“You better watch out, you better not cry. You better not pout, I’m telling you why. Coca-Cola’s coming to town.“
It took a moment to catch the error as participants sang at the annual holiday sing-along I was leading. After clearing up the confusion, we started the song again only to have my friend from South Africa make the same mistake. I understood why he conflated the two considering the great and global extent to which the contemporary Santa Claus has become synonymous with Coca-Cola and the beverage company’s history in appropriating and streamlining Santa’s look.
So then what are the implications for a jazz club that was funded by Coca-Cola and bears its name alongside the trumpeter’s? Much like the soft drink, I know what to expect from Dizzy’s each time. It’s a good place to suggest to friends who want to check out a jazz club without risk of finding the music or the restroom offensive. The two unisex restrooms at Dizzy’s can be found by walking along the left wall of the club. Pictured below is the bathroom on the right side.
Accompanied by Dion Keith Kerr IV on bass and Kyle Poole on drums, pianist Emmet Cohen led his trio with an unusually delicate touch on the keys, reminiscent of Bill Evans. I noted again on the Black Friday show as I did the first time I heard Emmet play that he doesn’t fall into the usual jazz piano camps. Not only does he sound different, he also has an odd manner of wearing Ray-Bans indoors, which I’ve noticed when I’ve run into him in our school elevators.
Speaking of which, you’ll take an elevator up to the club by pressing a button that says “PUSH BUTTON TO JAZZ” from the far right wing of the first floor. From there you can go to any of the venues that Jazz at Lincoln Center operates. If you are taking the train, keep in mind that Jazz at Lincoln Center is not at 66th Street – Lincoln Center but at Columbus Circle – 59th Street instead.
Aside from the the jazz venues and the many shops, two of the most popular attractions at Time Warner Center are the bigger-than-life statues of a naked man and a woman. Standing tall in front of each set of escalators in the middle of the plaza, they seem to attract many passersby who want to stop to pose for photos. And during the holiday season, glowing spiky stars hang above and all around them to create a festive mood. There is a lot to see in New York City during this season but I’m really glad to be home for Christmas this year.
I’ll be going to the block party at my neighbor’s house tonight to make amends for last year when my dad took a large bath towel for the ornament gift exchange. My mom has also been feeling bad that we’ve put up no decorations when our Buddhist neighbors have strung lights so I figure the least I could do is show up to their party with a gingerbread man ornament.
I was able to catch Rasmus, a journalist from Denmark who was in Egypt for the past year, on holiday in New York City. He gives us this issue’s translation of “Where’s the restroom?” in Danish —
The bed bug scare is real.
My friend called to say that he couldn’t meet me at The Town Hall after all, in a state of emergency after having found a bed bug in his sheets. I did some quick research on my phone while waiting for comedian/improvising musician Reggie Watts to come on stage, and learned that infestations are prevalent in places with high volumes of people going in and out, including public spaces like theaters.
The Town Hall is a theater with a venerable history spanning nearly a century that must have greeted an innumerable number of butts in its approximately one and a half thousand extra-plump red velvet seats. The hallways showcase framed compact discs of live recordings at the venue by Mingus, Ornette, Dizzy, and many more. And while it is not a cozy jazz club by any means, Reggie Watts commented that it felt “like a big hug” and was “not too long.”
The architectural fashion must have differed back in the early 1900’s, with random configurations of restrooms, instead of the women’s and men’s room mirroring each other as in modern halls. The Town Hall has a handful of private unisex restrooms and a wheelchair-accessible restroom on the mezzanine level and a men’s room two floors below, down the stairs from the lobby and to your right when you enter. The women’s restroom is in the middle of the mezzanine with five stalls and two sinks, and a sitting room. The men’s room has a water fountain, not found in the women’s room, in addition to the bench for sitting.
Like any reputable and successful jazz festival, Blue Note is presenting a number of non-jazz artists in their month-long Blue Note Jazz Festival. The Wednesday show was produced in conjunction with JazzReach and reviewed by JAZZ TOILET so it was actually a jazz show to the third degree. Reggie Watts even sang his rendition of “My One and Only Love” and a blues, mentioning that he has always wanted to be a part of a jazz festival. It looks like he figured out the quickest path to headlining a jazz festival—don’t play jazz.
Watts introduced a tune on his Nord Electro entitled Minuet in D, saying it was composed by Miles, played by Coltrane, rearranged by Cannonball, then performed by Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny. The person behind me (mis)heard and echoed Watts by saying “[Joni Mitchell] in a bikini,” then laughed out loud, which caused me to laugh out loud. I feel that I now fully comprehend the meaning of LOL, having attended this show. What an incredible talent; I was so taken with Reggie Watts that I only thought about bed bugs thirty-seven times during his show.
Once home, I sifted through my sheets for bugs and checked my phone before rubbing my eyes with my hands. Then I fell asleep wondering if I had rubbed fecal matter onto my eyeballs.
Mario, the ukelele-playing lawyer and happy baritone from Naples in Italy, tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Neapolitan —
If there’s one thing I wish more jazz concerts had, it’s an arc governing the performance that unites the sequence of songs into one cohesive piece. With the exception of a few consummate performers, musicians tend to play one song after another, prefaced by some generic introduction that ends with “I hope you enjoy it.” That usually gets me thinking, “I hope this is the last song.” While every concert certainly does not need to be planned according to the golden ratio, I would appreciate the band making an intentional choice about the way their performance flows, instead of defaulting to a linear, static model.
John Scofield’s Überjam Band, whether by default or due to the nature of the music, upheld the jazz tradition of stringing tunes together with Avi Bortnick (guitar/samples), Andy Hess (bass), and Tony Mason (drums) on the first day of autumn. Scofield’s mouth opened and moved, as if he were singing and not his Telecaster, wailing through guitar solos and providing contrast to the ambient and at times hypnotic mood of the long set. My friend Adam informed me that Scofield has been using the same Ibanez for decades and only parted with the guitar for the Überjam album/tour. Albeit untouched, the Ibanez was displayed on stage, likely to fulfill an endorsement deal.
I looked around to the bar in the back and to the dance floor in front of the stage, where a small but growing crowd stood, many holding up phones to record video and take photos. I looked across the cramped communal table into the clueless libertarian eyes of my men’s room correspondent KMac and wondered how we are able to be friends and work together. Truly, JAZZ TOILET is an equal opportunity employer.
I put KMac to work in photographing the men’s room at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill while he complained that I’m a tough boss. I’ve been called worse.
The men’s room had two urinals and two stalls with toilets, one of which is wheelchair accessible. The women’s room had four stalls with one wheelchair accessible. The photos were taken before doors opened so they do not show the lotion and candy that the bathroom attendants maintain for tips, like in its sister venue, Highline Ballroom. B.B. King’s genial Drew showed us the bathrooms in the two dressing rooms backstage as well. The larger dressing room’s bathroom had bigger square black floor tiles instead of the colorful little ones in the other three. All were clean.
The venue is located in the heart of Times Square, half a block away from the subway station and across the street from Madame Tussauds wax museum and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium. Their dress code discourages shorts, though it didn’t seem like it would matter, and the conscientious waiter discouraged us from ordering the fried green tomatoes, which we ordered anyway.
Moses from Malawi translates “Where’s the toilet?” into his country’s common language, Chichewa —
The wide, ample rear of the dog statue greets you as walk down the stairs from the restrooms back to the jazz lounge inside the hotel. Once you re-enter the room on the other side of the glass wall, you may notice the Jazz at Kitano sign. I thought the logo looked like a treble clef choking the letter J but Jon Rag, one of the saxophonists that night, thought it was suggestive of something else. For a venue uninterested in our review, The Kitano has made some interesting design choices. A large abstract painting also hung over the bar—I don’t even want to know what that’s about.
A couple weeks ago, I caught the final night of pianist Angelo Di Loreto’s month-long Tuesday residency at The Kitano. He played duo with three saxophonists, executing virtuosic lines and rhythmic harmonies with his signature heavy-handed touch reflective of his solid, grounded character.
Likewise, saxophonist Pat Carroll’s alto revealed his introspective and soft-spoken nature in its transparent and ephemeral tone. Jonathan Ragonese’s tenor was as robust and commanding as his outspoken personality and flavorful cooking. I don’t know the third saxophonist Dan Wilkins as well but I imagine that his personality mirrors the rich tenor with just the right amount of bite to the sound.
Isn’t it amazing that three people playing the same instrument can sound so different? The individuality of each was even more apparent paired with the same pianist back to back in the same room.
And it’s a nice room with a high ceiling that lets the music and conversations rise and fill the space. The verticality compensates for the cramped floor space in which the waiter will tell you to push in your chair each time he walks by. The lighting is pleasant and the company is sharply suited, many of them likely businessmen staying at the hotel.
The restrooms marked ladies and gentlemen are of typical hotel standards, with the thick quality paper towels. The ladies space consists of a sitting room and a bathroom with two stalls.
If you want to know more about Angelo’s residency, you can read an article by our own men’s room correspondent KMac in the February issue of Hot House, the ubiquitous and self-proclaimed “New York’s Jazz BIBLE For 30 Years!” And now, Nurgul from Kazakhstan tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in Kazakh –
A couple Saturdays ago, I made it out to Birdland to hear the Dave Liebman Group. I attempted to listen for the signature Lieb chromatic sound as he played with guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko but quickly settled into passive listening. As my threshold for dissonance increases, it may be that it takes a more concentrated effort to distinguish among the various shades on the spectrum from diatonic to chromatic harmony. My brain wasn’t up for that and I let the music wash over me as I enjoyed an old Ornette standard, played on wooden flute by the saxophonist.
Though it was my first time at the club, I found myself feeling at home in the familiar dim lighting and relaxed atmosphere, sandwiched between tourists from Brazil and Japan at the bar. Noticing the Phantom of the Opera program booklet, I began to chat with the stranger to my right about the musical and his business trip to the Big Apple. With his startled observation at my looking like an “oriental face,” bewilderment at the concept of student loans to pay for school and surprise at the fact that I am the same age as his daughter, Mr. Shikata reminded me of my dad in his curious and astounded reception. To avoid giving him a heart attack from an overload of revelatory details such as how long I have lived in the States to what I am studying in grad school, I excused myself and went to check out the bathrooms.
The ladies room was fairly nice, with a plate of potpourri on a table, flowers and posters in a long restroom with two stalls and two sinks. There’s even a slightly faded plush bench you can sit on and ample lighting by the mirrors. From photos that our diligent men’s room correspondent KMac sent me previously, it appears that the men’s room is very similar to the women’s, but with an additional sink and two urinals.
The crucial thing to note about Birdland’s restrooms is that they are wheelchair accessible. The signs on the doors caught my eye, as I have never before seen a club with such a feature in the city thus far. Before moving here, it didn’t occur to me to consider accessible restrooms, but if I had, I likely would have thought of them as a necessity and not an additional feature. But with so many clubs located underground, accommodating restrooms are rare luxuries here.
Located at ground level just a couple blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square and directly across the street from a major hotel, Birdland is not only accessible, but situated in a prime sightseeing location. Scanning the audience, I thought about how many tourists must come through each night to complete their New York experience. Given the importance of tourism to this city’s economy, what kind of impact does it have on the jazz scene? I hear that the market for jazz is in the European circuit, and not here—what a funny situation that would be if it’s true that our musicians make income largely by touring abroad then come home to play at venues that are also significantly funded by foreigners.
Kim from Norway tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Norwegian –