The television series “Cheers” was a favorite of mine. Its opening song described the bar as “The place where everybody knows your name.” One Friday night, I went to Seppi’s and got the same feeling – it’s a place where everyone seems to know your name, especially Rick Bogart, the leader of a fine jazz trio. Rick plays a mellow clarinet and sings soothingly all the American Songbook tunes we know. He’s backed beautifully by pianist Keith Ingham and bassist Mike Weatherly.
Rick graciously invites extroverted audience members to join him on stage to sing. When he called my name, I didn’t walk – I RAN on stage and enjoyed singing to a most receptive audience. Pianist Keith Ingham, whom I know from my writing about jazz years ago, helped me sound better than I am. Rick told me that Seppi’s has live music every night – even for a Sunday brunch. There’s no admission charge, no minimum, food and drink available.
At 123 West 56th Street in New York City, Seppi’s is easy to find since it is adjacent to Le Parker Meridien Hotel. If you go on a Friday night to see our favorite Dee Jay, Danny Stiles, the parking next door is only $10. Now, here’s a scoop – Danny Stiles is in love! I watched him holding hands with a pretty blonde pianist and I was glad to see him looking so happy. Love is definitely in the air for the on-the-air “Stiles on Dials.”
Lucky me! I grew up immersed in a household of music. My mom played jazz piano on her upright (she was partial to Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson – me, too!). My dad enjoyed opera – even tried to sing – not too successfully to the ears of his audience. When I turned 16 (of course, I was sweet), my folks gave me a small baby grand, which was placed next to the old upright. Our living room was crowded, but we didn’t care because my mom and I enjoyed playing duo pianos. It was great fun.
All of the above led me to thinking about genes. Are there special musical ones? Answering myself in the affirmative, my theory was supported by a mother and son combo: Sandy Steward and Bill Charlap. Mom is the singer of American popular music. Her voice and phrasing tell a good song story. Son’s accompaniment is delicate and spare (Charlap is one of the great jazz pianists today). The two appear to have an incredibly natural ability to listen to each other. They each know what the other is going to do musically (how nice – son who listens to his mother – Jim and Andy take note!). One memorable concert was part of the Jazz in July series at the 92nd Street Y. In fact, I heard some of the world’s finest jazz musicians at the Y. where is the 92nd Street Y? That’s like asking who is buried in Grant’s Tomb! Of course, the Y is in New York City – Lexington Avenue – at, you guessed it, 92nd Street!
A couple of months ago, this paper had a photo of the rebuilt ShopRite with the heading “Everything Old is New Again.” Well, this might not sound related, but please read one. I’m an avid radio listener. I tune in every day for the weather, the news, talk, and music. While dial twisting one Sunday evening, I was rewarded by discovering a program I had never heard of. And here’s the connection. Its name is “Everything Old is New Again.”
The station is WBAI, 99.5 FM. Every Sunday from 9 to 11 p.m., the program features an unusual blend of big band jazz, swing, standards, show tunes, contemporary cabaret and even celebrity interviews. Just my speed! The program also covers a monthly magazine called “Cabaret Scenes.” What a treat! “Come to the cabaret” the song says and, of course, I’d love that but who can afford to these days!
Last month, Elaine Stritch, that hard-as-nails, tough-broad personality, appeared at the Café Carlyle in Manhattan. I greatly admire the feisty performer who just turned 85. But, and it’s a big but, there’s a $125 music charge, a two-drink minimum and dinner was required. So forget about it – but I can tune into “Everything Old is New Again” and perhaps catch that brassy, rough voice on WBAI. The program’s host, David Kenney, fills the air with wonderful sounds and even talks about free musical events. It’s unique programming because he encourages his listeners to call in if they have a request. WBAI is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station. The program’s host tells his audience to “Sit back and give a listen” – no cover charge. Loverly!
If you can recall the Golden Age of Broadway when you didn’t have to empty your wallet to see a Broadway show, you’ll recognize the name of two actors: Ezio Pinza and Florence Henderson. The two appeared in the original production of “Fanny,” a 1954 musical. Fast forward to today and thanks to the Encores! concert series at City Center, wonderful Broadway musicals and beautifully brought alive again.
Since 1994, Encores! has celebrated America’s important composers and lyricists. So today we can be treated to the great American musicals in concert. Each show runs for only three days, the fine Encores! orchestra plays on stage, and the actors carry their scripts as they perform. I enjoyed seeing “Fanny” and the fact that tickets run from $25 to $95 increased my pleasure.
“Fanny” was the 50th Encores! Revival at the City Center located at 130 West 56th Street. The City Center is one of Manhattan’s prominent performing arts institutions – an accessible and welcoming venue for dance and theater. It’s well worth a trip from Bayonne.