I know it’s been said before but I’ll say it again at the risk of sounding obvious: I LOVE NEW YORK! Before I get to my Manhattan weekend, I’ll share some of the amazing moments of last week: And what a week it has been! It began with an Ian Shaw concert at The Old Mill on Monday…an unforgettable performance on so many levels!
Ian is a renowned, multi-award winning vocalist who is also a cabaret performer, actor and comic. His show was called “Joni at 70” and it was truly a shame that Joni Mitchell herself wasn’t in the house – many people said they never realized just how great a poet Mitchell is – and that is a testament to Ian’s heartfelt renditions and British diction. Tons of musicians were in the house taking notes including Amy McConnell, Pat Murray, Ori Dagan, Barbra Lica and Heather Bambrick. Heather joined Ian on stage to sing and was simply brilliant. People might underestimate Bambrick because she is so happy-go-lucky but when this girl sings a ballad by Joni Mitchell, the room is a puddle with eyes…goose bumps galore! Tuesday, my ex future wife (as opposed to Melody Gardot who is my future ex-wife); Florence K, did a performance at First Canadian Place and I acted as emcee. She is such an elegant young woman that I get a bit giddy – Ernest Goes To The Playboy Mansion? – and spend as much time enjoying her facial expressions and stiletto piano pedal work as her music. Guilty! She has a new CD that includes a bunch of English stuff so I hope she finally becomes well-known in Canada. She is already a platinum-selling artist in the province of Quebec!
That afternoon Alex Pangman came over for lunch and laughs. We do this a lot. Alex is one of my closest friends for over a decade and I always look forward to our You Tube Challenge…I pick a video, then she picks a video. It’s mostly stuff like Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and vintage stuff, but sometimes it’s bizarre comedy like DRUNK HISTORY!
Sometimes we opt for more recent nostalgia like 80’s music videos. I show her a bunch of Ian Dury and she fell in love with the little spaz. The next day her husband – a roots/folk/country musicians I hold in high regard – Tom Parker, went to a used vinyl shop and bought her some Ian Dury LP’s. (I know I talked about Ian Dury last week but I’m still focused on this wildly artistic composer.)
That night we went to see Bucky Pizzarelli at The Jazz Bistro. Bucky played on The Three Suns LP’s from back in the day, was the guitarist with Roberta Flack on her hits “Killing Me Softly” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Her Face” and is still playing brilliantly. His son is also quite famous…John Pizzarelli is host of Radio Delxue, a syndicated show from New York which airs on 91.1 (www.jazz.fm) on Sundays at 9am.
Wednesday was wine time – Henry of Pelham hosted their 25th Anniversay with a party at the Wine Bar (9 Church Street – formerly Jamie Kenney Wine Bar) and wowzers – they know how to do it right! If you haven’t tried Henry Of Pelham of Spek Brothers wine, do yourself a favour…
Thursday Captain Paul showed up at my loft with his RV and a bunch of us piled in to enjoy an evening at McMichael Gallery. Juno Award winning guitarist/composer Tony Quarrington always packs them in at McMichael Gallery and last Thursday was no exception. In fact, they said they want him back every time they do a series – it was that good!
Over a hundred people thoroughly enjoyed the hour and a half concert that featured Neil Swainson on bass, Terry Clarke on drums and the immortal Don Francks on vocals. I joined Don for “Swinging On A Star” and after the show, many suggested we do a show together. We’re working on it…
Friday morning it was off to Manhattan for the JAZZ.FM91 International Jazz Safari to New York. After checking into a gorgeous hotel on Park Avenue called The Kitano, we hit the Blue Note Club to check out the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Star Band. Every member shone, but in particular solos by Lewis Nash (on drums) and Cyrus Chesnut (on piano) caused thunderous applause. Some well-deserved hoots and hollers also went out to Aretha Franklin, who was at the club checking out this kick-ass bebop band. We only got to see half hour of a great African guitarist and composer, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure as we had to get to Birdland by 11 for Kurt Elling Sextet; featuring the always incredible Laurence Hobgood on piano.
I got to give Kurt a hug and a few laughs before he hit the stage. He was a top notch ham one minute, and a heart-breaking crooner the next. When he sang the Jon Hendricks politically incorrect song “Home Cooking (Soul Food)”, he made me think of Bill Murray doing Mark Murphy. It was a different Kurt than I’d seen before – the guy can do anything and I suggest you try to nab tickets now for his show at Brampton’s Rose Theatre. CLICK HERE for ticket information.
Saturday I hooked up with Nick McKinney and we bee-lined to a Halloween Dog Parade. Leave it to Nick to nail the perfect event for a sunny Saturday. We’ve been pals forever (the late eighties) and have a ton of mutual friends. It was so great to catch up with him. He’s producing documentaries…some real doozies, but he doesn’t allow his career to stress him out. I’m so lucky to have best friends in various towns…Jefferson Miles and Janet T. Planet in LA, Kevin and Meaghan Clark in New Orleans, Paul Myers in San Francisco and Nick in New York.
Chris Norton joined us for drinks later and I bumped into a guy who I was sure was comedian Eric Wareheim…but apparently I was wrong. Later that evening Robert Powell and I hit Sardis, just off Broadway. Robert is a close friend from Toronto who was visiting, and we both were in sync, looking for bars to check out that didn’t have a Halloween theme. I didn’t bring my zombie gear; saving myself for next week in Toronto…
On my way home I met a gorgeous gal name Rita who invited me to a party nearby. I told her friend Melissa: “but I don’t have a costume” to which she replied, “are you kidding? You’re my pimp – let’s dance!”
We got down till the wee hours and at stupid o’clock in the morning I crashed back at the hotel, waking up just in time for a jazz brunch at The Kitano with our two-dozen Jazz FM donors.
The weather was perfect Sunday. Zeynep and I grabbed a bottle of bubbly and took an hour-long ride through Central Park by horse and carriage. Ian, our driver said he and Brightside were done for the day and he offered to drive us back to my hotel for no extra charge! We went down Broadway and got off at Times Square instead.
I know there is an on-going discussion about whether horses belong in Central Park but I see first-had that these horses are beautifully groomed, well-fed and definitely not over-worked. The people picketing have such sweet intentions but I think they are misguided and could spend their time tackling way bigger issues. Even though we are far away Rhinos and Elephants need our help, for example…
Sunday night is something I’ll never forget. The Candy Shop Boys played at a tiny bar in The Edison Hotel (established in the thirties) called The Rum House. My fave bartender, Eric, kept the bourbon manhattans flowing all night and Chris Norton jumped up to join the band. They played a jazz version of “Walk On The Wild Side” and everyone toasted the late, great Lou Reed. The band got me up to sing my scotch song as their encore and I must say, it went over smashingly. Earlier, Julie Andrews was in the small room (of about 80) and later, my good friend Fred (B52’s) Schneider showed up and party Meister Chip Duckett stopped by for a couple sets.
As Julie Andrews left I got up and whispered “Miss Andrews, I don’t want to draw attention to you as I can see you are having a quiet night but I wanted to say I’m a fan and would like to give you a copy of my first CD”…I opened it up and showed her a shot of me in drag from my first RJO CD. She smiled and dryly said “oh, nice tits.” I cracked up. My pal Zeynep told her she did Sound Of Music in Turkey and they hugged. She stopped to chat with a few other fans on the way out – what a classy woman! The music, drinks, crowd…everything about that night was magic and I got back to the hotel about 2am. What an awesome Sunday night!