Zinc Bar

Last week, I went down to Zinc Bar for the Tuesday night jam session.  Even though I burped in his face (unintentional) over falafel, my friend Mark let me come along with our friends, Pat and Ivan, and we walked down to the train station under an unusually blue night sky.

Look at the four photos below in clockwise order—once you go through the swinging double doors, they lead to two sliding doors perpendicular to each other, with the mens room on the left and the ladies room on the right.  You have to pull with force on the sliding door; the first time I visited Zinc Bar, I thought the bathroom was occupied because I couldn’t open the door.

Double doors to both restroomsThrough the double doors

Ladies roomSliding doors to the divided restrooms

Once you get the door open, you’ll see (or not be able to see—can you make out Ken® in the photo below?) the dark restroom covered in black tiles, with two stalls housing black toilets.  I liked their ornate accessories, from the stand-alone toilet paper holder and elaborately framed mirror, down to the coat hook and the soap pump, but it’s difficult to make them out in detail, because it is really dark in there.  It makes me think back to 90 mph van rides through pitch black darkness in the Amazon on unpaved roads, but less exhilarating and less scary, even though the restroom entrance looks haunted in the photos above.

Just as I like being able to see the food I’m having in a restaurant, I like being able to see the toilet seat to make sure that it’s clean, but you’ll find it difficult to do that in this dark restroom.  Still, it is not cramped by Manhattan standards and they are stocked with soap, toilet paper and paper towel so it’s a fine restroom to use.  And it’s fun going through the series of doors to get to the toilet, from the double doors with windows that lead to the sliding doors, to the wooden doors with slats for the stalls.

Being female, I only caught a glimpse of the mens room in a brief moment where the door slid open; I imagine that it’s similar but different.  I wonder how different the world must be through different eyes, in a different body.  My life experience and world view would be affected, certainly.  How do the perspectives of women and men differ?  I can’t tell you, for I am confined to the ladies room.

I also wondered what all the non-musicians hanging out in the club through 2 a.m. on a Tuesday night must do for a living.  It was packed in there for a while, making it harder to breathe the farther you got away from the door.

The house band was led by trumpeter Igmar Thomas, with a pianist and trombonist that I was not able to identify, in addition to Obed Calvaire (drums), Harish Raghavan (bass) and Mark Whitfield (guitar).  Like father, like son; it was amazing to see just how much Mark, the aforementioned falafel one, resembles his guitarist dad.

Among the handful of classmates I ran into at the jam session, drummer Philippe from the Netherlands tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in Dutch —

Waar is de WC?


I went to Smalls last Saturday, to hear both saxophonist Adam Larson’s group in the afternoon and pianist Mark Soskin’s quartet at night.  The club is an underground hole in the wall that’s got a New York charm about it.  I really liked this space.

I stood in line for the women’s bathroom, with the person in front of me fretting that whoever is in there has been taking a long time.  The bathroom was spacious enough, as New York city bathrooms go, with a sink and toilet.  It smelled of weed, so I guess that explains why that other woman was taking so long.

It may be worth noting that the toilet paper at Smalls is marginally thicker than the paper at the Vanguard.  I am now in possession of toilet paper samples from three different venues so it’s officially a collection!  This may seem silly, but I began thinking that we are all pretty silly, obsessed with collecting stuff like accolades and trophies, none of which will matter in the long run.  But still, I admit that I would rather win an award than a roll of toilet paper.  As a side note, if you’ve ever played games at a Korean church gathering, you know that toilet paper (and other necessities, such as toothpaste and tissue) is the award for winning.  My family is still going through a Costco box of Irish Spring soap from a picnic some years ago.

Adam Larson is one of my favorite sax players at Manhattan School of Music and it was nice to hear him in his Smalls debut with Nils Weinhold (guitar), Gerald Clayton (piano), Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass) and Jason Burger (drums).  I remember hearing Gerald play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with our high school orchestra as a senior, back when I was a freshmen at LACHSA and thinking … oh, so is this jazz?

Mark Soskin happens to be my piano teacher and I felt bad about ditching his class the past week so I made sure to go (and not just that, but because I wanted to support and hear his music—if you’re reading this, Mark!).  I enjoyed his feel-good sets of standards and other songs, with Joel Frahm (sax), Jay Anderson (bass) and Tim Horner (drums), despite having to stand near the door in an extremely cramped, standing-room only situation.

Though our men’s room correspondent, Kevin Mac, was present, he looked so miserable and tired by the end of the night, that I didn’t want to bother him to go take photos.  So I include only a picture of the dimly lit ladies room for this post.  Smalls seems like a good room to hang, with its kitschy, cozy vibe.

Below is an audio clip of “Where is the restroom?” in German, spoken by Adam’s guitarist, Nils —

Wo ist die toilette?

Village Vanguard

This blog was largely inspired by my first visit to the legendary Village Vanguard.  I had gone last October for the opening night of Fabian Almazan’s album release show and just returned this weekend for the Mark Turner Quartet.

There are two tiny stalls with just enough room for the toilets in each.  They are smaller than those little closets converted into an extra shower/toilet/sink in Korean apartments and smaller than ones on aircrafts.  My short legs somehow fit in there but if you’re average height or taller, I’m not sure that you could sit on the toilet.   The stall would have been way more functional if they just made one larger stall (which would still be a small stall), rather than two claustrophobic ones.  I would avoid using the restroom here.  But they did have large mirrors and sinks with soap so it’s great to wash your hands.  I’m a bit frustrated because the photos above don’t really give you a sense of how cramped they really are.

The men’s room correspondent, Kevin Mac, gives us the inside scoop on the male bathroom.  The stall seems a lot more spacious than the ones in the ladies room.  Plus, as KMac mentioned repeatedly with a tinge of awe, Elvin Jones shat in there.  I did not know that “shat” was even a word, and the past tense of a vulgar word at that, until I looked it up just now.



Fabian Almazan’s show back in October featured his trio with string quartet.  I would sit near the back and not on the side, close to the stage, so that I could get a better balance and hear the entire ensemble next time.  When I met Fabian a few years ago, he told me to look down for graffiti on the red line between 86th to 96th if I’m ever in New York, and used the red candle on the table as a mnemonic so that I would remember.  Funny—I didn’t know then that I would be living here, going on that very metro line regularly.

Mark Turner’s quartet of Avishai Cohen (trpt), Joe Martin (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums) is already a blur in my mind but I recall that it could be described as sounding somewhat meditative and the openness of the sax/trpt harmonies, without a comping instrument, was beautiful.

We had some time to kill before the show and didn’t want to be out in the rain so we got gelato across the street from the Vanguard.  It’s the best gelato I’ve had!  I also went to Smalls that night so I’ll make a post on that later this week.  And now, here’s how to say, “Where is the restroom?” in Portuguese.  Click the link below to listen to the phrase —

Onde fica o banheiro?