Favorite “new” city I visited in 2013

What’s new to me is not new to the rest of the world but it should come as no surprise that I pick Chicago. I have been to Chicago twice already this year and will have been three times by the end of 2013 (and will go for a fourth time early in 2014). If you actually spend any time with me you have probably heard me say “You know what’s a cool city? I mean a really cool city? F–king Chicago.”

I find Chicago to be a mixture of several other places I’ve been to or lived in that add up to it’s unique feel. It’s a very big city in terms of layout. It’s certainly not walkable in the same way that Boston is for example. Chicago also has a really cool mix of some areas that are very “city” (think lots of tall buildings) and other areas that have a great neighborhood feel (think Squirrel Hill or Shadyside if you are a Pittsburgh person). But unlike a lot of “cities” that are really just big small towns, Chicago is a CITY. Very cool things to see and do, delicious food, amazing architecture, great style (very important!), and lots of pretty folk walking about.

Here are some of the things I liked best:

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The BEAN (actually called Cloud Gate)! This work by Indian artist Anish Kapoor has been in Millenium Park since 2006. It’s amazing to see all the people and families that crowd around this piece. You can walk under it as well. Just keep in mind that it weighs 100 tons.

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This fantastic red building. I don’t know what it’s called but it appeared to be a boutique of some kind. For me the fact that it was red was all I needed. This should be my home…in a real cartoonish kind of way.

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The Green Mill jazz club on the North Side of Chicago (near Wrigley Field) is one of the coolest clubs I’ve ever been to. I heard a terrific set from pianist Laurence Hobgood who had Chicago trumpeter Marquis Hill in his quintet that night. I had the chance to speak with both of them which added to the experience. Get to the club early or you can stand in a line like this one.

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The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most famous museums in America if not the world, but let’s be honest, for many of us it’s “the Ferris Bueller Museum.” This Andy Warhol painting waits to greet you in one of the 20th Century galleries. Works by Grant Wood, Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, and more are hanging in this museum. What are you waiting for? Unfortunately I did not see Sloane Peterson.

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Chicago has tortas…

photo-12and burgers with TRUFFLE FRIES…

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and coffee and donuts…you get the point. No. I’m not sure how my clothes still fit either. Lots of trips to the gym I suppose.

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You really shouldn’t have a Burberry store if it’s not a plaid building. Chicago has that.

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They also have the Chicago Recording Company where Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins recorded Siamese Dream and where R. Kelly recorded 12 Play. This was my “desk” for four days last February. I can’t wait to go back!

photo-18Next trip I’ll be sure to get another one of these!

So that’s just some of what I did in Chicago and I barely scratched the surface. Never been to the “windy city?” Dude, you should go.

Until next time,

Scott Boni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Meal of 2013

The meal I had at Manzo at Eataly NYC is the winner of this category. Walking into this giant Italian market/restaurant is a little overwhelming as it is seems to always be filled with people. However, if you can handle a crowd and can work your way to one of the crowded restaurants you will not be disappointed…or if you are disappointed please don’t tell me. I have no desire to judge you.

I started with Mozzarella with Butternut Squash, Pumpkin Seeds, and Guanciale

Mozzarella @ Eataly NYCThis could have (and probably should have) been my entire meal. It was delicious and filling. The mozzarella is the freshest I have tasted and I learned a new word for bacon (see: guanciale).

If I walk into an Italian restaurant I’m going to order Spaghetti Pomodoro or Gnocchi. This is like my “first date” with an Italian restaurant. I’ll see what you do with one of those and then I’ll know if we have a future together. Eataly’s Gnocchi with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Fresh Ricotta will be seeing each other again we are both just busy right now.

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And for what it’s worth I think it is THE best bowl of gnocchi I’ve ever had. Bataly. Bastianich. Butter (that’s the key)!

And then Fatty (that’s me) wanted desert. So I spoke to the nice bartender and had the Cioccolato with Hazelnut Gelato.

photo-8Jesus, take the wheel was that good. Should I ever be given a “last meal” this is what I’m requesting. No not the entire meal just the cioccolato. It was ridiculous.

A close close second to Manzo at Eataly was Scarpetta (also in NYC). Scott Conant’s famous Spaghetti Pomodoro is well worth the trip. So is the Agnolotti  with Bone Marrow…ok…Scarpetta is going to get a post with pictures next. Stay tuned.

And third place goes to another Mario Batali spot: Otto Enotecca (in NYC – see the pattern?)

Until next time,

Scott Boni

 

Many Paths to the Top of the Mountain – Choose Wisely

I am fascinated with the different ways individuals learn things in different ways, process information in different ways, and yet arrive at similarly high levels of achievement and proficiency. Let me give the example of Joshua Redman and Chris Potter. They are two very different saxophone players, different kinds of improvisers, with two very different backgrounds and pathways into learning music and yet they are two of this generation’s most respected jazz musicians. Another interesting observation (I think anyway) is how two similarly talented musicians might feel completely opposite about a pedagogical technique.

Take transcription, for example. Miguel Zenon, one of the BADDEST cats to ever play a saxophone in my estimation, is on record as being a huge proponent of transcribing the solos of others. In Miguel’s world this means learning the solo by ear, trying to gain greater control of his instrument by playing every inflection exactly, and then writing out the solo on paper. If you are unfamiliar with Miguel you can hear him on his website. I can promise you that his voice is original despite his pathway through transcription. In other words imitation helped Miguel develop his unique voice rather than hinder it. Joe Lovano on the other hand is not really an endorser of transcription and yet also has a unique sound in which you can hear the continuum of the jazz language when he plays. Joe talks about the potential pitfall of transcription as being “playing someone else’s solo” on a great Berklee video. I love this DVD and watch it maybe once or twice a year for inspiration. I highly recommend it. My point being that here are two different approaches to excellence. Which one is “correct?” That’s just the point I’m trying to get at: Each of these players found their own pathway to unlocking their highest potential.

(A brief word for the Jazz Police: I acknowledge and understand that Miguel and Joe are at different points in their development. Joe Lovano is clearly a master and I feel Miguel is too but it’s more politically jazz correct to pretend he has a long way to go. Calm down now. There’s a lot of important stuff going on in the world. Thank you. Please put me on your “Do Not Fly List.”)

I have been personally experiencing the benefits of choosing a path recently. There’s a quote from a well-known musician that is “Trying to play like my heroes and failing is how I learned to play like myself.” That’s an approximation of the quote anyway. Up until about a year ago I had found inspiration from one particular musician for many years. This musician was MY standard of what I wanted to be able to play like. I didn’t outright imitate this player but I used his playing as a template for sure. What happened a year ago changed all that. I was sitting in a theater very close to another musician whom I greatly admire. As I listened I began to notice aspects of his playing that cause proverbial lightbulbs to pop on in my mind. “Oh! he’s doing that?!” and “That’s why he gets that sound over that chord!” It was almost like receiving a message that night. I don’t know whether I’ve had a good year or not but I’ve certainly had a very productive year musically. I attribute this productivity almost entirely to this natural switch of which example I was choosing to follow. While there are many paths to take I firmly believe that some are better suited for us as individuals than others. I think when we pick the one(s) that are most naturally suited to us then we see results faster. If you feel like you’ve plateaued a bit but also know that you are ready for more growth perhaps it’s as simple as switching the path you’re following. There are many paths to the top of the mountain. Choose wisely.

Scott Boni