Monday, April 11, 2011

And all that Jazz

Fallen buds 3:45 PM. Photo: JH.
April 11, 2011. A grey and slightly chilly weekend. The weatherman says it’s going to warm up a lot right about now.

Putting together the Diary and getting it up online five days a week is work intensive and neither I nor JH finish up, on the average, before two or three in the morning. Fridays and Saturdays without that demand are like paradise just to consider and behold. However, the upshot of this kind of work schedule is that even on Fridays and Saturdays I rarely turn in much before those aforementioned hours.

This past Friday it was about quarter to three. As I was turning out the light by the window I happened to see that shopping cart under the streetlight, overflowing with balloon-like plastic bags filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of empty aluminum and plastic cans and bottles. I went out onto the terrace for clearer sight.
Hudson River. 7:35 PM.
The neighborhood is very quiet at that hour and most of the lights in the buildings surrounding are out. Occasionally a taxi passes through.

The gathering of used plastic and aluminum is not unusual in our neighborhood of affluent consumers of convenience items. The task is almost always carried out by men who must get there before the sanitation trucks. Although I have very occasionally seen a woman busy picking through what is basically the rubbish and domestic detritus from these apartment buildings. It’s a dirty job. Scavenging really. But they are all diligent and focused. Their grit is just a step away from desperation. It protects them and provides that which is required of all of us: hope, no matter how subtle.
3 AM Saturday morning, corner of 83rd and East End. The new entrepreneurs ...
Friday night’s gatherer really got to me though. Watching him work; like a man in charge. Many of the buildings sanitation bags were piled high, waiting. At first I saw only the cart and not him, as he was a few steps up 83rd Street and out of my sightline. When he appeared, walking with a loping but deliberate gait. A young man, tallish, erect in posture, carrying himself with natural certainty.

He had an empty plastic bag in one hand and was heading down the opposite end of the block (and out of my sightline again). He left his cart behind, on the corner, under the street lamp so a cab could see it (and no doubt he could keep an eye on it).
He wasn’t gone but for five or six minutes, returning to his cart with more, which he added to the bulge. Then, he pushed the car up the block to 84th Street, leaving it on the east side corner of the avenue, and crossing, with his loping, sturdy gait over to Gracie Square; all business and not a problem.

I mention the gait because in the dark and at that distance several stories up, I couldn’t determine much about him – how he looked, his age, etc., except by his gait. A young man, possibly no more than thirty or thirty-five, I would guess. At three in the morning on a Friday night. Solitary, gathering. When the competition’s getting some needed shut-eye.

You’ve got to gather a lot of that stuff to turn a few bucks. It’s time-consuming, often filthy work. I don’t personally know anyone who could do it even if they had to. But it’s work. Aha, that which separates the men from the boys. The young man is hard up but enterprising. I thought to myself: he has grit. He will find a way up, for himself and maybe that family he might have. I could tell by the walk; he will get there. This is New York.

Ashley Schiff-Ramos and Wynton Marsalis.
And all that Jazz. My friend Ashley Schiff-Ramos has been a big supporter of Jazz at Lincoln Center for years now. She got married to Mr. Ramos a few years ago, however, and moved to Palm Beach and started a family. I thought that was it all over for Ashley and Jazz @LC. However, a couple months ago she was back on the scene (briefly) organizing the annual gala benefit that took place last Thursday night at Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Time Warner complex.

Marsalis and Clapton Play the Blues: Rose Theater read the ticket 7 pm. I was about ten minutes late and got to my seat during a screening of a documentary on the late great jazz pianist Billy Taylor. The theater was packed. When the film ended and the lights came up, we were looking at a stage full of chairs, musical instruments and speakers.

I’m not a major Eric Clapton fan although I always like listening to him and I have always loved “Layla.” I was thinking on my way over to the concert that I was going to hear him play it in person. The program said specifically there would be no playing of “Layla.” I believed, nevertheless.

In his opening remarks, Clapton was looking kind of distinguished, like a maestro (like Mr. Marsalis) in his grey suit and tie and his full head of (long) grey-ish hair (he’s just celebrated his 66th). He told us how although he’d played with some jazz musicians before, he’d never really done what he kind of always dreamed of as a kid.
Marsalis and Clapton and the band on stage at the Rose Hall.
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings played at dinner at Roseland.
Wynton told us how working with this man was a great pleasure and they both learned a lot from each other in the process, and so too, the rest of the men in the orchestra. And furthermore, he added just as they were about to begin, they really rehearsed intensely for this one (it was the first of three nights of concerts that Mr. Clapton committed to – all fundraisers for J@LC).

Well, all I can say is: were we lucky to be there. From Taj to Layla to Corina Corina all via New Orleans and the great American musical heritage that belongs to all of us. There was a lot of dancing in our heads going on and some of us almost ready to jump up out of our seats.
Marsalis and Clapton ...
Ralph A. Miriello writing about in the HuffPost said it much better than I could: The evening's opening act was a solo performance by blues legend Taj Mahal ... warmed up the audience with his unique patois of rootsy music. Starting off with ... "Hula Blues," moving through a version of the Mississippi John Hurt's classic "Stagger Lee" and onto his own "Spooky Blues," ... voice ... sweet and melodic to gruff and gravelly at times reminiscent of the late R.L. Burnside. He is a master of the guitar/vocal blues format for which he is justly famous.

Taj Mahal.
To his credit, Mr. Marsalis played a distinctly subdued role, preferring to let the spotlight shine on his guest and his band .... Mr. Clapton spoke of his appreciation of the opportunity to play with such talented musicians .... Mr. Clapton is still apparently in awe of the dedicated jazz musician and jazz. To paraphrase him, '... there is something about jazz and there always will be in my heart, that puts it up there with the gods.'

The highlight of the evening for the audience was the unexpected inclusion of Mr. Clapton's signature song "Layla," arranged by Mr. Marsalis in a New Orlean's jazz style resplendent with horns and banjo.

The slow sauntering beat allowed Mr. Clapton to sing his deeply personal lyrics with unrestrained passion as he played some of his most stirring and heartfelt arpeggios on his blonde hollow bodied guitar. Mr. Marsalis was perhaps his most emotive on this trumpet solo following Mr. Clapton's lead, and eventually the two traded licks for a short while before the coda.

The encore was "Corrine, Corrina," ….Taj on banjo and a stirring display of technical virtuosity by the drummer Ali Jackson who made one tambourine sound like a full trap set.

Musicians: Eric Clapton (guitar and vocals); Wynton Marsalis (trumpet); Marcus Printup (trumpet); Chris Crenshaw (trombone); Victor Goines (clarinet); Dan Nimmer (piano); Carlos Henriquez (Bass); Ali Jackson (drums); Chris Stainton (keyboards) and Don Vappie (banjo) with special guest Taj Mahal (guitars, banjo and vocals).
Chris Crenshaw (trombone), Ashley, and Victor Goines (clarinet). Nathan and Katharina Otto-Bernstein talking to David Schiff.
Skip "Henry" Gates. Katie and Walt MacNee. Elizabeth Zabludoft.
Mica Ertegun and George Wein. Janice and Craig Burns.
The evening, it turned out, was the result of six years of our friend Ashley getting everyone together and agreeing. She saw Wynton and Clapton play something together at a benefit that many years ago and all she could think from that moment on was: this would be a dynamite benefit. As indeed it was.

More than 800 guests and whatwith sales from the tickets and from following concerts they raised more then $3.6 million. Thank you Ashley, mother of us all now.

Showing their support of jazz throughout the festive and elegant evening followed by dinner, entertainment and dancing at Roseland, was a distinguished list of more than 800 guests including Jazz at Lincoln Center Leadership - Board Chairman Lisa Schiff with David Schiff (parents of the above-huzzahed), Executive Director Adrian Ellis and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis — and the underwriters for the gala evening — Jody and John Arnhold, Lisa and Dick Cashin, Diana and Joe DiMenna, and Dr. Agnes Varis.
Gail and Al Engelberg. Martina Hund Mejean and Bruno Mejean.
Craig Ivey, Margaret Cooper, Peggy Cooper, and Gordon Davis.
Susan and Jack Rudin. Tom and Ann Unterberg.
Hugh Fierce, Gail Beltrone, and Gregory Fierce.
Diana DiMenna and John Legend. Gayle King and Mayor Cory Booker.
Mike Ramos, Taj Mahal, and Ashley Schiff-Ramos. Susan and Tucker York.
Barbara and Bill Broeder. Deborah Fay and Taj Mahal.
Adrian Ellis. Faye Wattleton and Felicia Gordon. Shahara Ahmad-Llewellyn.
Francesca Beale and Cristina Cote. Jackie Weld Drake and Rodman Drake.
Sheryl Layne, Shelby Layne, and Jon Layne.
Erin Friedlund and Seth Goldberg. Elena Patterson and Rebecca Robertson.
Dick Cashin and Frauke Schaeffer. Helen and Bob Appel.
Ralph Schlosstein, Catherine Farley, Jane Hartley, and Jerry Speyer.
Nathan Bernstein and Katerina Otto-Bernstein. Lauren Arana and Bret Silver.
Libby and Adrian Ellis. Mark and Elena Patterson.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Board members and special guests also in attendance included John Legend, Gayle King, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Shahara Ahmad-Llewellyn, Gail and Al Engelberg, Mica Ertegun, Mercedes and Sid Bass, Linda Wachner, George Wein, Fiona and Stan Druckenmiller, Eliza and Alex Bolen, Lloyd and Laura Blankfein, Katherine Farley and Jerry Speyer, Faye Wattleton, Gail and Al Engelberg, Marlene Hess and Jim Zirin, Ed and Carolyn Lewis, Wendy and Steve Madden, Michael Vlock and Karen Pritzker, Mike Ramos, Louise and Leonard Riggio, Diana and Jonathan F. P. Rose, Jack and Susan Rudin, Roy J. Zuckerberg and many more just like ‘em.
West 52nd, west of Broadway, with the bus carrying guests to Roseland (red sign) at 9:25 pm.
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