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Mona’s Hot Four

This jazz quartet consisting of Gordon Webster (piano), Nick Russo (banjo/guitar), Jared Engel (bass), and Dennis Lichtman (clarinet) isn’t exactly a well-kept secret anymore (they have two albums), but hearing them perform Prohibition-era jazz at Mona’s, an unassuming East Village spot, feels like a treat every time. 

This French-Born NYC Tour Guide Will Serenade You With Gypsy Jazz Tonight

(Photo: Sherry Hsieh)

(Photo: Sherry Hsieh)

One look at Alex Gabriel McKanze and it’s obvious he’s a musician: the tall, lanky 22-year-old has shoulder-length brown hair and a tattoo of the solar system on his right arm. But he isn’t your stereotypical Bushwick rocker: raised in the Paris suburbs by an American father with Cherokee blood and an Italian mother with Gypsy blood, he’s fluent in five languages (and knows a little Portuguese and Latin, to boot). And as a freelance tour guide for Great New York Tours, he’s a walking encyclopedia. Even with a hangover, he can tell you that Henry Hudson discovered the Hudson River in 1609 (adding snidely, “Because the Native Americans obviously never saw it before”).
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After Sandy, Jazz Musicians Really Banded Together

BruceMackIn the days after Hurricane Sandy darkened the Lower East Side, an old man played horn inside his dark, cold apartment, hungry for his favorite food: chicken. Then, unexpectedly, knuckles rapped at his door. It was four volunteers from the Jazz Foundation of America, and they had warm food and clothing.

Tears welled up in the man’s eyes. “Who are you? And, I love you,” he said.
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It’s John Zorn Month, So Just Go Ahead and Clear Your Calendar

Cancel all plans for the rest of the month if you’re a fan/worshipper of avant-garde composer and saxophonist John Zorn: you may have missed his 60th birthday jam at his East Village venue, The Stone (see above video for 30 seconds of him performing with Fred Frith), but worry not: a cavalcade of events will celebrate the pillar of the downtown music scene, starting with a week and a half of movies he curated for Anthology Film Archives.
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On Sunday There’ll Be Cool Jazz, Hot Jazz, and Jazz Poetry, You Dig?

This weekend, it’s “all that jazz” in a very literal sense. You already know that the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is bringing legendary Miles Davis sideman and cool-jazz pioneer Leo Konitz to Tompkins Square Park for a free show. But that’s just the start of it. If you need to get out of the sun at any point between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., you might want to duck into A Gathering of the Tribes, where Bird meets the word in the form of the Charlie Parker Poetry Reading. Downtown poets Bob Holman, Steve Dalachinsky, Patricia Spears Jones and a host of others will do their thing at Steve Cannon’s East Third Street apartment gallery.
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Paradise Alley Was the Beat Generation’s ‘Oasis in the Middle of Chaos’

501 East 11th Street ca. 1940 (photo: New York City Municipal Archives) and today (photo: Frank Mastropolo).

501 East 11th Street ca. 1940 (photo: New York City Municipal Archives) and today (photo: Frank Mastropolo).

The senior housing complex on the northeast corner of Avenue A and East 11th Street hardly looks like a landmark of Beat culture. But there, at 501 East 11th Street, three buildings shared a courtyard where residents gathered to talk, eat and drink wine. Fifties-era hipsters called it Paradise Alley.

The complex first drew attention in 1958 when Jack Kerouac published The Subterraneans, inspired by his affair five years earlier with black poet Alene Lee. The original version of the short novel was set in Paradise Alley, where Lee lived, and used her real name. For legal reasons, her character was re-written as Mardou Fox, one of the novel’s jazz club crowd; Kerouac’s character pursues an affair with Fox at her tenement apartment in what was changed to Heavenly Lane in San Francisco.
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