What were Laurel & Hardy doing at the annual jazz loft party? One of many great pleasures of this night of superb sound to benefit the Jazz Foundation of America's efforts to help musicians in need was Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra performing some wildly original accompaniment to the comic duo's silent movies, Double Whoopie and Wrong Again. But that's the kind of night it was on Saturday: while the northeast was challenged with a pre-Halloween ice storm, jazz devotees showed up and made their way around Chelsea's Hudson Studios drink in hand following their ears to hear a who's who of jazz royalty.
We spotted Mikhail Baryshnikov, Michael Imperioli and Hal Willner in the crowd, and some who simply could not stop themselves, a suited man with bunny ears, and another in red and black ladybug dress equipped with antennae. That's what I call acoustic accessories!
Sponsor Parmigiani contributed a "talking lounge" for "all deep philosophical conversations," but that did not keep the enthusiasm from spreading through the "blues," "jazz," and "Eat Here" lofts. These people really know how to throw a party for a good cause. As Wendy Oxenhorn, the Jazz Foundation's indefatigable executive director, pointed out, the Jazz Foundation of America offers financial and legal aid to jazz and blues musicians whose careers are no longer able to meet their housing or health care needs. Donors were able to place "bets" on who would win the Battle of the Saxes -- a rare case in which such battles carry non-musical significance. The "best" was based on applause.
Of all those on the program, I wanted to hear Lou Reed most, and kept him on the radar as I wandered, listening to the Tom Harrell Quintet featuring Wayne Escoffery, Ugonna Okegwo, David Berkman and Jonathan Blake, the Randy Weston African Rhythms Quartet with T.K. Blue, Vincent Ector, and Alex Blake doing what I can only call a slam bass. We did hear the tail end of the featured sax battle, but never found Lou Reed, who I'm told played with Jimmy Norman. Oh, well, we had a sublime night anyway, especially listening to a divine duet, Ron Carter on bass and Gene Bertoncini on guitar, performing the standards "Autumn Leaves" and "My One and Only Love." Yeahhh.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.