Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Sidewalks of New York

   "The Sidewalks of New York" is one of the oldest anthems of the city. It was written by the vaudeville songwriting pair of James W. Blake and Charles B. Lawlor in 1894. The lyrics center around a common New York experience, nostalgia. Blake's lyrics reminisce about his old childhood friends and hangouts. In a city where neighborhoods can transform in as little as a decade, the wistful remembrance of a New York gone by is one of the only permanent features of the city's fabric.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

4 World Trade Center is open today!

   A lot of visitors don't realize that there is a lot going on at the World Trade Center besides the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial. But when it's done, the site will consist of four skyscrapers, the memorial, the 9/11 museum, a transit hub, and a performing arts center. Plus 7 World Trade Center already opened in 2006 across the street. But today, 4 WTC opened for business. It's a beautiful mirrored glass building and it has some cool looking waterfalls and art in the lobby I can't wait to check out. Here's a photo I took of the building back in May.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Hail a Taxi

One of the indelible sights of new York, a long straight avenue, painted an undulating sea of yellow. The yellow taxi is not just an icon of the city, but also a key transport link in a city where most residents and visitors don’t use a car to get around town. In the movies, getting a taxi is as simple as sticking your arm out without even looking, but in real life, there’s a lot more complexity to haling a cab.

The most important tip for visitors is NEVER GET IN ANYTHING BUT A YELLOW CAB!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Take the A Train

   Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train" is one of the most iconic pieces of New York music history. But by the time it was written, Ellington was already one of the elder statesmen of jazz having been a major star for almost 15 years when the tune was written in 1939.
   Ellington was born and raised in Washington, D.C. but had come to Harlem, in upper Manhattan as a songwriter and bandleader in 1923. After honing his chops as a bandleader near Times Square, Ellington's band was hired in 1927 to provide the music at the famous Harlem speakeasy The Cotton Club. The Cotton Club was no bastion of enlightenment. It was run by gangster and bootlegger Owney Madden and billed its music as "Jungle Music." The name and decor of the club hearkened back to the antebellum South and its audience was white only by rule. But Ellington led his band with grace and talent, experimenting with new forms and ideas in a way a touring band could never do. Ellington's fame spread throughout the country via live radio broadcasts of the Cotton Club performances, first on the CBS network and later on NBC. His success even allowed to push the club's ownership to relax the all-white door policy.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Rhapsody in Blue

   Jazz was born out of the music of the South and the streets of New Orleans. But New York is where ideas from all over can combine into something magical. Paul Whiteman was a bandleader who was the first to create written arrangements of jazz pieces. For 1924 he produced a concert called "The Experiment in Modern Music" at Aeolian Hall. Today the building on 42nd Street across from Bryant Park that was home to the hall houses the State University of New York School of Optometry.

The Ultimate New York City Playlist Project

   Why do New Yorkers always have headphones over their ears on the subway? Is it to try to avoid hearing high school kids on the train yell slurs at each other? Is the homeless man at the end of the train car ranting about goldfish? Or are there just so many fantastic songs about New York and by New Yorkers that there isn't enough time in the day to listen to them all? Probably all of these are correct, but I am going to focus on the third one.
   I went on a quest to find as many great New York songs as I could and came up with a list of 80 songs from the whole recorded history of the city. But there are a few rules I imposed on myself. One, the artist has to be from the New York area. Connecticut and New Jersey are cool. Also, an artist need not be from New York originally, as long as they spent significant time here. Second, an artist can not be repeated. Everyone gets one song. Third, as many different genres of music should be included as possible. And finally, if a song is about New York or reflects it in some way, it gets automatically selected. I've broken it down into four albums of four eras, with 20 songs each. So behold, the ultimate NYC playlist: