Sunday, August 8, 2010

1997 trip

The first time I went to New York was in 1997 . The first night I was there I saw Tommy Flanagan at the Village Vanguard . The music brought me to tears .. It was very beautiful .

I asked a well known jazz pianist for a lesson that week . He was sitting with a lady during a set break at his gig at "Zinno" . He replied with one word " No " . That was the end of the conversation .

I stayed in an apartment on 1st ave and 13th st . I was jet-lagged and had no sleeping pills . The apartment building made me break out in hives . My lips swelled to double their size . I couldn't sleep with for days with the noise of first ave and the itching . We named the apartment the "itchy scratchy suite " . After days of sleep I went crazy and was freaking out . New york was much scarier back then . The stoop of our building had young gentleman selling drugs all day and night . After many days without sleep I started to hallucinate . I crashed at a couple of Australian friends places to get some sleep . They had money ( a real job ! ) and lived in soho and greenwhich village which seemed like another world compared to where I was . Early on Barney McCall rode his bike over from his place in Soho and met with me to try and calm my nerves . Everyone seemed to live on Manhattan on those days . I could walk to the west village to see music . I used to walk along St Marks place because it had more people on it and it was less freaky at night . Every block you walked west the safer it felt . 3rd ave was better than 2nd etc . Veselka ( a ukranian restaurant ) became my 2nd home at this time . 2nd ave felt much safer than 1st and they served "comfort food" . The Chilli still tastes the same there 13 years on but I think the price of a beer has doubled .

One afternoon , trying to rest in my apartment I heard the doorbell. This was strange as I wasn't expecting anyone . Given the situation outside with the crazy people and drug dealers I was a bit frightened and didn't answer . The doorbell rang again . And Again . Finally I thought " f#ck it " and answered . I waited . I lived on a 4 floor walk up . Eventually someone started pounding on my door . It was a girl . She said " I am a friend of Helen's "( my roommate and host who was at work ) . Then she said " My boyfriend is outside with a knife and he is trying to kill me " . I let her in . She was on crack . Her boyfriend played trombone in the Mingus band . Eventually after raving for an hour or so and 15 trips to the bathroom she left .

I got so freaked out and sleep-deprived I booked a night in a hotel room and put in on my credit card . On the hotel room cable TV I saw Paula Cole sing " Where have all the cowboys gone " and loved it . I bought the CD which became a soundtrack of that visit for me . Tower records back then was a smorgasbord of music I had never heard before . It's out of business now . Coming from Sydney and hearing all the new music opened my mind up enormously . I realised that I had only heard a sliver of the musical possibilities growing up . New York seemed like the centre of the universe back then . Having visited Shanghai recently I don't have that view any more . That's a big city !

Nick Mcbride was living in New york then . I thought he might spend some time going to see jazz music with me but that didn't eventuate . He had already discovered the African community in New York ( I mean immigrants not the decendants of slaves ) . He spent most of his time getting drum lessons from the source , playing at religous festivals etc .

I made a Cd with a couple of veteran musicians . I couldn't understand their lingo or jokes . One of them was 2 hours late for the session , got stoned and fell asleep during the playbacks . The other musician referred to him as " Nap-King Cole " .

During a break I left the studio for sushi and made the mistake of using one of the other studios as a shortcut to the street . They where mixing a rap album . There where guns on the neve mixing desk ( true ) , very loud music and the thick smell of dope smoke . I tried to walk through unnoticed .