30;
reservations required. Custom tour costs vary.

Louis Armstrong House Museum, 34-56 107th St, Corona, Queens. (718)
478-8274. Open Tue-Fri 10 am-5 pm, Sat-Sun from noon; guided tours of the
house on the hour. Admission $8; ages 18 and younger, students with ID, and
ages and 65 and older, $6.

The Queens Jazz Trail Tour, (718) 463-7700. Departs from Flushing Town Hall,
137-25 Northern Blvd, Flushing, Queens. First Sat of month at 1 pm. $35;
reservations required.


Blue Note, 131 W 3rd St between 6th Ave and MacDougal St. (212) 475-8592.
Cover charge varies; reservations recommended.

Birdland, 315 W 44th St between 8th and 9th aves. (212) 581-3080. Cover
charge varies; reservations recommended.

Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, 95 E 76th St at Madison Ave. (212) 570-7189.
Cover charge varies; reservations recommended.

Carnegie Hall, 154 W 57th St at 7th Ave. (212) 247-7800. Admission varies;
advance purchase recommended.

EZ's Woodshed, Big Apple Jazz Store, 2236 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd,
between 131st and 132nd sts. (212) 283-5299. No cover.

Iridium, 1650 Broadway at 51st St. (212) 582-2121. Open Mon-Sat; shows at 8
and 10 pm; Sun jazz brunch 11 am-3 pm. Cover charge varies; reservations

Jazz at Lincoln Center, Frederick P Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th St. (212)
721-6500. Admission varies; advance purchase recommended.

The Lenox Lounge, 288 Lenox Ave, between 124th and 125th St. (212) 427-0253.
Open nightly. Cover charge varies.

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, 104 E 126th St, Suite 2D. (212)
348-8300. Event locations and prices vary; many are free.

Puppets Jazz Bar, 294 5th Ave at 1st St, Park Slope, Brooklyn. (718)
499-2627. Open Mon-Sat 9:15 pm-2 am. Cover charge $5-10.

Tavern on the Green, Central Park at W 67th St, (212) 873.3200. Open
nightly. Cover charge varies.

Village Vanguard, 178 7th Ave S, below 11th St. (212) 255-4037. Open
nightly; shows at 9 and 11 pm. Cover charge varies; reservations recommended.
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