When compiling these live recordings, Adam Schatz (from Search and Restore) asked me to describe my fondest memory of Bar4.
After curating and playing there practically every Monday from 2005-2012, it was tough to single out just one night, let alone one memory.
SO, for those that have heard through the grapevine, or others that have heard me tell it...I have chosen to recount the infamous "gun" incident.
I feel that this memory serves as a true testament of the improvised music scene in the 2000's Brooklyn. One that couldn't exist at any other time.
Like any other night early in my NYC career, I was rushing feverishly from one gig/rehearsal/manwithvan job to my weekly gig. I was late, and luckily I had given the night to saxophonist Tony Barba to lead. The band was a version of Barba's group the "Barbarians", this time with Simon Lott, Rob Jost, Eric Biondo, and some other folks sitting in.
One of the perks of the gig was that I could park my car behind the bar, in a little spot that was cool for me, just me, and just on Monday nights. What a rarity in NYC, especially in "you can't park Park Slope." But not this night...it was slammed and I quickly pulled up in front of the bar, switched on my hazard lights, managed to trudge my way through the rowdy crowd to the stage, plugged in, and started ripping IMMEDIATELY.
It was a very typical night at Bar 4 in that era; a healthy mix of locals taking advantage of their trusty watering hole, young improvisers stopping by to check the music, and then some Park Slope weirdos peppered in. I remember distinctly feeling like the gentlemen who looked like a wasted Steven Seagull dancing upfront was a bit odd. So odd I really thought he was either some actor, or an undercover cop. Nevertheless, the was a foreboding feeling in the air.
As the story goes, there we were playing the music, the band was tearing it up, people where dancing, spirits where high. We had just finished one of Tony's songs and I turned to the bass player, Rob Jost to say "great set", patted him on the back and then ZOOM>>>a Bolt of electricity through the veins. We both got shocked because of the faulty wiring of the club. I think I took a second to recover and then I faintly remember seeing a bunch of flashing lights outside... and at that moment I realized my car was still parked with its hazards on right out front! God DAMMIT.
AND THEN BOOM, before I knew it there were 30 cops with handguns pointed at all of us. "Get on your hands and knees" shouted the NYPD. Imagine young Ari Folman-Cohen in utter shock dropping his drink on the floor with a gun pointing directly at his face. His pint glass smashed to pieces.
After slowly putting my guitar to the side, I and the other 50 or so patrons of Bar4 where ushered outside, one by one with our hands behind our heads. Then came the swat team, and the helicopters, and detectives. The entire block was barricaded.
Apparently what happened was a man robbed a lady with a gun a block away for the club. He was immediately chased by the NYPD. Then he made his biggest mistake. He shot at the cops. Cops shot back and no one was hit. So the suspect sprinted into Bar4, while we where still playing and headed straight for the bathroom. He ditched the gun in the trash, sat next to Conor Elmes and pounded his beer. And the rest is history.
They eventually singled out the guy and took him to jail. All of us had to wait outside in the bitter cold until 4 in the morning...waiting for the NYPD to fingerprint and search every inch of BAR4. By the time we got back to the club they had mutilated the place. Couches where flipped upside down, glasses where shattered, Tony's soprano was ruined, and the rest of the instruments where treated like old toys being thrown out to the street. So we ended up staying and helping Larry, the owner, and the rest of the crew at bar4 salvage the bar. We had a couple drinks and let some steam out. The bond was made.
And of course, since the cops never let me touch my car, my battery died and I needed a jump. SO to reciprocate the jolt I gave Rob Jost earlier, he jumped my car and I went home at sunrise.
With that all said, these recordings are not perfect by any means. They were mostly done with one condenser mic, sometimes a pair if I was lucky to get there early and set it up. You will hear the crowd talk, sirens from police cars and firetrucks, people laugh and whisper , and the occasional klink of a glass. It was all part of the experience. Bar4 was never a listening room for jazz, as much as we tried to make it one. Until they renovated, it was a local bar, with a stage that used be on the way to the bathroom. But I kinda liked it that way.
It was a blast playing there every Monday, I will miss it dearly. Some nights were packed and raging with thirsty mouths and ears. Some nights were rainy, awkward, and honestly...slightly depressing. But regardless of the scene, the music spoke louder than any circumstance. In fact the circumstances often times dictated the music. I kept saying to myself "remember the bigger picture." I had a place to improvise with musicians from all over the world, recent jazz graduates popping their "NYC-cherry", and true fixtures of the NYC jazz scene . I payed everyone at least enough to buy some lunch the next day. It was a little safe haven for me, and many people jokingly called it "our" form of a church gathering. It was wonderful. I hope these recordings do the scene justice.
So rest in peace bar4. Thanks to everyone who has played and/or listened to any single or million notes played on that stage.
till the next residency.
mike gamble August 15th, 2013
released August 19, 2013
Mike Gamble-guitar and efx, Joe Tomino- drums, Jeremy Bleich-bass, Todd Sickafoose- bass, Ches Smith-drums, Pete Robbins- alto sax, Mike Pride-drums, Trevor Dunn-bass, Shane Endsley- trumpet, Kaveh Rastegar- bass, Chris Vatalaro- drums, triggers, and minikeys, Jeff Davis- drums,Tony Barba- sax and clarinet, Noah Jarrett-bass, Conor Elmes-drums
recorded and mixed by Mike Gamble at studio MG.
all rights reserved