3 Reasons to Join Us for Jazz Night at Make Believe

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New York City has a long and storied history with jazz. Since the middle of the 20th century, musical giants like Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, and Billy Strayhorn have graced stages uptown, downtown, and everywhere in between. While jazz wasn’t invented here (that credit belongs to New Orleans), New York City has provided a fertile environment for the sound to flourish.

In honor of this city’s love affair with percussion and brass, Make Believe, our rooftop concept lounge at SIXTY LES, has launched Jazz Night, which takes place every Wednesday, from 7 p.m. to 9 pm. There’ll be a different band every week, playing mostly in the style of Lester Young, Miles Davis, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, to name a few.

We recently got a chance to catch up with one of our first trios before they hit the stage. Below, Steve Blanco (piano and bass), Roberto Giaquinto (drums), and Julian Smith (upright bass) talk early influences, the sound of the city, and a nearly-unanimous love for the Village Vanguard.

Place of origin:

Steve Blanco: New York City.

Roberto Giaquinto: Naples, Italy.

Julian Smith: Chicago, Illinois.

Current residence:

SB: Long Island City, Queens.

RG: New York City.

JS: Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

Instrument of choice:

SB: Piano / bass.

RG: Drums.

JS: Upright bass.

First time you picked up an instrument:

SB: I played the organ my father had in our home.

RG: Sort of grew up around music. My dad used to play violin, guitar, and mandolin; my brother, piano. Started drums at age 13 when my brother switched to saxophone.

JS: Irish hand drum at age nine. Played traditional folk music.

Trained or self-taught?

SB: Self-taught with conservatory training.

RG: Music school in Naples. Degree in Jazz Arranging at Conservatorio Licinio Refice. Diploma in Performance at Berklee College of Music, currently attending Aaron Copland School of Music (Queens College) for Master Program.

JS: Both.

Most played record in your childhood home:

RG: Harry Belafonte, Queen, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, The Police, U2.

JS: Cannonball Adderley, everything.

Three musicians who have been most influential on you:

SB: Igor Stravinsky, as his legendary composition “Le Sacre Du Printemps” is my earliest memory of music. Miles Davis, especially for his late-60s quintet recordings such as Nefertiti, Miles Smiles, etc… Those albums have impacted much of my musical development. And Geddy Lee from the rock band RUSH was a massive influence for his spirit, amazing playing/writing, and top-shelf taste.

RG: Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Miles Davis. Unique voice and constant research of sound, and always had great rhythm sections.

JS: Scott LaFaro, Bill Evan, Charles Mingus.

Favorite moment in the history of jazz:

SB: The release of Bill Evans’s 1959 masterpiece, Portrait in Jazz.

RG: The 1960s.

JS: The 1959 year of releases.

Song that you think best encapsulates the feeling of New York City:

SB: “Wig Wise” from the Duke Ellington album Money Jungle.

RG: “Lennie’s Groove” by Mark Turner.

JS: New York is cool if you like saxophone.

Best place to play music in New York City:

SB: Domaine Wine Bar.

RG: Village Vanguard.

JS: Too hard to answer.

Best place to hear music in New York City:

SB: Saint Vitus Bar.

RG: Village Vanguard.

JS: Village Vanguard.

One place in the world you’d die to play in:

SB: I’d like to play music in Morocco.

RG: Village Vanguard and the Newport Jazz Festival.

JS: Village Vanguard.

Favorite type of crowd:

SB: Sophisticated.

RG: Young, attentive, and interactive.

JS: European, [they] often come just to listen.

Last book/film/song/work of art that inspired you:

SB: P.D. Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous.

RG: John Coltrane biography. Touching.

JS: Aaron Copland’s “What to Listen for in Music.”

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:

SB: Do not watch the news.

RG: Play with musicians that are more advanced than you.

JS: If you want money, quit now.

Where else can our readers find you?

SB: SteveBlanco.comFacebook/steve.blanco, @musicianwarrior.

RG: RobertoGiaquinto.comwww.inmotionbeatfest.com

JS: I play every Monday at LetLove Inn in Astoria, Queens, and every Tuesday at FourFiveSix in Greenpoint, Brooklyn—among too many other places to mention.

Photos courtesy of Atisha Paulson for SIXTY Hotels

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