Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Another Bite of the Big Apple

My first post about New York City (March 18th) pointed to Washington Square Park and a few other places in that part of Manhattan. But even from the little bit that I know about the city, there's so much more. Here's a good one that you can do at the end of a day in New York.

The last time I went was two months ago. I got to travel there with my daughter and some of the other music students from Rocky Hill (CT) High School. The trip was planned and orchestrated by the school's vocal music teacher, Claire Burnett, who managed to make the whole thing look easy.

We went down by charter bus on a Monday, January 31st. The timing was intentional. It's every Monday night that the Iridium Jazz Club hosts the legendary Les Paul who performs with a few other fantastic musicians.

The performance was the planned highlight of our trip and it exceeded what all of us were hoping for. The club is at 1650 Broadway (at the intersection of 51st Street). The place isn't easy to find because it's actually down a flight of stairs from the street level. You could walk right past it, miss the skimpy signage, and never know that a club was there.

Anyway, once our group was underground, we checked our coats and settled into the cramped seating. After a few minutes of our ordering Cokes and coffee--anything to meet the two-drink minimum--the piano player, stand-up bassist, Les Paul, and two other guitarists took the stage.

For the next ninety minutes, everyone in that place, from high schoolers to old schoolers, tapped the tables, kept time with the toes, and took in an absolute delight.

Since the time he was 13, Les Paul's been performing, which explains why he's as comfortable on the stage as most people are on the couch. His banter between songs and interaction with the audience keeps up with the quality of the music, and that's saying something.

A friend to new talent, Les brought on a couple of young performers during the show. A smooth jazz saxophonist played a couple of tunes with the band. And then there was this Fred Astaire-like tap dancer who clearly enjoyed wowing us as much as we liked watching him.

With "Red-Hot Red " nearing his nineties, this show is a go-soon as well as a must-see. You won't regret it.


Greg Newton said...

Frank - I've enjoyed your blogs about NYC. Originally from NJ, I always loved the City.

We are planning to visit my brother who lives in Norwalk,CT this summer and acquaint my two kids with the Big Apple.

Your blogs make we even more eager!

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Frank -

I've been meaning to respond to this entry for two days, now. Sorry!

All you have to say here reminds me so much of Tom Hanks' character in "The Terminal," which we saw again the other night, and his reason for wanting to come to New York City. The end of the movie was great, when he got to go into the city in search of his father's dream and to hear some great music in a little club.

I remember Les Paul and Mary Ford's music well from when I was a girl and always loved it. So, it's neat to see him still around and so active and involved. We like the old guys the very best.

We are more into blues than jazz, but from the time Tom was just a kid growing up (for a short while) in northern Arkansas (before he moved to Biloxi), he would listen for hours each night to the big 50,000 watt radio station out of Memphis that played jazz and the blues. As soon as he was old enough, he bought a record player and lots of 78s of all the best jazz and blues players.

Not long ago, I bought him his third "replacement" (he'd had a long playing record and a tape version) CD album of Duke Ellington's "Indigos," that is just wonderful for late at night in front of the fireplace on one of the about three nights a winter we can have a fire. Les Paul (or "Lester & Chester" - I love Chet Atkins, too) would be just as great for such an occasion.

You really MUST come down one year for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival ( held every year the last weekend of April (for three days) through first weekend of May (four more days), where you can hear every kind of jazz and blues and gospel you could ever imagine for $20 a day. Tom has been every year for over 20 years and goes for every second of every minute of every hour of every day of Jazz Fest. Literally!

Thanks for the entry and the picture.