Sunday, January 08, 2017

New York Winter Jazzfest 2017

2017 Map
Despite the heavy snow fall, I explored several new venues and bands this year on Jan 7 with my friend Iona and her husband Peter. Great way to start out the new year!

Venues highlighted in yellow were the places I visited. 


Last year I did not check out performances in the New School venues because I stayed in the village area. It was great to check out 3 of the 4 venues in the New School area this year. Both the 12th St Auditorium and Tishman Auditorium offer plenty of space and seating. Tishman has stadium seats while 12th St has a more gradual slope. The festival also increased the number of ticket/wristband pick up locations so I had no trouble getting my wristband. Iona and Peter joined me around 7:40pm for my first concert of the night: Ralph Peterson and Aggregate Prime (instruments featured: flute, drum, guitar, upright bass, piano). I enjoyed the lyrical phrases from some of the pieces (at times almost wondering if some of the pieces would nicely paired with a vocalist?) Or better to just let the instruments do their own singing/talking.

Iona and I then made our way to Ravi Coltrane and David Virelles duo performance at Tishman (this show was written up in many 'must see lists' for festival previews) where Peter graciously saved seats for us before the venue quickly filled up. The ECM rep during her intro mentioned this was the first time the two took stage (in this combo, usually more musicians in the group) and that they hope to work on a future recording of the two! Ravi played several different saxophones during the performance. David played the piano and at times added percussion on or under the piano bench. The beautiful sound flowing from both instruments and the balance of the music dialogue between the musicians easily mesmerized the entire audience. I liked some of the lighter pieces where you can really enjoy the sound of the featured instrument with very light accompaniment from the other instrument. 

While the performance by Ravi/David was a difficult one to follow, we walked to New School 5th Fl theater to hear Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble. While researching the festival, I came upon this group and the harp jazz so had to check it out. Harp is certainly not a typical jazz ensemble instrument, But then again, this was not a typical jazz ensemble. Edmar welcomed his ensemble of musicians all hailing from different parts of the world, as one would introduce members of his family to a large crowd of guests at a house party. The warmth and hospitality was infectious. I also enjoyed the piece featuring his wife on vocals (they got married 20 days after first meeting at a Queens jam session!). The solo harp piece that Edmar dedicated to God was also awe-inspiring. I thought the New School 5th Fl theater was a bit on the small side (maybe around 100 seats seated) but it was also filled with a great audience that soaked up all the positive energy from the group.   

I ended the evening with a very high energy rock/disco/funk/jazz performance from Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians. Unlike the previous auditorium/stage/seated concerts, this was in the very crowded restaurant/bar called SOBs. Peter highly recommended this group so Iona and I took a quick cab ride from New School to Varick St to join him. What a crowd! Possibly the first time in the evening that I saw people moving and dancing (then again, I think Zinc Bar, Bitter End, and Django probably also had a lot of dancing from the more dancing friendly venues). The entire concert was basically a really fun jam session featuring fantastic guitars, bass, and strings. All attitude and all funk and probably the right way to end another year of a great winter jazzfest for me. Just keeps getting better every year!


listing of venues and their calendars so you can check a future concert.
  • New School Events Calendar (will need to filter by Music School or other type). Would love to see a future show at the Tishman. 
  • SOBs (Sound of Brazil)  (204 Varick St, near W. Houston)

Bands I saw

listing of bands that you can check out their music or in person at their future concerts!

Bands for next time

Particular bands I want to see at future shows

More Reading/ Listening

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Nashville Music City Trip

I enjoy being a tourist in a completely new city. 2016 marked a few new cities for me: Austin, Atlanta (dragoncon), and Nashville. Below are some highlights from my Nashville trip.


  • Johnny Cash Museum
  • Frist Art Center (Gallery fashioned from a gorgeous deco post office)
  • Parthenon (Greek architecture in Nashville. gallery inside and fantastic park outside)


Local radio Stations
I listened to some FM radio while in my hotel and wanted to save them here for reference. Thanks to the internet you can listen to them outside Nashville too.

Legendary Johnny Cash
I listened to many Johnny Cash songs and covers of Cash songs at listening stations inside the Johnny Cash museum. I liked how the museum organized the songs by decade and also provided a viewing theater for live shows. The "covers" listening station was really fun to explore. I've linked to a few memorable ones. Did you know Snoop Dogg (walk the line), Ray Charles (ring of fire), Norah Jones (cry cry cry) all sang songs by Cash? They can probably create an entire box set (ahem I mean digital album) out of artists who covered different Cash songs. Amazing stuff.

Rob and Trey Bluegrass
When I was exploring live music options (there are tons daily and even in the mornings around the downtown Broadway area), I decided to skip the large venues for smaller stages. Station Inn was known for bluegrass and seemed like a cozy space, so I decided to look up the scheduled acts. Rob and Trey (official site) Pride and Joy on youtube sounded good so I went to the show. If you have never heard of a dobro before, give them a listen and you'll be amazed. After the show I did some more research on their upcoming tour dates and found out about a bluegrass festival in Seattle (of all places?)

Vanderbilt Blair Music School
Check their events calendar for concerts. I heard a group of talented high school musicians play recitals here. The campus is also quite scenic so I took several leisure strolls.

Ragnar Kjartansson Performance Art
Somehow I must have missed "Visitors" exhibits at MoMa a few years back. No matter, I got a close look at it in the Frist center. The concept seems simple: take a bunch of musicians who are linked up by microphone/headset and separate them into diff rooms inside an old dilapidated upstate NY Astor mansion. let them jam and sing their hearts out. As you walk through the exhibit area, you will see each wall which shows what's going on with the artist in that room, you will hear the instrument in more focus. Featured instruments include guitars, accordion, pianos, banjo, cello, drum set, etc. I didn't see the entire 64minutes but did manage to catch the end and beginning and most of the first part.  

I did not manage to stuff my face with BBQ but I thought the two places did live up to the hype and reviews:

  • Hattie B's Hot Chicken
  • Flying Saucer (site) cozy bar / food joint featuring many many plates covering ceilings and walls (hence saucers). You are bound to find a beer you like on their list. It's next to Union Station Hotel and Frist Art Center so a good spot after some art and architecture.

Next Place

  • Grand Ole Opry
  • Ryman Auditorium
  • Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum (and xmas lights if I'm around Dec)
  • Visit Belmont University (also has a nice music school)
  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
  • more food exploration around The Gulch
  • more music!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jonas and Orange Hot Chocolate

We all know there was some serious snow this weekend in the NJ/NY area (see Winter Storm Jonas 2016). I hope everyone is safe and well-stocked with hot chocolate and nice teas.

A few days before the storm, I saw a recipe for orange mocha in my inbox and decided to try it out during the weekend since trains were suspended anyway.

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 1 packet of Via instant coffee (Veranda, I didn't have espresso so this was a good sub)
  • 2 cups of milk (I used non-fat, you can use anything from skim to half-n-half)
  • 10 tbsp of hot chocolate mix (I had Max Brenner's dark chocolate handy, you can use your favorite mix)
  • 2 tbsp of turbinado sugar (you can skip this or use any type of sugar you like to taste, it was just what was in the pantry)
  • 1 orange (for zesting only, but go ahead and eat the inside anyway!)
  • Optional items: nutmeg, cinnamon, other spices of choice.
  • orange cookie (optional. I happened to have one of these sitting around from Maison Kaiser. it was a nice chocolate cookie with candied orange pieces. you can also obviously drink your hot chocolate with any cookie or sweet you like. 


  1. Measure out all ingredients
  2. Take a knife or zester and get a good 3-4 large strips of orange zest
  3. Pour milk into small sauce pan to heat up on low heat
  4. Mix in sugar, hot chocolate mix, coffee, and orange zest strips
  5. After low simmer for a few min and most items mixed, pour out hot chocolate in serving mugs (discard orange zest strips)
  6. Top each mug with whipped cream, marshmallows, and small amount of fine orange zest


Original mocha recipe with video:
Four ways to froth milk: