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The East Village Jazz Scene Remembers Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka reads the words to songs by Curtis Mayfield as William Parker and Leena Conquest perform Parker's "Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield" on the final evening of Vision Festival XIII at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in 2008. (Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Amiri Baraka reads the words to songs by Curtis Mayfield as William Parker and Leena Conquest perform Parker’s “Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield” on the final evening of Vision Festival at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in 2008. (Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

In the 1950s, before LeRoi Jones would change his name to Amiri Baraka, the poet soaked up the sounds of jazz in bars throughout the East Village. Clubs like the Five Spot Café, where Jones was a regular patron, featured jazz legends like John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. Their performances helped inspire Jones to write Blues People, the 1963 groundbreaking study of African-American music.

To further honor LeRoi’s time in the East Village, we spoke to three members of the era’s jazz scene.
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Will Fussell of Mood Rings Got His Bucket Hat Stolen By a Groupie

Zach Wolfe

Zach Wolfe

Last month I had the glorious opportunity to see Atlanta-based band Mood Rings open for Cults but I didn’t because I was too busy getting drunk or straightening my hair (or getting drunk while straightening my hair). At any rate, this is now a deeply felt regret as yesterday evening they opened for Connan Mockasin at Mercury Lounge and they were just swell — despite being down their synth player, who could not make the 14-hour drive for personal reasons. Luckily, his absence was well compensated for with generously used effects and a setlist consisting largely of songs they had written back when they were a four-piece.
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Judge Says Yippie Building Tenants Must Peace Out

9 Bleecker. (Daniel Maurer)

9 Bleecker. (Daniel Maurer)

A New York State Supreme Court judge has ruled that the venerable Yippie Museum be cleared for new tenants and has handed yippie leader Dana Beal a hell of a birthday gift, forbidding him from setting foot inside of his home of 40 years.

Since 2009, the owners of 9 Bleecker Street, Yippie Holdings LLC and the National Aids Brigade, have been fighting foreclosure for alleged non-payment on the mortgage. Yesterday, as Beal turned 67, Justice Jeffrey K. Oing ordered all of the building’s occupants to take their stuff and leave by Jan. 17 — unless, that is, the owners can come up with unpaid back rent amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, according to attorneys familiar with the proceedings.
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Live From East Williamsburg, It’s SNL’s New Hire! Sasheer Zamata Is ‘Going to Kill It’

(Photo courtesy of UCB)

(Photo courtesy of UCB)

Sasheer Zamata learned she was SNL’s newest cast member just minutes before you probably did. “It was pretty wild because that day they called her [at] Monday at like 3 p.m. and it was on the Internet at 3:30,” said Josh Sharp, her friend and one of her frequent comedy collaborators. That night, 20 or 30 improvisers and writers from the Upright Citizens Brigade feted the 27-year-old with champagne and cocktails at The Drink, near her home neighborhood of East Williamsburg. Bedford + Bowery spoke with six of her peers to ask what Sasheer was like before she got the call from Lorne Michaels.
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When Amiri Baraka Was LeRoi Jones, 'King of the Lower East Side'

The day of his play 'The Toilet' debuted at the St. Marks Playhouse (Second Ave & 8th Street), December 13, 1964. (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)

The day of his play ‘The Toilet’ debuted at the St. Marks Playhouse (Second Ave & 8th Street), December 13, 1964. (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)

Amiri Baraka may have been a “son of Newark,” but in between his birth there in 1934 and his death there yesterday following post-surgery complications, he was once described as a “king of the Lower East Side.” It’s where Baraka began a career as a music writer; broke out as an acclaimed, controversial playwright; and came into his own as a tenacious advocate of African-American equality.

In 1957, Baraka was going by his birth name when he moved into a $28-a-month, three-room cold-water walk-up on East Third Street, off of First Avenue. “This was before the Lower East Side became fashionable,” he wrote in The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones. “It was then just outside of the Village, the romantic center.”
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Beards are Everywhere; LES Pier Closer to $92 Million Revamp

Pixote on Houston, times two

(Photo: Scott Lynch)

Beards have gone mainstream, argues Alex Williams. That’s right: the “L-train look” is now appearing on “corner-office types.” [NY Times]

Speaking of the L train, at a meeting with the MTA, Stuy Town residents complained about overcrowding at the First Avenue station. [Town & Village]

The $92 million redevelopment of Pier 42 got a Community Board 3 subcommittee’s approval. Check out renderings that show the Lower East Side waterfront getting a bike path, lawns, a playground, waterfront marshes, an educational estuarine park, and more. [Curbed]
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7A Closes Jan. 26; Liquiteria Will Replace Gray's Papaya

(Photo: Photo: Carmen E. Lopez and AJ Wilhelm)

(Photo: Photo: Carmen E. Lopez and AJ Wilhelm)

There’s more to report today about the loss of two corner institutions: a manager at 7A confirms the rumor that the East Village all-nighter will close, and gives January 26 as the last day. According to the person we spoke to, who didn’t want to be named, business has been getting slower and slower in the last two and a half years, they’ve been in the red for some time and the owner wants to retire.
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Alex Prager Used 20 Tons of Sand (and Her Sister) to Stage This Beach Scene

ALEX PRAGER Crowd #3 (Pelican Beach), 2013 archival pigment print 59.5 x 92 inches, 151.1 x 233.7 cm 60.5 x 93.56 x 2.25 inches (framed), 153.7 x 237.6 x 5.7 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

ALEX PRAGER Crowd #3 (Pelican Beach), 2013 archival pigment print 59.5 x 92 inches, 151.1 x 233.7 cm 60.5 x 93.56 x 2.25 inches (framed), 153.7 x 237.6 x 5.7 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Alex Prager is not especially intimidating. The Los Angeles-based photographer is often smiling, rather petite and generally endearing. So it’s amusing to envision her atop a cherry picker, directing hundreds of actors like some sort of omniscient being, which is precisely what she did for her latest body of work, Face in the Crowd. Shot over four days on a sound stage in LA, the project features a slew of universally relatable locations (bleachers at a sports game, the beach, an airport, a generic looking rec room) populated with Prager’s friends, family and countless extras styled in flamboyant wigs and exaggerated makeup.
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Astor Place Bombshells: IBM Moving In, Another Newsstand Down

(Photo: Jenna Moratta)

(Photo: Jenna Moratta)

First Jerry Delakas’s Astor Place newsstand shuttered and now New Corner Magazine, on St. Marks and Third Avenue — rated one of Racked’s Best International Newsstands in Manhattan — is a wiry, splintery, cigarette butt-laden wreck. Renovation is underway. Why? “It was old,” said one construction worker. “It’s not that exciting.”
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Mr. Throwback Wears Bart Simpson On His Blue Suede Ewings

Welcome to Mr. Throwback Thursday, in which everyone’s favorite connoisseur of all things retro and nostalgic, Mr. Throwback, gives us a weekly blast from the past.

(Photo: Allyson Shiffman)

(Photo: Allyson Shiffman)

Like most males who grew up in the ’80s, Mr. Throwback was enamored with the Chicago Bulls. When he came home from college and rediscovered his childhood room, which was lovingly decorated with Bulls paraphernalia, the pleasant feeling of nostalgia prompted him to start poking around the Internet for other nifty finds. He then purchased 1,000 jerseys and 1,000 hats (sure, why not), which he started selling at the Hells Kitchen Flea at 39th and Ninth.
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