|performance with Ahmed Abdullah at Sweet Rhythm|
|6/29/2007 - Just completed my first evening at Sweet Rhythm here in NYC. It was quite surreal being back in my old stomping grounds. I used to live right down the street, on Leroy and 7th Avenue near Bleecker, when I was a freshly minted graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. At the time, all I could afford was the smallest possible apartment, in which the shower was literally made out of a converted closet, and the bathroom (which the landlord disingenuously referred to as a "commode") was in the hall, under seperate lock and key (I actually had to carefully peer out and look both ways before using the john each morning, in my pjs!)|
The advantage, however, for a "kid" like me, at the time, fresh out of school, was that I was instantly thrust right into the center of the musical action, and could walk down the street (literally 50 yards), to catch the greatest jazz talent in the world at the then Sweet Basil club (as well as the legendary Village Vanguard, only a few further steps away); not to mention the (sadly now defunct) Village Gate, Bradley's...the list certainly goes on...
So here I was today performing back at what is now called Sweet Rhythm, yet experiencing a strange deja vu, despite the place having been completely remodelled. Greeting me at the door, for example, was an ageless James Browne, who booked Ahmed for the gig presumably (and did all the booking "way back when", also, when I first lived here, in the 90's). At the bar was (Chi? - I'm embarrassed to have forgotten his name!) - a pony-tailed Asian bartender who always struck me as warm and friendly, and a true fan of the music; he lamented to me the declining audiences and the fact that not enough people knew of what was going on at the club, and he reminisced with me briefly about days gone by seeing such great performers as my mentor, Don Pullen.
The piano, too, looked the same - and I couldn't help but recall my stool flying into the audience way back when (probably circa 1993) when I appeared there as (I believe it was) an overly exuberant member of Jane Bunnett's group, and of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer ferocity of Billy Hart's uninhibited drumming style, also in the same band.
Tonight, we had a modest crowd of the true "die-hards", but this had seemingly no effect on the music, and we proceeded to do a set of truly magical music-making - a true "Music of the Spirit", as our trumpet-leader Ahmed Abdullah always so aptly put it (also in the band is bari player Alex Harding, Radu on bass, Selim Washington on sax/flute, Louis Rivera doing poetry along with Ahmed's wife Monique, and Brandon Lewis on drums.) A happening affair - and for those of you who can catch it, be sure to join us for our final night tomorrow (Sat, Jun 30th) where I'm sure the music will be swinging' (to facetiously paraphrase Wynton Marsalis :-))...
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