Tag Archives: Music

Perfection old and new

is what you get when you combine a funkily sublime old vaudeville theater and a performance by a Japanese avant-garde jazz pianist and composer at the height of her career.

Sony Hall had opened in Times Square in 1938 as the Diamond Horseshoe, and became one of the iconic venues of the vaudeville circuit. Later it hosted a long-running avant-garde show called Queen of the Night. When Sony acquired it, the theater had somehow retained its original furnishings, like the decorative disk that graces the ceiling over the audience, and the buyers were smart enough to retain the fixtures, and décor and the painting.

The food was good; the potatoes purple.

By the time Hiromi came on stage, the audience was primed. Japanese families filled the front rows.

The rest were serious fans already, including our neighbor Andrew, a Polish IT guy who it seems follows her from show to show. She inspires super-fandom.

Hiromi appeared.

She gracefully introduced the quartet accompanying her. They were “new,” she said, and from all over.

How would you describe Hiromi’s composing, and her playing? A tickle and a romp, with stride jazz flourishes and soulful  trills reminiscent of the old country. She stamped her gold sneakers, stood up, sat down, grimaced and grinned at the audience as though we were all in on her marvelous joke. She was funny. She had fun! She was explosive, with her lightning fast fingers.

Hiromi has said, “I don’t want to put a name on my music. Other people can put a name on what I do. It’s just the union of what I’ve been listening to and what I’ve been learning. It was some elements of classical music, it has some rock, it has some jazz, but I don’t need to give it a name.” Born in Japan ini 1979, she started lessons at six, and her teacher had her use color to develop her chops, saying Play red if it was something passionate or Play blue if it should be a mellow sound. She is well known for the album she recorded with Chick Corea, whom she met when she was seventeen.

The accompanists were tight, totally matched to her at times wild and galloping melodies. The Live-Shrieber-resembling first violinist should probably have his own show, he was that good.

The piece she performed, titled Silver Lining Suite, told a personal story of the pandemic in musical harmonies. There will be a lot of compositions on this theme, in all the arts, I am sure. But her interpretation was spectacular. She brought the past and present together with soul and charm.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jean Zimmerman

It started out a good day

and wound up even better. At 7:30 am I stood on the Grand Concourse sidewalk petting Spartacus, a dog belonging to a neighborhood guy.

This massive animal, an Italian Mastiff (or Cane Corso) was a puppy at 150 pounds and destined to grow bigger. He was gentle as a kitten.

The afternoon progressed as usual, inspecting trees and their roots in trenches, munching plantain chips, drinking too much iced coffee.

Then we head to a concert at a place called Brooklyn Steel: Black Pumas, the psychedelic-rhythm and blues band whose smash Colors has had everyone entranced in the past year.

First, to eat. A Taste of Heaven pops up as right around the corner from the concert, in east Williamsburg.

You here for the venue? says Tony, who owns the place and is chief cook. Well, yes.

Jerk ribs, cabbage, collard greens from an aluminum dish with a plastic fork. From a steam table. A quart container of mango KoolAid to slake the thirst, because everything is popping with spice.

We dine outside, no indoor seating, at a tiny table. About the best grub I’ve had recently, and that includes a fancy restaurant high in the air where you had an extraordinary vision of verdant central park stretched out in front of you. The food, not so extraordinary. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve dined out someplace supposedly fantastic and said I could do better at home.

Not here. I can’t fathom how he turned out this food in his tiny kitchen, but it is magical.

We’re number one on Yelp, says Tony, leaving his station and setting another tin of jerk ribs down in front of us gratis so we can both try them. And, in fact, checking out Tony’s boast, A Taste of Heaven stands out on Yelp as number one out of 184 soul food restaurants in New York. Unfortunately they have no dessert, but an elderly lady sitting on the one chair inside pulls a yellow supermarket cake out of her plastic shopping bag and offers to give me a slice. She urges me to take it. It’s lemon! she says.

In case you want to find a Taste of Heaven, it stands at a crossroads.

Marked by the eternally ubiquitous sneakers that hang from a wire above the street.

A short drive takes us to find something sweet, through Brooklyn’s gentrified blocks with their clean sidewalks and glossy windows. Mature willows tower over young ginkgos..

A super-spare and clean gym open to the street.

Some great band names.

Entertaining murals. Note: you can’t see JFK’s face with the naked eye, only with the camera. A mystery how it’s done.

A chocolate cone is good on this end-of-summer evening, yet brings us up close to a ghost bike, one of the shrines you find all around town to bicyclists killed in traffic. Descansos, as they’re called in the Southwest, where the victims of highway accidents are sometimes memorialized by side-of-the-highway assemblages of car parts, in addition to photos and other sentimental items.

It gave me a frisson of PTSD since I recently had a bike wreck which left me banged up and bruised and slightly concussed. All better now.

The venue was jammed, the last of a four-night stint.

And the Black Pumas?

They rock. Almost as much as Tony’s jerk ribs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jean Zimmerman