Apparently, everybody hangs out on 26th Street between Broadway and 6th on Friday nights. Passing the time with a friend, I saw five other friends while strolling around the block on the weekend. One of them was my bass-playing pal Jeff who was about to go play at the Flatiron Room. He told me our friend and guitarist Adam would also be playing and convinced me to come to the gig with his characteristic unabashed and genuine enthusiasm. So I showed up to the posh room, feeling underdressed in jeans and boat shoes.
Even though the Flatiron Room sounded familiar and boasts live jazz nightly on its announcement outside, it hadn’t made it onto my radar of venues. The retro room felt upscale and like a solid place, not a shoddy spot covered with faux-luxurious decorations. Classic heart-shaped bistro chairs circled the tables toward the front and bottles of whiskey were visible overhead and all around.
The jazz quartet framed by the lush curtains on stage felt like an extension of the decor, a life-size piece of artwork with choreographed figures creating ambience. Or sort of like a cuckoo clock but with jazz musicians appearing for forty-five minute sets on the hour. I naturally thought of Erik Satie’s furniture music, music as wallpaper, music not to be listened to. From where I was in the middle of the venue, latching myself onto the wooden standing table inconspicuously so that I wouldn’t be prompted to order overpriced tea, I struggled to hear the band.
But the muted volume mattered not. With a gardenia over her ear, the anonymous singer called to mind images of Billie Holiday and made gestures stereotypically associated with jazz/cabaret singers. While everyone seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere, most seemed oblivious to the music. I scanned the crowd and saw that there was a gentleman that appeared attentive—it turned out he was Jeff’s dad.
For such an elegant place, the Flatiron Room had subpar toilet paper of the cheap variety. The thin toilet paper clashed with their lavish paper towels and the sepia portraits on each of the three stall doors. You can see in the photo that the paper towels were overflowing from the trash. An employee came in to tidy up the restroom while I was in there so the mess may have been because the basket does not have the capacity to hold an adequate amount of trash and spills over between cleanings. I would recommend a larger wastebasket there to maintain a neater restroom.
I was giddy to find that I could take adequate pictures of the dark room on my phone using my keychain flashlight on the impromptu review and discovered that the music from the stage is clearly audible through the speakers while in the bathroom. Taking in nostalgic melodies that teetered between keys, I admired the nice wall lamps and vintage portraits with the same potential for creepiness as porcelain dolls.
Sutong, who majored in Albanian language in China, studied abroad in Albania and came to NYC for grad school, tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in her adopted language, Albanian —
The bed bug scare is real.
My friend called to say that he couldn’t meet me at The Town Hall after all, in a state of emergency after having found a bed bug in his sheets. I did some quick research on my phone while waiting for comedian/improvising musician Reggie Watts to come on stage, and learned that infestations are prevalent in places with high volumes of people going in and out, including public spaces like theaters.
The Town Hall is a theater with a venerable history spanning nearly a century that must have greeted an innumerable number of butts in its approximately one and a half thousand extra-plump red velvet seats. The hallways showcase framed compact discs of live recordings at the venue by Mingus, Ornette, Dizzy, and many more. And while it is not a cozy jazz club by any means, Reggie Watts commented that it felt “like a big hug” and was “not too long.”
The architectural fashion must have differed back in the early 1900’s, with random configurations of restrooms, instead of the women’s and men’s room mirroring each other as in modern halls. The Town Hall has a handful of private unisex restrooms and a wheelchair-accessible restroom on the mezzanine level and a men’s room two floors below, down the stairs from the lobby and to your right when you enter. The women’s restroom is in the middle of the mezzanine with five stalls and two sinks, and a sitting room. The men’s room has a water fountain, not found in the women’s room, in addition to the bench for sitting.
Like any reputable and successful jazz festival, Blue Note is presenting a number of non-jazz artists in their month-long Blue Note Jazz Festival. The Wednesday show was produced in conjunction with JazzReach and reviewed by JAZZ TOILET so it was actually a jazz show to the third degree. Reggie Watts even sang his rendition of “My One and Only Love” and a blues, mentioning that he has always wanted to be a part of a jazz festival. It looks like he figured out the quickest path to headlining a jazz festival—don’t play jazz.
Watts introduced a tune on his Nord Electro entitled Minuet in D, saying it was composed by Miles, played by Coltrane, rearranged by Cannonball, then performed by Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny. The person behind me (mis)heard and echoed Watts by saying “[Joni Mitchell] in a bikini,” then laughed out loud, which caused me to laugh out loud. I feel that I now fully comprehend the meaning of LOL, having attended this show. What an incredible talent; I was so taken with Reggie Watts that I only thought about bed bugs thirty-seven times during his show.
Once home, I sifted through my sheets for bugs and checked my phone before rubbing my eyes with my hands. Then I fell asleep wondering if I had rubbed fecal matter onto my eyeballs.
Mario, the ukelele-playing lawyer and happy baritone from Naples in Italy, tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Neapolitan —
The Delicioso Coco Helado carts have returned; summer is here once again. I grabbed a cup of coconut from a cart on 125th Street before turning up Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard to hear Anne Boccato sing with Gianni Gagliardi (saxophone), Quentin Angus (guitar), Bam Bam Rodriguez (bass), and Jay Sawyer (drums) yesterday. Fitting for a place called Shrine World Music Venue, each band member hailed from a different country, with the repertoire consisting of jazz and Brazilian music.
Arriving in between sets, I got to work right away documenting the two restrooms. Go down the stairs under the restroom sign that emits red light and you will see a door marked ladies on your left and a door marked men on your right. The light switch for the ladies room works the opposite of the standard way; press down to turn on the light and up to turn off. The light switch is conveniently illuminated when off so that you can find it without fumbling in the dark.
A metal basket visibly filled with toilet paper hangs in the corner, putting any concerns about running out of paper to rest. And if you had to sit for a while, though I wouldn’t sit on those toilets without seat covers, you could pass the time looking up at the vinyl record sleeves on the ceiling. They also cover other areas of the venue, leaving gaps where the sleeves were poorly aligned and empty 12”x12” spots where albums might have been before falling off.
Anne’s dad and percussionist, Rogerio, clapped along rhythms from the audience, while his daughter sang and played caxixi at times. The father-daughter connection was pretty cute and reminded me of how I miss my dad. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a pilot just like my dad. When I became a teenager, I wanted to become a psychologist so that I could argue using jargon against my dad, who was then pursuing graduate studies in counseling. Now that I am old enough to be classified as an adult, I realized that I have become a writer, just like my dad.
I checked out Anne’s brother’s senior show at Cooper Union a couple weeks prior and have heard Rogerio play many times in the past. Now I just have to go to Anne’s mom’s art show and I will be an official Boccato family groupie. Either because I have nearly achieved groupie-status or because they are a wonderful family, the Boccatos gave me a ride back home from the Shrine.
Upon returning home, I hung out with a few friends including Adeyemi from Lagos in Nigeria, a soon-to-be data scientist who loves to sing Frank Sinatra. Ade gave me the translation of “Where’s the restroom?” in Yoruba and explained that literally translated, the phrase means, “Where is the defecation room?” I think I want to start saying that in English.
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 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.
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 —
It was a rather unusual Wednesday. At the beckoning of a friend, I went to the theater at Union Square on a whim. Usually, I go after much consideration or guilt-tripping from my sister, who says I should be willing to endure a couple hours of a movie given the countless jazz shows she has had to sit through because of me. But as I said, this was an unusual day. A gas leak leveled two buildings in East Harlem that morning and I heard the news through my dad in LA, who relayed the message from my concerned aunt in Seoul.
I live about a half-hour walk away from the site and was unaffected. I enjoyed the movie and walked up Broadway to 26th Street with my friends to catch up at Toshi’s Living Room. Having passed by its glass facade before, I imagined it a swanky place I wouldn’t care to visit, where the kind of jazz showcased is smooth saxophone playing by blondes wearing tube top dresses. My good friend Andrea Wood was singing that night and while she is indeed blonde with a repertoire of pop and R&B-infused jazz, her quartet made up of Angelo Di Loreto (piano), Jeff Koch (bass), and Philippe Lemm (drums) presented themselves in a way that catered to audience members with all of their varying expectations.
Don’t take my word on the vibe of the venue. I’ve been there once and am only qualified to report what I observed in the restrooms on the second floor. You will see the hallway with two unisex restrooms once you turn left after going up the stairs by the adjoining hotel lobby and around the two-story fish tank. Based on their cleanliness, it seemed that the restrooms did not get frequent attention. The first bathroom was not well-maintained and the bathroom farther down the hallway had a Ricola wrapper in the sink and a Starbucks cup of dark yellow-brownish liquid by the faucet, which raised questions in my head.
My architect friends were delighted to see the sofas on the second floor lounge. Apparently, the red seats at Toshi’s are expensive pieces of furniture called Ligne Roset—just down the hall from the trash-strewn restrooms. It’s commonplace for luxury to dwell visibly with unassociated items, especially in such a metropolis. This extends even to the virtual realm; while trying to read an update on the East Harlem explosion on the mobile site of The New York Times, a Cartier ad flashed on the screen before I reflexively closed it.
Gordian, the optimistic banker from Bautzen, Germany tells us how to say “Where’s the restroom?” in Upper Sorbian, which he speaks with family and friends in his hometown. I had no idea that there were three minority languages in Germany, of which Upper Sorbian is one.