Side entrance to The Pierre at 61st Street. 7:35 PM. Photo: JH.
Last night – another freezing cold one in New York – was about music and the arts all over town. Over at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center there was a one night only performance of a couple of living legends – sheer pleasure to be in the presence of – Barbara Cook and Elaine Stritch appearing in “In Alphabetical Order.” The concert was the cultural center’s Annual Benefit, directed by Tony Award winner (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hairspray) Jack O’Brien. And if we’re lucky, they taped it for us and for posterity. For those actually in attendance, the boffo performances were followed by a dinner at the Avery Fisher Hall’s Grand Promenade.
And down at the Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street, the American Ballet Theatre celebrated its annual “Culinary Pas de Deux” billed as a love affair between ABT and New York’s culinary community. At 6:30 there was a cocktail hour, followed forty-five minutes later by the ABT Dancers offering romantic samplings from “Romeo and Juliet,” including the Balcony Pas de Deux featuring those real-life lovers Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, plus other members of the ABT company: Craig Salstein, Gennardi Saveliev, Kelley Boyd, Julio Bragado-Young, Marian Butler, Misty Copeland, Ashley Ellis, Yuriko Kajiya, Sarah Lane, Jared Matthews, Alejandro Piris-Nino, Arron Scott, and Isaac Stappas.
And then a half hour after that, there was a “Tasting from New York’s Superstar Chefs & the World’s Finest Wines.” About 30 of New York’s finest chefs were on hand including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Didier Virot and Dan Levy Amy Scherber, George and Jennifer Lang, Cesare Casella, Arturo Leonard, Pascal Guillotin, Vincent Cirico, John Schaefer, Vito Gnazzo, Marco Maccioni, Scott Campbell, Desmond Teoh, David Ruggerio, John Molito, Stephen Lewandowski and Natalie Zaldivar.
Meanwhile, over at the Pierre, the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music held its 2006 Beacons Awards Gala which honors living musicians and contributors to the field whose work and extraordinary talent have uniquely enriched the nations’ musical heritage. At the same time it gives the New School the opportunity to raise funds to improve the educational experience of students at New School Jazz.
This year’s honorees included Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes; composer, pianist and educator Barry Harris, Roy Haynes, drummer bandleader and composer and Jon Hendricks, vocalist, composer, lyricist, poet and educator.
After a planned half hour of cocktails (it went over close to another half hour), everyone adjourned to the ballroom for the presentation and performances. There was a special guest appearance by Bill Cosby, Chico Hamilton the drummer and New School Jazz faculty member; saxophonist Charles McPherson, and George Wein, the founder and CEO of Festival Productions who is also a New School Jazz board member and a 1999 Beacons honoree.
There were performances by Joe Chambers, Barry Harris, Jon Hendricks, Al Jarreau, Earl May, Charles McPherson, Peter Mihelich, Neal Miner, Andy Watson, Randy Weston, Leroy Williams and Reggie Workman. Performing along with the greats were New School Jazz students, including Young Beacon in Jazz vocalist Stephcynie Curry.
Also in attendance: Stanley Crouch, Gordon Davis, Bob Kerrey, President of the New School; Wynton Marsalis, Phil Scaturro, chairman of the board of trustees of the New School and Jane Ira Bloom who is on the faculty at New School Jazz.
The mood, the atmosphere, the vibe, if you will, of a benefit for musicians, especially jazz musicians, is unlike any other benefit. Laid-back is a term that comes to mind. Also musicians as they get older and mellower, in the company of other musicians, have a courtliness, a grace that seems to have been invested in them by their god-given talent. So to stand in the reception room and watch the crowd – many of them old friends obviously – greeting each other, is to get another glimpse of the pleasure that is derived by these folks from their talent. I could be wrong about this but I always get the feeling that of all performing artists, musicians live most, more than any others, for making their music. Greeting each other last night, you could see it in their faces, their handshakes and their warmest of embraces. It could be my idealizing the pleasure they give to this listener. Or maybe it’s true.
Leo Vinci and Roy Haimes
Robin Bell-Stevens, Billy Taylor, and Maurice DuBois
Maeve Royce, Masa Yamamoto, and Jane Ira Bloom
Gloria Mance, Bernard Purdie, and Junior Mance
Debra and Richard Hoyt with Melody Jones
Okaru Lovelace, Lela Keels, and Dor Green
Gordon Davis and Ed Bradley
Judy Cohen and Al Jarreau
Helen Hamilton, Chico Hamilton, and Denise Hamilton