The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2013

All Issues
MAY 2013 Issue


“Life happens while you’re making other plans.” — John Lennon

“When giving a concert, always leave a door open.” — John Cage

I’m writing this in the new IHOP that, after two years of construction, has finally opened in the West Village. It’s a short walk from my house and close to where N.Y.U., like all the universities in this town, is planning to destroy more community property at the expense of the students and their unfortunate parents, giving no thought to the proletariat. I’ve waited for this for a while (the IHOP, not N.Y.U.’s massive demolition plans), hoping that the blueberry pancakes I remember from my early adulthood would still be a thrill, and wondering whether I should order them with the whipped cream and warm blueberry compote. I order with, and when they arrive some 20 minutes later I remove both toppings. My wife orders the Senior Tilapia Florentine and gets tilapia with home fries and cold broccoli. I tell her to return it. She does and promptly gets the mashed potatoes, garlic bread, and spinach that she wanted. In a corner by the stairway leading to the downstairs section a guy on his knees is praying to Allah. The IHOP is a 24/7 joint with unlimited coffee, so I think I may be spending a good part of my senior citizenry here.

Illustration by Megan Piontkowski.

The recent Tribute to Paul Motian at Symphony Space lived up to its billing and way surpassed my and Yuko’s expectations. All but two of the pieces in the three-hour evening had us spinning for joy, partly because the spirit of most participants was high and many of the intervallic tunes penned by Motian were themselves joyful and life-filled. The lineup included Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell—who along with Motian formed one of the best trios of the latter part of the twentieth century—as well as Andrew Cyrille, Joey Baron, Billy Hart, Bill McHenry, Geri Allen, Marilyn Crispell, Gary Peacock (who earlier that month did a stunning set at Birdland with Joey and pianist Marc Copland), Tim Berne, Ravi Coltrane, Billy Drewes, Jerome Harris, the Bad Plus, and more.

The next evening found us back at Symphony Space for the 40th anniversary of the New England Conservatory’s Third Stream program. I went specifically to see and hear Ran Blake, who played in four different situations, three with vocalists and one original solo tune. Since everyone by now knows my overall feelings about vocalists I will go no further than to say that Ran played beautifully despite an apparent injury. (He was using a walker.) Other highlights included a John Medeski piano solo, aspects of Anthony Coleman’s piece, and the Claudia Quintet, but overall I found the show lacking in both inspiration and third stream–ism.

The Whitney Museum kicked off its performance series in conjunction with the Blues for Smoke exhibition, co-curated by Jay Sanders, on the same night as the Motian tribute, and I was really torn. Cooper-Moore performed opposite Lonnie Holley, a sculptor and blues singer who was making his New York debut. Others in the series included poets Tracie Morris and Cornelius Eady, and musicians Keiji Haino and Loren Connors.

Worthy of mention: three nights of Wadada Leo Smith’s monumental Ten Freedom Summers at Roulette, dealing with events from the civil rights movement both tragic (the murder of Emmett Till) and uplifting. Buy the CD, which was released on the Cuneiform label last year, to find out more.

Roulette also hosted a memorial for Peter Cox, an avid listener whose passing I mentioned briefly in my last Rail piece. This was only the second memorial I have ever attended done solely for a listener, the first being for Irving Stone, a true icon in the downtown music scene for whom John Zorn named his club. As I mentioned last time, where would the players be without listeners? And this night both players and listeners spoke on that. The audience was abundant with loving fellow listeners and musicians, and the music was over the top. Peter and a handful of folks I’ve met over the past 30 or more years made up a core of very special, intense listeners, and as folks have pointed out from time to time, “Well this must be a good night for music if you’re here.” Like the player, in order to listen one must be ready to reach (as a poem of mine put it) into the unknown along with the musicians. And the unknown is simple. It exemplifies all we do in life, when we talk and eat and when the musicians play. It’s always something new, another challenge to meet. We reach, capture, taste, document, listen, react. And Peter’s reactions were always honest. To further his JOB as a listener he left his LP and CD collection to WKCR so that others could further enhance their LISTENING. (The station actually played a full afternoon of Peter’s music. A first.) The night ended with another longtime player/listener, 92-year-old Stephanie Stone (Irving’s wife), singing “For All We Know” and accompanying herself on piano—a more than fitting end to a more than fulfilling evening.

And with that said, see you at IHOP real soon.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2013

All Issues