January 21-22 2004
The first time I hung out in NYC for a week I randomly came across a Jazz Restaurant/Bar called The Blue Note while walking around in Greenwich Village. There's a long sorted story about the name Blue Note and its relationship with Jazz music. Most of it stems from the well known and respected Jazz label that popularized the name. Since then a lot of people use it - either the name was never trademarked or the trademark was never enforced. Since I had never heard of a NYC Jazz Bar of that name, I was a little unsure. As it turns out the bar, which opened in the 80s, is quite well known. More importantly, I enjoyed myself the first time around and when I found myself in NYC again a few years later, I returned.
Once I knew I was going to be in NYC again for LinuxWorld, I started laying out plans to go back. Unfortunately, the artists booked for the week I was in town just didn't seem interesting to me. The cover can be a bit pricy ($10-$40 depending on if you sit at the bar or a table, if it's Monday night or some other night and the price doesn't cover food/drinks) and well, my schedule is such that the best time to go down to the Village (from where I was staying, next to Times Square) and keep a few business appointments build around the conference schedule, would mean I'd have to go in the middle of the week and a $30 cover for the bar...
I was sitting around waiting for a BOF (For those who don't spend all their time at business conferences BOF is shorthand for Birds of a Feather, as in Birds of a Feather Flock Together. BOFs are sessions with no real speaker, just a moderator that allows a group of conference attendees to gather around and discuss a topic of interest, thus the name). I really wanted to do something else, since BOFs are always scheduled in the evening, after the day's main events and I had already bored myself to tears having been at conference since 9 am. But it was about the new Red Hat Linux project; Fedora and I wanted to see what people had to say.
So, I'm sitting around waiting for this BOF to start when the other groupies start talking about the best way to convert Windows users to Linux and the true meaning of Free Software. Wanting to have nothing of this techno-religious debate (Trust me, you have heard nothing in this world that is more pretentious and idiotic then a bunch of computer geeks and wanna-bes debate the best way to take over the world since, after all, 20 year old white male computers geeks are obviously completely correct about how the would should be and everyone else is dead wrong).
Anywho, I'm blocking out this up close, in person, soon to be flame war, debating with myself as to if I'll head down to Blue Note if things get really stupid, when I realized that I had lost my hotel key. The stupid blockhead that I am kept put the hotel key in my back pocket with my business cards. This, despite the fact that I knew the key was going to fall out and disappear before I knew of it.
Sometime in the late afternoon, when I decided to walk back up to the show floor from the speaker's room, The Fates had me running into Dee-Ann LeBlanc (a Linux author who, along with another, I'm working with to try and get the Linux book that will never be published, written and published). I already had plans to meet with Dee Friday morning for breakfast, but figured I'd say Hi. She was on her way to a book signing, but introduced me to IBM's Business Development Manager for Worldwide Linux Marketing, who she was being escorted off with for the signing. Not to shabby a person to get to know, so we did the business card two-step and sure enough my hotel key, then and there, went down for the count.
As I started to realize all of this, I went off in search of the Lost and Found. The Fates being who they are had now forced me to abandon any reminding hope for sitting in on this BOF. Off I went to the convention center's Lost and Found, nope no key. Next, Conference Security, no key. Damn, now I had to get back to the hotel. Walking quite quickly out the convention center's door, I was thinking about what I had left in the room and would it be a problem if it was no longer there...see I had left the key in the little envelope the hotel gives you with the room number on it, just in case I forgot what room I was in, like that's ever really happened to me. So, somewhere in NYC there is a magnetic room key with the name of MY hotel on it in an enveloped with MY room number on it.
No taxis, damn. Of I went on a brisk walk from Eleventh Ave and 35th to Eight Ave and 45th. Not a long walk, only 13 blocks or so, but it was around 28 degrees outside. Or as the weatherman like to say "4 degrees below freezing", as if the country, all of a sudden, for the winter months at least, switched to using Metric measurements.
So I'm walking down 45th street just a half block from Eighth Ave and my hotel, loving the fact that for the moment the wind has died down and there is no "Wind Chill Factor" when I go right by a place called Birdland. Birdland? As in the Jazz club Birdland? The one named after The Bird, Charlie Parker? I didn't know it was on 45th? (Turns out it wasn't, it originally was on Broadway near 52nd St. the heart of the Jazz scene in NYC in the 30s and 40s.) For that matter I didn't know it still existed (it doesn't really, the original closed in the 60s. A new Jazz club in the 80s called Birdland opened on Broadway and 102nd (Upper West Side). No doubt the name is a bit sorted now as Blue Note. But after 10 years in the Upper West Side of Manhattan the club moved to guess where...45th and Eighth Avenue...back to Midtown, near Times Square. Only this time on 45th and Eighth instead of Broadway and 52nd.  (For those of you who don't know NYC, Times Square is really a triangle in Midtown Manhattan made up of Seventh Ave, a North-South road, 42nd Street, a East-West Street, and Broadway, a Northwest-Southeast road).
Well, I'll have to check this out as soon as I find out how much poorer I am, clothing-wise. Off to the hotel desk for a replacement key, up to the room and...I still have my clothing.
After resting for an hour, watching the News and The Simpsons on the hotel TV with nary a stranger walking into my room, I figure it was time to get dinner at the local fast food place. I mean if the would be thief has any smarts he'll wait till tomorrow, when I'm sure to be back at the convention center to steal my underwear and cell phone charger. Ah, only The Simpsons can put one back in the proper frame of mind about the world.
Back at Birdland after a Big Mac, Fries and Coke, I see that the first performance of the evening is about to get started. "Hmm, maybe I can get a seat at the bar and take in a show, I wonder who's playing? A collection of Jazz Vocalists...sounds intre...BRANFORD MARSALIS is playing three gigs here starting tomorrow? Wait what's this? Branford Marsalis is going to be joined by Miguel Zenon, Doug Wamble and Harry Connick, Jr.? Oh, shit, I got to go see this tomorrow night. I don't care if the cover is $40 for the bar (Good thing I went cheap on dinner), this is right next door. So in I went and asked if they still had seating. Sure enough they still had room on Thursday night, my last night in town, for the 11:30 show. "As long as I checkout in time and get to my flight, Dee will just have to suffer if I oversleep and miss our meeting, 'cause I'm going to see Branford Marsalis and Guests at Birdland, baby! Man The Fates have been good to me today."
Ok, the Fates never are kind to people for long, especially me. So I stated to wonder, "This is got to be to good to be true. I mean I wonder what Miguel Zenon and Doug Wamble play. I know Marsalis plays Sax and Connick plays piano, I mean I not an idiot, but Zenon and Wamble, can't say I recognized those names. Looking at the schedule you could take it to say the four of them are playing together, as a Quartet, but I don't know." As it turns out I had a right to be a little suspect about the arrangement. The show started with Branford Marsalis playing one set with his band and a featured guest for the evening playing the second set. In that vain, I saw Marsalis first and Miguel Zenon second. That of course means that Friday night was Marsalis and Doug Wamble and Saturday night Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. Alas, I had a plane out of town Friday evening, otherwise, you know I would have turned around and made reservations for Saturday night's show as well. You win some. You lose some.
As for the show I saw, I can't really complain. The bad news is each person only did one set and since Jazz doesn't keep to the radio standard of 3 1/2 minute tunes you feel a little cheated. Sure you get to hear the band jam for 9 minutes on a tune, but on the negative you don't get to hear a nice round selection of a performer's catalog, which in the case of Marsalis is quite extensive.
Of course the highlight is I got to see a member of THE JAZZ FAMLIY play live, up close and in person (Front row baby. Ah, the advantages of being a party of one, they can squeeze you in anywhere). Moreover, I've been a fan for quite a while now. My brother one mentioned that he thought Branford had gotten too Popish with his music. I don't doubt it since, if anyone who doesn't follow Jazz knows of him its because of him "being the band leader for Jay Leno's Tonight Show for a year or so when Leno just took over for Johnny Carson." Do that for year and your bound to sound a bit popish at times. Well, this show was anything but. Branford has certainly put together a little Quartet that can play and he was certainly happy to sit back and the rest of the band members go at his music.
In fact, with the exception of the opening number, everything played for the evening by both groups was original. To help emphasize this, Marsalis told a story before the first song about how he was teaching a Jazz class at Michigan and the class was harassing him about how to play such and such tune. His response? Jazz standards are only a beginning, eventually you have to get past them. To this end Marsalis has created his own music label, Marsalis Music with the idea of focusing on performers who write music for the whole group, not just as a vehicle for themselves. As such his label has released albums by, you guessed it, Miguel Zenon, Doug Wamble and Harry Connick, Jr, the featured guest of the next three nights. Ah, fate...