Fulbright riffs, 1991 — day 78, Thursday August 15th

As in all big cities in late summer, the smell of garbage awaiting collection and frantically essential urination combine to create an awesome pong, especially after rain.

I pick the wrong route to get to work: bus to World Trade Center, PATH to Newark, then the subway. It took an hour and twenty minutes.

WBGO (nj.com)

I’m not in the IJS office long before it’s time to go over to WBGO to start recording my programme at 1 pm with Eli Yamin. We manage to record the two-hour programme in about two hours and twenty minutes, including a break. In fact there is just one re-take at the start to slow down my delivery in accented English. The programme’s title is The English connection. We’re both happy with the way it turns out. Dan Morgenstern has scheduled it to be aired on December 15th, by which time everyone will have forgotten who I was and will forget to tune in. [Happily they did not and sent me a copy of the programme on a DAT cassette. Sadly, that cassette has been mislaid and neither did I keep a note of the track listing, but I do remember two of the tracks it contained: Medea from the Reggie Workman Ensemble album Images, recorded at the Knitting Factory and featuring Don Byron (the album also includes photographs by Lona Foote); and a track from Stan Tracey’s second big band tribute to Ellington, We still love you madly.

Reggie Workman Ensemble Images, Music & Arts CD 634
Stan Tracey & his Orchestra We still love you madly Mole CD 15

After the recording session I meet several staff at the station. WBGO gets no money but has found a way to attract local sponsorship with some success. One of their receptionists, Tracey, is from Manchester and is homesick after seven years here. I offer to take her for a drink after work: she suggests Monday lunchtime instead.

Still feeling off-colour back at the IJS after last night’s left-over rice (stupid mistake) I make some more calls and scan some more magazines. I leave work with Vincent who shows me a quicker way back into Manhattan, using the New Jersey Transit to Penn. This is a tram or street-car line still running old PCC stock, but it clips the journey time considerably.

I drop off some reels at Wallgreens, which has a special offer on developing, then catch the subway to 3rd Avenue. From there it’s short walk through the bustling East Village neighbourhood to Howard’s apartment.

There are no phone messages so I take myself off to the 2nd Avenue Deli — excellent Rumanian boiled tenderloin. Then a long overdue return to the Knitting Factory, where Carlos Ward’s Quartet plays an hour later than scheduled. In the line-up with Carlos Ward on alto are: Emanuel Chulo Gatewood on bass, Pheeroan Aklaff (very loud) on drums, and Michele Rosewoman on synthesizer. Ward plays some wonderfully inventive lines but the balance in the club is all wrong, which makes for an enervating evening. Rosewoman looks great but her playing is the main casualty of the poor balance and lacks the imagination that I was expecting.

I leave after the first set and walk back up Lafayette to Cooper Union Square where a young daredevil on a skate board is attempting to vault over five trash bins with flattened, razor-sharp cans placed between each bin. After an hysterically dramatic build-up, he skates a long way down the street, then comes roaring back, takes off, clears the bins easily and then, for the pièce de resistance, lands on another skateboard — and falls off! But what a stunt, all this in the middle of a street still busy with traffic.

The neighbourhood comes alive after nightfall. Street vendors are everywhere and the restaurants remain packed out.

Back at the apartment, I see that Howard has a promo of the new CD by Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, so I give it a listen while reminding myself how good Val Wilmer’s autobiography is.