Thursday, March 2, 2017

Noo-Yawk, it’s a wonderful town ...

Across the subway platform. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, March 2, 2017. 70 degrees in Manhattan midday on Ash Wednesday, with a brief steady rain around noontime, and then overcast; cooling down to the mid-40s by late evening.

I went down to Michael’s to lunch with Judy Price, and I took the new Second Avenue Subway (the Q) at 83rd Street entrance of the 86th Street stop (last stop 96th). For you out-of-towners, Jeff’s photo of the subway at the top of the Diary is the 51st Street and Lexington Avenue stop of the 5 and 6 local trains that go up into the Bronx.

Meanwhile, the trip took a third of the time it would take in a cab in midtown traffic at the top of the day. Right now the new subway is one of those things that’s new and very convenient, and sensible in the neighborhood. So it’s actually fun to ride. And when you’re at your destination six or seven minutes later, you’re just up the avenue from the lights on Broadway.

Noo-Yawk, it’s a wonderful town, the Bronx is up and the Bowery’s down; And the people ride in a hole in the ground ... Noo-Yawk, Noo-Yawk ... (thanks to Betty Comden and Adolph Green). That’s the feeling.

Michael’s was its busy Wednesday self. Michael himself was present, in from Los Angeles for his ten days away from his other Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica.

I asked him how the rains affected him and his house. The McCartys have a beautiful contemporary house (and two guest houses with pool and tennis court) in the hills (really mountains) above and the Malibu Colony, and looking out at the Pacific.

Did the deluge wash anything away? Michael pulled out his iPhone and showed me a picture of the land around the property: which is usually earthen, often sandy brown and rocky, everything was a carpet of the brightest Kelly green. Stunning. That’s the upside of those Southern California wild weather days.

Jeannette Watson Sanger and her husband Alexander.
Thomas J. Watson.
At Michael’s I ran into Jeannette Watson Sanger who used to be a neighbor of mine. She and her husband Alexander moved down to the Madison Square area. Jeanette for years owned the wonderful bookstore Books & Co. on Lexington between 72nd and 73rd Streets. In those days it was only one of several bookstores in the area, even just a few blocks away from each other. Now there are none in the area except for Shakespeare & Co. between 68th and 69th, across the avenue from Hunter College.

Meanwhile, Jeanette has written a memoir, “It’s My Party; A Memoir” which will be published in early October. Jeanette is a granddaughter of Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM. I asked if she could let me know more about it so I could share it with the NYSD readers. Last night she sent me the following description:

Jeannette Watson, the favored granddaughter of IBM’s Thomas J. Watson reveals a life of glamour, depressive battles, hard-won joy, and peace.

Born into a celebrity family (her father was Watson’s son, who turned the company into the powerhouse it still is today, and her mother, Olive, had dated Howard Hughes and John F. Kennedy), Jeannette Watson’s larger than life parents hid a multitude of secrets. Behind a façade of order and glamour, Tom Watson often experienced dark moods; his depression was something he passed on to his daughter. Jeannette felt she could never measure up to her mother—a legendary beauty—and kept her nose buried in books.

Through her years as a debutante, then young wife and mother, Jeannette hid her feelings, until she had a mental breakdown. As part of her fight to heal herself, she left her husband, taking their son, and moved to New York City to experience its heady 1970s freedoms. She opened the legendary Upper East Side bookstore Books & Co., which became a gathering place for literati. Her personal life soared once more when she met her second husband, Alex Sanger, grandson of Planned Parenthood’s founder, with whom she had two more sons. After a long and fulfilling run, the bookstore closed, and she found her way down a new path to become a spiritual healer.

A portrait of another era, a guide to dealing with depression, and one woman’s deep effort to understand herself. Patricia Volk wrote: "My Party is “brave, beautiful, and devilishly funny.”
This past Tuesday night a friend of mine asked me to join her at Birdland to hear the John Pizzarelli trio – Guitar/Vocal, Piano and Bass. Frankly when she invited me, I wasn't gung ho about going anywhere except to dinner. I'm not a jazz aficionado although I do often play some of the classic jazz albums like Fats, Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong, Garner, Barbara Carroll, Bobby Short. And I do love music, so I love jazz when it's in front of me. John Pizzarelli is famous as a jazz guitarist as well as son of the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli. My friend told me Bucky might make an appearance. So. Okay.
The car picked me up first, at 7. Driving down Fifth Avenue at that hour is another one of those New York moments – with all the lights, the bright reds of the roadways, the whites and yellows of the towers around and ahead of us moving south on the avenue, and the dark of the Park. It is a wondrous view. I couldn't help taking a picture of it (most were too blurry to show).
This is a New York experience, the kind which always reminds me of the treasures of the city and the culture that we live amongst everyday. My friend had sent a car to pick me up. Beats a cab or even the subway, no? Her service is called ABT. Their cars -- usually Cadillacs and sometimes Mercedes are red -- ABT is now a generations-owned family business that has been quietly serving the crème de la crème of the town for two generations. The cars are red for a reason: so their clients can see them when emerging into the night from their black tie galas, restaurants and theatre-going, and general getting around.
Waiting for the light to change on 61st Street and Columbus Avenue across from Lincoln Center.
Turning left onto West 44th Street between 9th and 8th Avenues, looking east into the heart of the Broadway theatre district.
Here we are, mid-block. Birdland is now legend too. Almost seventy years old, founded in 1949 as a little corner of jazz amidst the Broadway theaters.
There were two sets. There is a great dinner menu (I had the spicy meatloaf). I was introduced to the pianist Konrad Paszkudzki (Pash-kud-ski ), who grew up in Perth, Australia. He had a drink with us before the performance. I think jazz pianists are just born that way. Having been a person who took piano lessons as a kid, I know this to be true. Konrad, when asked, talked about his talent as if it were just something he always liked to do. He started with lessons at eight.

My hostess, a big fan, with her hero of the evening, Konrad, the piano man.
The room was packed when the show began. John Pizzarelli is a tall, very outgoing leader. He's a guy's guy, at home with a warm and sophisticated yet homespun wit that casually commands your total attention. His patter or stand—up runs throughout the evening and makes the performance all the more compelling. You can't not watch him or listen to him. He's interesting, he's funny. You're in for a good time, as good a time as the trio seem to be having up there in front of you, as if it were just an ordinary experience.

Konrad told me before the show that he didn't really know what they'd be playing. He might be given a brief idea just before they began to play. So you're going on a musical trip that takes over your psyche; you're in the room with pleasure. After several tunes, Pizzarelli talked about his famous father as well as the origins of the seven-string guitar. And then with a little fanfare he told the audience his father was in attendance and he called him up to join them.
The trio – John Pizzarelli, Mike Karn on bass, and Konrad Paszkudzki on the keys awaiting the appearance of John's father, Bucky Pizzarelli.
Bucky Pizzarelli is 92. He doesn't look like a young guy anymore. The only thing I knew about him when he came on stage was that he is considered a Master at his art. He was assisted up to the platform where he took a comfortable seat and was handed his guitar.
And there they are, Son and Father, a powerful duo.
What followed with his son leading the way, as well as accompanied by Konrad Paszkudzki and Mike Karn on bass was pure pleasure on several levels: the room, the music and the players. The Father-Son duo is arresting. Bucky wears the distinction of a distinguished performer -- so at ease with his guitar, a man who's been playing for getting close to a century. It's just part of him. And his brilliantly talented son, who never loses a moment of his father's seniority and genius, is an ace conductor and follower.

Their affection for each other underlines their playing as their music fills the room. You don't have to be a jazz aficionado or anything else to get their bountiful personalities. I stole a brief clip of them riffing on ... Listening, you're this is life, this is beauty, this is the best of us.
The John Pizzarelli trio will be playing two sets at 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. tonight through Saturday at Birdland.

If you have even an inkling of curiosity or desire to see them, I don't know if they're sold out but you can find out by clicking here.

Do yourself a big favor: check it out and take it in if you can. Did I like it? Wudda you think?
Back out on the street and into the fray full of the joy and pleasure of the night at Birdland, West 44th Street up ahead (between 7th and 8th) with the theater marquees lighting the night, felt like more of the celebration.
And then crossing Broadway at 44th, I couldn't resist a host of Times Square. A great night in New York.
 

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