Wednesday, November 30, 2011
A cocktail? Alright- once upon a time...
Imagine the year is 1929. You're striding down 7th Avenue, a broad (or a drag queen) on each arm. You've just invested your paycheck in the stock market, you've plugged Buster Keaton with your tommy gun, and you've got quite a thirst. But it's prohibition! Surely there's not a drop to be had! But you know a little place... Ssshhh, it's right this way...
You push your way through a gang of click-dancing street-thugs and past the cartoonishly dimwitted doorman. You and the girls (or man-ladies) fly down the stairs, visions of the charleston and bathtub gin spinning before your eyes, and land with a bump in a mass of tattoos, braces and earnest haircuts. It's 2011. Welcome to Little Branch.
The preceding nonsense was a clumsy attempt to convey that Little Branch is a trendy, speakeasy-style bar. It takes itself a little too seriously, the patrons are a little too pretty, but it has live jazz and interesting drinks, and all in all is a pretty decent joint. I played there this week.
It's a tiny little spot, and very popular, and thus has a queue down the block almost every night. One of the highlights of a gig here is the entrance. I like to saunter, nose aloft, past the line of plebs, and give the doorman an unnecessarily convoluted handshake and a "How YOU doin', Jimmy?" Then I sweep past him like I own the joint. I think his name's actually Brian.
Once inside, the focus is on the drinks. The tiled bar is set up like a junior chemistry lab- pipettes, beakers, bunsen burners, nerds. The bartenders are lab-coated and studious; measuring, pouring, lighting, extinguishing, tasting, regurgitating, till they get that Fluffy Duck just right. (I was convinced one bloke down the end was cooking up a batch of crystal meth, but as it turned out, not. At least, it wasn't like any meth I'd ever tried.) And before each cocktail is presented to the expectant customer, the bartender adds the final touch: a single tear. That's probably not true.
The band is squeezed into a tiny alcove, the room providing two walls, and the upright piano the third. The bar is low-ceilinged, echoey and noisy as all get-out, but still fun to play, as long as you don't mind being ignored. We played some groovy tunes, drank a few cocktails and that was it. Back there in January.
By the way, I have no idea why it's called Little Branch. I guess if you don't like it, you can get out of there...
I ended the night with a visit to the Manor- my regular- and got around a few with the Attorney and the fellow who runs Dynamod. They're the company that host my website, and the sites of seemingly half the jazz musicians in New York. They do a bang-up job, and he's a top bloke. I managed to beat him at pool a couple of times, and I got the feeling he wasn't taking it so well. And sure enough, when I checked my site the next morning the comments page was empty, and the bio section made me sound like a delusional, self-aggrandizing lunatic. So at least I know he didn't touch that.
Next week, an exercise in diplomacy. Righto!