Smokin’ on the UWS

Headed up and to the left last nite to listen to some B3 grooves, and help out in some belated birthday activities. The venue was Smoke, an old-fashioned uptown boite de jazz. This place is what a jazz club should be, it’s small, has good sight-lines everywhere, good sound system, not too expensive (unlike those downtown tourist traps), nice vibe and comfy couches. And, as someone at our table pointed out, Smoke, sans smoke, is nice. (I could digress into a brief request that we pillory all those fools who screamed that banning smoking would kill the city’s night life–the place was packed, and not an iron lung in sight.)

As for the band, the Mike LeDonne quartet played them some good grooves. I was most impressed with tenor man Eric Alexander. This cat’s good. And he has that cool, serious, young jazz genius thing down, think Steve Dallas in The Sweet Smell of Success. In fact, Eric pretty much stole the set. I thought that guitarist Peter Bernstein would finally get his moment during a scorching slow blues–that’s guitar turf, man! But Bernstein is so intent on doing this quiet, unassuming melodic style, that he still held back. By the end of his solo, the blues had worn down to a funeral march. It was a weird moment. I liked his playing and loved his tone, but I wanted to hear much more. Peter, cut loose once in a while, you’ll feel good!

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