Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Adding Something Off Topic: A Few Notes

We are going to go off topic for a bit. But if we are clever enough about what we weave in, you might not even notice our departure from our usual themes. What better way to go off topic, however, than to get a chance to talk about music, something we love.

When Noticing New York is On Topic

As regular readers know, Noticing New York is an independent entity dedicated to the proposition that developing New York and appreciating New York go hand in hand. We watch New York City development, looking to call attention to what is good and what is not so good. We have an eye out for, and tend to side with, the interests of local communities in building or protecting good design in the public realm. These days we are often discouraged by what big developers with the support of City Hall try to get away with at the expense of our communities. (See: Monday, February 23, 2009, Un-funny Valentines Arriving Late: Your Community Interests at Heart.)


This post is something in the nature of an advertisement for some good music. But you have to keep reading. You may have noticed that our Noticing New York site doesn’t have advertising. It is something we will probably get around to including but we have resisted it thus far, and there are reasons. One is that we don’t want advertising to create conflicts of interest. We always want to be able to speak freely and without the perception that something extraneous will be influencing us. (One reason we are not a not-for-profit is because we want to speak freely and that sometimes means being directly critical in a political way about the roles of NYC politicians roles in city development.)

When we do start to include advertising links, it will be for things we believe in. For instance, there are some good documentaries you might want to purchase about topics we believe in. One of them is Isabel Hill’s careful and thoughtfully produced “Brooklyn Matters” about the extraordinarily errant Atlantic Yards megadevelopment proposed for Brooklyn. Another is “City of Water,” a superb film produced by the Municipal Art Society about planning for the best possible uses of our city waterfront. That film is regularly shown in public venues and will be available for DVD purchase in April.

You may notice that we envision NNY advertising would not only be for what we believe in, but would also be related to the topics that concern our site. You might eventually find that there are certain carefully chosen purchases we link to with a New York theme. For instance, we recommend the neckties of Josh Bach. Some of them are New York-themed and when we go to a public hearing to protest rampant eminent domain abuse we like to wear their Constitution necktie. (Josh Bach also has a great Declaration of Independence necktie an Emancipation Proclamation necktie.)


Would we advertise music, which we love, but which is not necessarily related directly to our major themes? We don’t want Noticing New York to be cluttered with advertising. We don’t want too many distractions. Our site should always load quickly and you should be able to find what you are looking for fast. Bur maybe because we love music . . . (We love Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, often heard on Prairie Home Companion. Vince now has regular affordable performances at the Edison Hotel.- We also love the Pizzarellis, particularly John Pizzarelli’s wife, Jessica Molaskey.)

A Special Locally Generated Concert Series: First Acoustics, a Live Concert Series

Here is what we specifically wanted to “advertise” by going off topic in this post. What we are going to tell you about is special because it is locally generated and has, not just marvelous music, but a rare personal and friendly feel. It is the new First Acoustics, a live concert series at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn.

We have been to two of the performance evenings so far and each was memorable. There are three more evenings coming up, each of which we plan to attend. The series began with a double performance evening: Livingston Taylor and Cat Martino as the opening act.

(Picture: Coco Wilde and Livingston Taylor)

Lots of people know Livingston as the brother of James Taylor. Livingston is such a preeminent performing and songwriting talent in his own right we have never been able to discern why James is so much better known. Similar in many ways, we prefer to catch brother Livingston as the less often heard. We also loved his quiet, quirky sense of humor. (He teaches stage performance at the Berklee School of music in Boston where our nephew is a student.)

The evening introduced us to fellow Brooklynite Cat Martino, something for which we are very thankful. Ms. Martino has a rich, luxurious, meanderingly flowing voice and does something magical and technically astounding where she accompanies her own voice with repeating loops of sound. She adds successive overlaps contributing rhythm, harmony and counterpoint for a complex tapestry of sound, all of which she herself has generated with voice alone.

We’re sorry we missed the next three evenings where the performers were Bethany & Rufus, Olympia’s Daughters and Christine Lavin.

The Valentine’s Day evening concert presented two Brooklyn neighbors of Coco Wilde, who is producing the series: singer Wendy Russell and jazz cabaret from bassist Bob Cunningham. Wendy, whose speciality is slow, silky renditions from the American Songbook, was great doing a humorously rousing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and an absurdly sultry “Rubber Duckie” the song you know best sung by Ernie of Sesame Street. Bob Cunningham begins many of his pieces with stories relating them to the many jazz greats with whom he has played in the process of building his long, distinguished career: Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Benny Carter, Sun Ra. .. the list goes on. The evening concluded fittingly when Wendy joined Bob for a rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”

(Picture: Wendy Russell, Coco, Bob Cunningham)

We also must say something about Coco Wilde, the producer of these evenings. She is a natural, relaxed host and her joy for what she is doing (and for her husband Bruce, who is helping her) is transporting.

Here are the scheduled performances coming up (also available at the website where there is ticket information).

March 7th, 2009: Holly Near
March 28th, 2009: Priscilla Herdman
May 9th, 2009: Leon Redbone

As for Leon Redbone, we do love his Christmas album, “Christmas Island,” a gift from one of our illustrious musician family members.

Really So Off Topic?

Is this post really so off topic? Perhaps not. A lot of what we write about concerns the importance of working from the community level up to generate an authentic urban experience. How to do that well in a performance sense (including music and theater) is exactly the kind of challenge that faces us, for instance, in terms of acting from the community level up to rescue Coney Island from the destruction which the city seems to be systematically bringing to it.

How do we incubate and build the warp and woof of our local culture?

We suggest that we all should be on he lookout for the opportunity to enjoy performances such as those that are being put together at First Acoustics. They are relatively economical and we have been able to buy signed CDs while chatting with the performers. (It sure beats going to some of the questionable “free” events sponsored by the Brooklyn Borough President and funded from the “charitable”/political contributions he takes from real estate developers he should be keeping at arm’s length.- There! Did we get back on topic?- See our very on topic: “Charity?” We Begin to Groan, Monday, October 20, 2008)

Even better yet, in terms of a good locally incubated performance bargain, First Acoustics is planning a summer Thursday performance series which will be even more economical and will focus on “up and coming” performers.

Enjoy! For tickets go to the website or contact:

BOX OFFICE: (718) 288 5994
For more information:
EMAIL: info (at)

Proceeds Benefit the First Unitarian Congregational Society, Brooklyn.

On topic again, the venerable Augustus Graham was important to founding the First Unitarian congregation and was devoted during his life to doing good in Brooklyn. We once wrote about how the Brooklyn Museum’s Augustus Graham Award should never have been given to a certain real estate developer.

(Click to enlarge any images in this post.)

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