Friday, March 5, 2010

Play Me A Memory (Jones Street)

It’s 6 o’clock on a Monday night. The regular crowd lines up to play.

This is the oldest music café– continuous in the Village. It’s not as old as San Francisco’s Saloon where walls are layered by Civil War and Blues. But three decades into New York City is like living three centuries.

If you throw a stone down Jones Street, it will inevitably pass where some Artist made history.

Around the corner, on 4th Street, Bruce Springsteen was a new Artist, not yet the Boss. Madonna lived there. Jack Kerouac wrote at Rivera Café.

Positively 4th Street

Jones was a treeless two-way street when Bob Dylan was famously photographed for his second album.

At first meeting, she was 17, he was 20. They lived on 161 West 4th Street, Dylan's first New York flat, seeking the poetic spirit.

Jones today is a one-way tree-lined street facing Bleecker St. A land still mapped by songlines.

No one really knows how old this one block off the beaten path is…but Jones may have been laid down in 1794 by Dr. Gardner Jones himself. Greek row houses from 1843 (26-30 Jones) still neighbor this music café at 32 Jones. A regular in here once won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Caffe Vivaldi, 32 Jones, New York

It's here Kate Sland's songs and wit save the souls of people like me. To keep the soul honest. I am always jonesing for more.

Tonight singer-guitarist Jason Darling quips, “My one contribution to this place is the dimming of the lights.”

“I asked for dimmers …(months pass) … and one day I decided to put them in myself.”

Jason was introduced to Caffe Vivaldi by singer-pianist Kristin Hoffman who’s played 400+ nights here.

She is the only singer on the café's walls. Of all sounds that bounced off these walls, hers touched them most. We Were Kids.

Max Serpentini introduced me to Caffe Vivaldi. He played guitar like Andy McKee - with a wall of sound.

When Jason arrived on Jones Street, randomly (like every other random magic spirit here), he was asked to play Bob Dylan for a Japanese documentary. Jason had actually moved here because of Dylan. Freewheelin' Dylan was photographed here in 1963. Dylan walked Positively towards 4th Street.

* * *
On the sidewalk, outside this café, Woody Allen just filmed Whatever Works (2009) with Larry David. He’s the guy you know, but you don’t know why. Works

Woody Allen with café owner Ishrat Ansari at 32 Jones

Inside the café, photos still hang on the walls from the set of Bullets Over Broadway (1994). Woody Allen was here 15 years earlier and 15 years later making two different movies.

* * *
Tonight there's a man trying to sell beer. Singer-host-bartender-nursing student Kate Sland, from Ohio, tells him, it's a hard sell. Ishrat doesn't drink. He does hear a lot of music. Outside of his daughter playing Ode To Joy, 3000 acts try to book one day of the month. Ishrat only chooses the inspiring.

Beer? Only inspiration can add one more bottle.

(The drink menu is literally bottles on the bar)

* * *
Al Pacino shot a scene here once, self-directing Chinese Coffee (2000), a “semi-autobiographical character study…a cast of actors who've proved themselves before and after, a Greenwich Village setting, and thus the world of floundering poets, bartenders, belly dancers, photographers, jealous doormen, haughty Shakespearean quotes, urbane coffee shops and French restaurants.”

Cruising (1980), Pacino’s other movie on Jones Street, didn’t do so well.

* * *
True New York Story: After seeing Jason Darling sing only once (2007), I heard his song Systems play at Union Square’s Coffee Shop while in a Grammy Awards meeting (2008). The sound of magic travels from Jones Street.

Time Capsule (2007): Jason Darling set list on the café floor at 32 Jones.

I missed his Thursday night show (Feb 25, 2010)--that snowstorm. He never comes Mondays…but like any summoning…tonight he is here.

* * *

Jason arrives at Kate’s Open Mic, a first. He'll be back.

I’m not sure if this Monday night really has a formal name…but I’ve called it Kate's Open Mic for many years. Open to any Artist, it’s the longest-lasting music event I know of in New York City (not focused on one person)...outside of Lion King.

It’s hard to keep inspiration going, randomly and weekly, for years. Fittingly, Kate’s Open Mic is at the Village’s longest surviving music café. Its fireplace is a reminder of Old New York.

Don't Look Back

* * *
Open Mics originally helped Artists pay for rent.

"Hootenanny" (aka Open Mic) is Appalachian for things whose names are forgotten (whatchamacallit). It was also a country term for "party." A folk group with Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie brought it to New York for weekly parties, where Artists shared songs to pay for rent.

I don't know if this counts as Jones Street's first hootenanny, but in 1960, one Christmas, residents, across from 32 Jones, were about to get evicted and staged "Christmas Pageant" on icy Sheridan Square sidewalks. Their landlord was cast as Scrooge.

* * *
Jones Street is one of New York’s smallest streets. People from many countries walk on this street. I’ll never forget a man from Paris who waited all night long at Kate's Open Mic, right off the plane, to play his first song in New York City. He was the last man standing.

Last Man Standing

This is the neighborhood where the "original vagabond" Bob Dylan once just showed up in “the city that would come to shape my destiny.” He named himself after a Welsh poet who drank himself to death at the White Horse, later dying at Chelsea Hotel. RIP Dylan Thomas.

* * *
Kate Sland’s been here four years now, hosting this night. I remember when she was named Kate Pivoriunas.

She’s the only Artist I know, without an album, whose fans can sing her words. Erie

* * *

Off the beaten path, magic happens.

Here at this Greenwich Village hideaway I sat next to a friend of Malcolm X, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. People just wander in, including this former New York Times and New York Post reporter named Al.

Sometimes Artists arrive here with expectations – but that’s not how magic works. Or how memories are made.

One act inspires the next act.

Got spine?

* * *

It’s a small world on Jones Street.

My birthday passed this week. This trip to New York City, I sat next to a man whose birthday was the same as mine (my first night at this café). Then I sat next to a man who was from a small Illinois town where I was born (my last night at this café). Only on Jones Street.

* * *
On my birthday, I saw my 6th Kristin Hoffman show here over four years.

Her car just got towed: $375. Her Friday gig was snowed out. She was out nearly $900. I bought her Interscope debut album Real (2006). Interscope discovered her here.

The age of Radiohead's Thom Yorke and I is the number of dots on two dice.

I tipped Kristin $42. 42 is"the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" if you Google it. 42 is the only MLB baseball number not worn (after Mo). I turned 42. My bill from Tricia was $32 at 32 Jones.

A pianist and guitarist (who plays with a bow), here from Universal Records (France), invited Kristin to play at Webster Hall the next night.

This night, Kristin invited Nicolas Neidhardt (piano) and Jan Pham Huu Tri (guitar and bow) to jam on Hope After All.

My daughter really wanted to go to Paris this month. Unlike me, she didn’t speak French. Nicolas’ wife Stéphanie, a chef, randomly invited her to their house in Montmartre – the hood of Moulin Rouge. Ah Toulousse-Lautrec: Le Chat Noir still hangs.

I later emailed Stéphanie the only song I know named after her by Buckingham Nicks. Merci, Beaucoup.


* * *
“Just like great cuisine,” I told her, “Great music cannot be made with a company telling a musician what to do.”

But there are also mediocre chefs and musicians, we nod. Good sounds great. But when you hear great, it doesn’t sound like good.

It is magical. Féerique. Good doesn’t matter anymore.

On Tuesday night at 32 Jones, another man from Paris played. He knew of Jan. He just played at NuBlu where i told Jan to go. Yvonnick Prene played a jazz harmonica.

She's from Israel. I never got her name. But her fingers were so blissfully fluid.

* * *
The ghosts of magic were out tonight. Inexplicable intersections…This café almost died in 2009—then a fundraiser one August day saved it.

* * *
This week, randomly, my friends Andrea Ramolo and Jason Skiendziel had a New York City debut here with Law&Order’s Jeremy Sisto.

Andrea Ramolo New York concert debut (Feb 23): A night before, she traveled 24 hours from Memphis just to sing one song at Kate's Open Mic. She arrived at 10:30pm just before closing. Last woman standing.

Law & Order's Jeremy Sisto's Caffe Vivaldi debut

Michael Sackler-Berner: His father was in the house, Jeremy's "boss." A notable Arts patron.

My last night, I always say goodbye to Kate, who also bartends at Joe's Pub. Kate's nursing school classmate sat next to me, this last night. She is dating a Canadian lead actor from Law&Order SVU. What I didn’t tell them...he was in a charity project we had done with Andrea Ramolo in 2009. Coincidences are normal on Jones Street.

The photo we used

In his 32 Jones debut, Jeremy Sisto referenced Pacino unsuspecting Pacino was once here.

48 hours after i photographed this...Jeremy Sisto's celloist Lenae Harris wore a Rubick's Cube shirt. His upright player was about to go to NuBlu where i was going to go. His back up vocalist Claire Reilly-Roe is a Canadian Pisces like me.

* * *
There are always magical mystery tours at 32 Jones. A Monday ago, Anna Weng sang a new song called Meet Me At Patsy’s. Later that night, I saw a sign for Patsy’s. This song was about meeting someone half way. I saw the sign in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve experienced so many moments like this on Jones. I am not the only one to say so.

* * *

I will miss Jones on March 13 when Harrison Ford’s son Malcolm plays. Ishrat vouches his band is good.

I memorized Malcolm's band name wrong. That's music for you. They are the “Dough Rollers.” Not the “Dollar Bills.”

* * *
At Kate's Open Mic, Rachael Epp and Mary Jennings are in the corner cutting handbills, sheets printed off Mary’s computer earlier in the day.

Good Songs
112 Rivington, Tuesday, March 9, 8pm, NYC.
$10 or $7 if you bring old clothes to trade. Remainders go to Housing Works.

Watch them sing Beautiful Like This.

Butterfly Effect (sidewalk outside 32 Jones, March 2, 2010). Ishrat's daughter inside plays Ode To Joy.

When one act does, so does the next.

* * *

Josh Taylor sang Fortune Teller. Jason Darling was smiling. It was one of Josh's strongest performances. You can tell when Artists are motivated to approach the Artist. For a spell, I never saw Josh sing for two years, and then marveled over improvements he made. Improvements are hard to imagine – especially for yourself.

Canadian Daniel McKenzie was inspired to accompany Josh by piano. He’s leaving for Canada next day (just like me) with his friend Jessica Fodor. Small world, Andrea Ramolo’s one-man band Jason Skiendziel (upright, mandolin) jammed with Daniel McKenzie in Ontario….Jones Street is a small world.

Jamie Bendell was inspired to join Josh and Daniel, adding vocals. Her song We Say We’ve Changed will floor you. I still remember the first time I heard it here last October, 2009.

The heavy hitters were out tonight, elevated. One singer made the next better.

* * *

Emily (blonde hair), a pianist –I wish I knew her last name. Josh tried to tell me in the din. I think of Sarah McLachlan when I met her at 19. I didn’t see Sarah again outside of Lilith Fair for 20 years. Randomly bumped into her (literally) at magazine rack at the airport.

(Ed - May, 2011, 2+ yrs later i bumped into Emily again. Her last name is Schiavi)

* * *
I wished I could have seen Valerie Mize sing tonight. She’s at the Highline where her friend Amber (Paper Raincoat) is singing. Amber’s going places…Japan soon I think. I last saw Talib Kweli at the Highline in December, 2007.

I once interviewed Valerie Mize for a music time capsule and made a video synched to New York photos taken that week for the time capsule. Capsule

An engineer with Record Plant and Media Sound Studios experience is helping to produce Val’s EP. She’s learning about structure and trimming. That magic touch to channel rich lyrics, phrases and vocals.

* * *

Brendan is the lone comedian tonight. He had the stuff. Sketches morphing, rhythm. He leaves the room on a high with his comedian friend who is somewhat daring with his love of the risqué. His friend is trying to master poetic silence or would that be a pregnant pause?

* * *
Lalo sings Corazón. It’s been a while. He’s been around, but hasn’t sung. He’s the only one who sings in Spanish. He’s been working long hours. “I suppose it could be worse, I could be a comedian,” he quips.

When he gets off stage, I tell him I like his first song line: “I can’t find the words.” He looks puzzled. He usually sings it in Spanish. He laughs after a double take. His lyrics: No puedo buscar las palabras.

* * *
There’s an old man sitting next to me making love to his Jameson and…he sings, unplugged, lights dimmed. I am not really sure how his song goes.

Until tonight, I didn’t know the Closer’s name. Normally he closes with Eighty-Sixed. Kate usually jumps out from behind the bar to sing. But for some reason she is not here. So he changes the words.

I think I even sang. It was Kate’s Manhattan that sang.

I once wrote a song about Kate's Manhattan

“But where is Kate?” he sings.
“Kate’s out back waiting…” I counter.
“She has a test tomorrow” I continue.
“I hope she is alright.” He sings.
“Isn’t she suppose to sing?”

On cue, the new cue, Kate jumps in 3rd voice.

When done, I give Closer a gift from Ireland. Kate will be heading there. The key chain says Póg Mo Thón. Erik Frandsen then gives me his album Antiques: New and Used.

This blog was first written on paper in a New York traffic jam. I detoured to Jones Street to finish.

written at traffic stop about singer who inspires

Later, I’ll take a tunnel where Bruce Springsteen wrote a song. I’ll drive all night...back to Canada. After Jones Street.

"And the magic rat drove his sleek machine over the Jersey state line"

Who am I? I’ve been here for a while. I even know how to spell Kate’s real name. I still have a song in my head. Kate wrote it when she was 19. She has no album, but there's a line…

“Get up get up, your lazy bones, there’s enough time to sleep in the grave.”

I arrive at Jones Street to forget about life for a while.

The piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, man, what are you doin’ here?

Time Capsule:
1946 - Neighborly Art Arrives on Jones Street,9171,934Time


Matt Stevens said...

Sounds like a wonderful musical night.

X said...

Andy Warhol, Al Pacino, Woody Allen, Bette Midler, John Cusack, Rob Reiner, and Joseph Brodsky sat here. After winning Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987, Brodsky was interviewed by the world press here.

X said...

Video explains diamond pattern at 9 Jones St confirms Dylan walked on Jones St:

Film Festival Bob said...

Wait, this blog was about one night?? Wow!

X said...

The Closer (aka Erik Frandsen) plays guitar here with Bob Dylan on Catfish:

X said...

Where you can discover a song Beautiful Like This

X said...

People at Jones St. saw my buy at 2nd copy of this book on Bleecker (across where her son has guitar store). The first copy disappeared. And then this:

RIP Suze Rotolo

X said...

Song - Down on Jones St

X said...

New Yorker story on Steve Earle and Alison Moorer - resident of Jones St

X said...

True story - a year after i wrote this (Feb, 2009), i returned to Jones Street from Toronto (Feb 2010) at the exact same time Daniel McKenzie's friend Jessica returned again to this Cafe (also from Toronto). She's a great pianist and played a great song.