Exactly one year ago today I just got to New York City and rushed to get to a cozy gig in Brooklyn, for Ted Brown's 85th birthday (happy 86th, Mr. Brown!) There, I met Michael Steinman, purveyor of happiness through his Jazz Lives blog, who was recording the proceedings. This took place at The Drawing Room, Michael Kanan's studio on the first floor of a building on a street of Brooklyn; a small room with about thirty people in attendance, a small makeshift bar, and a very warm and welcoming vibe, for lack of a better word, to it.
This all may be a matter of personal perception, but there are times that magic seems to happen. This was one of those times: from the music, completely acoustic, to the unassuming attitude of everyone present, the love and respect for the birthday boy... even the lightning was wonderful.
|L to R: Michael Kanan, Brad Linde, Kirk Knuffke, Ted Brown, |
Chris Lightcap, Matt Wilson.
There were a couple of set bands playing, with people like Brad Linde, Kirk Knuffke, Matt Wilson, plus a few others previously unknown to me who could certainly play, like the exquisite bass-and-drums team of Murray Wall and Taro Okamoto. You can see plenty of the evening at Mr. Steinman's blog, here and here.
After the formal sets, some jamming ensued. After some "I'll play if you play" chatter, Hyland Harris sat at the drums, and Ethan Iverson took to the piano. In terms of visibility, Iverson and his trio, The Bad Plus, are heavyweights with the media and regular headliners at international festivals. At The Drawing Room, he was just another player.
If you know his writing about music — if you don't, go and bookmark his blog now — you'll know that he could put most of professional critics out of work, and that he's a clever guy. When he sat down at the piano, he asked Ted Brown, in the most gentle and respectful way you can imagine, whether it'd be OK to play a ballad. For whatever reason, not a single slow number had been played in the evening, Iverson spotted it, and we were more than ready for it. This is what happened, and notice the almost old-fashioned, highly melodic solo by Iverson.
L to R: Ethan Iverson, Ted Brown, Putter Smith, Hyland Harris
(and the back of my head)
At the end of the night, there were hugs, thanks, best wishes for the festivities, see you again soon... and I ended up walking with Iverson and Harris to the subway station, as a silent witness to a short lecture by Iverson on how to count some odd polyrhythms.
A lot, and a lot if it in bitter terms, is written about jazz, but nights like this are the real deal.
Then, while you're waiting for your train you learn that, even though she passed away in 1995, here some still remember Catalonian pianist and composer Mercedes Rossy, and that even though it was your first time at The Drawing Room, you've heard, you've listened to those drums in the room for the last fifteen years. They used to belong to Jorge Rossy, Mercedes's brother, who played them through Brad Mehldau's Art of the Trio series.