Monday 17 May 2010

New York Trip - Day 3

The day began with a jog through Greenwich Village, around Washington Square Park and then up 5th Avenue to Broadway. I stopped and looked up and was stunned by the sight of the Flatiron Building. I thought it would be impressive but I hadn't expected it to be beautiful. It is very ornate, as though the whole building has been carved and decorated. At the top are two carved figure peering over the ledge, giving it a human sense of scale. The geometry is extraordinary as you can see all the facades of the building from a single perspective.

During the morning we made our way towards the Brooklyn Bridge, taking in Little Italy, Chinatown, Tribeca and plenty of ornate, cast iron buildings. It was another beautiful warm day with a slight breeze. Brooklyn Bridge gave us some great views. But how rusty the bridge is! Unlike the Forth Road Bridge,which is in a constant state of decoration, the Brooklyn Bridge doesn't look as if it's been touched since the Forties. It gives it an elemental feel.

Early afternoon was spent exploring Brooklyn Heights taking in the architecture and the views of Manhattan. Keith found himself a new car - one of the Motor City's finest from the Fifties, a pristine Ford Thunderbird. Back on the island, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on a bench in Washington Square Park taking in the chess players, the live jazz and the residents.

Late evening we headed off to The Village Vanguard to see Bill Frisell with his 858 Quartet featuring Eyvind Kang on viola, Jenny Scheinman and Hank Roberts on cello.  Before the set started I popped out to the "rest room" and peered into the famous office-cum-dressing room where I saw Bill bent over the guitar in his lap, silently cleaning his strings (weirdly recalling a dream I had 18 or so months ago where I went backstage at The Barbican to meet Bill in his studio/loft something like the Vanguard's office). The music was a strange mix of country & western and chamber music; Bill leading the band with a twangy Telecaster through largely (possibly completely) composed charts. There were C&W waltzes mixed with more classical-sounding influences like Steve Reich and John Adams. Jenny Scheinman did some great soloing in the last piece and very quickly it was over. It was strange & interesting hearing on consecutive nights Bernstein, Breakstone & Frisell - very contrasting players; Peter & Joshua heavily engaged in the jazz tradition of improvisation over changes but with very different, singular voices, and Bill coming from somewhere entirely elsewhere (at least on this gig).

The sound in the Vanguard was great. Like being inside the Flatiron building, it is a wedge shape with the band at the sharp end. This means that you're pretty much guaranteed a great sound wherever you are. Lorraine Gordon was in attendance and we had a brief encounter with her - "Are you staying for the next set. No? Then drink up . . .". It's that approach that has kept the place in business for so long.

It was then off to Smalls and back to Arturo's for a final drink. Both featured singers (possibly a Sunday thing). I decided to forego the jam session at Small as it didn't start until 1:30.

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