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New York City: Theatre, dining, film, poetry, jazz, Gay bars, and the best New Year's blowouts
New York City: Theatre, dining, film, poetry, jazz, Gay bars, and the best New Year's blowouts
Part two of two by E. Joyce Glasgow - SGN A&E Writer

This is part two of E. Joyce Glasgow's comprehensive New York events guide. Part one appeared in last week's Seattle Gay News, December 21, 2007.

On January 28, 2008, theatre critics/producers Scott and Barbara Siegel's 2008 Nightlife Awards will take place at Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St. (between 6th Avenue and Broadway). These annual awards are given by New York critics to performers who have been chosen as the best in New York in the fields of jazz, cabaret and comedy. Each winning artist performs and this is one of the greatest ways to become familiar with a number of fantastic performers, all in one evening. I recommend this very entertaining event. Also, on March 3 at Town Hall will be another installment of Broadway by the Year: Broadway Musicals of 1947. This series is also wonderfully entertaining and features some of the top singers on Broadway. Visit www.the-townhall-nyc.org.

If you love jazz there are some very fine venues to choose from for a memorable evening, each distinctively unique and all presenting some of the best jazz musicians in the world.

Birdland, 315 W. 44th St. (between 8th and 9th Avenue), has great acts all the time. In June, I heard the legendary, now 80-year-old alto saxophonist Lee Konitz with Bill Stewart (drums), Dennis Irving (acoustic bass), and special guest, guitarist Peter Bernstein in an innovative and beautiful set of popular standards, including "You Stepped Out of a Dream," "Round Midnight" and "Just the Way You Look Tonight." (Konitz was also celebrated with an 80th Birthday Bash concert at Carnegie Hall, in June, as part of the JVC Jazz Festival.) I also heard the 13-piece chamber music orchestra, I Solisti di Perugia, sponsored by the Umbrian Jazz Festival in Italy, playing a tribute to the music of Charlie Parker - including "April in Paris," "Summertime," and "I'm in the Mood for Love" - with young saxophonist Francesco Cafiso. The food at Birdland is great, so come with an appetite.

One evening at the Jazz Standard (116 E. 27th St, off Park Avenue), I heard the spiritual, very sensitive trombonist Roswell Rudd's septet Malicool, which includes musicians from Mali, Africa playing jazz Balaphon and the Kora. Their hybridized music takes the listener into a realm where traditional African music melds with jazz in a very satisfying and beautiful way, almost otherworldly in its dynamic spirit. Another evening I had the pleasure of hearing one of the great jazz vibraphonists, Dave Samuels and his lively Caribbean Jazz Project. The Jazz Standard's menu features generous portions of southern style barbeque. Visit www.jazzstandard.net.

The Kitano Hotel, 66 Park Avenue (at E. 38th St.), has a wonderfully intimate jazz lounge that is casual and comfortable, yet elegant, with giant windows overlooking Park Ave. You feel like you're at a house concert as the musicians are just a few feet away. It is really a luxury to hear some of the greatest New York jazz musicians in a venue this small and personal (and surprisingly inexpensive by New York standards). Some nights there is no cover charge and a small minimum for food and drink. I heard two of the finest jazz pianists around, with their trios, on two evenings in June. Both Frank Kimbrough and John di Martino are not only known for their distinct playing and arrangements but they are both known for their sensitivity in working with vocalists and are in high demand by some of the best. Kimbrough (who also plays and records with New York-based former Seattle vocalist Kendra Shank) played at the Kitano with acoustic bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Jeff Hirshfield. Di Martino (who is also the musical director for legendary veteran vocalists, Freddy Cole and Gloria Lynne) played at Kitano with acoustic bassist Essiet Okon Essiet and drummer Victor Jones. Di Martino's trio played pieces by popular composers Thelonious Monk, Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Kern, including, respectively, "Epistrophy," "Some Other Time" and "Yesterdays." There is music at Kitano Wednesdays through Saturdays. Visit www.kitano.com for their upcoming winter schedule. They are presenting the fantastic vibraphonist Joe Locke and his group for this New Year's Eve. It should be phenomenal!

Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola has got to be one of the most dramatic places to hear jazz in New York. It has a sleek, modern design, with curving, golden bamboo walls and grand floor-to-ceiling windows with a romantic, jaw-dropping view of Central Park, Columbus Circle and a shimmering New York skyline. Located in the contemporary Time Warner retail/condo center (with a Whole Foods in the basement), on Broadway and W. 60th St., Dizzy's has a complete dinner menu and offers music seven nights a week. In June I heard some great playing by jazz icons the Sonny Fortune All Stars, with Fortune on alto saxophone, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, George Cables on piano, Billy Harper on tenor saxophone, Buster Williams on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is part of the terrific, non-profit, education-oriented Jazz at Lincoln Center. Visit www.jalc.org for more information.

Check out what great jazz is going on at the Blue Note, 131 W. 3rd Street (between 6th Avenue and MacDougal Street, in Greenwich Village), www.bluenote.net and at the Village Vanguard, 178 7th Avenue South (near Waverly Place, in Greenwich Village), which has been around since 1935. Visit www.villagevanguard.com. You can hear legendary guitarist and guitar inventor Les Paul and his trio every Monday night at Iridium, 1650 Broadway (at the corner of 51st St.), www.iridiumjazzclub.com. Smoke, 2751 Broadway (between 105th and 106th Sts.), features great acts and has a great lineup of musicians. St. Peter's Jazz Church, Lexington Avenue at 54th St., has regular, free jazz concerts and Sunday Jazz Vespers, www.saintpeters.org. Sweet Rhythm, 88 Seventh Avenue (between Grove and Bleecker), has eclectic programming, www.sweetrhythmny.com.

The Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia St. (between W. 4th and Bleecker Sts.), features interesting acts and has good food and wines, www.corneliastreetcafe.com. The 55 Bar, 55 Christopher St. (between 6th and 7th Avenues), is a casual, neighborhood place that's been around for a long time, where great musicians play. There is usually little or no cover charge here. www.55bar.com. Arturo's Italian restaurant (106 W. Houston) features great food and live jazz. Zinc Bar, 90 W. Houston St., highlights African and Latin jazz. www.zincbar.com. While in the Village, stop by One if by Land, Two if by Sea (17 Barrow St.) to hear the pianist and have a hot drink by the cozy fire in the bar. The pianist at the Waldorf Astoria bar, 301 Park Ave. (between E. 49th and E 50th Sts.), plays Cole Porter's piano, early evenings. You can drop in for a relaxing break during your busy day exploring New York. www.waldorfastoria.hilton.com.

The unique and beautiful Campbell Apartment (15 Vanderbilt Ave.) features live jazz on Saturday nights and is a great place to hang out while waiting for your train in architecturally gorgeous Grand Central Station. This bar was originally used as a personal office space for a wealthy businessman, Mr. Campbell, who designed it to replicate a grand Venetian Renaissance room.

If you feel a little adventurous and want to get out of the city for a couple of days, check out some nearby Connecticut venues. From Grand Central Station, catch a Metro North train to Westport, Fairfield or Southport and take in some arts events in these peaceful and lovely small towns. These communities are so picturesque blanketed in snow.

Westport features the historic Westport Country Playhouse and Paul Newman's adjacent new "sustainable foods" restaurant, The Dressing Room - A Homegrown Restaurant. This past February I was pleased to hear some of the great actors of our time reciting love poetry just in time for Valentine's Day as a benefit for the Playhouse's educational programming. Stars of stage and screen Eartha Kitt (who also had a celebratory 80th birthday concert this past June at the JVC Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall), Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charles Grodin, Joanna Gleason and Chris Sarandon read classic, contemporary and humorous love poems in an evening entitled "Come be my Love&Love Spoken Here." The readings were funny, thought-provoking and poignant. Eartha Kitt stole the show with her dramatic, flamboyant and sexy sense of humor. Authors' works who were read included William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, e.e.cummings, Steve Martin, Dorothy Parker, Erica Jong, Rod McKuen and Tennessee Williams.

The poetry was chosen by Tazewell Thompson, current artistic director of the Playhouse. The theatre is at 25 Powers Court, right off the Post Road, and a short taxi ride from the train station. Visit: www.westportplayhouse.org to see if they are producing another one of these very special events this February and to check out their ongoing series of readings for National Public Radio's "Short Stories Live." The cozy Dressing Room next door is co-owned by Newman and innovative chef and cookbook author Michel Nischan, who are committed to serving locally grown, seasonal organic foods and supporting local and regional farmers, fishers and producers. Nischan was recently featured in the May 2007 issue of Vanity Fair for being one of the leaders of the sustainable food movement. Visit www.dressingroomhomegrown.com.

In Fairfield, right next to the train station, at 70 Sanford St., is the Fairfield Theatre Company, a casual and intimate space which presents a variety of concerts and theatre performances year 'round. It's a great place to see plays in progress as playwrights workshop their pieces here. Last winter, Obie Award-winning actress E. Katherine Kerr previewed her comedic, provocative, three-man satire on Creationism, Intelejunt Dezyne here, starring celebrated actors James Noble, Bill Phillips and Chilton Ryan. Visit www.fairfieldtheatre.org for a current calendar of events.

The Quick Center for the Arts, at Fairfield University, 1073 N. Benson Road, offers a varied series of programming in world-class theatre, music and dance and has a lovely art gallery. www.quickcenter.com or www.fairfield.edu. I spent a day of learning there, participating in a program called One Day University - based in New York - which featured a day of lectures by four prominent Ivy League professors from Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth and Columbia, on an eclectic array of topics, respectively; "Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness," "The Economics of Immigration," "Law and Neuroscience" and "George Bush - Imperialist President?" Upcoming One Day University dates at Fairfield University, with new topics, will be on January 19, 2008 and February 24, 2008. These classes are also taught in New York City and other Northeastern towns. Visit www.onedayu.com for complete class details.

For a placid experience, take the Metro North train to Southport, Connecticut, which is a stop between Westport and Fairfield and go for a walk along Long Island Sound, passing beautiful, historic homes and the lovely old Trinity Episcopal Church, at 651 Pequot Avenue, one block from the train station. The church and many of the homes are painted white and with snow on the ground, the whole sight is stunning and so perfectly New England. The Trinity church parishioners, numbering at least two hundred, young and old, spent eighteen months preparing for the ancient Boar's Head Festival last January. It was a magnificent and elaborate affair, complete with a donkey, a falcon and a camel in the church! The music was beautiful and the whole production was quite a moving experience. You can read more about the fascinating tradition of the Boar's Head Festival at www.trinitysouthport.org.

Back in New York, there are all the Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway shows to explore. I recommend the groundbreaking Spring Awakening, which won eight of this year's Tony Awards for Best Broadway musical, and the lively and fun Curtains, for which David Hyde Pierce won the Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award this year. I got to see some great shows just before they closed last June, including Lovemusik, a wonderful musical story of the relationship between Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, a stunning and very moving production of Company by Stephen Sondheim, in which the actors played all their own instruments on stage, and a thought-provoking production of the World War I drama Journey's End, which won the Tony this year for best dramatic revival.

New, recently opened plays include Mark Twain's Is He Dead? and Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, which had its premiere in Seattle at the Paramount Theater recently. Cyrano de Bergerac, with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner, is on through January 6, 2008 and a revival, from London, of Sunday in the Park with George by Steven Sondheim is opening in January 2008. Ongoing musicals include The Drowsy Chaperone, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the ever-popular Wicked, Hairspray and Lion King. For a complete listing of plays and musicals on, off and off-off Broadway, visit www.broadway.com.

There's nothing like spending a chilly winter day in a museum and New York has some of the best: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Frick, The Guggenheim, The Whitney, The Morgan Library, The Cooper-Hewitt and The Cloisters, to name just a small handful. Visit www.ny.com for a comprehensive list. One of my favorites is the Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art, 1048 5th Avenue (at E. 86th Street) and is housed in a beautiful building, completed in 1914 and designed by Carrere and Hastings, who designed the New York Public Library. It has been designated a landmark by the New York Landmarks Commission and is considered to be one of the most distinguished buildings ever to be built on 5th Avenue. The current exhibit is "Gustav Klimt: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections." Be sure to visit Café Sabarsky on the main floor for traditional Austrian treats like Sachertorte, strudel and Linzertorte. Visit www.neuegalerie.org.

Finally, if you are looking for a museum that is a little different and deals with the subject matter of sex and the human body in an artistic, matter-of-fact and mature way (and you are curious and are not easily embarrassed), check out The Museum of Sex, 233 5th Avenue (at 27th Street), to spice up your cold winter day. There are three floors of exhibits. I saw a great, well-planned and thoughtful exhibit there two winters ago on the changing image of the male body through time. Visit www.museumofsex.com for a description of current exhibits.

New York is a wonderland filled with amazing things to do. I'll cover more when I get back from my next trip. Have a wonderful winter trip to New York!

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