Apparently, everybody hangs out on 26th Street between Broadway and 6th on Friday nights. Passing the time with a friend, I saw five other friends while strolling around the block on the weekend. One of them was my bass-playing pal Jeff who was about to go play at the Flatiron Room. He told me our friend and guitarist Adam would also be playing and convinced me to come to the gig with his characteristic unabashed and genuine enthusiasm. So I showed up to the posh room, feeling underdressed in jeans and boat shoes.
Even though the Flatiron Room sounded familiar and boasts live jazz nightly on its announcement outside, it hadn’t made it onto my radar of venues. The retro room felt upscale and like a solid place, not a shoddy spot covered with faux-luxurious decorations. Classic heart-shaped bistro chairs circled the tables toward the front and bottles of whiskey were visible overhead and all around.
The jazz quartet framed by the lush curtains on stage felt like an extension of the decor, a life-size piece of artwork with choreographed figures creating ambience. Or sort of like a cuckoo clock but with jazz musicians appearing for forty-five minute sets on the hour. I naturally thought of Erik Satie’s furniture music, music as wallpaper, music not to be listened to. From where I was in the middle of the venue, latching myself onto the wooden standing table inconspicuously so that I wouldn’t be prompted to order overpriced tea, I struggled to hear the band.
But the muted volume mattered not. With a gardenia over her ear, the anonymous singer called to mind images of Billie Holiday and made gestures stereotypically associated with jazz/cabaret singers. While everyone seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere, most seemed oblivious to the music. I scanned the crowd and saw that there was a gentleman that appeared attentive—it turned out he was Jeff’s dad.
For such an elegant place, the Flatiron Room had subpar toilet paper of the cheap variety. The thin toilet paper clashed with their lavish paper towels and the sepia portraits on each of the three stall doors. You can see in the photo that the paper towels were overflowing from the trash. An employee came in to tidy up the restroom while I was in there so the mess may have been because the basket does not have the capacity to hold an adequate amount of trash and spills over between cleanings. I would recommend a larger wastebasket there to maintain a neater restroom.
I was giddy to find that I could take adequate pictures of the dark room on my phone using my keychain flashlight on the impromptu review and discovered that the music from the stage is clearly audible through the speakers while in the bathroom. Taking in nostalgic melodies that teetered between keys, I admired the nice wall lamps and vintage portraits with the same potential for creepiness as porcelain dolls.
Sutong, who majored in Albanian language in China, studied abroad in Albania and came to NYC for grad school, tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in her adopted language, Albanian —
It was a rather unusual Wednesday. At the beckoning of a friend, I went to the theater at Union Square on a whim. Usually, I go after much consideration or guilt-tripping from my sister, who says I should be willing to endure a couple hours of a movie given the countless jazz shows she has had to sit through because of me. But as I said, this was an unusual day. A gas leak leveled two buildings in East Harlem that morning and I heard the news through my dad in LA, who relayed the message from my concerned aunt in Seoul.
I live about a half-hour walk away from the site and was unaffected. I enjoyed the movie and walked up Broadway to 26th Street with my friends to catch up at Toshi’s Living Room. Having passed by its glass facade before, I imagined it a swanky place I wouldn’t care to visit, where the kind of jazz showcased is smooth saxophone playing by blondes wearing tube top dresses. My good friend Andrea Wood was singing that night and while she is indeed blonde with a repertoire of pop and R&B-infused jazz, her quartet made up of Angelo Di Loreto (piano), Jeff Koch (bass), and Philippe Lemm (drums) presented themselves in a way that catered to audience members with all of their varying expectations.
Don’t take my word on the vibe of the venue. I’ve been there once and am only qualified to report what I observed in the restrooms on the second floor. You will see the hallway with two unisex restrooms once you turn left after going up the stairs by the adjoining hotel lobby and around the two-story fish tank. Based on their cleanliness, it seemed that the restrooms did not get frequent attention. The first bathroom was not well-maintained and the bathroom farther down the hallway had a Ricola wrapper in the sink and a Starbucks cup of dark yellow-brownish liquid by the faucet, which raised questions in my head.
My architect friends were delighted to see the sofas on the second floor lounge. Apparently, the red seats at Toshi’s are expensive pieces of furniture called Ligne Roset—just down the hall from the trash-strewn restrooms. It’s commonplace for luxury to dwell visibly with unassociated items, especially in such a metropolis. This extends even to the virtual realm; while trying to read an update on the East Harlem explosion on the mobile site of The New York Times, a Cartier ad flashed on the screen before I reflexively closed it.
Gordian, the optimistic banker from Bautzen, Germany tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Upper Sorbian, which he speaks with family and friends in his hometown. I had no idea that there were three minority languages in Germany, of which Upper Sorbian is one.
We pick up where we left off last year on the jazz/cabaret scene heading downtown to Metropolitan Room. Excited to finally get to see Annie Ross of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, a vocalist I had idolized in my teens, and shivering from the biting cold, I rushed inside and was seated at a small table a week ago from today. Red velvet cake with tea seemed appetizing but I ended up ordering two drinks instead after the waitress clarified that the two beverage minimum excluded desserts and literally meant beverages only.
My worry that I would have to bother parties on either side of me during the show to go to the restroom after taking in so much liquid was unfounded; the slim glass cup for tea didn’t hold much water and the other drink, which had a curious taste of having been juiced from oranges about to go bad, was filled with mostly ice. Though outfitted with elaborate chandelier lamp shades and glittering decorations, it became apparent that the venue was penny-pinching in other areas. It’s the difference between thick, soft toilet paper and the kind you have to roll double the usual amount; all things being equal, the quality of paper is the real indicator of luxury in a place.
Follow the signs downstairs to visit the men’s and women’s restrooms. I try to avoid going on the heels of the show for fear of a long line out of the women’s room but I was relieved to find it empty. Take note that there are three toilets in a row, even though with the handleless door closed it can look as though the middle stall is bolted shut. There are two sinks clearly visible and well-illuminated by a row of dressing room light bulbs.
Jimmy Wormworth (drums), Neal Miner (bass), Warren Vaché (cornet), and Tardo Hammer (piano) accompanied Ms. Ross through an entertaining set of classic standards. She charmed and spoke her way through songs, able to engage me more than singers with accurate pitch but little character. Maybe that kind of charisma is just something that comes with experience, age, and legendary status. I wonder what it would have been like to hear her in her youth, back when she had the limber voice that made “Twisted” a hit.
I had been meaning to go see Annie Ross at Metropolitan Room since I moved to New York. Now that I’ve crossed that off my bucket list, all that remains is Monday night at the Village Vanguard and the Gilroy Garlic Festival. I’ll think about making a longer list.
Ali from Lahore in Pakistan tells us how to say “Where’s the bathroom?” in Urdu —
Promised “spooky surprises” from pianist Glenn Zaleski’s “Halloween” Trio, I went despite the knowledge that Glenn would not be wearing a pumpkin costume. Other than sporadic onomatopoeic sounds from drummer Ari Hoenig and a spooky arrangement of Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning,” the trio did not deliver on its promise; however, it did surprise with an inventive performance of “All The Things You Are,” a rare arrangement in that the audience did not emit a collective groan at the song being covered yet again.
Bassist Matt Clohesy completed the trio, bringing his years of experience playing in rock bands for kids, having opened for the likes of the Jonas Brothers and possibly even Miley Cyrus in the nation’s capital. Hailing from Australia, he is one of the trailblazers of the string of fine bassists from down under on the New York scene today. And Glenn—he confided that he sometimes uses the women’s room at Smalls because it’s like heaven compared to the men’s room.
The bathroom at the new location of the Jazz Gallery on Broadway felt homely, in a bare bones kind of way that was epitomized by the outlet on the wall opposite with a strip of black over it and a handwritten sign that said, “SPARKS WERE COMING OUT OF THIS OUTLET. PLEASE INSPECT.” An extra roll of heart-shape embossed household toilet paper rested on the toilet below the shelf with packs of industrial paper towels. A separate closet housed the toilet so that a person could use the adjacent sink even if the throne is occupied and a greenish drape covered the storage area across from the water closet. Though I read that there were two public restrooms, I only noticed the one.
Located in an old building in the Flatiron District, the space surprised a couple visitors with its fifth floor instead of basement level occupancy and boasted unusually high ceilings for a space that functions as a jazz club. A music student sat in the modest foyer of the building to direct people up the elevator, while practicing guitar surrounded by his MacBook, music stand and space heater. That doesn’t seem like a bad gig, considering the difficulty of finding a practice room in this city.
With the exorbitant rent in Manhattan, it makes economical sense for the Gallery to share the space with a church, incidentally called Gallery Church. There are a number of churches hosting jazz events from St. Peter’s Church to Neighborhood Church of Greenwich Village, but the concerts at the Jazz Gallery differ in that they are run independently of the church supplying the space. Glenn runs concerts in an alternative venue too, along with his girlfriend/violinist Tomoko and invisible cat Stella, presenting their peers and the most promising young jazz artists in the cozy setting of their Brooklyn apartment.
Jenny from Thailand tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Thai. If you’re male, make sure to change the last word to say “Hong nam yoo nai krab?”
On Sunday, I checked out the Jacky Terrasson Trio with Burniss Travis (bass) and Justin Faulkner (drums) at the Jazz Standard. With their nuanced and adventurous playing exploring the full range of dynamics, the trio breathed new life into old standards. I was reminded that the piano trio is the perfect combination, requiring no more and no less.
My cousin, who just arrived that morning on vacation from Korea, really dug it and asked if I get to listen to this kind of music everyday. Yeah, I guess I do—I hadn’t thought of it that way, having grown accustomed to the overflowing music scene here with many options for the jazz genre alone within a five-mile radius. Things I take for granted are often notable looking from the outside in.
I was relieved that we were able to make it for the late set after an extended afternoon of shopping in Chelsea and on Bleecker Street. My cousin absolutely insisted that she buy me clothes but whether my money or not, I couldn’t justify buying a dress that was essentially a couple pieces of lace sewed together for more than my entire month’s spending budget. I didn’t resist too hard because I realized that this is her way of showing me love, not to mention that I really liked an outfit she picked out for me.
I had never been to that part of Bleecker Street, even though it is just a few blocks away from where all the jazz clubs are in Greenwich Village. Although I initially distinguished New York from Los Angeles by its mixing bowl nature of diverse peoples converging in public spaces, I’m sensing more and more that it is deeply segregated in its own way. An educator friend told me about her work with kids growing up in Harlem who practically never go outside of the immediate neighborhood. Their experience of New York must be vastly different from the foreigner here for an internship, the workaholic who makes more money than he has time to spend, and the kid who attends an Upper East Side school.
Being a tourist in the city with my cousin so far has made for a different experience, from her offer to surgically widen my eyes so that I don’t keep closing them in her photos to shopping in boutiques without looking at the price tag in true Gangnam style.
Behind an entrance framed by grand red curtains, the Jazz Standard restrooms are excellent. Though the ceiling is on the lower side in the women’s room, the three stalls are wide and the staff seemed scrupulous about cleanliness. Both times I was in there, a hostess was wiping down water that kept collecting and dripping down from the edge of the sink.
They had a separate wheelchair accessible restroom, which I hadn’t noticed in a previous visit. I wasn’t sure how one gets down the flight of stairs to access the restroom but it has been brought to my attention that the Jazz Standard has an elevator somewhere for patrons in wheelchairs.
Aza from Kyrgyzstan tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in Kyrgyz –