Langston Hughes would be happy to know evenings of great jazz take place at his house in Harlem. Lynne Arriale, a remarkable pianist, was just there playing material that moved easily from the upbeat to the contemplative. JAZZIZ magazine described her music as “the synaptic intersection where brain meets heart, where body meets soul.” That just about says it all. Her performance included “Bemsha Swing,” a Thelonius Monk tune I first heard played by Monk himself at the Five Spot in 1963. In a previous set, he stood up in the middle and did a little dance. But not when I saw him. So I had asked him, “Hey Thelonius, what about your little dance?” and he stood up, turned toward me, smiled and did his little dance. Arriale left out the moves, but stirred my memory.
June, Jazz and Cognac at Hughes House continues this weekend. It’s hard to think of a more intimate venue than the parlor room of this landmark home with its original ceilings and moldings. This Friday night at 8 and 10, the Jana Herzen Band performs. Jana is the founder of Motema Music, whose offices are in Hughes House, and she’s also the executive producer of the JVC Festival. She describes her program of “Jazzified world-pop-folk” themed “ Love Happens” as her “original musical take on various angles of the love equation.” Saturday night’s performance (also at 8 and 10) is “Roni Ben-Hur: Strayhorn Project,” a tribute to the celebrated Billy Strayhorn. Complimentary Cognac Ferrand tastings and other drinks are served one half hour before all showtimes along with tasty vittles. And of course, the Hughes House, one time residence of the legendary Harlem Renaissance writer, would be worth seeing even without the great jazz.
Lynne Arriale pictured.
Hughes House, 20 E. 127th St. (betw. Fifth & Madison Aves.), 212-222-5394; $15-25.