Monday, January 24, 2011

Law enforcement rolls on in the Times Square station

Nifty, eh? The cop told me that his new scooter can speedily reach nearly any spot in the station (which I've been told is the largest subway stop in the world) by using the handicapped access ramps. If not he has to take the elevator, which seems a little silly.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thanks to Don Kirshner

Queens College kids Carole King, Paul Simon and Gerry Goffin in the early 60's.
Don Kirshner, who passed away last week at 76, will probably be remembered by most of my generation as the easily-parodied stiffy of a host of his television specials. If I remember correctly it was Paul Shaffer of SNL who was chosen to make fun of Kirshner. But we should be eternally grateful to Kirshner (and his partner Al Nevins) for the work they did at their Aldon publishing company in the early 60's. Somehow a very young Kirshner realized that there was a new generation of almost as young Jewish-American songwriters emerging to follow the Gershwins, Jerome Kern and so many other creators of the "American Songbook." So he signed up such outer borough wunderkinds as Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, and Carole King and Gerry Goffin. When people ponder where in history they would like to pop up I always reference two places - I would love to stand in a corner of the Savoy Ballroom in 1937 for a battle of the bands between Chick Webb (with his young singer, Ella Fitzgerald) and Count Basie and just soak it in and watch the jitter buggers go nuts. The second is the office of Aldon at 1650 Broadway, where I would like to hear what was pouring out of those little offices furnished with a couple of chairs, an upright piano and an almost unbelievable amount of talent. Perhaps it would be "Up on the Roof," or "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," or "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling."
The wonderful picture above captures a very important moment in American popular music. King and Goffin, part of the last gasp of the period when music publishers would sign up writers and tout their work to the A & R men who told their artists what to record, are shown sharing their newly found world with a young fellow Queens College student, Paul Simon, who will go on to become an important part of the near destruction of that system - a gifted singer/songwriter who would've hung himself before recording anybody else's songs. Carole King later crossed that border as well.
I met Don Kirshner a few times during my music biz days, most memorably when I wrote an article about a new "putting together the band" sitcom that he was touting. It was at Kirshner's office that I interviewed the young Canadian musician Don had discovered and who would star in the (short-lived) show. His name was Paul Shaffer.

Like-new Roman mosaic from Israel at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Workers stumbled upon this incredibly well preserved animal lover's floor from the first century while enlarging a road in northern Israel. It's now on a world tour - and the Metropolitan is the first stop. Please note the handsome elephant posing so nobly among all his fellow creatures.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jazz festival at the Sixth Street synagogue

Our wonderful composer friend Peter Melnick invited us to an evening of "radical" Jewish-oriented jazz at this beautiful Orthodox synagogue on East Sixth Street, a block best known for its spicy cluster of twenty or so Indian restaurants. The music was varied, to say the least, and I punned that it fell into three categories : Heavy Mendel, Jew Orleans, and Jewdelydoodly. It was more than a little odd to hear power chords, super-funky trumpet solos and wild be-bop improvisations bouncing off the walls of the synagogue, but what was even odder was the wonderful Rabbi, Greg Wald, known, of course, as the Jazz Rabbi. That's him below on the left blowing his heart out -Sonny Rollins-style. This world-class musician, who has played in Carnegie Hall and made numerous CDs, told me his congregation is growing fast - especially among NYU students living in nearby dorms. Only in New York.
Klezmatic trumpeter Frank London solos. Note the wooden railing that separates men and women at the Orthodox services which, as is traditional,  feature no music at all. Other than that produced by the Cantor, I suppose.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Some belated images of the Great Blizzard of 2011

Chairs on the outdoor terrace of Aroma Espresso on West 72 Street

Central Park was almost unbearably gorgeous in the hours after the storm.

The storm left behind what may be the bluest sky I have ever seen in Manhattan. That's the San Remo apartments in the background. U-2 singer Bono lives at the very top of the left tower in one of NYC's grandest apartments - built for Steve Jobs of Apple fame.

It looks like Mayor Bloomberg's political future is buried somewhere under here .

A walker in Brooklyn (On Smith Street)

Imagine, an entire republic composed of 20-30 year olds who can't afford to live in Manhattan.

Truly a sign of our times.
A fragrant cheese shop right out of Monty Python and (almost) exclusively featuring delicious Brooklyn products.
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