4/26/09: Lenny Pickett & The NYU Block Party Band @ Bowery Poetry Club (94/100)

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Another amazing day, in the high 80s, but I couldn’t just lay around the Park for six hours again today. Too much to do. I had to do an interview for East Village Radio for the project, and record my radio show, but first, I met up with this guy Mick, a writer for the soccer weekly First Touch. Oddly enough, they have a music section in a soccer publication. My friend Paul made the introduction, and Mick wanted to meet to write a piece about the 100 Bands project. And since I’ve played soccer since I could walk, I was totally down for it.

On my way home, I thought I’d pop by the Bowery Poetry Club, a cool little venue I’d been meaning to check out. I saw on the chalkboard outside that Lenny Pickett was playing with a group of students calling themselves The NYU Block Party Band. I had no clue who Lenny was, but it sounded like jazz from inside, so why the hell not.

I walked in, paid 7 bucks, and then took a seat in the music room, with the three other people watching Lenny and a 9-piece orchestra comprised of NYU music students. His students. Not only is Lenny a saxophone virtuoso, the leader and Musical Director of the Saturday Night Live band, but he’s also a music professor at NYU. And today was a performance with NYU music students.

Not exactly what I’d had in mind for today’s band, but one I’m glad I saw because man…Lenny can really play the sax. I arrived in the middle of a number, and after they finished that one up, Lenny was pretty funny when he said, “So that’s what I’ve been teaching your son, Mr. and Mrs. Cogliano.” Their son was the guitar play. How adorable is that? Probably not very if you’re their son, I would imagine.

The most interesting thing about this show wasn’t how the guy at the door, who took my 7 bucks and then asked me how may day was going so far – in a really genuine and sincere way. Although that was surprising, especially for New York. The most interesting part was how here is Lenny Pickett, a guy who heads up the SNL band, was a member of the jazz/soul band Tower of Power, basically holding a rehearsal with his students. And they’re mostly keeping up.

Obviously he’s miles ahead of them in talent and experience. But he was there, in a t-shir and jeans, playing to a room of four people, on a beautiful Sunday and seemed to be having a blast. Another cool thing was the song selection. He played classic jazz songs like “Honky Tonk,” which Lenny said all sax players are required to know, as sort of the price of entry if you want to be in a band. And he even rearranged the Led Zeppelin song “Black Dog” for a 10-piece jazz band. Which was totally interesting. And, apparently quite difficult, according to him.

I didn’t know any of the other songs, but it didn’t matter. I knew that these students were doing a great job keeping up with Lenny, that he seemed to be having a good time, while mentoring his band and making one student’s parents very proud. And I knew that the vibe at the Bowery Poetry Club made me want to check out again. Just maybe not within the next six days.

Day 94: done.

Less than a week to go.

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