We have big ears around here and know what we like to hear, which is most everything. Sonic diversity is our birthright. In New York, on most any night, someone’s playing something different somewhere, uptown and down, and out at the Brooklyn soca bars, too. It has always been like that. Hopefully, it always will be.
Here are the pick hits, a rewind through some of the city’s greatest gigs and the musicians who made them happen. Then we segue to promising players on the horizon – the best of the endlessly variegated scrapple from the Apple.
Invention gets points. We like the New in New York, especially when it stays new for a few decades. The historical figures we’ve chosen were born – or did their best work – here. Their music is unthinkable without these streets. The city shapes the sound and the sound shapes the city. It’s all New York music.
That’s the reason certain famous shows – the Beatles at Shea Stadium, Elvis at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, James Brown at the Apollo, Jimi Hendrix opening for the Monkees at Forest Hills – aren’t included among the greatest gigs. Still, you may think Monk at the Five Spot, Mabel Mercer at Tony’s, Barbra Streisand at Carnegie Hall, Sun Ra at Slugs, Bobby Short at Bemelman’s Bar, all those Copa guys at the Copa, or even Woody Allen at Michael’s Pub are superior in New Yorkness to the performances mentioned here.
In the same vein, you may think that Maxwell, jazzman Nasheet Waits, or D.J. Armand Van Helden might well add more to New York’s sonic sensibility than our choices. That could be right, too.
But in the end, everybody knows there’s no accounting for taste.
– MARK JACOBSON
Live from New York
From Sinatra’s swagger to Moby’s mixes, the city’s had its share of the all-time-great gigs. A highly selective guide to the musical high notes that could only have been hit in this town.
Hear and Now
Listen up: a playlist of a daring dozen of the rockers and rappers – and even one roadhouse – that are making the city’s next great musical moments.