As part of NY1's Jazz Lives Here coverage, Arts Reporter Stephanie Simon took a day-long tour of the world of jazz in New York City. Following is Part 3 of her six-part series.
Just after 1 a.m., Dizzy's Club Coca Cola on the Upper West Side is kicking it into high gear with its after-hours set. It seems like the jazz never stops, because when the late show ends the night is still beginning for many.
Following a performance by the Diva Jazz Orchestra, vocalist Nicole Pasternak takes the stage with the Ralph Lalama Trio. The less-formal atmosphere, along with an often cheaper cover charge, makes an after-hours set a perfect time to check out something new.
Roland Chassagne has been the manager at Dizzy's since it opened in 2004, and he says the vibe is comfortable.
“Down home comfort, that's what it is,” says Chassagne. “You're all welcome here, no matter who you are or where you're from, you come to Dizzy's and hang.”
Of course it's hard to hang when you're busy snapping photos. Frank Stewart is Jazz at Lincoln Center's house photographer, and he's been a jazz shutterbug since the late 1960s.
“The thing about jazz is that it's a cultural experience,” says Stewart. “It's not only a cultural, but it's like an emotional or vibrating experience. When they play the music, you feel it all the way down in your soul. So that's a big part of being in the presence of live music.”
The exhibit in the Lobby of Jazz at Lincoln Center shows some of the many people Stewart has photographed. He's a fixture on the jazz scene, having captured everyone from Jimmy Heath to Jon Faddis, plus special "guest" performers like Winona Judd, Liza Minelli and Diana Ross.
Having lived in the jazz world so long, what does he think about the contemporary jazz scene?
“Well, right now, it's like a resurgence,” says Stewart. “There's a lot of clubs, a lot of young guys coming up, a lot of talent. You can go out almost any night and find some great music.”
Further uptown, it's 2:40 a.m. as the musicians take the stage at Cleopatra's Needle for a jam session, including pianist Dan Nimmer.
“I just come here to play I had a long rehearsal today but I'm still coming out to play. I can never stop playing,” says Nimmer.
Nimmer is a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, but musicians always want a chance to do their own thing. A late night jam session at a small club is where musicians come to play, practice, jam, rehearse and have fun.
“You go up in the front, you sign up on the list, they call you up. If you're lucky, they call you up,” says Nimmer. “I sold my piano. Actually, I sent it back to my parents and I'm waiting for my new piano to come, so I don't have one right now. So I had to come. I have to be here to practice.”
So the life of a jazz musician can also be a 24-hour stretch.
Where to go at 4 a.m.? It's time to check out the after-after-hours set at The Den at 132nd street and Fifth Avenue in Harlem.
Inside, there's an impromptu session that includes Eric Frazier, Danny Mixon, Lon Ivy, Craig Haynes and Rome Neal.
No one knows the route better than jazz tour guide Gordon Polotnik.
“Back in the day, it used to go all the time, around the clock for sure,” says Polotnik. “But nowadays, it slows down a little bit so you have to go to the places that actually have the live music late-late-late, and there are places like St. Nick's Pub and Showman's, Lenox Lounge, Minton's Playhouse. They stay open pretty late, but they all have to close down at 4 a.m. when the bars close. That's why we come here. When those close, all roads lead to The Den.”
Between 4 and 6 a.m., there's music at the Den and food.
“From 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. we have dinner and from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. we serve breakfast,” says Jack Correia, co-owner of The Den. “And that's what we're known for, the late-night spot. People hang out, go to jazz clubs and prior to going home they go to the Den to wind down and have great food.”
At 5:42 a.m. you really have to use your jazz antenna to find America's homegrown music at this early hour. At WKCR, student D.J. David Seidenberg is hosting "Jazz Till Dawn" from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Seidenberg is studying jazz in school but gets an invaluable lesson on the air.
“It's really complex music but it's also very sweet music,” says Seidenberg.
Seidenberg picks the music when he's on air, and is drawn to the Duke.
“I've been doing a lot of research into Duke Ellington this past summer, and so I've been really into Duke Ellington. So I just feel like listening to his records to close out the show,” says Seidenberg.
And, like a record, the 24 hours of jazz keeps spinning.
NEXT UP: Part 4