Af­ford­able mu­sic for fam­ily in NYC? Try the jazz clubs

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Spotlight - BY KATHER­INE ROTH

New York has long been a city known for jazz. What’s less well-known is how kid- and fam­i­lyfriendly jazz per­for­mances here can be.

Many per­form­ers have day jobs as ed­u­ca­tors, and al­though many venues are night­clubs, there are jazz per­for­mances where even tod­dlers are wel­come.

“When I was a kid, the Van­guard was an ex­ten­sion of my home. It was not only smoky, it was noisy. Now? For­get it. Make a peep and the noise po­lice will shush you,” says Deb­o­rah Gor­don, gen­eral man­ager of the Vil­lage Van­guard, opened by her fa­ther in 1935. “It was a roug­hand-tum­ble place when I was a kid, and 13-year-olds def­i­nitely weren’t al­lowed in. You’d have to hang out on the stairs if you wanted to lis­ten.”

A lot has changed. To­day, the Van­guard is non­smok­ing and cleaner, and the min­i­mum age to at­tend a per­for­mance is 13. But Gor­don says not all kids are ready at that age for jazz (she says she wasn’t). Visi­tors should keep a few things in mind be­fore mak­ing a reser­va­tion:

“Do your home­work first about who’s play­ing, and see if it’s what you want to hear,” she says. Also, no food is served, and the place is, still, a night­club.

The Blue Note, Smalls Jazz Club, Bird­land Jazz Club and the Jazz Stan­dard have no min­i­mum age and wel­come well­be­haved chil­dren ac­com­pa­nied by adults. The min­i­mum age at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is 7, and the Jazz Stan­dard hosts a “Jazz for Kids” pro­gram on Sun­days.

As for types of jazz, Todd Stoll, Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter’s vice pres­i­dent of ed­u­ca­tion, rec­om­mends vo­cal­ists and big band mu­sic as a good en­try point for kids. He urges fam­i­lies to ex­plore Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter’s YouTube chan­nel, fea­tur­ing videos ex­plain­ing im­pro­vi­sa­tion and var­i­ous jazz artists and gen­res.

Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter of­fers per­for­mances for kids as young as 8 months.

“We call them Fam­ily Jazz Par­ties, and we have six to eight of them a year. They’re fam­ily jazz con­certs for a kid and a care­giver, with jazz that is very di­gestible for kids of that age group (8 months to 5 years) while also en­joy­able for par­ents, held in a car­peted venue where kids can move around,” Stoll says. In ad­di­tion, visi­tors to New York can buy tick­ets to a sin­gle WeBop jazz ap­pre­ci­a­tion class for a young per­son and a care­giver.

Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter also of­fers two fam­i­ly­ori­ented con­certs a year, cre­ated by Wyn­ton Marsalis and in­spired by a for­mat be­gun by Leonard Bernstein in the 1950s. The con­certs com­bine mu­sic and ed­u­ca­tion around a spe­cific con­cept, genre or im­por­tant fig­ure.

“Older than that, and most kids are re­ally ready to check out Dizzy’s or the Van­guard or what­ever other place they’re in­ter­ested in go­ing,” Stoll said. “Just do some re­search be­fore you go. It’s not a mu­si­cal or a pop con­cert, it’s fine art. It doesn’t pan­der.”

Jazz, says Marsalis, “de­mands that we de­velop our hear­ing. It’s our job to em­power kids and to teach them to lis­ten and to hear. We should en­cour­age them to get with the har­mony, get to the pi­ano, learn three or four ba­sic chords, a blues – it’s a great tool to en­cour­age hear­ing.”

Stoll says that delv­ing into jazz is also a great way to bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate New York City.

“The first jazz record­ing ever made was in New York in 1917, just about ev­ery jazz great came to New York to make their name here, and the vibe and feel­ing of New York is still a jazz vibe. New York sweats jazz,” he says.

And un­like many Broad­way mu­si­cals, jazz per­for­mances tend to be rea­son­ably priced and read­ily ac­ces­si­ble without much ad­vance plan­ning.

“It’s a pretty good bang for your buck. We try to keep ad­mis­sion to $35 with a one-drink min­i­mum,” says Gor­don, of the Van­guard.

A fam­ily of four can sit right up front at a jazz con­cert for around the price of a sin­gle Broad­way ticket, and tick­ets to jazz clubs can of­ten be had the day of a per­for­mance. Reser­va­tions to shows are made online, and clubs gen­er­ally have first-come first-served seat­ing. Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter of­fers stu­dent dis­counts in their con­cert halls and at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, as do some other places.

“With kids, you def­i­nitely want to get them right up close by the drums, where they can see all that’s go­ing on. It re­ally blows them away,” says Gor­don. Ar­rive well be­fore show­time if you want the best seats.

There’s an en­ergy to im­pro­vi­sa­tion and live mu­sic, and be­tween a band and an au­di­ence in in­ti­mate set­tings, Gor­don says.

As for the Van­guard, a cozy base­ment venue known for its nar­row red stair­case and red-car­peted stage backed by red vel­vet cur­tains, Gor­don jokes: “We are ded­i­cat­edly un­ren­o­vated. It takes a lot of work to keep it as shabby as we do. It looks pretty much like it did in the ‘30s.”

Stoll says kids can learn a lot from jazz: “On an in­tel­lec­tual level, im­pro­vi­sa­tion is the free­dom and the im­por­tance of the in­di­vid­ual voice. Swing is how that voice is re­lated to a group. Blues is fac­ing ad­ver­sity with op­ti­mism. Those are three things we want kids to get from jazz. It also teaches us cul­tur­ally about Amer­ica, with lessons about race, gen­der and so­cio-eco­nomic dis­par­ity, if par­ents want to make it a les­son about that.”

MICHAEL LAR­SON Vil­lage Van­guard via AP

The his­toric jazz venue Vil­lage Van­guard has been in the same lo­ca­tion, down 15 steps at 178 Sev­enth Av­enue South in Man­hat­tan, since 1935. Leg­end has it that it's the old­est Jazz club in the world.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.