There’s always something going on in any part of New York you happen to be in – especially in the summer, and even when it’s so foggy you can’t see a skyscraper a mile away, like it has been this past week. I don’t think June 21st is any sort of special holiday in Chinatown (other than father’s day, nationwide), but the whole area was filled with music, fruit stands, and board games. Walking through Columbus park, I saw crowds of people huddled around xiangqi tables, and every fifteen feet there was a different band of musicians, contributing to this blooming sound tangled but pleasant noise. One guy sat by himself at the base of a statue, holding an erhu. He caught me looking at it and beckoned. I hesitated, knowing I had no money for a tip, but I couldn’t resist when he held the instrument out for me to play. It’s kind of like playing a violin, except it has more of a keening sound. After a while, I handed it back to him and asked if I could get a recording of him playing it (which you can listen to here).
One of the first things I did here (other than work) is set up a lesson with Michael Blutman, a fantastic trumpet player and Julliard graduate who, among other things, plays for Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. After two hours with him out on Long Island, I left with a mind-blowing amount of new music-related knowledge and a vague feeling that I suck, which is good for a trumpet player.
Mike also referred me to a tribute concert for Lew Soloff, a legendary trumpet player who recently passed away. Many people consider Lew responsible for blurring the line between jazz and rock, especially when he and Blood, Sweat, and Tears came out with “Spinning Wheel” in the 70s. I’m starting to learn just how small the music world is; the guest musicians at Lew’s tribute included some of the best in the world, including Wynton Marsalis and Miles Evans. Mike went to school with these guys, and I know Mike because my teacher knew him, and my former teacher in Chico knew my teacher… and so on.
Last thing – if you’re ever in New York for the summer, be sure to catch the New York Philharmonic when they’re giving their free concerts in the park. FREE. This year is the 50th anniversary of the event; how cool is it that what is arguably the best large music ensemble in the world gives free concerts to the public every summer? For the past 50 years? I got to go to the one in Brooklyn, and it’s 100% worth wading through the mass of picnicking tourists and locals. If you’re in town, there’s still a few more performances left in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island.