Busking New York City – May 16, 2019
I had the craziest experience with busker JasminFire, who was playing in the Herald Square (34th Street) subway station, which is a reliable standby for busker performances. When I arrived at the station I could hear some suspicious sounds, so I knew something was going on. I checked all the usual busker hot spots, but no dice. Wherever I was in the station, I was hearing sounds that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, they seemed so evanescent, not sticking around long enough for me to get a fix and home in. I must have spent at least ten minutes trying to track down the sounds, and I couldn’t even identify the instrument that was producing them. Somehow the routine task of finding a performing musician had become mystifyingly difficult. Eventually I came upon violinist JasminFire and her ample chops on the BMT platform, and chalked the experience up to just randomness. Later in the day I shared this experience with my son Jacob, who told me that there was a “sound installation” artwork at that station! (https://www.janneysound.com/project/reach-new-york/). And it’s been there since 1995! So that explains that. Witkowsi’s performance in Bryant Park was part of a regular program of piano music there; assuming the pianists are getting paid by the program, this is perhaps technically not busking, but what the hey!
Yuri Juárez – Greenwich Arts Center – May 2, 2019
Juárez’s performance was part of the larger celebration, Greenwich’s annual “Arts to the Avenue” festival. He is of Peruvian origin, and his instrumental music is a fusion of classical, jazz, and flamenco, with numerous South American influences.
Tamuz Nissim – Ossining Public Library – April 7, 2019
Israeli jazz singer Nissim sometimes accompanies herself on piano, and sometimes fills the aptly sparse space provided by the trio vocally. She scats like old school, always good to hear.
Mary Ann McSweeney
Patricia Barber – Greenwich Library, Cole Auditorium – March 24, 2019
Barber is a sophisticated pianist, composer, & lyricist. Probably has more gigs in intimate cabaret-ish settings, but nothing was lost here, given that she knows how to put over a song, and the excellent rapport with sympatico Deitemeyer and Mulcahy.
Open Book – Mahopac Public Library – March 3, 2019
Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks – Greenwich Library Cole Auditorium – January 13, 2019
Separating the music from the history is impossible with Giordano’s ensemble (11 pieces!). He’s got the patter down just right, a bit corny, a bit self-deprecating, chock full of historical tidbits that seem to be overflowing from his walking-encyclopedia brain. The group specializes in music from the 1920’s-1930’s, giving it potential for maudlin, but no, this is lively and vital. It’s supported by the choice repertoire selection, with works by (I’m not distinguishing here between “composed by” versus “made famous by” – Giordano could reel ’em off just like that) Ellington, Biederbecke, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Lunceford (the lively closer, “Rhythm is Our Business” [business sure is swell!]), sufficiently hip for me. Fiddler Stein has been around, was part of the Prairie Home Companion house band, among others.
Peter Serkin – Cole Auditorium, Greenwich Library – November 25, 2018
Although Serkin plays from a wide-ranging repertoire, here he focused in on the classical-est of the classical, Mozart and Bach. That these lengthy pieces can be memorized is astounding to me. But once certain parts of the brain master that scaffolding, and the muscle memory is in place, then it’s time to become immersed, for a transparency serving the other brain parts that are the source of transcendant wonder! To meld with the Goldberg Variations.
Jammin’ for Joey – The Boardy Barn – October 21, 2018
Our dear friend Joey DiBenedetto has been battling the degenerative condition ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Joey served for many years as the friendly face of the US Postal Service, delivering mail house-to-house in his home town of Hampton Bays. Good natured, friendly, dedicated, I am not aware that anyone in the world had a beef with this guy, the best that humanity has to offer! For me he is permanently linked to our time together in the rock band Total Crudd. But that was over in 1972; since then, everyone in that band has continued to play music, going their distinct but often overlapping ways. Our occasional get-togethers were always joyous occasions, where I would invariably be dragooned into doing “Coca Cola Can”. This benefit event was a chance for the wider community to show Joey some love, by raising funds for various aspects of his care. Yes, 2/3 of Total Crudd took the stage to perform, among others, Coca Cola Can. I had not planned to do any sketching, so came unprepard. When the urge struck I was unable to resist. But no paper! I ended up sketching on the backs of some of the poster sheets; Mean Gene & the Flamethrowers were captured on the flattened empty cardboard box in which pastries had been delivered.
Partial Total Crudd
Mean Gene & The Flamethrowers
Total Crudd, Fall 1972
Celebrate Mexico Now! – Rubenstein Atrium – October 18, 2018
Despite not understanding Spanish, I can appreciate the pipes and axes of these two, the passion overwhelming the language barrier. Goust and Gameros are prime examples of the cultural richness surrounding our border with Mexico, and of the need to redirect the immigration discussion.
Busking New York City – October 12, 2018
Special treat of the day: as I was sketching Ajamu, another sketcher was sketching ME at work. And not too shabby a job, Martin Williams! I’m always looking for instruments I haven’t sketched yet, so next treat, there in the subway, The Saw Lady. It don’t sound like anything else, except maybe proto-theremin.
The Saw Lady - Natalia Paruz
"Parker Gambino" by Martin Milliams