If I don't write every day, I feel like a piece of my life is missing. It was the same for playing piano for most of my life. If I'm not making music or poetry, or some kind of writing or art, then the next best thing, and sometimes even the better thing, is to be digging the artistry of others.
Like a couple of nights ago I went to hear some music in the Jersey town where I grew up. It was in a brand new building with condos upstairs and a bakery/soup and sandwich place on the ground floor, where I had seen on the Internet Malcolm Marsden—a friend of two cousins of mine—was playing music. These cousins (the sons of two first cousins I grew up with who are now gone) play music around Jersey and in Manhattan pretty regularly, but those gigs are usually too difficult for me to make. So since this gig was nearby and easy for my post-op brain to get to without too much anxiety (a condition of the post-op state these days) I figured I'd go support Malcolm and in that way be supporting my cousins network of fellow musicians.
It was a brightly lit noisy place (coffee machines, ice machines, customers, etc.) but he brought amps and mics and the sound was perfect. Me and my friend Rachel sat at the table nearest the mics and I was delighted when he started with what he said was a warmup song but he killed his version of "Lucky Old Sun" (afterward pointing out he got it from what he declared the best version, Jerry lee Lewis's, which I'd never heard, remembering only the Frankie Lane one, which is another thing I dig, being turned on to stuff I was unaware of that turns out to be new sources of nourishment for my soul).
He played several more tunes, some his own, some covers, from country to rockabilly (a great take on Elvis's "Return to Sender") to rock'n'roll, then called up another singer/songwriter, Carrie Cantor and they kept the songs coming, solos and duos, with Cantor doing her own songs and covers of Joni Mitchell and others. Highlights for me were their duo version of the Zombies' "Time of the Season" and their closing song, a duo version of The Beatles' "Dear Prudence."
It was a local gig with a tip box but no less entertaining and fulfilling for me than any other time I've sat through a set by a committed artist doing their thing.
And then tonight I got to check out the new location of the old Saint Mark's bookshop—that I remember from the 1960s on St. Mark's Place and then for the last many years around the corner on Third Avenue but now has relocated (feckin' landlords) to a small space on East 3rd Street near Avenue A—when I went to hear poets and old friends (both of mine and each other) Elaine Equi and Vincent Katz read from their new books: SENTENCES AND RAIN and SWIMMING HOME.
And once again I had the privilege of being in the presence of committed artists doing their thing and sharing it. Elaine opening with a series of unlikely poems that mostly come at you unexpectedly, surprising you with deeper resonances to what initially seem created with a very light touch. Her artistry reminds me of the kind of light touch Bill Evans had, as though he was hardly hitting the keys on a piano, and yet the notes lingered in deeply fulfilling ways.
Vincent's work, to continue with the jazz references, is more like Albert Ayler's approach to mixing the obvious with the abstract in ways that transported me to city street scenes from my younger days in mid-20th-century Manhattan then back to some futuristic wordplay from our technological present...or something like that. It's late and I'm tired from the evening in the city so this is the extent of my late night possibility for clarity.