Sunday, November 6, 2011

Alright, let's start this post by hopping nimbly over the fact that it's the first one in three years. It was a fairly slow three years anyway- in fact I was asleep for one of them. Which brings us to last week.
About once a year I manage to convince the top brass at New York's Zinc Bar that the band is a red-hot draw, and they have us in for a show. It's a terrific room in the heart of Greenwich Village; dark and roomy, all velvet and Art Deco with an old-style supper club feel. For years they operated sans piano, and it was electronic keyboards for all; I always tried to convince Art to bring three or four and play them standing up, Nik Kershaw-style, maybe even a wizard's hat like that other bloke, but no dice. Then a couple of years ago they brought in this weird spray-painted baby grand- the paint job looked like a custom car detailer's attempt at a psychedelic aboriginal dot-painting- indescribably hideous, but somehow awesome. So imagine my disappointment when I show up to find this technicolor monstrosity replaced by a brown one! Brown! Nothing sounds worse than brown! It's the worst-sounding colour in the piano rainbow! Potentially exhilarating clusters of varying tonal hues are reduced to fistfuls of poo! Every note is punctuated by an audible "plop"! Anyway, we were fortunate to have the great Jeremy Manasia on hand that night, and nobody plays a poo piano like him.
A feature of our Zinc Bar shows is an appearance by the enigmatic Jimmy Lategano. Singer, entertainer, raconteur, Jimmy's been slaying 'em at Arturo's restaurant for 30 years, and never fails to galvanize a Zinc crowd with his effortlessly musical and wonderfully bizarre performance. I've got loads of video of Jimmy with the band, which I'll put on the Youtube channel soon. I'll chat about him in future posts too- if you don't know Jimmy yet, you'll be glad when you do.

A couple of days later we slid back into the dark and rarefied world of the band's NY home- Smalls Jazz Club. The last time we played Smalls, it was our first attempt at launching the new album (available for Christmas... [That's not the name of the album, although it's not a bad idea...]), and we were accompanied in our endeavour by a hurricane Irene. Turned out to be a bit of a bust, as you may recall, but it got a lot of publicity (the hurricane that is- the album launch got almost none...). Anyways, this time our Smalls appearance coincided with a comically unseasonable snowstorm. Not complaining, but a band could be excused for feeling picked-on. Several wags have commented that they no longer need to look at the weather forecast for approaching tempests, they just check the Hempton Band itinerary. Speaking of which, December's looking fine. In any case, the gig was a gas, and we're back there in a couple of weeks. (While we're on the subject, the Smalls live stream keeps getting better. If you haven't checked it out, do yourself a favour.)
The week's other event of note was Kenny Barron at the Village Vanguard. He was brilliant, I thought the band was oddly mismatched, and the venue deserves a post of its own. I mean that in a good way.
Next week (haha!) I might have a natter about another great New York venue- the Ear Inn. Righto then!

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