New York Hot Jazz Festival Electrifies McKittrick Hotel


Bria Skonberg (center) performs at the 2017 New York Hot Jazz Festival, held at the McKittrick Hotel in Manhattan on Sept. 24.

(Photo: Aidan Grant / New York Hot Jazz Festival 2017)

One of the most enjoyable hangs of the year is the annual celebration of 1920s and 30s swing music presented by the ebullient promoter and irrepressible hot jazz aficionado Michael Katsobashvili. A marathon of 12 continuous hours of exuberant music on three stages in the McKittrick Hotel, home of the immersive theater experience Sleep No More, the fifth annual New York Hot Jazz Festival revived the sounds of Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt, Ella Fitzgerald and other icons of yesteryear in a festive bash held Sept. 24. 

Mainstays like trumpeter-cornetist Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers (with guest singer Molly Ryan) and trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso’s EarRegulars (with guest singer Brianna Thomas) got things cooking in the early evening with vintage fare like “Liberty Stable Blues,” “Get Rhythm In Your Soul,” “When I Take My Sugar To Tea,” “Panama” and “Kissing My Baby Goodnight.”

Photo of Jon-Erik Kellso
Jon-Erik Kellso (Photo: Aidan Grant / New York Hot Jazz Festival 2017)

Trumpeter-singer Bria Skonberg, a dynamic entertainer and co-founder of the New York Hot Jazz Festival, later turned the heat up with a swinging romp through Louis Armstrong’s “Hotter Than That,” an earthy “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me” and a sultry rendition of “Whatever Lola Wants,” backed by saxophonist Patrick Bartley, trombonist Corey Wilcox, pianist Mathis Picard, bassist Russell Hall and drummer Darrian Douglas.

Up on Gallow Green, the McKittrick Hotel’s rooftop bar, dapper clarinet virtuoso Felix Peikli and vibraphonist Joe Doubleday co-led a quartet in a lively tribute to the classic Benny Goodman Quartet. The Norwegian-African Peikli, decked out in a plaid suit, showed a wry wit in dedicating “After You’ve Gone” to President Trump, then played a swooning “Moonglow” and a beautiful “Gone” with old-soul elegance, while rocking “Sweet Georgia Brown” in a furious tempo. Singer Kat Edmonson joined the group on a romp through Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” then channeled her inner Billie Holiday on the romantic ’20s tune “If I Had You.”

In The Heath, an intimate nightclub setting in the McKittrick, seductive French singer Elizabeth Bougerol led the Hot Sardines, featuring pianist Evan Palazzo and tap dancer AC Lincoln, on invigorating renditions of “Crazy Rhythm” and “You’re Driving Me Crazy” before breaking out her native tongue for some alluring chanson. Another fabulous singer, Tamar Korn, dedicated her set to the music of the spirited Jazz Age songstress Annette Hanshaw.

In the Mystery Train, an actual antique railroad car located just outside of The Heath, violinist Andy Stein and guitarist Vinny Raniolo recreated the classic duets of Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, including “Goin’ Places,” “Doin’ Things” and “I’ll Never Be The Same.”

Later in that intimate space, guitarist James Chirillo joined longtime Maria Schneider Orchestra reedman Scott Robinson on a presentation of Jazz Age theremin. Although this eerie-sounding electronic instrument, played without any physical contact by the performer, is often associated with the 1951 sci-fi film The Day The Earth Stood Still, it was actually created in 1920 by Russian inventor Leon Theremin and introduced to the United States by 1927. Robinson showed his mastery of the instrument on renditions of Duke Ellington’s “Creole Love Song” and “Solitude” and the Jazz Age nugget “Roses Of Picardy,” which had the theremin ace doubling wonderfully on Armstrong-inspired trumpet.

Other highlights of the fifth annual bash included the first-ever appearance together of Djangophile guitarist Stephane Wrembel and French singer Cyrille Aimée, both of whom grew up in Django Reinhardt’s hometown of Samois-sur Seine; singers Martina DaSilva and Tatiana Eva-Marie joining Dennis Lichtman’s Mona’s Hot Four; clarinetist Anat Cohen playing a lively set of choro music on the Gallow Green; and trumpeter Jumane Smith (a member of Harry Connick Jr.’s TV show band) channeling his inner Satchmo with his All-Stars.

Photo of Cyrille Aimee
Cyrille Aimêe (Photo: Aidan Grant / New York Hot Jazz Festival 2017)

The music continued into the wee hours with Shanghai Mermaid’s Midnight Speakeasy, which included an all-star jam, a washboard battle between Frenchmen Stephane Seva and David Langlois, classic burlesque by Amber Ray and 1920s dance numbers by the team of Nathan & Gaby. DB

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