He had the same baby face, only with a full beard and long dreads, and his big eyes widened as he scanned the room and saw me sitting at one of the little tables. It was pianist Victor Gould’s gig at the new venue Mezzrow and the late set Friday was the first that I had really heard him play since we graduated from the arts high school in Los Angeles.

At the end of the night, Victor introduced me to his sweetheart as having been the student director for the vocal jazz ensemble back in high school. I had all but forgotten and was dumbfounded that this was what my classmate would remember about me nearly a decade later. What I remember about Victor was that he walked slowly and had a nut allergy but I’m sure that he has not forgotten about his allergy.

I was always amazed that he made the two-hour train ride commute each way from Simi Valley to school. I lived ten minutes away and got placed in detention, affectionately called Lunch Bunch, for being tardy every day. I thought about these things, listening to the duo and taking sips of my tea. All the musicians hanging out and the fact that my tea came in a San Antonio mug painted with red peppers and flames made Mezzrow an endearing venue and I felt moved to donate a mug to their collection.

Mezzrow art

The bathroom is located to the right of the bar with the door framed by bead curtains. If you pull the hot water faucet forward in the conventional fashion, you will get an anemic trickle of not-quite-hot water. To get an adequate flow of water going, push the cold water faucet away from you. And please press down on the tank lever to ensure that the toilet flushes completely. I heard through the grapevine that there is a secret bathroom in addition to this one.

Mezzrow is a piano room so I didn’t quite understand why it was named after a clarinetist. I looked up Mezz Mezzrow and read on Wikipedia that he insisted on being put in the colored section of the prison while incarcerated. Do you recall what happens to One-Sixteenth Black of The Mau Maus in the film Bamboozled?

Mezzrow toiletMezzrow sink

Mezzrow is this art tooMezzrow double lock

Victor called standards as they went and when he called “Easy to Remember,” bassist Eric Wheeler couldn’t remember it so they segued to “Con Alma.” For the second set, a saxophonist joined them. This tenor player had a way of making you trust him through his playing—when he played out, you didn’t feel that he would abandon you for cerebral nonsense and when he played in, you knew that he wouldn’t resort to clichés. I was like—who is this guy? It turned out he was Tivon Pennicott and I was glad to catch him again at a house concert Sunday with the Smalls Monday night quinet, one of the few truly enthralling bands I’ve heard. Anyway, if you want to hear jazz piano, go see Victor Gould, go to Mezzrow.

Today’s translation of “Where’s the restroom?” comes from Sheng from Malaysia. Sheng, who is ethnically Chinese, told me his Malay sucks but that he did receive an A+ in Malay class. If you trust grades to be an accurate reflection of one’s abilities, then say this —

Di mana tandas?

Caffe Vivaldi

I had more than a couple hours to kill before the 9pm set at Caffe Vivaldi last Thursday so I walked down from Penn Station as slowly as I could and wandered around the Village, eventually walking into Mamoun’s. While I typically avoid grimy places that are not jazz clubs, I frequent the restaurant in its East Village location because it makes me happy to sit there with falafel and hummus in hand, listening to Umm Kulthum or songs that are reminiscent of hers. A Middle Eastern music class I took on a whim in college introduced and deepened my appreciation for that music. I imagine jazz appreciation courses have much the same effect; they cultivate listeners who otherwise would have no connection to the music.

The West Village Mamoun’s had no seating and played some kind of Middle Eastern electronic fusion that I didn’t care for. So I went back outside and rambled past familiar venues like 55 Bar, LPR, and the Cornelia St. Cafe before ending up at Caffe Vivaldi. Upon observing the raucous crowd inside through the storefront, I hesitated to enter and circled the block once more to gather the necessary stamina. Come to think of it, I may have unconsciously been harboring adverse feelings from my last time at the venue when I was greeted with turd in the toilet.

Soon after the prior band wrapped up, the Marquès/Stinson/O’Farrill Trio began playing with their special guest, saxophonist Laura Andrea Leguia. Nodding along to another’s solo, Laura attempted to replicate the look of constipation favored by many a jazz musician but her face was much too pleasant to properly do so. It’s likely that she at least had the musical attributes of a jazz musician down but I couldn’t tell because there was too much competing for my attention. The guy sitting across from me started hum/singing another song complete with hand choreography, a car alarm went off outside, and patrons conversed loudly over their gluten-free pasta. Without knowing it, I too joined the crowd, yelling over the music to chat with my new friend across the table.

Caffe Vivaldi women's toiletCaffe Vivaldi women's room

Caffe Vivaldi is not always so chaotic. When I visited on a Sunday afternoon for a classical duo that time I found the present in the toilet, it was quiet and more of a listening room than a rowdy restaurant. There is one women’s room and one men’s room, both painted with reddish stripes.

GOP grapes?Caffe Vivaldi payphone by restrooms

The MSO Trio comprises Albert Marquès (piano), Walter Stinson (bass), and Zack O’Farrill (drums). Their website states that their music is “born of nights hanging out, eating lunch together, playing risk” and guarantees that you won’t merely hear a piano trio playing compositions if you listen to this trio. I don’t know about lunch but this much was true—I didn’t hear a piano trio, compositions, or anything over what essentially became dense white noise. It’s a good thing the jolly pianist Albert gave me a copy of their album because I have no idea what they sounded like.

Albert, who is from Barcelona in Spain, also gives us the translation of “Where’s the restroom?” in his first and native language, Catalan —

On és el lavabo?

Le Poisson Rouge

As I stood in line to enter Le Poisson Rouge (LPR), I wondered when I’ll be of the age where the bouncer only cards me to be polite.  As the proverbial saying goes, time flies and I haven’t really started checking out the contemporary classical/new music scene in the city nearly a year into my resolution.  To encourage myself to do so, I signed up for membership at LPR, a venue that presents the best in a range of creative music, including jazz and the avant-garde.  A newly minted member, I was able to catch Rudresh Mahanthappa’s ensemble Gamak free of the cover charge and feel official holding my gray membership card with a red fish on it.

Sorry to cut you out of the photo, Ken®LPR Women's sinkThough I hadn’t heard the saxophonist live before, I was already a fan of his incredible intensity and facility from listening on Myspace years ago.  This was a high-energy music, complete with fist pounding between Rudresh Mahanthappa and guitarist David Fiuczynski and a lot of sweat from bassist François Moutin.  The moppy-haired bassist had to constantly dry his head with a big towel and shook his head so much that I wondered if he felt dizzy or was losing brain cells.

Drummer Dan Weiss followed suit and had a towel around his neck by the last piece, perspiring from the abundant solos where he played the trap set more like a frame drum or tablas.  The guitarist switched between two double-neck electrics to play microtonal solos also invoking a world of influences.  The monstrous-looking guitars took some getting used to, even for a person easily excited by the sight of mutant strawberries.

LPR women's toiletLPR member cardA large venue with exposed pipes and vents overhead, Le Poisson Rouge has sizable restrooms to match its performance space.  Past the photo booth and the big, cushy, grungy-looking chairs, you’ll find the women’s room to your left and the men’s room straight ahead.  The women’s restroom has seven stalls, two hand dryers and a long sink with two faucets.  I preferred to use the faucet on the right with trickling water rather than the faucet on the left where I ended up splashing water all over.

The dim lighting proved a bit problematic as I had to take photos on my little video camera.  I did chant my mantra, “Zoom, cam, Ken®” as always to remind myself to bring my Zoom to record audio, camera to take photos and Ken® to model by the toilets but grabbed the wrong camera on my way out.  I must have been just out of it that day because I also got to LPR an hour early, thinking the show started at a different time than it did .

Jovana from Serbia tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in Serbian —

Gde je wc?


I walked in as The Bridge Trio announced their next tune, “125th and Broadway,” where I had just come from, a bit flustered that the trains weren’t running on schedule yet again.  Though I was on the fence about attending, I was sold once I learned that ZirZamin served breakfast tacos all night.

The place must be self-service at the bar, because nobody came to take my order at the table.  I didn’t feel hungry enough to get up to order the breakfast tacos so it ended up being an eggless Easter, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.  The entertaining trio bantered, took requests and made the audience feel at ease.  They played tunes with both curious and obvious titles, which bassist Max Moran and keyboardist Conun Pappas took turns introducing.

Joe Dyson, who had been placidly providing rock solid beats behind the kit, ran up to the mic in the blink of an eye and went on a tirade about how he would introduce the tunes too, if only he had a microphone.  I was in pleasant disbelief—it was like seeing a formerly fat person rip through the life-size poster of the before photo.  And if hearing the drummer talk wasn’t surprise enough, Joe even sang a song about salty dogs to close the set.

ZirZamin Left Side RestroomZirZamin Right Side Restroom

Hailing from the same high school in New Orleans, the members of The Bridge Trio have played together as one unit and together as sidemen with mentors from their hometown.  It’s great that they have the opportunity to be nurtured by mentors in a city with such legacy and tradition in an era where jazz is becoming increasingly institutionalized and mentorship on the bandstand, a rarity.

ZirZamin Left Side SinkZirZamin Left Side Toilet

To your left before you enter the back music room, you will see two unmarked narrow black doors to the unisex restrooms.  The smallest freestanding restrooms I’ve observed thus far, I got a core-strengthening workout twisting my body into unusual positions to take photos in the claustrophobic space.  Watch out for the steps when you go through the double curtains to the back; I tripped both times in the dim lighting.

Though the venue acknowledges that it can’t be all things to all people, it presents an unclear identity in seemingly trying, with a menu offering Austin-inspired fare, the tagline “subterranean music parlour” using British spelling, and the name ZirZamin meaning underground in Farsi.  Samira from Iran tells us how to say, “Excuse me, where is the restroom?” in Farsi –

Bebakhshid dastshoui kojast?


A restaurant that touts live jazz seven days a week, the Garage was relatively quiet when I arrived past midnight last Tuesday, technically Wednesday.  The place seemed somewhat like a caricature, a cartoon character’s home with its humongous chandelier, a Christmas tree spinning upside-down from the ceiling and oversized wooden carvings of silverware and handyman tools.  Large glowing orange orbs hung from the ceiling amidst the excessive holiday decorations depicting Santa Claus.

In addition to the upside-down tree, there were five smaller Christmas trees that I could see and more potted poinsettias than I could count.  The Garage also seemed to be counting challenged, billing the ensemble of saxophone, guitar, bass and drums as a trio.  Bassist Dave Baron led the quartet with Francesco Ciniglio on drums, Alex Wintz on guitar and Lucas Pino on tenor sax.

My first time finally meeting Lucas after seeing him around quite a bit, he first introduced himself as a photographer and then revealed that he is a pathological liar.  Well, at least he is honest.  Look out for his Thanksgiving album release—it’s sure to give Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits a run for its money.

Garage women's (right side room)

The Garage's storage is in the left side women's room.

Ken® needs some space in the complimentary hand sanitizer dispenser.Garage urinal

When you pull back the curtain under the restrooms sign, you’ll notice a 2 to 1 ratio of women’s to men’s bathrooms, with the women’s rooms on either side of the men’s in the center.  A large hand sanitizer dispenser and a payphone furnish the dimly lit area.  The storage for paper towels, cleaning supplies and such is located in a closet inside the women’s room on the left side.  The women’s toilets are situated lower than usual so be aware if you sit instead of squat that the drop is greater than you’d expect.

Dave volunteered to be the men’s room correspondent and took photos of the men’s room for us.  Watch out KMac, your “friend” is trying to steal your gig.

Garage women's (left side room)Garage men's

On this merry day, I’d like to give a shout-out to my friend Tierney for her sweet gift, a book of photos of bathroom signs from various countries with indoor plumbing.  I received another book from my sister: The Birth and Death of the Cool by our favorite historian Ted Gioia, who deemed JAZZ TOILET the worst of hundreds of jazz blogs.  I may take up my sister’s suggestion and do a book review in the new year.

Pianist Nial Djuliarso, who sat in on a few tunes, tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in Indonesian –

Kamar mandinya dimana ya?