Jazz musicians bring lively energy to the East Village Community Garden


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In the East Village there are a lot of community gardens – 39, at last count. In a city of 550, that’s a big chunk. Fortunately, the keepers of these beautiful oases take the ‘community’ part seriously, sharing their well-kept spaces with their neighbors and frequently hosting events ranging from art workshops and poetry readings to composting events and concerts. . Last week was a perfect example, with two of the most active spaces lending their storylines to wonderful performers.

On August 25, El Sol Brillante, an extremely lush garden located at 522 East 12th St., partnered with Ariana’s List and the Jazz Foundation of America to present Willie Martinez and his Latin Jazz Collective in a free performance as part of of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. . Parker lived a few blocks away on Avenue B and there is traditionally a one-day concert in his honor in Tompkins Square Park, but COVID concerns have boxed that event.

Presented by Ariana Hellerman (from the eponymous list) and Maddy Feldman of the City Parks Foundation, Martinez’s band – made up of veterans Steve Gluzband (trumpet), Ben Lapidus (guitar), Bernardo Minoso (bass), Renato Thomas (percussion) and Martinez on drums and vocals – bring their own personal touch to world-class renditions of Parker-associated tracks such as “Night In Tunisia”, “Caravan” and “Body and Soul”.

Conductor Willie Martinez performed in a full garden at El Sol Brillante(Photo by Bob Krasner)
The setting sun and a lush garden were the backdrop for musicians Ben Lapidus, Bernardo Minoso, Willie Martinez, Renato Thomas and Steve Gluzband (LR)(Photo by Bob Krasner)

The night was hot, space was limited, and the mosquitoes were in attack mode, but the garden carefully provided bug spray and the music was so good that those who stayed up stayed until the end. All in all a perfect summer evening in East Village.

The following night, La Plaza Cultural, on the corner of East 9th St. and C Avenue, hosted the final evening in a series called “Garden Variety,” presented by TWEED TheaterWorks and HOWL Arts at various gardens in August, including the 9th St. Community garden and park, The community courtyard and garden De Colores and the garden 6 & B. Hosted by Tweed Artistic Director Kevin Malony, the party was hosted by acclaimed drag performer Flotilla DeBarge, who also sang a few numbers and left no doubt that “When you’re nice to mom, mom is good with you ”.

Other performers included the Off The Bar Brass who played instrumental versions of tunes by Dua Lipa, Katy Perry and Amy Winehouse, who likely rocked once or twice as the combo stomped on their version of her hit song “Valerie” with a drum, a sax and a tuba. Joseph Keckler, a performance artist who used his opera voice to tell the story of having sex with a ghost, was definitely the outlier. The Tenement Tenors hailed from Lawrence, MA, armed with their own tunes, but also demonstrated what it would be like if Peter and Paul let Mary down in order to cover Patti Smith’s “Free Money”. Cleo Berlin took the opportunity to make her debut with her new band, Cleo and the Heartbreak, and it was an auspicious start.

Renato Thomas and Steve Gluzband are blazing.(Photo by Bob Krasner)
Willie Martinez has his eye on …… ..something(Photo by Bob Krasner)

The show closed with a solo concert by local favorite Claudi of the Pinc Clouds, fresh off a tour of the West Coast. The rest of the group might have needed a rest, but the band’s tireless frontman – in his signature dress and wig – turned the rest of the evening into a dance concert with cheerful renditions of older tunes such than “Soul In My Body” to the originals of the brand new Spanish LP ‘La Atomica’.

As the open space in front of Claudi filled with hopping and spinning Pinc Louds fans, Miss DeBarge inspected the stage and declared the event a success.

“The evening went fabulously,” she said. “A large garden, an eclectic crowd and beautiful people enjoying their life in the Rona and Delta era.

If you would like to help any of these nonprofits continue their work, you can:

Buy a t-shirt from https://elsolbrillante.org/ and then attend their fundraiser on 9/18. Also check them out on Instagram at @elsolbrillantegarden
If one t-shirt isn’t enough (and it never is), check out www.laplazacultural.com for their merchandise.

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