Those who know me will know that I have little to no musical appreciation. I am frequently getting into trouble for not successfully identifying which Beatles are alive and asking questions like “Is Marvin Gay a one-hit wonder?” Despite an aversion to noise in general, I sometimes find myself listening to music. This occurred on several occasions in New York. I don’t know how to write about music so I’ll write about where I heard music and conclude that I liked it.
The Jazz Vocalist Series at Zeb’s
We walked up some narrow stairs to a large Manhattan apartment. The room had wooden floor boards, cream-coloured walls and wood panels attached to the walls to absorb the sound. it had been fitted out as a music studio. About sixty plastic fold out chairs were set out in rows in front of a microphone, piano, double bass, jazz guitar and assorted audio paraphernalia. There was a portable metal coat-rack – the kind you get at Ikea – and a little side table with a bowl of potato chips, a plate of cookies and bottles of wine and cranberry cordial. A “Private” sign hung over two double doors that led to the rest of the apartment. This is Zeb’s and every Wednesday night he holds a jazz vocalist series followed by open mic. Zeb (jazz guitar) and his friends backed up the night’s lead – Gregory Porter. Three days after accepting the gig at Zeb’s Porter was nominated for a Grammy. He can often be found singing in various venues in Harlem. Porter sang. The band played. I liked it a lot. I particularly liked Be Good, the chain-gang song and 1960. What? Afterwards, many other jazz singers stood up for the open mic. It’s hard to believe I paid only $10 for the privilege.
Cedar Walton at the Village Vanguard
It was 10pm and cold and necessary to have a coffee from the Roasting Plant with its hi-tech grinding roasting coffee machine. We walked to the Village Vanguard, arguably one of the most famous jazz venues in New York and down some stairs to the basement. The room was tighly packed with chairs and tiny drinks tables. Photos of jazz legends hung on the walls. The decor was highlighted by warm but slightly dank green paint. Cedar Walton, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ piano player, was performing that night. We had booked months in advance for the 11pm set. But only 25 people were in attendance. Some turn out for the old jazz guard. Cedar Walton, now in his 70s, was joined on stage by David Williams (double bass) and Willie Jones III (drums). I became fixated by the bass and the bass player. The bass looked handmade. It was made from a lightish wood.You could see the hinges and the glue between the panels. A washer was stuffed beneath the bridge next to a faded pinky-red leather bow sheath. A strap wrapped around the upper part of the instrument. You could see dints and scratches. Am very sorry I didn’t find out the bass’ story or get a photo. The Cedar Walton Trio played and it was good. I liked it a lot.