For this week's installment of the New York State of Mind Amoeblog I interview East Bay to NY transplant and old friend of Amoeba Music Jamie McCormick of renowned East Village coffee mecca Abraço Espresso (including some of Jamie's top five music lists and picks), discuss the new documentary Koch on former NYC mayor Ed Koch, take a look at a transit themed exhibit inside Grand Central Terminal which turns 100 years old in two weeks, and a quick rundown of some of the shows and events in the week ahead in the city of New York. These include the free, all ages NYC Parks Winter Jam this Saturday, Jan 26th from 11am to 3pm in the Bandshell area of Central Park. More info here.
Although her track record for concerts has been sketchy to put it nicely Cat Power has left all that erratic behavior behind her nowadays reportedly. And the artist born Chan Marshall plays Terminal 5 at 610 W 56th St. next Tuesday (1/29), in support of her current highly recommended album Sun. Angel Haze is the opening act. 8pm show. All ages. Tickets $25. More info.
Meanwhile on 125th Street in the heart of Harlem the Studio Museum, always offers some wonderfully engaging exhibits with an emphasis on art and artists of African descent, currently on exhibit is the excellent photo show: Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967 that follows one family around on their daily grind and features such shots as the one below. Note that Sundays is free day at the Studio Museum.
Rock concert picks for this week include the most unique, musically diverse rock quintet Graveyard, who formed from the ashes of Norrsken when that Swedish doom/stoner band broke up back in 2000, are currently on their Lights Out Over US 2013 tour (named after their latest album Lights Out) right now and playing at the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan this Friday (1/25) and at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Sunday (1/27) with The Shrine opening both shows. 9pm. 18+ Tickets are $18/$20. More info.
Abraço Espresso has been called the best coffee shop not just in NYC but across the US by reviewers on its Yelp page and the dedicated legions of Abraço fans that swarm to its small cozy East Village location six days a week (Mondays it's closes) all agree that Abraço's coffee is hard to beat anywhere in New York City and beyond. With an approach to coffee based on Berkeley's Cafe Mediterraneum, aka The Med on Telegraph Ave., and named after a Gilberto Gil song ("Aquele Abraço" off his self-titled 1969 album) Abraço has been a hit since the moment it opened up shop five and a half years ago back in October of 2007. The master behind its coffee is Jamie McCormick whose resume includes working at The Med right by Amoeba Berkeley, and at Oliveto in Rockridge, Oakland.
And as you can see in the above Amoeblog interview with that warm and charismatic East Bay to East Coast Abraço co-owner (himself both a musician & major music fanatic) music is an essential central part of the coffee spot - not only did Jamie name it after a record but has turntable and mixer in constant rotation inside Abraço. And below are two Jamie Top Five Music Lists plus some other music mentions he drew up for the Amoeblog. And last summer when David Byrne's Luaka Bop label posthumously released the crazy and super talented 70's Brazilian cult soul-rocker Tim Maia's Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul Of Tim Maia they chose Abraço as the place for the record release party, despite its small size. For the event the crowd spilled outside onto the sidewalk - a place where most Abraço regulars sip their daily coffee (weather permitting) since inside offers only room to order plus standing room at a narrow counter top for a handful of customers.
While Abraço currently gets its beans from various places including Counter Culture Coffee and
Stumptown Coffee Roasters soon they will be roasting all their own beans out of their soon-to-open Brooklyn based roasting house. Downstairs from the coffee area is the kitchen where Jamie's (life and business) partner Elizabeth Quijada bakes such delights as her popular olive oil cake (made with generous amounts of fine olive oil plus organic flour, sugar, and milk). Meanwhile upstairs above the coffee shop the couple and their infant daughter Lily Scott share a small cozy NYC apartment on a street that could be called Sesame Street. Jamie's other business partner/co-owners, "is a couple that I played music with for ten plus years. Their names are Donna McKean and Tim Brown," he told me adding that both musicians are in a band called Birds Of California and that they used to be in a group called Lunchbox.
Top Five Abraço In-Store Play Albums (in no particular order)
1) Jorge Ben Tabua De Esmeralda
2) Charles Wright And The 103rd St Watts Band You're So Beautiful
3) Antonio Carlos Y Jocafi Definitivamente
4) Alenn Toussaint Southern Nights
5) Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land San Fransisco
Other favorites, as artists, that also receive much play in the shop, according to Jamie, "include Marcos Valle, Caetano Veloso - early stuff and we love the album Livro also, his early 80's stuff is intoxicating. Everything Jorge Ben ever recorded, Gal Costa, specifically Gal Sings Caymmi. Lots of Blue Note jazz, mostly sixties like Wayne Shorter's Night Dreamer and Ju Ju, Lee Morgan's Taru, and Search for The New Land, Jackie McLean, also everything Miles (Davis) and (Thelonious) Monk, beach music style rNb, Sade, Brenton Wood, Thin Lizzy, Wings' Wild Life and At The Speed Of Sound."
Jamie McCormick's Personal All Time Top Five Favorite Singles (in no particular order)1) "3 Is A Magic Number" Bob Durough (Schoolhouse Rock!)
2) "We're A Winner" Curtis Mayfield from Curtis/Live! (recorded at the Bitter End just blocks from my shop!)
3) "Take Me Home And Make Me Like It" Alex Chilton
4) "Shock Me" Kiss
5) "Magic" Pilot
Fang Landshark/Where the Wild Thing Are (1989, Boner Records), and Germs GI (1979, Slash)
Visit the Abraço website for more info. Visit Yelp for customer reviews. And stop by Abraco Espresso Tuedays to Saturdays 8am to 6pm, and Sundays 9am to 4pm - located at 86 E 7th St (b/w 2nd Ave & 1st Ave) in the East Village area of Manhattan.
Ed Koch (pictured above), who was the mayor of New York City for three terms during some of the Big Apple's more gritty and financially challenged years from 1978 to 1989, could not have been more different than the current mayor Michael M. Bloomberg. Unlike millionaire banker turned politician Bloomberg, who comes usually comes off as detached from the common man, Ed Koch was a true man of the people; a down-to-earth charismatic mayor who would ride the subway everyday and was known for asking his consituents in his distinctive Nu Yawk accent, "How am I doing?"
Many fans of graffiti already know the former New York mayor from his appearance in the classic 1983 graffiti documentary Style Wars that captured his views on the rampant graffiti throughout New York City at that time. Now there is a new documentary just on Koch made by first-time filmmaker (and former Wall Street Journal reporter) Neil Barsky on the still alive but now 88-year-old Koch who incidentally was admitted to a New York City hospital late Saturday night, marking the third time he has been hospitalized in recent months.
The director of the documentary on Koch will be doing a Q+A at the sneak preview of the film that screens at the IFC Center next Tuesday at 323 Sixth Ave. The IFC have billed Barsky's film as an, "intimate and revealing portrait of this intensely private man, his legacy as a political titan, and the town he helped transform. The tumult of his three terms included a fiercely competitive 1977 election; an infamous 1980 transit strike; the burgeoning AIDS epidemic; landmark housing renewal initiatives; and an irreparable municipal corruption scandal. Through candid interviews and rare archival footage, Koch thrillingly chronicles the personal and political toll of running the world’s most wondrous city in a time of upheaval and reinvention."
The IFC also rightfully describe the film as "required viewing" for New Yorkers. Koch previews on Tuesday Jan 29th at 8pm and opens on Friday Feb 1st at Angelika and Lincoln Plaza in NYC (LA area folks note that Koch opens in Los Angeles movie houses a month later on March 1st at the Laemmle Theaters: Royal, Town Center and Playhouse 7)
I cannot say enough good things about Grand Central Terminal: it is a stunningly beautiful piece of architecture that, after getting dirty and grimy for decades, was in recent time given a meticulous clean up that took 12 long years to complete and included removing the thick layer of dirt (mostly from years upon years of heavy cigarette smoke - back in the public smoking era - traveling up from the estimated 750,000 folks who trekked through the Terminal everyday) that caked and blurred the magnificently decorated high ceiling.
I will go into more detail on all that Grand Central Terminal entails in a future NY State of Mind Amoeblog especially since Grand Central Terminal turns 100 in early February. But for now let me recommend a visit to the New York Transit Gallery Annex and Store that is in Grand Central and where currently on display is the eleventh annual Holiday Train Show.
Of interest to all ages the new layout that includes model Metro-North and New York Central trains all departing from a cute miniature Grand Central on their way North with vintage model trains from the Museum’s collection on display and replicas of such NYC monuments as the Brooklyn Bridge all included. The model train exhibit runs through Feb 10th and there is no admission since it is inside the store (Note that the main New York Transit Museum is in Brooklyn). While in the store you can buy such cool NY Transit swag as a NYC subway shower curtain or beanie caps with the logos of all the subway lines such as A, E, 1, 7, or L trains. New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store is located in the Shuttle Passage of Grand Central Terminal next to Station Master’s Office and is open 8am to 8pm (M-F) and 10am to 6pm (weekends). More info on it and the Grand Central Terminal's 100 year anniversary.