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Fifty Years of a Masterpiece – Azar Lawrence Quartet Pays Homage to A Love Supreme At Jazz Standard

“No matter what…it is with God.  He is gracious and merciful.  His way is in love, through which we all are.  It is truly – a love supreme.” – John Coltrane.  On December 9, 1964 the John Coltrane Quartet, consisting of John Coltrane on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums visited the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs to record one of the most influential, brilliant concept albums ever recorded.  That album was A Love Supreme.

A Love Supreme was recorded in a single session and is considered Coltrane’s most seminal work.  It is poetic, a sermon and a testimony translated into a magnificent aural feast that inspires the most rapturous emotions about God, spirituality and enlightenment.   To listen to A Love Supreme can be inspiring and life changing; it’s the type of work most artists strive to achieve, not matter the medium, but are lucky if they get remotely close to.  Coltrane died almost three years after this recording at the age of 40.  He never got to witness how this opus impacted the music world, but I feel safe in saying that Coltrane’s autobiography and legacy was summed up in this piece.  For me it was the musical equivalent to the “Big Bang Theory” – a melodic explosion that created an alternate universe where I was able to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the world in which our bodies reside. In other words, A Love Supreme was an introduction to the metaphysical plane here on Earth.

Jazz StandardIt has been 50 years since Coltrane and company recorded A Love Supreme in Englewood, New Jersey, and its relevance is just as potent today as it was back in the 1960s.  In recognition of this important contribution to jazz and American music, Jazz Standard enlisted saxophone virtuoso Azar Lawrence to celebrate the creation and recording of this masterpiece.  The Azar Lawrence Quartet includes Benito Gonzalez on piano, Billy Hart on drums and Reggie Workman, who worked with Coltrane, on bass. The celebration was over two nights, December 9 and 10, and was a fitting tribute to this piece.  Coltrane once said, “God breathes through us so completely…so gently we hardly feel it… yet, it is our everything.”  It’s evident that the most high was present during the recording of A Love Supreme and the spirit of Coltrane was at Jazz Standard when the Azar Lawrence Quartet performed selections from this work.  These men breathed passion into a work that is already filled with emotion.  They were awe-inspiring.  I fell deeper in love with this work, if it’s possible to do so.  They played the house down and it was one of the best tributes I have been privileged to witness with my own eyes.  The vibrations could be felt in every corner of the room.  I believe we all left feeling connected.  Thank you John Coltrane for creating a work that will last as long as human history exists.  And thank you to Jazz Standard and the Azar Lawrence Quartet for allowing us to rejoice in a work and an artist that used his abilities to uplift humankind.

 

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The Illusionists Bring Their Magic to The Great White Way

One can be inclined to say that magic happens every night on Broadway.  Each performance brings the audience into new worlds and is always different than the night before.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing a live performance, that is until you add the heighten sensation of watching someone try to wiggle themselves out of a straightjacket suspended high above the stage or shoot an apple off a woman’s head, all to the beat of some funky music and pyrotechnics shooting from the stage.   And if that’s your bag, then a night of captivating thrills and pulsating amusement are guaranteed when you step into the Marquis Theater for The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible.

Gone are men in penguin suits and top hats pulling rabbits out of a hat and drawing multi-hued scarves out of their pockets.  The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible has all the slickness and pomp of a Las Vegas show, the sounds of hot, pumping dance party and the satisfaction that makes the ticket well worth the price.  Most of the tricks performed have been around for decades; however The Illusionists give them a 21st century injection that gives them a fresh appeal.

The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible is an ensemble of seven magicians each a specialist in his field.  Adam Trent, known as The Futurist, combines dance, comedy and pizzazz to create a routine that is eye-catching and innovative.  If Liberace and Ethel Merman had a son, he would probably be Jeff Hobson, The Trickster.  He is the epitome of showmanship.  His tricks are only rivaled by his wit, which leaves the audience in stitches.  Following the legacy of Harry Houdini, Andrew Basso, The Escapologist, death-defying stunts dare to look the grim reaper in the eye and smile.  No one can resist the temptation of watching someone put their life on the line on a nightly basis.  Dan Sperry creates a cocktail of Goth, wry humor and trickery that is sure to creep you out your seat as The Anti-Conjuror.  You will squirm and be mesmerized at the same time.  Who doesn’t like a good man sawed in half trick?  The Inventor, Kevin James, revamps this old school classic with new school charm.  Silent but spectacular Aaron Crow, The Warrior, kicks magical ass.  Yu Ho-Jin is called The Manipulator and his moniker couldn’t be more appropriate.  If we were in a different century he might be going up before a council for witchcraft that is how convincing he is.  His style and approach to performing gives the impression of almost being supernatural, it’s like his tricks are an extension of himself.  It is beguiling and beautiful.

The Illusionists hail from U.S., Italy, Belgium and South Korea and have been featured on The Disney Channel and NBC’s America’s Got Talent and are the future of magic.  It’s a fun show that is great for a family night, an evening with friends or a date.   Witness The Illusionists while they are still on Broadway, I’m sure they will conjure a smile on your face as they did mine.

Photo courtesy of The Illusionistslive.com

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Jazz Standard Brings the Heat to Fall with the Terence Blanchard Quintet

Nothing can warm up a cool autumn night in NYC like a plate of barbeque, a glass of wine and the sound of live jazz.  With Jazz Standard, you’re guaranteed a night of good food and good music.  Located at 116 East 27th Street, Jazz Standard is one the nation’s premier jazz clubs.  Each month they offer an array of legendary and new talent in an intimate candlelit setting.   This month they started off with the Terence Blanchard Quintet.  In my book Blanchard’s music is the secret ingredient that takes Spike Lee’s films to another level.  Blanchard’s horn can also be heard in the 2001 movie Original Sin.

TBQ4From October 1-5 the Terence Blanchard Quintet enraptured patrons of Jazz Standard with selections off his latest album Magnetic  as well as other selections composed by members of the quintet and other pieces from past albums.  The quintet is comprised of virtuoso Blanchard on the trumpet, veteran Brice Winston on saxophone and upcoming stars Joshua Crumbly on bass, Fabian Almazan on piano and Justin Brown on drums. I was privileged to be in the audience for Blanchard’s last two sets on Sunday.  Both sets were as electrifying as the name of Blanchard’s latest album starting off with an energetic, toe tapping piece, then following up with a more down tempo, melodic number and ending the set on a beautiful, robust note (pun intended).

TBQ3Along with the Terence Blanchard Quintet, Jazz Standard’s features for October include Steve Wilson Quintet, James Carter’s “Django Unchained,” and Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble.  Every Monday belongs to the music of Charles Mingus.  Billed “Mingus Monday,” the regular series presents the genius innovations that made Charles Mingus one of jazz most prolific bassists and composers.  It doesn’t matter whether your jazz exposure has been Kenny G or if you’re lifetime member to WBGO, you’ll be thoroughly entertained at Jazz Standard.  The mix of artists proves why jazz is one of the last true art forms to come out of America and why this music must be preserved and continued for future generations.

To learn more about Jazz Standard, click www.jazzstandard.com.

To learn more about the Terence Blanchard Quintet and view more photos and purchase music, click http://www.terenceblanchard.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TerenceBlanchardJazz .

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Sex and the City Slot Game: A Huge Hit among Fans

If you’re a fan of Sex and the City’s fab four, you’re going to love this. One of the oldest slot machine makers in the world, IGT, developed a game that carries with it the commercial license of HBO’s hit romantic comedy. Fans of the show will feel at home playing it, as they will find a lot of recognizable slot machine reel symbols that are actually based from the characters, setting, and theme of Sex and the City.

The Sex and the City slot machine is a colossal success at the Resorts World Casino in Queens. An article by New York Mag, stated that some of the guests even came all the way from Manhattan when they learned that Sex and the City slot machines were being offered by Resorts World.

“I came just for this game,” said Janis Savit, a jewelry designer that the New York Mag interviewed for their Sex and the City slot machine feature. “It was more fun than doing work.”

Perhaps the success of slot machines can be attributed to how they change along with the times. No longer the traditional coin-op and lever machine, these slots have become the money-spinners of casinos thanks to their high-definition graphics, surround sound entertainment, and progressive jackpot features. According to data, the slot machine business is so successful that not only is it a $160 billion industry, but companies that offer it online are also doing very well. Cryptologic,the operator of the first online casino brand in 1996 InterCasino, is still in operation and has recently optimized their games to HTML5 in order to make their titles playable on many gaming platforms. In the U.S., the online gaming market is predicted to be valued at around $73 million by 2015.

Sex and City is the epitome of a modern slot machine. Apart from the 5-reel interface, the game offers bonus rounds and huge jackpots to players who are patient enough to hit them.

The bonus features of the game also carry with them the identity of the show that millions of Americans have come to love. For example, when players hit the “Shoe Closet” feature they will be able to see stylish shoes that the Fab Four wore at some point in the show. Another bonus feature of the game is called “Simply Fabulous” and features Charlotte wearing an engagement ring. In this game, players need to select four engagement ring boxes that would reward them credits in the end.

Click here to learn more about the Sex and the City slot machine game.

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Delicious Eats Await At The Derby

In a city where neighborhoods reinvent themselves with same speed as Madonna, hearing that a new restaurant has sprung is just par for the course.  The Lower East Side is just one of many NYC neighborhoods that is shedding the skin of its past, and I just got the scoop on a new place that you and your peeps will want to make your “old haunt” very fast.

20140521_161810The name is The Derby and it opened a little over a month ago.  Located at 167 Orchard Street this eatery specializes in biscuits and bourbon and southern cuisine standards such as cheddar grits, chicken fried steak and baked macaroni and cheese.   The music creates a cool eclectic, vibe.   The décor is a mash-up between bar at Churchill Downs and a scene from The Great Gatsby with a speakeasy located in the basement – a great setting for a private get together.

20140521_161824I know what you’re thinking, the vintage furnishings sound nice, but how is the food?  Well FAMERS…the food is scrumptious.  I suggest the fried chicken, if you’re looking to have a cheat day on your diet.  The pieces are fried to golden perfection and the meat is juicy.  It comes with a side of fried okra and let me tell you, any place that can get me to like okra gets high marks in my book.

20140521_161954If this place was running in the upcoming Belmont Stakes, I would put my money down on The Derby.  It’s a shoo-in and a cool place to have a bite to eat in the summertime.  And if you do, say hello to Gabe, the restaurant’s manager.   He’s very personable and a definite added attraction.  Good food, good vibe, good people, good prices…there is nothing not to like about The Derby.

Urban Waves Summer Shorts

Urban Waves Has The Bronx Simmering With It’s Summer Shorts

The unofficial start of summer is here and Urban Waves @ Open Hydrant is raising the temperature uptown with their Summer Short Play Festival. The three day festival begins on June 6 and ends on June 8.  The plays participating in this festival are  The Three Joys of Mary, Heat of the Moment, Last Exit in New York, Billboard’s Greatest Hits and Fire.

Founded by Luis Cardenas, Sarah Rosenberg (stars of the Showtime documentary Shakespeare High) and Deborah Pautler, Open Hydrant’s mission is to vitalize the Arts and Theater scene in the Bronx. Their wish is to create an ensemble based company of actors, directors, playwrights, producers and artists to better serve the cultural invigoration of the South Bronx. The creative spirit of New York City doesn’t just reside in Manhattan.  As the Bronx’s first professional AEA ensemble theater company, Open Hydrant is determined to make the BX a destination for citizens of all five boroughs and the tri-state area. Urban Waves, a subset of Open Hydrant, explores material that contain edgier themes.

Urban Waves @ Open Hydrant Summer Short Play Festival will be held at The Point, located at 940 Garrison Avenue.   Advance tickets can be purchased for$12 online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com.  The ticket price also includes one drink.  Don’t be afraid to haul your cookies to SoBro to view  good theater.  Open Hydrant and Urban Waves are the best thing to come out of the Bronx since hip hop!

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F.A.M.E NYC’s St. Paddy’s Day Ticket Giveaway

Spring is near and if you weren’t already itching to get out of the house, let F.A.M.E NYC give you another reason.  Daniel Radcliffe is best known for conjuring magic on the big screen, but he has also been known to create some special moments on stage as well.  This spring Radcliffe is coming back to Broadway in THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMANAnd we want to give someone a pair of tickets to see Radcliffe in action.  All you have to do is riddle us this?

What school did Harry Potter attend?

Leave your answer in the Comment Box below for a chance to win.  

We will choose the winner on St. Patrick’s Day at 5 p.m.  May the luck of the Irish be with you!

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Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad Head to the Big Screen as Romeo and Juliet

Last fall Orlando Bloom made his Broadway debut playing opposite two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in “Romeo and Juliet”.  This month the production made its debut in movie theaters nationwide as part of Broadway HD.  Broadway HD combines the experience of The Great White Way with Hollywood, taking a live production and showing it in a different medium.

Filmed at the end of its Broadway run, “Romeo and Juliet” is playing a limited engagement in theaters, which ends on February 19.  Seeing this production when it first premiered at the Richard Rogers Theater, I felt the show was a bit comme ci comme ça, but after seeing this production in the theaters, I felt that it had come full circle.  Both Bloom and Rashad seemed more comfortable with the language.  The production in its entirety, which seemed to not be fully complete when I saw it, exhibited a richness that wasn’t present when I saw it last year.

Another aspect of this film version was the distinct difference of viewing “Romeo and Juliet” on stage as opposed to seeing it on the screen.  On Broadway the audience is part of the experience; the actors are performing for you.  Watching it on screen I got the sensation of a voyeur – a gate crasher sneaking through the side door who quietly watches the show unfold.  The excitement wasn’t as palpable; however it was still there.

If you ask me Broadway HD is a brilliant concept.  Not everyone has the luxury of living in New York City and those that do don’t always have the opportunity to see productions while they’re making their run.  Broadway HD allows Broadway to be accessible to everyone no matter if you are in Atlanta, Denver or Brooklyn.  I’m looking forward to watching future productions courtesy of this innovative series.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

 

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KEEP UP WITH THE JONESES CONTEST

Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  But how many of you would jump at the chance to peer past the fence and find out what your neighbors are really like?

F.A.M.E NYC would like to give one lucky FAMER and a guest the opportunity to find out by extending two passes to the dress rehearsal of “THE REALISTIC JONESES” on March 12 at 8 pm.  Written by Will Eno and directed by Sam Gold, “The Realistic Joneses” stars Academy Award nominee Toni Collette, Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall, Tony Award winner Tracy Letts and Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei.

To enter to win the passes for this exclusive event, all you need to do is answer this question:

What is the name of the film in which Marisa Tomei gave her Oscar winning performance?

The winner will be announced on February 25 at 5 pm.  Despite the mounds of ice littering our sidewalks, spring is coming!  And on Broadway Spring 2014 is shaping up to be one helluva season.  Here’s your chance to become a Broadway insider. Enter this contest! 

Good luck FAMERS!

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Romeo and Juliet, #TheBomb or #Bomb…

When it comes to love stories, none is more well-known than that of Juliet and her Romeo.  William Shakespeare literally wrote the book (or should I say play) on the notion of star-crossed lovers.  The adaptations of this classic are endless, yet the public never tires of the story of love gone awry.  So it goes that after 36 years, William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet has returned to the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

0306_Romeo&Juliet (c) Carol RossegDirector David Leveaux’s version of Romeo and Juliet takes Shakespearian English and injects it into modern setting.  Another added twist to the original plot is the subject of race – the Montagues are a white family and the Capulets are black.  Hollywood hottie Orlando Bloom and Broadway sensation Condola Rashad play the young, ill-fated lovers.  All these elements should’ve have produced results that were more explosive than a NASA rocket launch to the moon.  Instead, it was more the equivalent of high school chemistry nerds experimenting after class – yeah; there was a little smoke, but no real fire (except for the random bursts of fire on stage).

Although I wasn’t expecting Romeo and Juliet to declare their love on Facebook, I also didn’t expect the term ‘modern’ to be interpreted in such a banal fashion.  The set, which consisted of a ginormous bell, an elevated plank of wood for a balcony, and a wall that contained a Renaissance secco, was uninspiring and a poor match for the lush verse of one of William Shakespeare’s greatest works.  The first time Orlando Bloom appears on stage he is riding a motorcycle, and while that might be modern it is also clichéd.  At the Capulet’s soiree, I thought the choreography would carry an element of hip-hop or krunking, something other than the interpretations of African dance that were exhibited on stage. The nurse walking a bicycle to deliver a message to Romeo and the parkour climbing of the graffiti-ridden mural does add a nod to a more modern era; however these devices failed to deliver on such a promising idea.

0024_Romeo&Juliet (c) Carol RossegThe cast seem to hurry through the dialogue as if they were just trying to get it over with.  Shakespearean English is a mouthful, literally, but the pace was so rushed that some of the beauty of Shakespeare‘s poetry was lost in this interpretation.  While Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad certainly looked as if they had the potential to rival the flames that occasionally appeared on stage, their scenes together were undersupplied of the heat necessary for me to believe that these two would rather die than live life apart.  Brent Carver, Christian Camargo and Jayne Houdyshell’s portrayals of Friar Laurence, Mercutio and the Nurse were an absolute pleasure to watch and brought balance to this production.

Director Baz Luhrmann attempted a modern interpretation Romeo and Juliet on screen in 1996, back when I thought modern versions of Shakespeare were a sacrilege, and it actually became one of my favorite depictions of this classic love story.  Perhaps Leveaux should’ve taken a few notes from this film.  After 36 years, this Romeo and Juliet ascended to no grander heights nor did it plateau to a great theater low.  All and all it was steady and flat, just like the boards of the balcony – wooden and just plain regular.

Photos:  Carol Rosseg