Number One: I had cousins visiting from England. One of them had never been to New York before. He’s a musician and wanted to see some music. It was a Monday night. Go to just about any city, and seeing good jazz on a Monday night would be a difficult proposition. But this was New York. There were many choices, but for me there was only one: The Vanguard, of course, with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, which is still the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Orchestra to me. I hadn’t been to the Vanguard on a Monday night in probably 10 years, which is kind of ridiculous when you think about it since it is only a 20-minute subway ride away from my apartment. Anyway, I went online for reservations and it was sold out. Same thing when I called. We went anyway, arriving early. And we got in. The band was in fine form. They had just finished doing their annual weekly gig at the Vanguard, and seemed particularly tight. The band’s personnel has evolved over the years, but there were definitely a lot of familiar faces, including the tenor player Ralph LaLama, from whom I once took about four lessons 30 years ago. Somehow, I didn’t think he’d remember me, at least not fondly, so I didn’t actually say hello. But I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and would highly recommend a visit to the Vanguard, particularly on a Monday night, to anyone visiting New York. But, if you can, make reservations early. It seems to be a destination for jazz lovers from all around the world.
Do you see a lot of live jazz anymore? I don’t. When people ask why, I kind of laugh it off and tell them that just about everyone I’d want to see is dead. Which, unfortunately, is pretty true, with a very few exceptions. I do still try to see Sonny Rollins whenever possible and perhaps a couple of others, but I no longer go to the Vanguard regularly or any of the other clubs in New York. Perhaps this will change when Mrs. JC and I make our long-awaited move to Manhattan, which is in the works (we hope). In any case, I bring this up because I did recently trek to Rose Hall in New York for the first time to attend a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert. The concert was billed as “Bird With Strings,” featuring Charles McPherson accompanied by a string section and playing the music from the original Charlie Parker Bird With Strings album. I like McPherson, a love Bird With Strings and I figured this would be a good opportunity to see some live jazz and check out the location. So how was it?