Saturday – The much-anticipated Bang On A Can Marathon takes place today, at the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan. The 12-hour new-music festival will be kicked off by drummer, composer John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, featuring the dream-team tenor lineup of Tony Malaby, Ellery Eskelin and a talented newcomer, and a former classmate of mine at The New School, Jeremy Viner.
Sunday – Saxophonist Ellery Eskelin brings a trio featuring keyboardist Gary Versace and drummer Ted Poor to the 55 Bar on Christopher Street in the West Village.
Monday – The 15th Annual Vision Festival begins its second week with an all star lineup of iconoclastic improvisors, including Joelle Leandre, Marilyn Crispell, Mat Maneri and Wadada Leo Smith among many others, at Abrons Art Center on the lower, Lower East Side.
Tuesday – The saxophonist Michael Blake has spent the last 20-plus years forging a sound that successfully blends the hefty soulfulness of Hawkins, Webster and Lucky Thompson with a free-minded, post-bop sensibility. The results are uncommonly compelling. Catch Michael’s new quartet featuring pianist Landon Knoblock, bassist Michael Bates and drummer Greg Ritchie, at Miles Cafe, a new club on East 52nd Street in Manhattan.
Wednesday – I-Beam, the no-frills performance/rehearsal loft in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, hosts two sets by first-rate improvisors. At 9, pianist Craig Taborn will perform solo and at 10:30 saxophonist Tim Berne will join pianist Matt Mitchell for a duo performance.
Thursday – Drummer Tomas Fujiwara and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum face off for a duo set at The Stone on Avenue C in the East Village.
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Tagged Abrons Art Center, Bang On A Can, Craig Taborn, Ellery Eskelin, Gary Versace, I-Beam, Jeremy Viner, John Hollenbeck, Matt Mitchell, Michael Blake, Taylor Ho Bynum, Ted Poor, The Stone, Tim Berne, Tomas Fujiwara, Tony Malaby, Vision Festival
Last Tuesday, my fiance Loretta and I had a wonderful dinner at Lot 2, which might just be my favorite restaurant in NYC, regardless of location. You owe it to yourself to go there if you’re in the neighborhood, and it is definitely worth a trip on its own. The fare is relatively straightforward American cuisine with an emphasis on local ingredients — not at all unique in Brooklyn, as I’m sure you know — but done exceptionally well and served in a comfortable room by a friendly and totally unpretentious staff. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, as a number of visits have confirmed, but highlights include any of their rotating fish selections, their simple but divine roast chicken for two, and the heavenly Lot 2 cheeseburger. I’ve lived in the Park Slope vicinity for five years now, and have seen countless burger joints come and go, and can say without hyperbole that Lot 2 has the best burger I have ever eaten. At $13, it is a steal, and comes with thick, salty fried potato wedges, house-made pickled cucumbers and onions, and a trio of ketchup, whole-grain dijon mustard and garlic-infused mayo. In the three years we have been together, I don’t think I have seen Loretta eat more than a bite of red meat, and she finished the whole burger, which is the ultimate endorsement in my opinion.
Lot 2 is located on a sleepy stretch of 6th Ave. between 19th and 20th street which means we have never had to wait to be seated — although it does seem more crowded each time we visit, as word seems to be getting out. Definitely order a salad to start — there are a number of options that rotate based on availability and season, and we haven’t been let down by any — which we usually share, as they are quite large. Equally enticing are the deserts, which are simple, but fabulous. The last two times we were there, Loretta and I enjoyed delicious variations on Mousse — peanut butter and classic chocolate.
All told, our bill for dinner before tip was $59.
After dinner, we strolled down 21st Street to Korzo on 5th Avenue just in time to grab seats before the room filled for saxophonist Tim Berne’s Los Totopos. I caught this band, with Oscar Noriega on clarinets, Ches Smith on drums and Matt Mitchell on piano, at The Jazz Gallery in the spring, and they were just as burning tonight. Berne largely took a back seat throughout the set, leaving ample room for Noriega’s blistering clarinet statements, with some notable exceptions. Following an inspired statement from Mitchell, Berne unleashed a tour de force,entirely solo at first, then joined by his suddenly vociferous bandmates.
Korzo is an Eastern European inspired bar and restaurant with a great euro-centric beer selection, and tasty-looking food (we definitely wished we had left a little more room to try some). The Tuesday night live jazz series is curated by the pianst, composer James Carney, and has a real neighborhood feel to it. The audience was dotted with great musicians, and the 50 or so people there for our set were there to listen. There is no cover, just a tip jar for the band.
So there you have it. A three-course gourmet meal, two rounds of drinks and a world-class jazz show within a one-block radius for well under $100. South Slope has come into its own.
This post was initially going to be a review of saxophonist Tim Berne’s burning performance at Korzo last Tuesday, but I decided to turn it into one of those “Awesome Date Night for Under $100″ sort of thing. In the two years that I have lived in South Park Slope section of Brooklyn, the neighborhood has continued its slow transformation from a sleepy but gritty residential area, to a less sleepy and slightly less gritty neighborhood with a network of bars, coffee shops, stores and restaurants that compliment rather than overshadow the quirky establishments that have been there for years and make the place unique. If you’ve never been, you should check it out.