Saturday 15 May 2010

New York Trip - Days 0-1

My first view of the famous Manhattan skyline was from the plane. In the hazy distance it sat suspended in the air like a vision of Avalon.

After a good flight, coach and shuttle to our hotel in Chelsea, we hooked up with Joshua Breakstone. Joshua introduced me to my companion for the trip, a D'Angelico New Yorker guitar - a gift to Joshua from D'Angelico that, I was told, had been coveted by the likes of Jimmy Bruno and Pat Martino. We then drove downtown to Greenwich Village, passed famous jazz clubs like The Village Vanguard and The Blue Note before arriving at our destination - a funky little Italian called Arturo's which featured a jazz trio squished around a piano. By the time we got to bed, Keith and I had been up for 24 hours  . . .

Friday morning began at the famous Empire Diner for a huge breakfast that set us up nicely for the day. We then went uptown to the Museum of Modern Art where we two fascinating and contrasting exhibitions - a retrospective by performance artist Marina Abramovich called the Artist Is Present (the artist is in fact present, along with a large number of naked men and women recreating installation pieces from her past), and an exhibition of Cartier Bresson photography. We then strolled up to The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, gaping at the skyscrapers (I kept on think of the line "canyons of steel" from the song Autumn in New York) and enjoying a stroll through a very sunny Central Park.

Highlights at The Met included the exhibition of their Picasso collection and the beautifully arranged collection of modern art - huge rooms exhibiting de Koonings, Warhols, Barnett Newmans and the like. After about three hours we ended up on the roof with a huge, intricate bamboo sculpture and wonderful views across Central Park.

We then headed all the way downtown to the curious mix of glamorous high fashion and wholesale meat market that is the Meatpacking District. From here we made our way up on to former raised railway line that has been transformed into an urban park called The Highline. This has to be one of the most laid back places in Manhattan - people reading, picnicking, chatting, strolling among beautiful flowers and grasses. This led us eventually to a pier on the Hudson where we say on a disused lightship (The Frying Pan) drinking beer, eating burgers and watching the sun set over New Jersey.
Our final stop of the day was Smoke, a small  at the upper end of Broadway where guitarist Peter Bernstein was playing with legendary Milers Davis drummer Jimmy Cobb, Richard Wyland on piano and bassist John Webber. Although I know Peter's recording well I have never seen him live. He told us it was years since he played in London but would like to get over there with the trio he has with Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart. I recognised a number of the tunes from his recent Live at Smalls release featuring the same band. The band played really well - Jimmy Cobb with his trademark "no frills" approach, Richard Wylands with a lovely laid back feel and Peter with his great, blues inflected lines. Bassist John Webber probably got the loudest applause for the night for his solos - he seemed to really play out of himself, with imaginative lines and great dynamics in his soloing.

Needless to say, I went to bed shattered.

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