Month: July, 2008

Lunchtime doo-wop

Thursday, July 31st, 2008 | All Things, Music

Throughout the years, I end up at my share of evening musical performances, but for sheer value and variety, it’s difficult to beat the free weekday afternoon recitals. The Financial District, especially, is full of options: Trinity Church’s Concerts at One and the Juilliard Artists at 180 Maiden Lane are just a couple of the more popular options. And in my own office building, the Woodhill Players perform lunch hour concerts in the historic lobby Tuesdays and Thursday during the summer.

The World Financial Center hosts a series of noontime concerts as part of the River to River Festival and this afternoon’s featured act was The Persuasions, the self-proclaimed “deans of streetcorner singing.” The weekend before, the a cappella group performed here as part of “The Big River Project: The Music of Johnny Cash” — a week-long celebration of The Man in Black’s music. (Where was Cash impersonator extraordinaire Vince Mira?)

The quintet began as boys singing on the streets of Bed-Stuy in 1962. They were discovered after sending a demo tape to Frank Zappa in 1968, who signed them to his Bizarre Records label. Later, the group recorded a tribute album to Zappa’s music, and went on to cover other such varied acts as The Grateful Dead, The Beatles and U2.

The blazing summer sun drove us inside the climate-controlled Winter Garden, from which we caught snippets of The Persuasion’s classic doo-wop, R&B and pop music repertoire as it came in from the Plaza. I recognized “Come Go With Me” and “Lean on Me”. At one point, SYB asked, “Isn’t that ‘Under the Boardwalk’?”

Through the glass, it all sounded a little like “Under the Boardwalk“.

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I like a Gershwin tune

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 | All Things, Arts, Music

In Nelson A. Rockefeller Park at the North end of Battery Park City, where singer Patti Austin was performing the music of George and Ira Gershwin as part of the summer’s River to River Festival.

I grew up on classic studio films and Hollywood musicals, which probably makes me more familiar with the Great American Songbook than my fellow Gen-X and younger cohorts, many of whom associate the songs with cocktail lounges, wedding receptions, and um… movies starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Nowadays, artists like Peter Cincotti, Michael Bublé and (still, sometimes) Harry Connick, Jr. carry on the torch for a new generation… though I don’t know that their fan bases would be considered particularly youthful.

The GAS was the soundtrack of American life for more than half a century, and pre-1960 recordings abound. In this decade, Rod Stewart recorded four volumes of the Songbook, but my recommendation to those looking for a primer is decidedly more old school than Rod the Mod: Ella Fitzgerald’s Songbooks. All eight of the studio albums comprising the series were re-released as a box set by Verve in 1993.

In February, Austin won the Best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy for her tribute album, Avant Gershwin — 53 years and 16 albums after landing her first record contract at the age of 5. She harbors no ill will for her late-career recognition, though she did publicly thank Elvis Costello for knocking up “that b*tch Diana Krall” (who owns Grammys for both Best Jazz Vocal Album and Jazz Vocal Performance.)

From the stage facing the Hudson, Austin wowed the crowd with jazzed up versions of classics like “I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise,” “Funny Face,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and “Our Love Is Here To Stay.”

The man who only lives for making money
Lives a life that isn’t necessarily sunny;
Likewise the man who works for fame –
There’s no guarantee that time won’t erase his name.
The fact is
The only work that really brings enjoyment
Is the kind that is for girl and boy meant.
Fall in love — you won’t regret it.
That’s the best work of all, if you can get it.

– “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” George and Ira Gershwin (1937)

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…to the shores of wine country

Sunday, July 27th, 2008 | All Things, Arts, Drinks, Family, Friends, Music, NYC History, Travel

High fuel prices may be forcing most of the antique sellers online; we trekked the entire 50 miles of the sale without coming across a single dealer. But while Route 90 wasn’t the cornucopia of collectibles we’d envisioned, the entire weekend didn’t have to be a bust.

We decided to pack in early after a head-scratching encounter with one local woman and her chicken coop, during which we received some serious misinformation about the normal egg laying schedule of hens. (6 eggs a day? We may be city folk, but we’re not that gullible.)

The eastern shore of Cayuga Lake hosts just two active wineries compared to over a dozen along the western edge. Although we were given (more) dubious information about how the Cayuga County-side farmers historically have been less willing to sell their land for use as vineyards, a more probable explanation for the discrepancy is the west-to-east moving jet stream which creates a warmer (and somewhat less vine-friendly) eastern lake coast.

We stopped in for a tasting at 72-acre Long Point Winery in Aurora — the second winery to open its doors on the eastern side of Cayuga Lake, in May 2000. (King Ferry Winery was the pioneer, in 1984.)

After picking up several bottles of the whites for which the Finger Lakes region is best known, we moved on, bidding adieu to Route 90. Continuing on the scenic route home, at Ithaca’s Six Mile Creek Vineyard, we sampled and bought more award winning Riesling. That afternoon, the tasting room overlooking the sloping vine-covered hills was also hosting half a dozen greyhounds and their owners, who were at the winery for the Grapehound Wine Tour — an annual Finger Lakes hound/wine tasting event, now in its third year.

From the wine trail to the ice cream trail

Some places are worth a stop, just because you like the looks of them. Richford’s Dairy Treat caught our eye as we made the turn onto Route 79, with its hulking black smoker parked in the front lot, and huge signs advertising BBQ chicken and 24 flavors of soft serve ice cream — mixed to order.

My creamy espresso cone did not disappoint.

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