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New Year’s Eve in New York City: A Photographer Makes The Rounds
Almost every night of the year, New York City has dozens of concerts every night. From bands playing in seat bars to national acts packing Madison Square Garden, New York City has something to offer anyone, no matter what their musical taste. And that is no more apparent than on New Year’s Eve, when you get the best of the best playing all over the city. I had always wanted to showcase this night of music by photographing as many shows as I could in one night. This New Year’s Eve had a great lineup of acts, from Phish at Madison Square Garden to Wynton Marsalis at the intimate Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.
The first show of the night for me was Wynton Marsalis at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, the early 7:30 show. Wynton has been the face behind getting Jazz at Lincoln Center started and he is the director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Rather than play in the much larger Rose Hall, this was an exclusive show at the smaller Dizzy’s. I had never been to the venue before, but it’s a beautiful looking place and the stage is setup in front of a floor to ceiling window that gives you a nice view of the neighboring city, as the venue is on the fifth floor. There was just enough from for the waiters to move in and out, as all available space was made available for tables and chairs, so moving around to photograph was not easy. But the staff of the venue was very accommodating and were not hovering over me watching everything I did. The lighting was also not particularly great and we were allowed two songs, so made the best of it. They started with “Corrine, Corrina,” which I believe is a traditional New Orleans song and followed up with a bluesy number. The band sounded great, you can tell these are some of the best musicians out there and Wynton, despite being the most known name on the stage, doesn’t treat himself any different than his bandmates. He takes the same length of solo and sits at the same level as everyone else. While most musicians of his stature would try to differentiate himself, Wynton seems at ease just being a part of the orchestra rather than the star.
Despite starting to get comfortable listening to these great jazz musicians, but unfortunately it was time to move on, to the second venue of the night I had never been to before, City Winery. Los Lobos was headlining two New Year’s Eve shows here for the second year in a row and the place was definitely sold out. But the venue was not over packed and there was room to move around. I got there towards the end of their set and the crowd was fully invested in what the band was doing. Los Lobos is a unique band in that they can play a wide variety of musical genres, from rock to latin with a taste of cajun zydeco mixed in. They mix classic covers with originals and the crowd was loving it. At the end of their set, they started the crowd on a sing-along of “Not Fade Away,” the Buddy Holly song that became a staple of the Grateful Dead. Midway through the song, the band kicked into the Dead’s “Bertha and the crowd went right along with them. People were dancing in the aisles and singing along and I was right along with them. They did a real nice job with the song and ended it with a huge ovation as they walked off stage. As I packed up my stuff to move onto the next stop on the trip, they came back on stage and played the song that helped them gain renown in the mainstream, “La Bamba,” which they
recorded for the title track of the movie back in 1987. While the crowd probably knew it was coming, they continued dancing and singing, I was off on my first of two trips to Brooklyn.
Initially I had only planned on one trip to Brooklyn, but I knew there was going to be a lapse between the two early shows I was going to cover and the crux of the evening, which was around 11pm when most of the headlining shows would start. It was about 9:30 and I knew that Charles Bradley would be opening for the Budos Band at the Music Hall of Williamsburg around 10pm and I had wanted to see him, so I hoofed it over to Brooklyn. The Music Hall of Wiliamsburg is a pretty good venue with nice sightlines, as there is the main floor, two small elevated sections on the sides and a balcony. I knew that Mr. Bradley was a soul throwback, a lesser known James Brown type performer (Bradley actually used to do a tribute show to James Brown, which he will be recreating at the Hiro Ballroom) who despite his age, 63, moves around like he is 33. Like most soul performers, his band came out and played a couple groovy tunes to warm up the crowd and then the side door to the stage opened and out walked the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley. Wearing a white three piece suit, Bradley took over the room before ever putting the microphone to his face. The crowd gave him the respect he deserved and once he grabbed that mic, Bradley didn’t disappoint. While only able to stay for a couple songs, Bradley was a soulful and exciting on stage as anyone I had seen, James Brown included. He wiped the microphone around, dropped to his knees to sing and moved around on stage like you would imagine a much younger man would. Even when he slowed the set down for a soulful ballad, he was no less expressive on stage and the crowd was no less invested in what he was doing. Once again I did not want to leave, as he was actually the person I was most excited to see perform on this night, as I had never seen him before, but I had to be at the Hammerstein Ballroom by 11:30 and so it was time to head back under the river to Manhattan.