It’s been quite a while since I last posted, and it’s been quite the adventure since then. I’m now writing from my temporary (and perhaps, future) home in New York City at Columbia University — a city that constantly reminds me how drastically far away I am from my home in Los Angeles. But this, of course, isn’t bad news at all — in fact, in the brief and tumultuous three months that I’ve been here, I’ve been to over a dozen jazz shows, interned at the jazz station of Columbia’s WKCR, met WBGO’s Josh Jackson, among many other experiences. I’ve also started a coat checking job at the Village Vanguard, the legendary jazz club in Greenwich Village, which I like to imagine parallels Charlie Parker’s dishwashing job at Jimmie’s Chicken Shack in the 1940s — in exchange for taking your coats at the Vanguard I get an even greater exposure to the ongoings and inner workings of the jazz scene in New York City, the experienced musicians and the emerging ones, the eclectic personalities that make up this small yet thriving world.
Perhaps the greatest and most exciting shift in my life since I’ve moved to the city is this readily available jazz scene, which has resulted in a spike of jazz shows I’ve attended in a short and concentrated amount of time (as well as a lighter wallet, but oh well). What took me often weeks of preparation and evaluation back in Los Angeles (where on earth would I have to go? how far would I have to drive? who would come with me? was it all-ages? was it even worth it?) takes me less than an hour here. Despite the fact that I’ve been here for a substantial amount of time, I’m still fascinated with my ability to purchase tickets and arrive at a venue in a time span that rarely exceeds thirty minutes — providing the once impossible opportunity to attend a concert out of spontaneity.
I also got a clear answer to the question I often pestered artists with back in LA — how much of a contrast was it to the jazz scene in New York? It’s a topic that I’ll have to explain in greater detail in a later post, but for starters, here’s a bit of what I’ve been exposed to so far in the city:
September 10: Robert Glasper (with Alan Hampton, Mark Colenburg) at the Jazz Standard
September 24: Greg Hutchinson (with Joe Sanders, Ron Blake) at Smalls
October 6: Fabian Almazan (with Linda Oh, Henry Cole, Meg Okura, Megan Gould, Karen Waltuch, Noah Hoffeld) at The Village Vanguard
October 7: Taylor Eigsti (with Dayna Stephens, Zach Ostroff) and Tigran Hamasyan (with Nate Wood, Sam Minaie) at Le Poisson Rouge
October 28: Lionel Loueke & Mark Giuliana (with Gretchen Parlato) at The Jazz Gallery
November 2: Lionel Loueke (with Ferenc Nemeth, Massimo Biolcati) at The Miller Theatre
November 19: Renee Rosnes (with Steve Nelson, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash) at The Miller Theatre
November 30-Dec 2: Christian McBride and Inside Straight (with Christian Sands, Carl Allen, Steven Wilson, Warren Wolf) at The Village Vanguard
Major differences? It lies mostly in what makes up the atmosphere of these shows — a fairly younger generation of artists combined with some established jazz greats that draw in more young audience members than usual, the small and intimate jazz clubs and their proximity of these clubs to some major jazz schools (The New School, Manhattan School of Music, etc.). The presence of this modern jazz vibe is so prominent to the point that I was greatly surprised at the massively octogenarian audience at the last two concerts I’ve been to at a much larger venue — something I must have gotten accustomed to at home.
On the other hand, it’s easy to get sucked into an imaginary world where everyone loves and appreciates today’s jazz — where Tigran Hamasyan and Gerald Clayton are names that are thrown around in casual discussion and a 4 am subway ride back from the Lennox Lounge lugging a friend’s drumset is an ordinary Saturday night. My assessment of the jazz world depends on who and what I’m surrounded by — in a dorm at The New School, it’s thriving like nothing else; to the woman next to me in TJ Maxx humming along to Kenny G’s Miracles over discounted pillowcases, it doesn’t exist.
But imaginary or legitimate, thriving or diminishing, ideal or not, one thing’s for sure — New York houses an incredible jazz scene.
I’m more than thrilled to be here.
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Brother Mister/Christian McBride/Kind of Brown