For reasons I’m hard-pressed to explain, I find myself in a New York state of mind today. I’ll admit it, I love the place. At least I love the idea of New York. I loved it so much that thirty years ago, I moved to Manhattan for a couple of years.
My husband and I found a great apartment on W. 72nd Street, half a block from Central Park, on the 16th floor of an old hotel that had been converted to apartments. We had a spectacular view south to mid-town and beyond with the RCA Building and the Empire State as if they had been put there just for us.
I loved living in New York for one year and eleven months. The last month was not that much fun – August, hot, humid, everybody cranky and sullen and running into each other’s carts or into each other in the Fairway Market on Broadway. Boom boxes and crowded buses and all the grains of sand under your collar that just can’t be balanced by a Gershwin tune.
Still, New York is a magical place where anything can happen. As E. B. White wrote in his essay about the city, you have to be willing to be lucky to live there. And didn’t Billie Holiday walk those sidewalks? Indeed, she did. My own jazz novel, Listen, is set on those streets and Billie has a role in it.
Much of the music of New York is a story all its own – lyrical, energetic, music you can dance to until light begins to break over the skyline which is, as Sky Masterson sings in “Guys and Dolls,” (the quintessential New York musical) “my time of day, a couple of deals before dawn…”
So today, a small tribute to the Big Apple and I’m not talking computers. There are hundreds of songs about New York written and/or performed by musicians from every musical genre. My selection here is entirely personal, a mix of the familiar and perhaps a few tunes new to your ear…
We might as well start with the city itself and here’s Rosemary Clooney to sing it for us: Rodgers & Hart’s “Manhattan” with a collection of great old photos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tTG2TBu8kk
There are lots of tunes about the seasons in the city and this arrangement by the Bill Charlap trio of “Autumn in New York” is no less than beautiful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sSR9PFugs4
You may not recognize this one, “Angela” by name, but you’ll know it when you hear it. Every time I took a cab home from LaGuardia, I heard this one in my head. Bob James gets the credit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZvIHZk0ytM
New York is more than Manhattan, of course, and here’s a change of pace with a tribute to one of the city’s burroughs, “Bronx Blues,” with a groove provided by Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCxwdy99Azs
Put on your boogie boots and give a listen to Manhattan Transfer (aptly named) as they tell us about “The Boy from New York City.” He’s so fine…! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZF6m659-z0
Horace Silver gives us the breezy feel of a warm summer day with his “Summer in Central Park.” He’s got it right. The walk was always lovely and lazy Sundays on the Sheep Meadow were the best. The sheep, of course, were only a memory. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZHViGDdgRs
Right next to Central Park is “Central Park West,” and I have John Coltrane here with McCoy Tyner on piano to paint a tender picture. The photos gave me a twinge of real longing for the city. I think I can see my old apartment building, there that one, do you see it? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5Z63UHrjKE
One of the most famous jazz tunes about New York is Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple from the Apple,” and here’s the man himself to send us on a bebop journey around the city. Oh, yeah!. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9b2AOlCGpKY
In the lingo of musical theatre, the “Christmas number” is a full-out, full cast production number midway through the show, sometimes known as a show-stopper. Shortly after I moved to the city, I was lucky enough to see this particular Christmas number with the performers you see here including the late, great Jerry Orbach as he and the cast of “42nd Street” take us home with “Lullaby of Broadway.” Singin’ and dancin’ in a paean to one great place. Come on, Miss Sawyer, ya gotta save the show!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNAM45hCBpw
Okay, now I’m really hungry for that big, beautiful, crazy place. Start spreadin’ the news. I’m leavin’ today….
Con amore, JazzBabies…