Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Afternoon in Red Hook: The Red Hook Jazz Festival at the Urban Meadow

On this gorgeous summerlike afternoon, we were able to get our work done early enough to get over to Red Hook's Urban Meadow, the wonderful community garden at the corner of President and Van Brunt Streets, for the fun of the Red Hook Jazz Festival and some great performances by talented bands.

Because we couldn't stay more than ninety minutes, we missed some of the acts, but we got to enjoy the Latin-influenced jazz of the Willie Martinez La Familia Sextet, which features not only Willie Martinez on drums and vocals, but also an all-star crew from all over the planet: Misha Tsiganov on piano, Jennifer Vincent on bass, Cristián Rivera on percussion, Renato Thoms on percussion, J. Walter Hawkes on trombone, and Max Schweiger on baritone sax and flute.

They began with a dazzling composition by the late, great Hilton Ruiz and ended with a kind of daring reinterpretation of "Sunny," with everything in between like a fantastic cornucopia of styles in Latin-themed jazz of the past thirty years.

And we also got to hear the sparkling progressive jazz of the Dan Loomis Quartet, led by Dan Loomis on cello, with Jared Schonig on drums, Brian VanArsdale on tenor sax, and Nathan Heleine on alto sax,

collaborating on thoughtful improvisation and edgy versions of standards. They were easy on the ears on such a pleasant summery late afternoon but also challenging.

It's too bad we had a lot of work to do, and so we didn't get to hear Ideal Bread (playing the music of Steve Lacy), the Marco Cappelli Trio (who, like Willie Martinez, are local), the Ben Perowsky Trio, or Paul Kogut & Sheryl Bailey.

There was a large crowd, and it was hot and sunny enough to feel like midsummer rather than the start of autumn; in t-shirt and shorts, our preferred non-work attire after more than a quarter-century of Florida living, we were happy to keep the illusion going.

This was a real family-centered, kid-friendly event,

but there were people here of all ages, from the elderly to young childless couples and middle-aged singles. It was typically diverse for Brooklyn.

We were so impressed with this Piece Out, Arizona t-shirt designed by Miss Wit (Deborah Goldstein, who kindly allowed us to take a pic) that we used it for a poll on the website of our current campaign for an Arizona congressional seat.

One of our friends from Brooklyn College who long ago decamped for out-of-state suburban boredom expressed surprise that there was something like this in Red Hook, since the last time she was here was over 35 years ago, when she tutored a little girl in what was then a really rough place.

In our more than four years back in Brooklyn, we've come to love Red Hook, and today we didn't even get lost for a minute, getting the G train to Carroll Street and walking into the neighborhood across Union Street over the BQE. Every time we come to the Columbia Street waterfront district, we wonder why we don't get out here more often.

The Urban Meadow, next to Mother Cabrini Park, mostly a playground, is a beautiful community garden run completely by volunteers under the auspices of the New York City Parks Department Greenthumb Division.

It's hard to believe that such a pastoral space was once a garbage-strewn vacant lot covered with tall weeds and junk. They're currently involved in keeping as many of the wildflowers there as possible

while adding shrubs, small trees and hardy plants like daylilies, echinacea and black eyed susans, sedum and sage, grasses, etc. -- all with the aim of keeping a meadow-like garden that's not dominated by mugwort and ragweed.

We had to get going before 4:30 p.m. but we're grateful for this event to the folks at the Urban Meadow and the Red Hook Jazz Festival, whose leaders are the hard-working Mike Golub and Paul DeLucia.

It was a nice afternoon to walk across Union to Clinton and then up to Bergen to get the G train back to Williamsburg at the corner of Smith.

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