Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 5, 2012

I am obliged to acknowledge that my 75th birthday was filled with many more greetings and expressions of affection than I could ever have anticipated or feel I deserved, but I am very happy to have heard from so many. I thank you all.

I enjoy reading and responding to mail, happy to correspond with one and all. I inherited this fondness for the written word from my mother who contented herself with incoming mail averaging nearly 35 to 40 thick, colorfully stamped envelopes per week. It all started during the Second World War, and the delightful story of the origin of this voluminous correspondence is a major chapter in my memoir, the writing of which swings from burdensome to graceful on any given day. I am still working on the early Rhode Island years which evoke memories of the thrilling discovery of jazz and the splendid practioners whose prodigious talents made such a profound impression on my head and heart.

In the meantime, I have fully embraced the concept of retirement, and with utmost reluctance concede that powerful corporate factions, pop culture, and a brainless fealty to youthful endeavor increase with alarming and steady velocity.

The most recent example of this sort of blatant disregard for past artistic achievement is the decision by the gigantic Marriott Hotel corporation to renovate the public spaces of the elegant Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan, a full-throttle attempt to attract a trendier clientele. With one giant sweep of an oafish heavy hand, Marriott has succeeded in eliminating one of the most cherished performance spaces dedicated to the preservation of American popular music. In addition, it has also destroyed the opportunity for hundreds of gifted artists to interpret the works of our most distinguished composers in the intimate setting of The Oak Room.

We are also left to mourn the loss of the lobby space with its old-world charm and grace, and the Algonquin's famous dining room which once served food and copious drink to some of America's most provocative authors and poets. As a true "cat" person, I must also express some genuine concern about the fate of the Algonquin's beloved feline Matilda and whether or not she will be allowed to maintain her residency. If the Marriott chooses to issue a notice of eviction, I hope hundreds will volunteer to provide a new home for this most gracious lady.

Now, where might we find a suitable new home for the singers and musicians?

The answer may be the new club called 54 Below which has an announced early June, 2012 opening date, and there is a fervent hope that the doors of Feinstein's, The Cafe Carlyle, the Metropolitan and Joe's Pub in Manhattan will remain open, preferrably filled to capacity with appreciative patrons.

As for me, I will support one of the two most prestigious music venues near my home this weekend by giving myself the immense pleasure of listening to the brilliant jazz pianist Bill Charlap, his bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (not related) play jazz interpretations delivered at Genius Level. Bill is at The Regatta Bar in Cambridge. The other world-famous Boston jazz club is Sculler's.

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