I spent much of Saturday sick in bed, not especially wanting to head downtown to review a new venue. Thankfully, I got a text from my friend Phillippe notifying me of his regular session at Paddy’s around the corner, where students from nearby Manhattan School of Music can be found on such nights. Fueled by the Seamless delivery of sushi from down the street and a three hour nap, I threw on a coat and mustered the energy to putter over.
The band consisted of Philippe Lemm (drums), Alex Goodman (guitar), and Sharik Hasan (keys), with many others sitting in. Seldom crossing paths with my music friends these days, I was instantaneously happy to see them and glad for the chance to be present. Though I’ll never have a shortage of friends between the non-musicians that want me to perform at their weddings and the musicians that find me resourceful, it’s good to hang out with people, even if only to exchange a few words and accompany them as they buy beef jerky and milk on the way home.
With its combination of bar games and live jazz, Paddy’s made me think of a tiny Fat Cat, only much more favorable because I could hear the music, save the occasional interruption from the skeeball machine, and didn’t feel suffocating with a crowd, even though it’s only a fraction of the size of the dive bar downtown. Beer brands and logos cover a great area of the bar, and even the mirrors in the men’s and women’s bathrooms.
The two bathrooms outfitted with sinks, toilets, trash bins and various dispensers, all in black, were well-lit and neither disappointed nor exceeded my expectations. Each red door is clearly marked with the letter corresponding to the words, ladies and men. The space is small and uncomplicated in its configuration so you should have no problem locating the restrooms.
Sharik, who hails from India, is fluent in English, French, Urdu, and Hindi. Philippe speaks Dutch, English, and likely German. And it’s possible that Alex speaks French since he’s from Canada. I learned that the Hindi translation of our key phrase is identical to the Urdu translation “Bathroom kahan hai?” from the last issue. Sharik tells us another way to ask “Where’s the restroom?” in Hindi –
“Odoriferous Manifestus!” exclaimed Steve Wilson, as he rushed back into our fifth floor lesson room yesterday. He had stepped out to rinse his mouth of trail mix before playing his alto sax but couldn’t bear to go in, let alone near, the men’s room. Welcome to Manhattan School of Music (MSM), one of the premier conservatories for jazz and classical music.
In just a couple weeks, I will be officially deemed a master of jazz by MSM and be halfway qualified to write for JAZZ TOILET. It’s too bad that I am not also getting certified in plumbing, because then I would be fully qualified to write for this blog and employed.
In all seriousness, I’m grateful for the past two years and hopeful, as I get ready to graduate with a more concrete idea of how to make a living as a musician and a clearer vision of my artistry. A can-do spirit abounds at this particular institution, whether due to pure inspiration or the necessity of having to create your own opportunities, especially if you are not one of the select department cronies. Inspiration often springs from necessity, and there is great need in a school with scarce scholarships, limited practice space and faulty elevators.
MSM hosts a vast number of concerts throughout the year, many of them free and open to the public. You will hear some of the most high-level jazz found anywhere in student recitals and Cafe Jazz performances. If you visit, here is what you need to know about the bathroom situation –
Other than the restrooms inside the library, the newest facilities are located between Miller Recital Hall and Ades Performance Space, on the way to the adjacent dormitory building. The ladies room on the first floor is ideal for times you need to get ready for a school performance, equipped with a wide counter and a full-length mirror. The third floor one is a personal favorite, being the only ladies room with a window. The other floor restrooms, going up to the sixth floor, are generally stinky and can be downright dangerous for men, as I illustrated at the beginning. Note that the building uses the European system of numbering floors and thus, the first floor starts above ground level.*
Contrary to the perception of MSM as a strictly straight-ahead jazz kind of school, the master’s curriculum centers on Dave Liebman’s chromatic, “out” approach to improvisation. And while the dogmatic theoretical process seems to be the opposite of the indefinite contemporary improvisation methodology I learned as an undergrad, the end result in performance can be similar.
Now that I’ve written this post summarizing grad school, rearranged the furniture in my tiny room, caught up on season 8 of How I Met Your Mother and started sewing my Macbook a thermal sleeve, I will work on my big band chart, choral conducting paper and other finals. If anyone is looking to hire a procrastinator, send me an email.
Orundell from Guyana tells us how to say our key phrase in Creole. Say hello to him when you walk by the security desk at the door.
*UPDATE: MSM has altered its floor numbering system so that the entrance level is now the first floor. Thus, it now goes up to the seventh floor instead of stopping at six. Also, since the new president has come on board at the end of academic year 2013, there have been renovations all over the building including in the old elevators. Lastly, Cafe Jazz has been rebranded as the Jazz Room Series.
A few Wednesdays ago, I walked down to The Underground Lounge in below 20 degrees Fahrenheit weather, testing the effectiveness of my Uniqlo Heattech top. I stepped through the door more South of the two, marked “The Underground Live,” to enter directly into the performance area.
Excited to finally hear my friend’s brass quartet, I didn’t even mind the cold draft coming in as the door opened and closed with more people. I thawed quickly enough with body heat from the many enthusiastic audience members but it must have been challenging for the brass musicians to play in the cold.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but there was something whimsical about The Westerlies. Was it Riley Mulherkar (trumpet) and Andy Clausen’s (trombone) matching chambray button-downs, red pants and brown dress shoes? Was it Willem de Koch’s (trombone) jaunty bass lines? Was it Zubin Hensler’s (trumpet) effusive enthusiasm for the ensemble that I had heard much of? Maybe it was Andy’s rosy cheeks?
Perhaps it was the visual configuration reminiscent of a music box, only with a row of four Seattle boys similar in height, instead of a twirling ballerina. The inadequate lighting cast shadows over their faces if they stepped back and the slide of the trombone hit the frame of the red curtains as I feared, but the small corner stage was not too big, not too small and just right for The Westerlies.
Go through the door dividing the live music area and the lounge to get to the men’s and women’s bathrooms. The music from the lounge interferes with the performance when the door opens so try to avoid going in the middle of songs. I waited my turn to use the women’s restroom and found that the corners were occupied with a small sink, the toilet and cleaning supplies under a bench.
I stuck around a bit for the following group on the double bill because our men’s room correspondent substitute, Dave, happened to be playing bass with Adam Kromelow. The pianist’s original piece about his pot brownie experience augmented the high school/college basement party-like vibe of the place, with plastic cups full of beer around and the sense that the place needed folding chairs.
Miks from Latvia tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Latvian —
Jetlagged and feeling like I’ve been hit by a ton of bricks by the abrupt beginning of the new semester, I decided to go for a walk down Broadway to get fresh air and check out Cleopatra’s Needle last night.
With Happy New Year streamers and colorful helium balloons reminiscent of an eight-year-old’s birthday party still hung, the place felt unpretentious and comfortable. The huge clock on the wall likely makes it a good spot to count down to the New Year. And if you find the live music uninteresting, you can watch silent television at the bar.
The jam session hosted by pianist Roger Lent was similarly unpretentious yet colorful. A guy broke out in funny little dances to the side of the stage and an old lady got up to sing with her cassette tape recorder in hand, chatting up the audience. What guts she has. I hope that I can be as willing to try something new and potentially embarrassing when I’m at that age. Or now.
The two bathrooms are located to the left of the stage, immediately past the bar. The women’s bathroom was stocked with toilet paper in a child’s high chair. It had a small sink, a small wastebasket, a bigger wastebasket and a toilet that is prone to splashing up water higher from the bowl than you would predict. It may be a smart safety measure to step back when you flush.
On this assignment to Cleopatra’s Needle, I realized that the men’s room correspondent is not only needed to document the men’s room, but also to act as a buffer between me and unwelcome suitors. The man hitting on me clearly did not understand that I don’t care who his uncle’s father is or what venues he books acts for. If he was romping around Manhattan in the ’80s and he sees me sitting there with my cup of tea, talking about being in school, doesn’t he realize that I may not even have been born in the ’80s? He left me his phone number, guaranteeing his placement on the Do Not Call list.
Soils from South Africa who played in the session kindly said that he could tell I’m from the West Coast because I have a warmth about me; however, this Cali sunshine doesn’t extend so far to shameless men looking to pick up girls. Soils tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom” in Zulu –
Despite the nor’easter that followed on the heels of Sandy, I braved the first snowfall of the year last week to check out the ‘round midnight session at Smoke. I hadn’t had a chance to wear my snow boots yet, except once and very briefly last year’s Halloween weekend when it unexpectedly snowed, so I was feeling rather excited about getting bundled up. I purchased those boots along with several thermal shirts for an East Coast winter while still back in Cali, in faith that I would get into grad school in the city. And I did, but that winter didn’t come.
No longer merely the brunt of small talk, the weather has been noteworthy with life-threatening storm conditions one week and t-shirt and hoodie wearing afternoons the next. I do now feel justified for checking weather.com every hour. You never know what’s going to happen.
Saxophonist Roxy Coss led the late Wednesday night session with pianist Chris Pattishall, bassist Dave Baron and drummer Luca Santaniello. Dave and Roxy accompanied the toilet team on our first assignment to the Vanguard and Smalls back in February so it would have been a JAZZ TOILET reunion had our men’s room correspondent KMac made it out that night.
KMac felt bad he couldn’t come and not only that, he also felt ‘unmanly’ at my calling him delicate and weak sauce for not being willing to schlep his drums uptown in the snowstorm after his gig to hang. I’d like to issue a formal apology and say for the record that our men’s room correspondent conforms to conventional notions of masculinity with his diet of copious amounts of red meat and his robust physique. But make note that he can be particular about his moisturizer, as his skin is sensitive.
Smoke has one restroom directly to the left of the stage, which the horn players linger in front of when they’re not soloing. It’s a quaint restroom with a celestial lamp hanging from the ceiling that matches the décor of the rest of the small rectangular club. I appreciated that the door lock is the kind that tells you whether the restroom is red for occupied or green for vacant.
There is another door to the left of the restroom door marked off for employees. Dave told me that when the room gets really crowded, he has to go through the door and down the nearly vertical stairs to put his bass in the back. Can you imagine trying to walk down a ladder with an upright bass in your hands?
Ahmed from Saudi Arabia tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in standard Arabic —