Do you remember Hurricane Day in the city last summer? I showed up with nothing but the clothes on my back and a platter of assorted cheesecake in my hand to pianist Misha Piatigorsky’s place, at the kind invitation of drummer Chris Wabich. And that is how this refugee became acquainted with Sketchy Black Dog, a rhythm section plus string quartet ensemble that mixes classic rock and jazz.
I went to see Misha and Chris’s group again on Thursday at Iridium Jazz Club. Danton Boller joined them on bass and violinists Monica Davis and Adda Kridler, violist Colin Benn and cellist Agnes Nagy made up the quartet. Sketchy Black Dog’s nickname is Scratchy Black Cat and it used to go by Paris Troika, before adding the strings.
I’ve never noticed Iridium before because its presence is obscured by humongous signs advertising Mamma Mia! and Stardust Diner. The jazz club is downstairs from the diner, decked out in reddish blue décor with guitars and Les Paul posters hung all around. Their restroom was clean with three stalls that were roomy enough. And in case you weren’t sure if being a woman also qualified you as a lady, they had two signs on the door, one that said Ladies and another that said Women.
Hopefully you have a compact mirror on you to read the bathroom door handle, because it says “Pull” in mirror image reflection. Once you open the door, you might notice that the wall on the far right corner goes in. They stuck a small sink there, which was most adorable and the best feature of the room. They also had a standard size sink and more posters up on the walls. Iridium seems to be as fond of putting up decorations as my mom; every time I visit home, I have to take down a few plaques and trinkets.
My mom told me that when our family used to live on the East Coast and visited New York, we could only afford two bowls of jja-jang-myun (black bean noodle) to share among the four of us. I thought about this, what little money we had in the first decade of our life in the States and the change in lifestyle over the years, while I ordered and ate my $9 strawberry shortcake without flinching.
Misha, who also immigrated to the States at a young age, tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in Russian —
Thursday was another prematurely warm night where I needed to go on a brisk walk and eat ice cream. Except I was fasting sweets, so instead I watched KMac consume ice cream with a plastic fork from a nearby halal cart. I also waved a fork around, in case he felt self-conscious about holding two half-gallon tubs of Edy’s on the steps of Columbia. When our assiduous men’s room correspondent stirred to go watch a movie at home, I got up to head to my assignment at Somethin’ Jazz Club (To be fair, he shed snare drum etudes for four hours that day, while I practiced zero hours).
Located East of Midtown, Somethin’ Jazz is not convenient to get to from the Upper West Side. The longer we waited for the third train transfer, the more I felt that the train would come any minute because we had already waited so long, so we kept waiting a bit longer. But the amount of time you wait for something does not necessarily correlate with its estimated time of arrival; there’s no sense in expecting that the thing I’m waiting for is closer to arriving, the longer I wait. After twenty minutes or so, it was announced that the E train would not be coming at all.
We managed to get to the club to catch our classmates Olli Hirvonen (guitar), Frederick Menzies (tenor sax), Jeff Koch (bass) and Philippe Lemm (drums). Olli billed his quartet as a “Nordic jazz” group, presumably because with the exception of Jeff, members hail from Finland and Denmark, in addition to Holland. Actually, Jeff is the most exotic person I’ve met since moving to the city—a rare native New Yorker (and I don’t mean from Long Island) in a metropolis of jaded transplants and hopeful immigrants.
If Nordic jazz is synonymous with the ECM label, which showcases European interpretations of the originally American art form, which, in turn, began as a synthesis of African and European music, what do you call it when you have Americans striving to play in the ECM vein?
Of greater interest was the elevator up to the third floor, where the club is situated. The smallest public elevator I have been in, my friend Pat wondered how Jeff got in there with his bass. Upon stepping out, we ran into a Japanese man looking for a lounge on the second floor. I thought the elevator would lead him directly there but we couldn’t find the down button to get the doors open. Naturally, I proceeded to assume that this elevator was of the sort that only travels up, but not down because it’s easier taking the stairs down.
Make sure to try the elevator, if you visit. Someone demonstrated later that it actually does go down.
“Jazz elevator!” “Why not jazz gas station?” People have been mocking my work in such a fashion. Make fun all you want — I won’t be the one caught without toilet paper in the stall.
Olli teaches us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in Finnish —