New York, June, 2009

New York Rain.jpgI like New York in June. I’d like it more if we didn’t have heavy rain, with more in the forecast. Umbrellas crowd the streets. People discussing the weather give that “Hey, whaddaya gonna do” New York shrug. Last night at the Tutuma Social Club, Gabriel Alegria and Laurandrea Leguia told me that in Lima, Peru, umbrellas are unknown because it never rains. Lima is their home town. They are New Yorkers now, making a name for their band, blending Peruvian and Caribbean influences with jazz to make music as subtle as the Peruvian food served at Tutuma. To see a Rifftides review of an Alegria concert, click here.
The Tutuma is a new midtown restaurant and music club that one of its owners, Santina Matwey, told me is in a “soft opening” phase. Nonetheless, it seems to be fully operational, with not only a menu of the small individual servings of the delicacies known as tapas, but also a full-sized portion of music delivered by Lisa Harriton. Ms. Matwey and her husband visited Peru and fell in love with its people, music and cuisine. They came back to New York and, with Gabriel and Laura Alegria as advisors, applied their restaurant experience and skills to the creation of this happy little basement room on 56th Street just off Third avenue.
Lisa Harriton, with the Alegrias’ rhythm section as collaborators, sang and played a set of songs in approximately the same trans-genre spirit as the music made by the Alegrias and, increasingly, by North American musicians including Maria Schneider, Geoffrey Keezer, Ingrid Jensen and Jon Wikan. Harriton’s impeccable Spanish, her hip phrasing and her piano solos might come as a surprise to those who know her only for her work with the alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins.Thumbnail image for Harriton.jpgShe studied at the University of Southern California with, among others, Shelly Berg and Alan Pasqua. After graduation, she took work with The Smashing Pumpkins because, as you may have heard, entry level gigs are hard to come by for young jazz musicians. The Pumpkins engagement has ended, probably bad fiscal news for her. For those who heard her last night, it was good listening news.
Tonight at Tutuma, the Alegrias will perform following a set by Harriton. I’m thinking of spending another of my precious New York nights there.
Later in the day, I’ll try to post a little something about the Jazz Journalists Association and ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame awards events that brought me to town.
Many thanks to Michael and Kaitlyn of Starbucks at 19th Street and Eighth Avenue for coming to my internet rescue and making this entry possible and to Starbucks for playing Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald while I wrote it. Additional thanks to my matronly cross-town bus driver. When my Metrocard popped up short half a dollar and I didn’t have two quarters to drop in the box, she said, “You got a dollar? Let’s see if we can get you some change. Anybody got change for a buck?”
“I do,” said a women seated on one of the side seats. Fifty cents in the box and we were on our way east on 23rd Street. I profusely thanked the driver.
“I just wanted to help you, baby,” she said.
I like New Yorkers in June.

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