Satchmo in Queens

Have you ever wondered what Louis Armstrong’s house looked like?  Well, hightail it to Corona, Queens, where you can take a guided tour of the house he and Lucille lived in from 1943 onwards.  I did, and felt right at home – it has a very comfortable, low key feel – until you see the bathroom, which would make any Las Vegas hotel pale by comparison. You’ll find out lots about this musical giant on the tour: how Armstrong tape recorded just about everything, including his conversations with Lucille, and how he  toured incessantly, playing some 300 concerts a year, all around the world.  Not to mention the 30+ films he acted in!  Armstrong had a close relationship with the neighborhood, especially the kids, whom he’d entertain on his stoop.     You can take a 40-minute guided tour Tuesdays through Sundays  Be sure to leave plenty of time to check out the gift shop, especially the cd’s!

On select Saturdays in July and August, the Museum’s hosting afternoon concerts 

If you’re interested in doing more research, the Museum holds several collections of recordings, photographs, correspondence and instruments that are housed at Queens College, and available to the public by appointment.  

Sinatra, An American Icon; NYP Library for the Performing Arts

If you’re a fan of Ol’ Blue Eyes, be sure to get over to the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, to see the wonderful exhibition they’ve assembled to commemorate the Sinatra centennial.  With photos, recordings, correspondence, art work and memorabilia, it’s a great place to fall in love all over again  (or maybe for the first time) with “The Voice.”  Be prepared to spend a bit of time here; not only did Sinatra have a long career encompassing many bands (Tommy Dorsey, Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones,to name a few), he also acted in a number of films. I found myself periodically spending time listening to recordings or watching clips of his performances; you get a really good sense of how huge a phenomenon he was.  The exhibition runs through September 4th; during June, they are showing films such as “High Society” and “Pal Joey” that featured Sinatra.  More information here     This exhibit is FREE and continues to September 4.

The Library for the Performing Arts has a wide range of talks, films and performances;  you can find a full listing on their events page 

NYC Panorama and the World’s Fair at the Queens Museum

Panorama-Midtown & Queens with Roosevelt Island

Panorama-Midtown & Queens with Roosevelt Island

Sure, everyone knows that the Bronx is up and the Battery is down, but do you know exactly how they line up? Hint, the subway map isn’t gonna tell you.  Instead, get over to the Queens Museum and see the Panorama, a scale model of all 5 boroughs in one room!  It’s a rather amazing sight, giving you a fuller sense of where the different neighborhoods are in relation to each other across the boroughs. I had a lot of fun walking around, figuring out where I had lived and gone to school in the Bronx, and where my current Brooklyn location fits in. Originally constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair, the Panorama was completely updated in 1992. Built to a scale of 1 inch equalling 100 feet, the Panorama has over 895,000 buildings, plus streets, parks and 100 bridges.   You can find more information here 

If you’re a World’s Fair buff (or, if you’ve got wonderful memories of attending it), the Queens Museum has memorabilia from the Fair as part of their permanent exhibitions.   You can find out more about the Museum’s permanent and current exhibitions here   

FREE (and Low Cost) Summer Events!!!

Summertime is when I love to stay in New York City.  Yeah, it’s hot and sticky, but the free entertainment is unparalleled!  And it’s in the parks or by the water, so you can stay cool, or at least get some relief from the heat.  Here’s my list of events to check out if you’re staying in town this summer:

SummerStage – Central Park (and other venues)

Now in it’s 30th year at Summerstage outdoor events include music (Opera, American, world, folk, electronic…), dance, spoken word and events specially with families in mind.   The schedule runs from May 18th through September 24th

In addition to the performances at Rumsey Playfield (69th Street & 5th Avenue), Summerstage also hosts events at various venues in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

You can find a complete list here

Governor’s Island

Hop on a ferry and for a memorable visit to this former army/coast guard base.  This year the season runs from May 24th to September 27th.  Plan to spend a fair amount of time here, as there are always activities for visitors to engage in as well as dance, music, theatre, poetry and art – –  for all tastes and all family members.  This summer has open studios with the artists in residence and choreographers, a 15-minute Hamlet, and a Unicycle Festival!  Find out more here

Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center Out of Doors offers dance and music every evening and on the weekends too, From July 22nd to August 9th.  Find the full schedule here  

Midsummer Night’s Swing isn’t free, but it’s cheap, and it’s a great way to learn new dance steps, or maybe some older dances you’ve always wanted to know how to do (mambo, salsa, swing and more)!  Live music and group dance lessons make for a really fun evening.  Great date night! The series runs from June 23rd to July 11th  More info here

River to River (Lower Manhattan)

Comprising mostly dance with some musical performances, the River to River festival takes place in various venues in Lower Manhattan, June 18-28.  You can find more information here

Brooklyn Bridge Park

On the East River waterfront, you’ll find dance parties, opera, film, kids activities and great public art!  Not to mention a view of the NYC skyline like in the movies.  Brooklyn Bridge Park’s activities go through the end of October.  To see the full list, go here  

Celebrate Brooklyn (Prospect Park)

They’re going to kick off their 37th year in style, with Chaka Khan on June 3rd.  This festival, held at the Prospect Park bandshell, runs through August 12th, and includes music of all genres, dance, and film. Most of the events are free (they ask for a $3 donation); you can find a complete list here

MetroTech Brooklyn Lunchtime Series

Office workers of the world, bust out of your cubes and get over to the BAM lunchtime concert series on the MetroTech commons!  Live performances every Thursday from June 4th to August 6th,  ranging from R&B to funk, to gospel to soul to jazz and world music. Find the full schedule here

June Events

This section lists specific events, and will be updated weekly, as new events are brought to my attention.  Don’t forget to take a look at the other sections of this blog for additional events:

June 26:  The City Below,   a film by Christoph Hochhausler, about the affair of a banker’s wife and her husband’s boss. Lust and money – what more do you need for a Friday night film?  and a free one at that?  6:00, Goethe Institute, 30 Irving Place

June 27:  Made in New York Jazz Festival Gala   You’ll get to hear the winners the 2nd Annual Jazz Competition , who hail from across the world, as well as  trumpeter Randy Brecker and other jazz greats.   Tickets are only $45   You can find more information here   7:00 pm at BMCC, 199 Chambers Street in Tribeca

Through June 28th:  catch the Summer Music Sale     of cd’s and vinyl at the ARChive of Contemporary Music, which has music of all genres – blues, jazz, latin, world, rock….  I’ve gotten some real bargains at this sale in previous years.  11:00 – 6:00 every day, at 54 White Street in Tribeca.

June 29:  Conversation with film music composer Mark Baechle  and the Director of the Swiss Institute Simon Castets.  More information here   7:00 pm at the Swiss Institute, 18 Wooster Street

June 30:  Swann in Love, by Volker Schlondorff, with Jeremy Irons, Alain Delon and Fanny Ardant – with English subtitles More information here   4:00 and 7:30, FIAF, Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street

Through June 30th, the Blue Note Jazz Festival celebrates its 5th year.  You still have time to catch Darlene Love, Al Di Meola, Bebel Gilberto and Natalie Cole, among others.   More information here   

Through July 11th, the 14th annual New York Asian Film Festival,   with special features on Hong Kong, women behind the camera in Korea, new cinema from Japan and Taiwan, as well as a tribute to Ken Takabura and Bunta Sugawara.  More information here    Screenings at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the SVA Theatre in Chelsea

Through July 31:  Festival on the Green, the festival of FREE French films on Friday nights in various parks around New York City, features such classics as Pépé le Moko and Priceless.  All films are in French with English subtitles 

Through  July 5th   FREE Shakespeare in the Park:  The Tempest                                      July 23rd to August 23rd:  Cymbeline    Scoring tickets for these performances can take a bit of patience, but it’s worth the wait.  You can get tickets (2) by queueing up at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park – distribution starts at noon on the day of the performance;  there’s also a lottery at Astor Place, and a virtual ticketing lottery.   

               Older event listings (in case you’re looking for an organization)

June 5 – 7:  Bushwick Open Studios – a three day arts and culture festival in Brooklyn.  In addition to  the open studios, there will also be a family-friendly programs at the neighborhood Community Day on Saturday, and a film showcase on Sunday evening.  Find out more here  

June 6:  Central City Chorus    With Light Perpetual: Works of Maurice Duruflé  7:30 pm  St. Ignatius of Antioch, 264 West 87th Street

June 7:  From noon to 4:00 pm, the Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side hosts the free “Egg Rolls and Egg Creams and Empanadas Festival” celebrating the food, music and folk arts of the Jewish, Chinese and Puerto Rican communities of the neighborhood. You can enjoy Chinese opera, klezmer, salsa nad plena music; Yiddish, Mandarin and Spanish lessons; Hebrew and Chinese scribal art, Puerto Rican mask making, historic building tours, mah jongg, children’s art activities, and, of course, egg rolls, egg creams and empanadas! More info here 

June 9: Museum Mile Festival – Nine museums along 5th Avenue between 82nd and 105th Streets will be open FREE from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. There will also be live music in front of five museums.

Through June 14:  Panorama Europe Film Festival,  co-presented by the Museum of the Moving Image    and the European Union National Institutes of Culture is a showcase of 16 contemporary European Films.  Films will be shown at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens and the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan.

June 13:  From 2:30 to 5:00 pm, the NY Irish Arts Center in Long Island City Queens, is hosting a Scavenger Hunt open to treasure hunters of all ages.  More info here

June 13:  10th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island with Michael Arenella and His Dream Orchestra –  From 11:00 am to 5:00 pm,  performances, dance lessons and antique cars at a Roaring Twenties themed celebration.  Get dressed up and bring the whole family!  

June 14:  From noon to 6:00 pm, Smalls Jazz Club in the West Village hosts the semi-annual showcase of vocal and instrumental performances by students at the New York Jazz Workshop (yes, I study there).  Stop by when you can, or come for the whole day!  More info here

June 16:  The German Center for Research & Innovation   hosts the opening of Seeing the Art in Science, an exhibition produced by high-end Carl Zeiss microscopy equipment, and a panel discussion featuring scientists from the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) at the University of Illinois, who will speak about the connection between art and science.  6:30 – 8:30 at the German House.  Advance reservation required.  

June 12 – 20:  Chelsea Music Festival  celebrating the music of Finland and Hungary, including Finnish Tango and Hungarian Dances, the festival offers over two dozen performances across Manhattan.  

Through June 20:  The Ensemble Theatre’s annual Marathon of One Act Plays continues on.    See 4 new plays in an evening, with settings that include a science lab in Siberia and the red-light district of 18th century Japan.  

June 24th:  The Center for Fiction is hosting a conversation between author Mia Alvar, and her editor  Lexy Bloom .  

June 25th:  The Center for Fiction hosts The Music of Daniel Felsenfeld, a collaboration between the composer and various contemporary authors.         8:00 pm, 17 East 47th Street.

All That Jazz!

We’re lucky in New York to have so many venues where we can hear great music, whether by the giants of jazz, or incredibly talented amateurs.  Where to go?  Here are a few (list will be updated from time to time)

Jazz at Lincoln Center

Easily one of my favorite places: three elegant venues (with great views of Columbus Circle/Central Park) with reasonable ticket prices.  The JALC Orchestra is top-notch, and the best of the best play here.  Nothing more to say.  Find more info here


Down a flight of stairs to below street level to an intimate venue with bench and bar seating for 60 people, which means you can hear some great performers close up, without having your ears blasted out.  Around since 1994, Smalls has very relaxed atmosphere, with several shows starting late afternoon and continuing on till the early morning.  There are also afternoon jam sessions and master classes.  Check it out!  More info here

Rue B

Do you enjoy listening to jazz, and maybe even want to sing it?  Is a dive bar in the East Village your kind of joint?  Then get on down to Rue B for the Sunday night performance, jam session and open mic that’s being run by Jocelyn Medina.  Starting with a performance at 8:30, then the open mic around 8:45  where not yet household names sing, play and whistle up a storm ‘til around 11:30.  So what if you have to get up for work on Monday; your memories of Sunday night will get you through the day.  More info here


Long known for their Les Paul Monday’s, a who’s who of  jazz, rock and blues pass through the Iridium.  I recently caught Diane Schuur there, and Mick Taylor a while back.  The space isn’t too large, the sound is good, and the food’s not bad.  And the prices are good!  Find more info here


Made it to Frieze on Sunday and glad I did, but it would have been nicer if the subways had been running normal schedule and the buses didn’t suddenly go “not in service.”  But I digress, sort of.  When you’re going to an event that’s as big as Frieze, and as inconveniently located, everything becomes part of the experience.

Frieze’s biggest asset is also its biggest liability:  it’s size.  If you have limited time, you need to have a plan; otherwise be prepared to spend the better part of the day there.   While the fair is wide ranging, it can feel a bit disjointed, and the quality, while generally high, is uneven.  Overall I enjoyed it, especially since this year I noticed much more fiber art, that ranged from small hand woven and knit pieces to large hand-dyed compositions of rope or wool.  Many of the painters were also creating texture in their canvasses, some by diligent application of paint, others through incorporating threads or textiles, others by re-working the canvas (cutting it up, sewing it back together then painting over it).   I also liked that the fair gave space to younger galleries, some of whom had impressive works.   I had some lovely conversations with several of the dealers, but overall the people at the booths seemed to think their laptops or their colleagues were more important than the attendees. Maybe because it was the last day of the fair, but…  maybe next year…

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Got to this show this afternoon, and have to say, it was a terrific debut that I hope becomes an annual event. Go visit it!

1:54 fills a huge void in our understanding of African art, whether made by artists living on the Continent or in the diaspora. Held in Pioneer Works in Red Hook, the fair was just the right size, so you could get a taste of what’s going on without being overwhelmed. While many of the artists were from South Africa, there was also art from Mali, Nigeria, Benin, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Congo; some are working in their home countries others are in various European and American cities. As for the works, there were a lot of large canvasses, and several textile pieces which, as an embroiderer,  I always appreciate. Photography was widely represented, especially glossy super large format portraits in both color and black and white.

It was so easy to talk to the gallery reps, who were super-friendly (for several it was their first time in the Big Apple and they were eager to learn more about our city).


art miami new york 2015

Caught this art fair Friday afternoon, and enjoyed it very much.  If you go, and I recommend a visit , be sure to wear really comfortable footwear, as it’s a large fair with some 100 exhibitors of contemporary art. My dogs are still killing me. Fortunately, it’s all on one level with a few food/drink stations.

Most of the works were large scale (at least 6’ x 8’) ; photography, oil, acrylics were the dominant media. Many had a 3-dimensional quality; some were almost sculptoral, made from several layers of steel wire or similar material; others were made from painted blocks. Several works had a colored background interspersed with protruding nails or overlain with strips made from twisted paper or flat wood (or other material), producing an optical illusion reminiscent of op-art.

What I really appreciated most of all was the willingness of the gallery representatives to engage in conversation, even when it was clear I wasn’t in the market; many of them would still talk to me about the artist and his/her process; very often they initiated the conversation.

European Theatre in the Big Apple

I first met George Heslin, Artistic Director of Origin Theatre about 10 years ago, when I attended a reading he produced by a young playwright in the Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Since George founded Origin in 2002, they’ve been presenting US premiers of European plays. In addition, for the last 7 years, George has put on First Irish, which presents works from playwrights in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. First Irish has grown from a week-long showcase  to an almost month-long festival,staged in venues ranging from 59 East 59th to the Cell, to tiny walk up theaters in the Village. Whether a rough reading or a polished performance, the works are of an amazing quality – I’ve gone every year, and haven’t seen a dog yet. So keep your eye out for First Irish later this year.

You can get a taste of Origin’s work at their Mondays of May annual readings of new plays from Europe.

If you know any emerging playwrights, find them fast and tell them about Origin’s WB Yeats Emerging Playwrights contest; entries are due June 30th.

Origin’s Annual Benefit will be held June 18th, which is a great way to support Origin and have lots of fun!