People Like Us at The Garage

People Like Us


Garage Restaurant & Cafe, October 20, 2001:


       Lucky for me the Chase ATM door at my branch on Hudson and King streets, doesn’t open for my ATM card on the weekends. I had to go to the Sheridan Square branch to withdraw my money. I passed by a club called “Garage” and heard some interesting jazz music. I realized immediately, this must be the place for my first review of jazz music for my Jazz and American Culture class. I ran back to work, told my boss the situation, and took an immediate lunch. I got back to the club and caught the end of the first set.

       The Garage Restaurant is a club located just south of Sheridan Square in Manhattan at 99 7th Ave. South. On Saturday and Sunday they offer a jazz brunch from noon - 4 P.M. The restaurant is very nice, a place I have walked by for many decades. My first visit was extremely pleasurable and I will definitely return with my wife.

       Today’s jazz group is “People Like Us,” featuring the compositions of jazz pianist Joel Forrester. The first song I caught was a ballad, “My, My, My.” This tune showcased the piano creating very colorful chord structures, combined with soft and succinct brush technique from the drummer. The baritone saxophone solo is moody and slow and stays in the lower register. The acoustic bass solo is discrete and tasteful with a soft and thoughtful attack. The piano solo features a downward crescendo of jazz eighth note patterns. The drum solo utilizes nice brush work, slow and building, with deliberate and clear eighth note rolls extending to syncopated left hand rolls between the tom toms and bass drum. He finishes up with an extended sixteenth note roll back up to the top. This was a very good tune to start on and it was the last song of the first set.

      During the break I got a chance to speak to the band. The composer and leader is Joel Forrester. He is very gracious and personable and is tickled that I am here for my jazz class doing a review of their band. Along with the review, I get an interview as well. Joel plays all over New York City in various groups and also plays extensively in Paris. He composes all the original material. His playing is inventive, moving and sometimes light and playful. The saxophonist is Claire Charles. She is one of the few accomplished female jazz saxophonists and takes on the daunting task of playing the baritone saxophone. Her tone is full and smooth and her solos are clever and thoughtful and apropos to the baritone sax. Claire is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. The bassist is Dave Hofstra. Dave and Joel have been playing together since 1978. He is well known for possessing rock-solid timing and his soloing is tasteful, accomplished and well suited for the direction and vision of “People Like Us.” On drums is Peter Grant, who’s been playing jazz forever. His abilities are unquestioned and he compliments “People Like Us” tremendously.

       The second set starts with a tune called “The Baker Bounce.” This tune is about two Parisian bakers. The tune has a moderate speed, bop or shuffle, tempo. The instruments play much of the time in unison. This lively and bright melodic tune starts slow and easy and continues to build throughout. The drummer executes nice left hand rolls and some tastefully placed reverse stick technique for a syncopated staccato effect. There is a prominent walking bass throughout. The baritone sax continues in the lower register and is very sensuous. There is a nice drum solo where Peter shows his chops, with succinctly executed rolls and bass drum interchanges. The bass solo is spirited and elaborates the walking style with light drum splashes and nice right hand triplets on the hi-hat.

       The third tune has a Latin flavor and is called “Monkey in the Middle.” The intro features the piano and baritone sax playing in unison. The tempo switches from a swing feel with melodic development back to Latin staccato. A lively piano solo is complemented with strong walking bass and right hand triplets on the 18” heavy gage ride cymbal. The baritone sax solo is in the upper register and is colorful and lively. The upbeat tempo is contrasted by drum breaks, cut time tempo changes, double-paradiddle rolls and quarter note rolls. Excellent combo development here, with individual instrument breaks: baritone, bass and drums. Latin and swing, back and forth, is a very nice effect.

        The next tune is a blues titled “Blue Mary Lou.” The song has a descending melodic structure with dissonance and is slow and deliberate. The baritone solo is very soulful and melodic with flashy flourishes showcasing rapid triplets contrasted with long low sustain notes. The piano solo is slow and pondering. The drummer utilizes a cut time drum soloing effect with nice tasteful snare rolls and left hand rolls. The bass solo is very soothing with interesting with intricate melodic direction featuring bending notes down low and again up at the high end.

       The fifth tune is called “What You Mean to Me.” This tune is a bright swing composition. The drummer executes nice right hand triplets on the ride cymbal and interesting counter rhythms on the snare. The piano and baritone again play in unison through this nice bright melody. Outstanding baritone sax featured here. The song has an exuberant walking bass guiding it throughout. The bass solo is very inventive. The drum solo features the best chops of the set with various rolls and left had creativity that really swings out tremendously! There is contrasting cut time tempo changes and fast rolls for dynamic effect.

       “People Like Us” play their theme song and go on another break. This was an inspiring and joyful experience. The music was tremendous and the service, ambiance and food were excellent. I will come back definitely!

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A.J. Alfaro