NubluPosted: September 10, 2013
“Ten dollars and ID,” interjected the lady brusquely, as to not interrupt the conversation she was having with her friend on the steps of the entrance to Nublu. I surrendered what she demanded and stepped into the place. Standing on an enclosed square base with each side only as long as the width of an average American front door, I felt as though I was already in the venue’s restroom. I tried one of the doors that made up three of the four sides and pulled back the heavy curtains to enter the East Village club four Fridays ago.
With bassist Joonsam Lee and drummer Sangmin Lee leading their respective trios, their sets were collectively billed a “K-Jazz” night. While Joonsam played an arrangement or two of Korean folk songs with keyboardist Glenn Zaleski and drummer Ari Hoenig, there was little that distinguished the music as specifically Korean. Sangmin Lee’s trio with “Big” Yuki Hirano on keys and Randy Runyon on guitar featured tight rock-based grooves, similar to the first trio in its loud, organ-shaking amplification.
Seeing my buddy/JAZZ TOILET tech support Jack confused about the K-Jazz label, I explained to him that the night was billed as such because there are Koreans involved. On a related note, a Jordanian friend was raving about food she had tried at a popular Korean restaurant somewhere in Egypt, citing the duck in particular. I informed her that we don’t eat duck. It’s possible that less fortunate souls without Korean friends walked out of that restaurant or the show that night, not knowing duck from Korean fried chicken or “K-jazz” from the Korean tendency to claim things their people do, both good and bad, as their own.
I went down the stairs behind the bar to go to the restroom with old Nublu posters plastering the walls and profanities covering the door. It had everything one would need, though the hand soap was difficult to locate, hidden in the shadows inside the large sink. I came back up and was staring at the door at the top of the stairs when I noticed that it said “WC” among the layers of stickers. I opened the door to discover another unisex restroom with the same red glow and cool graffiti.
The venue was filled with the smell of incense and Butch Morris relics, including a large photo of him with his index finger up that seemed a popular photo backdrop for visitors. How did he host his conduction sessions in this club with its disco ball, rowdy people and noise? He was adamant about vocalists not using microphones in a conduction workshop I had the opportunity to participate in before he passed. With so many legends in the jazz community passing away recently, I’ve been feeling more of an urgency to check out the remaining masters while they are still around.
Vinh from Vietnam, a country similar to Korea in its Cold War involvement and its American nail salon workers, tells us how to politely ask “Where’s the restroom?” in Vietnamese –