Wayne Escoffery played at Kitano 23 February 2011

A stellar birthday-anniversary- performance: Wayne Escoffery was playing at the Kitano Club in New York City. My husband and I were doing a weekend in the city, celebrating our anniversary and the publication of my new book AMERICAN WOMAN, ITALIAN STYLE.  My long-time friend and NYC fine art photographer, Susan May Tell, joined us.  How lucky for us all that we happened to be staying at the Kitano, our paths and celebrations crossed with Escoffery’s.

Escoffery is a very tall man- six foot four, at least– with a broad forehead and brows framing deep green eyes. His head is shaved. He  wears an earring. He is intense looking; handsome with a growl ( he’s got a side career in modeling: print and TV) . Before the set, when he entered the lounge to check on set up, along with him came a jolt of electricity. We knew we were going to hear something extraordinary.  He was dressed casually, in jeans and a blue shirt and blazer. His shoes held onto long strong feet and I thought, after hearing a few numbers, that his musician needed those strong feet to hold him firmly to the ground. His jazz is heady, cerebral,  “intellectual” , and swung us all out of our bodies into jazz heaven.

Inside his tunes, which pay homage to traditional jazz, I heard a bit of Monk, some Mingus,  Chick Correa, Dave Leibman.

Before he began the set, he announced to the audience that it was his birthday weekend and that he was going to play only his original compositions.  I guessed he was about 30.  After the set, he laughed and shook his head when I asked “30 today?”

“Thirty?!  I’m thirty six!”  he said. A lot can happen in six years.

I can’t remember the names of the tunes but he said they were headed to be recorded. Susan May Tell didn’t understand why the Kitano Club wasn’t jammed.  “I can’t believe how terrific this it. Why do hundreds of thousands of people line up to see Lady Gaga when they can hear this?”

Playing piano, backing up Escoffery’s sax, was Orrin Evans, who seemed to be in charge of the quintet since he was signaling to the bass and drummer throughout the show. Ricky Rodriguez played stand up bass. Adam Holzman played a hard-hitting and sometimes eerie keyboard. Jason Brown held the jazz backbone together on drums.

The Kitano is NYC’s only Japanese-owned hotel in the city and its bar-lounge hosts weekly jazz performances featuring leading jazz musicians. There were a handful of Japanese in the audience, sipping their scotch and beers, and cruising along with Escoffery’s transcendental riffs. Evidently there are quite a few Japanese women who play jazz and I’d like to return to the Kitano to hear a show by them in the future.

My husband and I choose the Kitano because we like everything Japanese. We met doing Aikido, a Japanese martial art.  My husband is Fifth Dan black belt.  I always joke and tell my daughter that when I met her father he was wearing a black skirt–his hakima. Note: you can eat Japanese in the bar-lounge while listening to jazz if you order food before 9:45 PM.  After that time only the American restaurant is open. We ordered sushi and edamane.

Before the performance my husband and I went to Osaka Bath House on 46th Street for  a traditional Japanese steam-sauna-hottub-cold-tub shiatsu treatment that lasted two delightful hours.

Try it all: the Kitano, jazz, bath house.

Kitano Hotel Bar Lounge. 66 Park Avenue (corner of 38th Street) Tel: 212-885-7000. Fax: 212-885-7100. The Kitano New York, New York’s first and only Japanese-owned hotel and situated in the historic Murray Hill section of Manhattan, features weekly Jazz performances featuring some of the Jazz world’s legendary musicians. http://www.kitano.com/

Every Wednesday through Friday the hotel’s Bar Lounge comes alive with the melodious rhythms of Jazz music offering two sets at 8 P.M. and 9:45 P.M. The Kitano New York offers a unique venue for some of New York City’s top jazz entertainers. While the Kitano blends East and West seamlessly within its walls, it also brings together the finest classical and contemporary Japanese and American Jazz artists to the Murray Hill neighborhood. The Kitano is dedicated to providing the best in Jazz music, showcasing performers from around the world representing different styles of Jazz. In addition to the Bar Lounge, the hotel offers several dining options such as the Garden Cafe and the Hakubai, a traditional Japanese restaurant.]

Osaka Bath House 7 W. 46th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves. New York City, NY Tel: 212-575-1303   READ A REVIEW:http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d209722-Reviews-Osaka_46-New_York_City_New_York.html

Wayne Escoffery website  http://www.escofferymusic.com/

Susan May Tell website: http://www.susanmaytell.com/