Music under New York

B.B.King is a classic name in blues music, both for the man himself ( he still performs at 87) and for his namesake on 42nd street. His club is home to the Harlem Gospel Choir on Sundays as well as a constant line up of Soul, R&B, and Groove. Manhattan Transfer, David Cassidy and The Animals headline in tandem with Buckwheat Zydeco and Swing Out Sister. The performance we scored tickets for this week was not quite so iconic, although Coco Montoya used to play with John Mayall and had a real following in the crowd. The blues guitarist opened with a slow ballad that worked as a distraction to the flickering of torchlight as waiters checked for empty glasses, but then he hit his stride with a blues number that had the crowd moving. Unfortunately the mood didn’t last so Sean and I headed out into the energy of a perfect Spring night.

One of the great joys of living in this city is the unexpected things that happen. You’re never quite sure what you’ll find and often the best moments are those you stumble upon. On that night we wound through the tourists spilling out from Times Square, the street artists creating art with spray paint and chisels, police loitering on horseback and vendors roasting nuts – with other nuts doing their New York thing. We stopped to take a photo of an installation that particularly appealed to me of heart shaped planes that ‘reference the love found in contemporary relationships that often requires people to be separated from their families or loved ones’. At that same moment Cuba Gooding Jr suddenly appeared behind us – he had just emerged from his performance in ‘A Trip to Beautiful’ and there we were at the stage door of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. He signed some autographs, pulled up his hoodie, and in the company of a minder, melted into the crowd. There was no time to cry out ‘show me the money’ so we carried on past the ping pong players in Bryant Park to home.

Music on the street can be as extraordinary as any you will find in a concert hall. With so many talented artists in NYC looking for a break or just wanting an audience, the performances you find in transit will stop you in your tracks. I saw this happen with an opera singer in the subway under Grand Central Station last week – one young woman turned the madness of peak hour into a transfixing emotional moment. Similarly yesterday I encountered the Ebony Hillbillies bringing southern magic to the subway. That’s the second time I’ve seen them – it must be a regular Wednesday gig – and the second time I’ve been late this past week. Music under New York is in many ways as amazing as concerts in Carnegie Hall or the lincoln Center. You probably won’t see B.B.King there now, but you may have once…

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2 Responses to Music under New York

  1. Stuart Peake says:

    Just Love your reports !!!
    I have visited NY several times, and it is one of my favourite places, cant wait to come back

    Stuart (Melbourne)

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