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On The Need To Clear The Musical Desk, Or, Are You In New York This Sunday? November 21, 2008

The past six weeks have seen a narrowing of focus here at the blog as we concentrated first on the election, and more recently on the events unfolding in Egyptian politics.

As often happens when covering these major events, we have an abundance of stories that are piling up…and deserve our attention…and in this case, it’s a story that will take us far from the usual political real estate upon which we would normally slog.

It’s my happy duty, instead, to point you toward one of my favorite musicians…and in the course of doing that, to an event series that is also well worth your time…and in the course of doing that, to a bar that is working hard, every day, to fulfill your live music needs—and by an even happier coincidence, the three intersect this Sunday.

I’m a sucker for a chanteuse, I admit, be it Billie Holiday, or k.d. lang, or even Grace Jones…and I’m even more of a sucker for that Ralph Sharon sound—the stand-up bass, the piano, brushes, a nice sax solo…with a strong voice out front.

The two meet in Madeleine Peyroux.

She’s a bit of an odd duck—she’s born in Georgia, but she moved to Paris as a teenager (with her mother the French teacher) and took to the streets…literally…to find her musical fortune, which led to her playing with bands such as the Riverboat Shufflers and the Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band, as NPR tells us.

She has a bit of an odd style as well: she strays from French-language classics such as “La Vie En Rose” or “J’ai Deux Amours” to “street jazz” songs like “Was I?” to unexpected “lounge jazz” remakes of songs like “Walkin’ After Midnight” (with James Carter on the saxophone…and thanks to ksingh for the correction) or Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” or “Smile” to the Ralph Sharon/Tony Bennett style in, for example, “Muddy Water” or “The Summer Wind”, a song made famous by Frank Sinatra almost half a century ago.

She also has a pop flavor to her music, with songs like “Lonesome Road” (which, I swear, has a bit of Bob Wills-like Texas swing guitar embedded in there…) or “I’m All Right” or “California Rain” being perfect examples of that pop sound.

(She has a great Web site as well, and these songs can all be heard there…and more besides…so go and enjoy, Musical Travelers…)

Over the course of the past dozen years she has released three of her own albums: “Dreamland”, “Careless Love” and, most recently, “Half the Perfect World”…but there is a really, really nice “hidden” album as well…a project she did with William Galison and Carly Simon—Got You On My Mind.

This is the stuff you listen to on a rainy afternoon…or sitting by the fireplace…or in the car, when it’s all over and you have had just about enough for one day.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

–Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name

So let’s say, just for the heck of it, that you’ve been hanging around Tompkins Square Park (“Come for Charlie Parker’s House…stay for the dime bags!”), and it’s getting dark…and, just like Homer Simpson, you’re afraid of the C.H.U.Ds.

What’s a music lover to do?

Well, as it happens, you’re only about 10 blocks from a refuge: the Rockwood Music Hall, which offers somewhere between six and eight bands every night for your dining and dancing pleasure. (In truth, that’s a stretch. It’s not a restaurant…and it’s way too small for a Conga line…but in a hunger emergency, the Sugar Café is just a few steps away…or you could really go nuts and hit Russ & Daughters, which is just around the corner.)

Now if the timing was just right, like, every second Sunday of the month at 6:00 PM (ish), you would see Danielle Gasparro taking the stage to interview another musician for her “Second Sundays at Rockwood Music Hall” series.

The shows combine a lengthy conversation with live performance (not unlike Piano Jazz), and have recently included appearances by Casey Shea, Paul Brill, and, by way of Denmark, Greenland, Nashville…and Washington State, Simon Lynge.

You can get a feel for the thing by visiting Gasparro’s MySpace blog and listening to all the archived events…and for an extra treat, each artist has a playlist of what music interests them.

So here’s the part where the whole story comes together: this Sunday (doors open at 6:00, but get there early!) Madeleine Peyroux and Second Sundays collide at the Rockwood—and it should be awfully good.

“There are two kinds of music; German music and bad music.”

H.L. Mencken

And here’s the best part: there’s no cover.
Ok, that’s not actually the best part. The really best part is that, depending on who you ask, the capacity of the room is somewhere between 30 and 75 people.

The tip bucket will be passed, with the money going to right to Peyroux, so you can see a great show, learn about music and a great musician—and directly support that musician without the filters of a record company or promoters. (All the details can be found at the Second Sundays site.)

So that’s today’s story: this Sunday the most excellent Madeleine Peyroux will be at the most excellent Rockwood Music Hall for another installment of Danielle Gasparro’s most excellent “Second Sundays” series….and you can go see the show for the same price you paid to go see Tropic Thunder with the obligatory popcorn tub and tankard of Coke.

Trust me, it will be money better spent.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m not connected with any of this personally or financially; and no music industry representatives have been hanging around doing lines with me or taking me to VIP rooms or anything like that….mostly because I’m nowhere near that cool or interesting. Instead, this is an actual unsolicited endorsement. So there you go.