Today is my 4th Anniversary living in NYC!!!! This is a photo from my maiden voyage from Montana on Amtrak. It was a 2 day trip. I met a nice young college student from China, who shared his mooncake and stories from studying in the states with me. I met up with my friend, Andrew, from college, in Chicago. He brought me another duffle bag to alleviate some of the weight on my 3 duffels, which were too heavy to check. It makes me laugh to think about how much was crammed into those bags-a whole life!!!! It was so comforting to see a friendly face and to get to talk about things that I knew. It was only a day into the trek and the reality of moving was still not fully realized. We were able to grab a bite and walk around the city a little bit before the final leg of my journey. We have collaborated since then, from afar. Little did I know that performing his projects in Montana would lead me to my current roommate, who now attends Juilliard School of Music for composition.
For the final leg of the trip, I shared a seat with a young man from Central America, who taught me a little crash course in Spanish and all of the conjugations and Pronouns, etc. It was all very exciting and silenced any apprehension and worry that may have bubbled up along the way. I realize that I have told you all about my landing in NYC for the first time, but I have yet to tell you of my first night in the city!
My landlord, Keith Witty, is an amazing bassist, producer, and teacher in the city. His lovely wife (Myriam) and he were my hosts for the first few months. Luckily, our mutual friend, Jonathan Finlayson, picked me up from the train station, where I took my first NYC cab.
We drove up along Central Park West all the way up to Harlem, past Columbus circle, John Lennon's apartment, Chris Potter's place, and stopped in front of a gray building with a few people gathered on the neighboring stoops. We wedged ourselves in the elevator with the luggage up to the 7th floor. (Later I would find that my current cellist was right next door to my first apartment!) After dumping the cargo on the hardwood floor. I surveyed the cozy room with the rustic rug and the paper lampshade, delighted but wishing I didn't have to be home alone on my first night in the city. I didn't know where or how to get around so I was worried to venture out along. As if reading my thoughts, my friend asked me if I would want to go to a jazz party at the Jazz Gallery!!!!
It was the old venue of the Jazz Gallery down by Spring street. People were eveywhere! Along the streets, in cars, buses, talking in clusters. It was fantastic to see such collections of people at night. We walked up the narrow flight of stairs in the gallery space. I looked around utterly star struck! I couldn't believe my eyes! Jonathan and I grabbed drinks and soon people gathered around to speak with Jonathan and he melded into the bustle. I was feeling incredibly self conscious with my filth from 2 days of the train without a shower, and with my eyes fairly popping out of my skull at the sight of some of the biggest jazz names on the scene.
The walls were white, hung with bright paintings of jazz musicians, by Alix Delinois, save for the wall behind the stage. This was dressed in a crimson curtain with the signature sign reading "Jazz Gallery".
Alix Delinios was watching me and came over to say hello. He said that i looked so funny with my face showing every bit of my utter shock and starstruck expressions.
Every imaginable happening thirty-something jazz musician seemed to have found their way to the gallery that night! I stood, wishing I could disappear and watch from a small conspicuous corner. I met Linda Oh, (I think I made some stupid remark about watching Youtube videos of her work), Jaleel Shaw, Ugonna Okegwo, Anat Cohen, Jason Lindner, Sachal Vassandani, Jonathan Blake and Rio. I felt quite out of place, until Joe Sanders called to me from across the room. He remembered me from Montana where I acted as his chauffeur. He gave me a big hug and assuring smile. Everything felt so surreal! Kendrick Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire, Justin Brown, and Ben Wendel were there! I was so blown away! Every artist that I had been listening to on repeat seemed to be in that room!The party just swirled away until almost everyone had left. I was in the back of the gallery where the art pieces were stored. Amongst the coats, and papers, and boxes, I saw a pen and ink drawing of Dan Tepfer and Lee Konitz, by an artist I would later come to know from the Jazz Standard. I stood there in awe. That was the painting that I had seen on Dan's page. Dan, who had said, "You should try New York. You have nothing to lose." There I was! It had come true! I was here and it felt real and a dream all at once. I wish that I could hold that moment in my mind and heart forever. I barely remember piling into a cab with Jaleel, Jonathan, Paul and finding my way into my new home. Four years later...and here I am. I taught music to future musicians today in Larchmont. I dined with the bass player in a band that I started. I am rooming with a Juilliard grad student. I am living life in amazement of the time that passed, in anticipation for what is to come, and in thanks for the here and now.