This past Sunday I found myself in New York City. I did the obvious and caught Adrienne Cooper and Marilyn Lerner at the City Winery brunch, way off on the West Side of town where I hadn't been since visiting a college friend at her father's print shop--Varick Street was once the center of printing in Manhattan.
Not only did I run into several friends, but the music was superb. The repertoire was a varied as one would hope for—older, less-well-known Yiddish songs, new ones, and a taste of Cooper and Lerner's settings of the poetry of Anna Margolin. I could listen to Adrienne Cooper sing for hours and days. I have to say likewise for listening to the improvisational piano playing of Marilyn Lerner, here extending from the instrumental music recorded on her most recent Jewish music CD, Roumanian Fantasy, to her incredible interplay with Cooper. Watching them both was a treat.
Brunch at City Winery is a major step up from the tiny old Tonic (which wasn't even offering food in the last years of its Sunday brunch series). The space is huge, and clean, and the waitstaff are attentive. But, I gotta say that Sunday brunch needs to feature food that is better than "okay." It is not painful to eat there, and the coffee is good, but I can't imagine anyone waking up and saying, "I can't wait to eat at the City Winery again, and boy, wouldn't it be great to take the family out and listen to XXX." For the music, you can't do better. But for the food, you'll always be thinking, "couldn't I be eating someplace else?"
I was sorely tempted to stay in NYC to catch Mycale that night, and really, really wanted to hear Greg Wall's Ain Sof Arkestra Monday night. Too bad on my part, as Greg writes:
The Ayn Sof Arkestra and Bigger Band played Monday night to a packed house and kicked hard!
The Jewish Week wrote a nice preview and that helped.
Interesting mix of folks in the audience—young, older, secular, frummies, and a bunch of musicians as well.
My consolation? I was back here in time to attend the first gig by the KlezWoods at Johnny D's. I've written about this band a few times—usually I see them at Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge at one of their Sunday night gigs. Dana Westover, who has a great Sunday afternoon world folk show on WUMB interviewed them last week, and got them this gig. It was smoking. If ever there was a band ready to be playing to people who are actually paying attention and are ready to dance, it's KlezWoods.
There were 10 people on stage, including Grant Smith, drummer for the Klezmer Conservatory Band and a wide range of projects including balkan and other world music; and Michael McLaughlin—Dr. McLaughlin to most of us—who plays accordion and keyboards for Shirim, Naftule's Dream, and some wonderful avant garde-ish bands. Joe Kessler, the band instigator was there hopping around and playing his battered electric teal violin. There was electric guitar and stand-up bass and trombone and trumpet and Becky Wexler on clarinet, Alex Spiegelman (sp?) on sax, all playing this wonderful soup of klezmer/balkan/funk/jam band music that was so perfect for dancing that you had people bopping around in usual north american style on stage while others were carefully weaving a line of Balkan steps.
'Nuff said. The band has a CD out in a couple of months. It may or may not be great. They appear around town. Time to catch them live.
And finally, the week not being over yet, I expect to see the same faces at the Lily Pad, in Inman Square, on Saturday night at 10pm when Ezekiel's Wheels hold forth. Big fun expected.