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Rare Songbird at Lafayette Bar in Easton

Gloria Krolak By

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Rara avis Michelle Glick was heard warbling recently in her natural habitat, a no-jive, real-live jazz bar. Also known as Easton PA's Lafayette Bar, a tavern that counts more beards and berets than baseball caps, she was coaxed out of her self-enforced retirement by owner Tunsei Jabbour. Tunsei (pronounced Tahn-sigh) promised her back-up by the Richard Messbauer Trio, including Messbauer on bass, Joe Battaglia on guitar, Ron Glick on drums, and the deal was done.

The two Glicks are a long-married couple who entered the jazz scene through the Greenwich Village portal in the late '60s. Michelle studied singing privately after graduating from the High School of Music and Art (now the Fiorello Laguardia School of the Performing Arts) but her talent included painting, design, dance and acting. Broadway was her goal. All that changed when she auditioned for a show band needing a "canary" that could travel. She won the audition, meeting the drummer she would marry. Through Ron she redirected her focus towards jazz. They have played with musicians the caliber of Vic Juris, Harry Leahey and Vince Corrao and formed the Celebration Orchestra for private parties while continuing to perform at the best jazz venues. When DJs began to replace live music, Michelle got out. She's since worked as an interior designer. Ron continued playing—he's a sideman on many recordings—and teaching private students.

Tunsie called himself the luckiest man in the world, that a bird who has not sung publicly in several years would alight in his tree. Something of a rarity himself, Tunsie believes musicians play music and bar owners bring in audiences, a near-revolutionary mindset among club keepers. Growing up in Easton, Tunsie was considered an outsider by neighborhood kids because of his Lebanese heritage. He found a place where he was accepted at the home of a neighbor who played his vast collection of records for the child. He wears a similar red fez to the one his father always wore for special occasions. With the help of publicist, girlfriend, and jazz cook (she improvises) Erica Peek, everyone is happy. Marcus Ciaffone, an alumnus of Fillmore East and promoter Ron Delsener, is the unsung sound technician who helps make it so.

Glick was rhapsodic, spinning out a pocketful of standards in two sets. "Yesterdays," "Tenderly," "You Must Believe in Spring," and "Cheek to Cheek" are a few, done not too hot, not too cold, just right. Glick knows how to use her voice, the microphone and the music to perfection. The joy she spreads comes from inside out, where the lyrics and her care-free improvisations deliver her and us to another place. Her connection to listeners young and old was obvious as they sought her out for compliments.

The Rich Messbauer Trio also played some originals, an especially rhythmic piece called "Two Old Cars," dedicated to Rich's Subaru and Volvo, "Twice Around the Park," and Battaglia's "New Shoes," from his CD Freehand. Messbauer, from New Jersey, attended the Juilliard School, appeared with symphony orchestras and touring Broadway shows all over the world, and recorded six CDs under his own label. Smiling Buddha-like, he teased out rich tones and textures that one only hopes to hear from the bass. Battaglia, from Brooklyn, attended Berklee and William Paterson University. He too has multiple recordings, two with Messbauer. A popular musician in the New York jazz clubs, he is also a frequent sideman in NY cabarets. With groove master Ron Glick on drums, the trio built the nest from which this vocalist could fly.

The Lafayette Bar attracts jazz fans, college kids, professionals and those who frequent the bar, shall we say frequently, residents of the SRO upstairs. The entrance is through double metal doors on the street below the hand-painted sign. You enter a bare, plain hallway with a set of stairs on the right. Walk straight through to the next set of doors and once inside you will face the u-shaped bar. Depending on the degree of "live and let live" in the air, bar patrons may size you up. Take this as a welcome. To the left find a table, then get yourself a drink at the bar. There is no cover charge for jazz events, which run from 9:30 pm to 12:30 every other Saturday. Whiskey, wine and beer are available but don't expect to eat—popcorn is the menu du jour. The dark walls are lined with stools and decorated with round beer trays, mirrored cigarette ads, beat-up license plates and neon signs, all under a painted tin ceiling. Enjoy the ever-changing cast of characters—most will be friendly—like couples who dance around you and through the crowd. Smoking is allowed only in the bar area.


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