Sunday 16 May 2010

New York Trip - Day 2

The day started with another hearty breakfast. This time in the West Village. We spent the morning exploring the Village and stopping bar famous landmarks: The Village Vanguard; the Cafe Wha! where Jim Hendix started his career; St Christophers' Street where the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was shot; Jim's Electric Lady Studio; Bob's House, where we spent a relaxing hour in the Cafe Dante opposite. There were plenty of photo opportunities - I wished I had brought Joshua's guitar case as a prop.

Looking at the map I could see that Bond Street was not far from Washington Square. Bond St was the location of Joe Lee Wilson's Ladies Fort loft the 1970s. Joe Lee rented the club when he won $5000 on a horse race and decided to invest it in five years rent on a place for jazz artists to perform. Through the club Joe Lee became a well known figure on the New York jazz scene, and many jazz musicians in NYC still remember it and Joe Lee. I have seen one photo of Joe Lee standing outside it so I had some idea of what I was looking for. Much of Bond St has been redeveloped so I was ready to walk away disappointed, until I realised that the street continued West across one of the avenues. After a few minutes I found a spot that looked close. I popped inside to a design store and, after enquiring, they sent me downstairs to the studio of fashion designer Tunji Dada. We wandered inside, found Tunji and, yes, there it was - The Ladies Fort. Tunji new all about it having met Joe and Jill a few years ago when Joe Lee's documentary was being filmed. Tunji was very charming and delighted to meet us and chat about Joe Lee and the history of the place. It was great finding Joe Lee's place, poignant too. Tribeca Arts Centre currently has a serices of concerts called Lost Jazz Shrines celebrating Ali's Alley, Sam River's Studio Rivbea (also on Bond Street) and Barry Harris' Jazz Cultural Theatre. It's a shame that The Ladies Fort wasn't on the list.

The afternoon was spent on the Staten Island Ferry before hand back to relax ready for the evening. We then head up to the NY Port Authority and took a bus out to Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, home of bass player Earl Sauls. This was a great evening. I got to hear Joshua's trio in Earl's front room! The third member of the band is a brilliant drummer called Jakubu Griffin, son of free jazz trombonist Dick Griffin and until recently working in Las Vegas with the liked of Stevie Wonder, Chaka Kahn, David Cassidy and Sheena Easton (remember her?). The Trio burned their way through a number of tunes before taking the tempo down for a beautiful Soul Eyes (which I managed to catch on video) and a Barry Harris tune I have been listening to a lot recently, Lolita.

In second set I got to play a few tunes with the band - Blue Monk, Have You Met Miss Jones & Stella. It was inspiring playing with and listening to musicians of such calibre. Earl did some wonderful soloing, with lines and rhythms stretching way out. We met some real characters at the party and got a lift back to Manhattan with drummer David and his wife Peg in an ancient Buick that John had driven up from Arizona (over 3000 miles). They dropped us in Washington Heights and travelled the subway almost from one end of the Island to the other. The evening ended in a bar next to the Chelsea Hotel.

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