Orrin Keepnews Jazz Record Producer Passes Away

Orrin Keepnews passed away March 1st on the eve of his 92nd birthday. Originally from the Bronx, Orrin Keepnews produced jazz luminaries such as Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderley and Bill Evans he also branched out into classical music with Kronos Quartet. He received Grammy awards for his liner notes to albums by Monk and Evans.

Busker’s Rights

Some of you may have seen the disturbing video of Andrew Kalleen being arrested for busking in the subway and being treated quite roughly a few months ago. The arrest was captured on video and brought new light to an issue that NYC musicians have navigated for generations. It has opened up a dialogue which has resulted in some better understanding about performers rights thanks to Local 802 Allegro writer Shane Gasteyer and the organization BuskNY.com which advocates for busker’s rights.

The main takeaway from the recent article in the January 15th edition of Local 802’s Allegro on busking is:

  • you do not need a permit to perform in the subway nor do you need an official Music Under NY (MUNY) banner
  • the police have the right to stop you if you are “impeding transit” and that judgement is made by the officer
  • you should follow the officer but wrongful arrest is still unjust
  • you can play for donations but not solicit which means you cannot only offer performance in return for payment

Musicians have always performed in public spaces around the city creating unexpected pockets of lively, joyful and creative entertainment in perfect harmony with the spirit of the city. Of course there are cases of bad playing or maybe something that just isn’t ones taste but for the most part the positive far out way the negative. There is so much great talent in New York it inevitably spills out into the streets. In fact it is the very nature of a public space without contracts, obligations or expectations that it can offer such freedom for artists. Many know the story of Sonny Rollins playing on the Williamsburg bridge while on professional hiatus searching for a new sound in 1959. He practiced 15 hours at a time through all seasons over the course of three years and then there was Moondog. Known to some as “the Viking of 6th Avenue” He could be found on Sixth Avenue around 52nd street wearing a makeshift viking helmet. A blind poet, composer, musician and inventor of instruments his music was considered avant-garde jazz and minimalist. From the late 1940s until 1972 he busked in midtown Manhattan. To most he appeared homeless however had an apartment in upper Manhattan and supported himself mainly from selling his music, poetry and musical philosophy. His music is said to have been a serious influence on Philip Glass and Steve Reich. So the next time you pass a busker in the subway remember they could be or may already have been an important piece of music history.

You can see the whole video of Kalleen’s arrest here.

Visit buskny.com for more information and advocacy for busker’s rights.

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Afrika Bambaataa vs. Arthur Baker

Giant Step teamed up with W Hotels for a very special edition of “Gangs of New York” featuring Afrika Bambaataa vs. Arthur Baker last night, playing together for the very first time! If you are not familiar with Arthur, he produced the Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force classic “Planet Rock.”…and if you don’t know who Afrika Bambaataa is or “Planet Rock” then go look it up and come back. It was a real New York music moment, and great to see some old familiar faces while checking out these two legends. I met Arthur back in the heat of the old Giant Step parties through Maurice Bernstein (founder of Giant Step). Maurice has always been in touch with the key figures in NY’s underground music scene, connecting and supporting the players who embody the soul, jazz and groove of our music history while at the same time keeping his finger on the pulse of what’s new, next and hot. Back in the day when I was the house drummer at the Giant Step parties Maurice played a vital role in getting my first single “Satsuki” out on 8Balll Records under the Giant Step NYC name, which in turn lead to me working with Jazzy Nice and Danny Taneglia who both did remixes of the single. Eventually, Maurice and Giant Step also helped sign two bands I was in (Repercussions and Giant Step) get signed to Warner Bros. Not to mention all the incredible people that came and sat in with us at Giant Step like Grand Master Caz, Rahzel, Brandford Marsalis, Pharcyde, Steve Toure, Poucho, Potato Valdez, Michael Franti, Guru…I’m leaving so many out. I’ll have to get a more complete list and come back to this.
Gangs of NY

MOMENT NYC Pilot Program at PS110

We had our first MOMENT NYC program at PS110 on November 18th and it was wonderful success. We brought 50 minutes of New York City music history to the third, fourth and fifth grade classes of PS110 Florence Nightingale elementary school in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There was singing, dancing and clapping. One student reported it was ” the coolest thing that has ever happened at PS110!” We received a nice write up about our program in DNAinfo you can read here.

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