What is it about live music that makes it so special for you?
The experience of being there, being in the moment, seeing the artists interacting with their instruments and their audiences, the audiences responding. It's also the vulnerability of the artists. They are putting themselves out there on stage in front of people. It's really an emotional experience. Sometimes the best moments come from mistakes. That realness seems to be missing with studio albums. I rarely buy music unless it's a live set. I think people try to make recordings too perfect. It's jazz! What are the elements of an amazing jazz concert?
The emotional ride that the artists take you on. Really, to hook you in, make you feel good, sad, bring you back to that high again. To me, the instrumentalist who really does this better than anyone is Dr. Lonnie Smith
. Among vocalists, it's Freddy Cole
. What is the most trouble you've gone to getting to a jazz performance?
Well, blizzards! I like snow, though. I used to chase Mark Murphy everywhereToronto
to see him perform in different venues. It was just awe-inspiring to be in front of such artistry. Is there one concert that got away that you still regret having missed?
There are a few. Shirley Horn
, Nina Simone
, and Carmen McRae
. If you could go back in time and hear one of the jazz legends perform live, who would it be?
I'll say Charlie Parker
. My musical inspirations, Mark Murphy and, especially, Sheila Jordan adored Bird so much. Seems like everyone wanted to play like Bird. I think of Mark Murphy singing "Parker's Mood," which he merges with an excerpt from Jack Kerouac's "The Subterraneans": "We went to the Red Drum to hear ... Bird, whom I saw distinctly digging Mardou several times also myself directly into my eye looking to search if I was really the great writer I thought myself to be as if he knew my thoughts and ambitions or remembered me from other night clubs and other coasts, other Chicagosnot a challenging look but the king and founder of the bop generation at least the sound of it in digging his audience digging his eyes, the secret eyes him-watching, as he just pursed his lips and let great lungs and immortal fingers work, his eyes separate and interested and humane, the kindest jazz musician there could be while being and therefore naturally the greatest." I often think of what it would have been like to look into the eyes of Bird as in the above scenario. What makes a great jazz club?
Great staff. A welcome environment where you feel at home. A non-corporate vibe where you don't feel they are trying to squeeze money out of you. A good late set. And hopefully something to eat. Which clubs are you most regularly to be found at?
I try to make the rounds a lot! For the larger clubs, Birdland
is my number one home away from home. Gianni Valenti and the staff treat me like a king. JC Stylles
and John Merrill
always are welcoming at Mezzrow
(as is Hannah and her "West End Ramble," my favorite cocktail). I love Zinc Bar
, and door manager Ansel Matthews' great chats always make it a fun hang. I love the ambiance at the 55 Bar
, and look forward to bartender Kirby's insane announcements almost as much as the set; you never know what he will say, but it always makes my night. I love the pizzas and intimate feel of the Bar Next Door
. Uptown, I like Showman's
, as I am big fan of jazz organ. Sunday nights at the The American Legion Post with Seleno Clarke
, and the Nate Lucas
All Stars at the Red Rooster
. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Knickerbocker, which isn't a jazz club per se, but it's a great jazz restaurant, and my go-to place to hang. Finally, St. Peter's for the Midtown Jazz at Midday series. My friend Ronny Whyte
books the acts there, and it is really top notch. Is there a club that's no longer here that you miss the most?
The Garage, because you could wander in for no cover, have a drink, and listen to three bands a night. Yes, it had its issues, but I miss it, especially Sunday nights with David Coss
with the Danny Mixon
group. The Cafe Pierre, not a jazz club in its last 20 years, but an elegant bar with a piano. It was really one of the last vestiges of "old" New York, an international room that included everyonefrom streetwalkers to debutantes, they were all there! Also, the Lenox Lounge
. There was a great vibe there and plenty of history. Especially for the Wednesday night jam with Nate Lucas
and his father, the late Max the Sax Lucas.