The Blue Forest / Floresta Azul (July 31 – August 9)


Dear Friends,

Last night, at the last minute, I found myself free due to cancelled plans. When that happens, yes, I sometimes look at my own list to see what’s happening! One description caught my eye: “Afro-Brazilian percussion in a big band format, Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz combine traditional African-based rhythms with sophisticated jazz harmonies.” What? What did this even mean? I had ideas but couldn’t truly understand what this was. So Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz it was. While I may know something about “Brazilian culture,” Brazil is as large as the United States and made up of so many different cultures. In the scheme of things, I know very little. I was interested in seeing something new.

The “Rumpilezz style” was incredible. As people moved closer to the stage to get a closer look, so did I.

A photo posted by @arianaslist on

At first glance, it looked symphonic in presentation. There were many musicians in a traditional arc, on the stage. But upon closer observation, the differences were obvious.

1) The set-up was unique. With Western orchestras, percussion is always in the back. I had never thought of it before, but of course, the rhythm section would be front-and-center for an Afro-Brazilian music ensemble.

2) While dapper in their white suits, the standing percussionists danced to their instruments. Would we ever see that in a classical or jazz set-up?

3) The unifying factor of the musicians’ clothing was white, but that was it: in addition to the all-white suits and fedoras, there were white t-shirts, shorts, and Havaianas. I liked the combination of formal and informal.

4) The music stands were bright red as were the cushions on the unique stools that all the wind and brass musicians sat on.

Generally, if you were not able to hear, you would see that this was a show. And when you listened, the music sounded slightly traditional but the rhythms made them very Brazilian (the orchestra comes from Bahia, where African roots are strong.) This certainly wasn’t a traditional orchestra.

While I was enamored by this new music, I later realized what enabled me to make all of these observations: my proximity to the stage. This was not an intentional move made by Lincoln Center; Damrosch Park is filled with formal seating. But it was interesting to watch how many people migrated to enjoy the music up close.

This made me think of the classical music and opera audience experience. I think I can safely say that when anyone attends classical orchestra performances, they expect seats. Having to stand for classical music is unheard of. But what if we shaked things up a little? What if we encouraged people to get up close, as if they were at a rock concert, to get a new perspective of the art forms that have become known for its aging audiences? Would this encourage a new type of “fan-dom” for classical music and opera? Would people experience the art differently? Generally, how do we make traditional spaces or experiences slightly less traditional?

I’m sure there are artists encouraging these type of experiences and presenters making their spaces amenable to these experiences. Who are they? Where do they exist? I know there are contemporary classical and opera movements but my understanding is that it’s mainly new music-based, rather than creating new experiences for the audiences. If you have any models or examples, please share; I’m curious to learn more from them.

In the meantime, check out some of these hashtags to catch a glimpse of last night’s performance:

#lcoutofdoors#brasilsummerfest, @letieres_e_rumpilezz, @rumpilezz


New to the list?


In my world, nothing compares to the sultry wonderfulness of NYC summer evenings and the beautiful art we, the public, brought together over the sake of art, get to experience together. So…arts for all!

I keep a compulsive list of free, summer cultural events. Back in the day, I had banker buds, grad school chums, non-profit pals, and unemployed friends. “Free” made arts available to all of us. I continue to stick to “free” because of my strong conviction that high-quality arts should be accessible to everyone. Some weeks I’ll share cool events I’ve been to and what made them so cool. So…

  • If you’re a fan, spread the word! Don’t just forward this list. Tell your friends to sign up (in the right-hand corner of the webpage.)
  • I’ll post last minute events as well as quick reviews of things I attend on Twitter. Follow me here.
  • Stars (***) indicate where I’ll most likely be or my main recommendation(s) for the day.
  • I usually post the list on the website first. If you haven’t received an email from me and you’re looking for things to do, be sure to check it!
  • Listings are in order of timing, more or less. On the weekends, when there are a lot of listings, I’ll try to break them down by time of day (i.e., Day, Night.)




Aight, here’s what I got for Friday, July 31 – Sunday, August, 9:


Friday, July 31


Film: The 38th Asian American International Film Festival. It seems right that this film festival would take have a hub in Flushing. Asian American and Asian independent cinema from more than 30 countries, a variety of topical panels and workshops, industry mixers, staged readings, exclusive interviews, live performances, receptions and more. (Queens) >>

***Classical/Afropunk: Chargaux. The Brooklyn-based string duo performs original works that combine elements of classical music, minimalist electronics, and haunting vocals. They have a really lovely sound. (Uptown) >>

***Afropunk: Afropunk at Lincoln Center with LION BABE  / The Skins / Vintage Trouble. The word “AFROPUNK” has become synonymous with “open-minded,” “non-conforming,” and “unconventional,” placing the institution at the epicenter of urban culture inspired by alternative music. This night will bring out a younger audience – eager to see what this looks like at Lincoln Center. (Uptown) >>

Film: Rooftop Films at Arts Brookfield, Night 2: Racing Extinction. Photographers, divers, and undercover agents reveal the two worlds that drive extinction across the globe, potentially resulting in the loss of half of all species; the international wildlife trade, and the other surrounds us, hiding in plain sight — a world that the oil and gas companies don’t want the rest of us to see. Using state-of-the-art technology, the Racing Extinction team exposes these two worlds in an affirmation to preserve life as we know it with beautiful, never-seen-before imagery. (Downtown) >>

Film: La Collectionneuse by Eric Rohmer. Part of Films on the Green, a film festival of classics and new flicks coming from France. (Brooklyn) >>

Film: Felix. The Queens Museum has a satellite program to their diverse Passport series. Each week in the Rockaways, a film from a different culture is shown. This week celebrates South Africa. Described as “Billy Elliott with Cape jazz,” the film follows 14-year-old Felix as he dreams of becoming a saxophonist like his late father. When he leaves his township to take up a scholarship at an elitist private school, he defies his mother and turns to two aging members of his father’s old band to help him prepare for the school jazz concert. (Queens) >>


Saturday, August 1



All Forms of Art!: Summer Streets. For three consecutive Saturdays, seven miles of street are closed – bike, walk, rollerblade, and check out the fun stops along the way. I hear there will be a water slide! Also, dance classes, music performances, plus. Have fun! (Downtown to Uptown) >>

Colombian: FolkColombia. Celebrate Colombian culture in Corona Park. Gregorio Uribe Big Band, FolkColombia All-Stars, + others perform. The Colombian community comes out for these events! (Queens) >>

***Poetry/Music: La Casita brings together 14+ local up-and-coming artists (though not-so-local artists as well) to provide a glimpse into the poetic and musical offerings this city has to offer. I’m particularly excited about the Lincoln Center debut of Los Hacheros! This takes place again in the Bronx on August 2nd. (Uptown) >>

Classical: Imani Winds. Part of the now-annual, Rite of Summer Music Festival that celebrates cutting edge and contemporary classical music, the all-women of color quartet performs. Two performances at 1 and 3pm. (Governors Island) >>

***NOLA/Roots: Dr. John & the Nite Trippers / Amy Helm. Check out the six-time Grammy Award-winning musician and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. He plays on the same bill as Levon’s daughter, Amy. She “wields a powerful voice that can both stir and soothe, whether she is singing traditional gospel, blues standards or her own heartfelt compositions.” (Uptown) >>

Classical: Every Saturday afternoon, Bargemusic, a great presenter of classical music (and also a cool location: an old floating barge on the East River with amazing views of the city) has free concerts, including a Q&A with the musicians. (Brooklyn) >>

Ritual: Hindu Lamp Ceremony. A traditional Hindu Aarti Ceremony at Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Brooklyn) >>



Brazilian: Coladera / Harlem Samba. Made up of a Portuguese musician and a master percussionist from Brazil, Coladera honors Lusophone rhythms and the Portuguese language. Harlem Samba opens. (Downtown) >>

 Film: Rooftop Films at Arts Brookfield, Night 3: Stop Making Sense. An concert movie that captures the enormous energy and joyous highs of the Talking Heads live performance. All of the members and their memorable songs were shot over three concert performances in LA in December 1983, with “wall-to-wall music and beautiful cinematography” this is “one of the greatest rock movies ever made” (Rolling Stone). (Downtown) >>

Art/Music: First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum. This is one of my favorite free series. There’s something for everyone at the Brooklyn Museum during the first Saturday of every month. Art-watching, art-making, music, talks, films, people-watching… This month celebrates Caribbean culture. Check out the schedule for the full listing of activities and events. Note: there is no First Saturday in September since it usually falls around Labor Day and the big Caribbean Day parade along Eastern Parkway. Get your fill for two months now! (Brooklyn) >>

***Dance/Gospel/Performance Art: Garth Fagan Dance / Carmen de Lavallade: The Creation / The Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble. Garth Fagan’s ever-evolving dance language draws on the weight of modern dance, the speed and precision of ballet, the energy of Afro-Caribbean dance, and the rule-breaking experimentation of the post-moderns. These elements intertwine not only in the well-loved signature pieces he will be performing, but also in a Lincoln Center commissioned work that pays homage to Geoffrey Holder’s illustrious legacy. To further celebrate his spirit, Holder’s widow, Carmen de Lavallade, will perform his moving rendition of the story of creation based on a James Weldon Johnson poem suggesting life’s graceful cycle. Harlem’s spirit-filled Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble opens the evening with their powerful gospel voices, celebrating African American musical heritage. (Uptown) >>


Sunday, August 2



***World: A Celebration of Immigrant New York featuring Abdoulaye Diabate and Super Manden, Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers, Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, Csürdöngölö Folk Ensemble, and Ikhlaq Hussain. Abdoulaye Diabaté and Super Manden is an ensemble of master musicians led by lauded Malian-born singer Diabaté, who is steeped in the Malian griot tradition. The Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers, formed by Queens native Ryan Ali, performs high-energy drumming based on musical forms from Trinidad and Tobago; Calpulli Mexican Dance Company performs regional dances of Jalisco, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz, along with compelling interpretations of traditional Aztec dances. Csűrdöngölő Folk Ensemble, accompanied by acclaimed Hungarian folk music band Èletfa, offers a high-energy tour of traditional Hungarian music and dance, as well as regional traditions from Slovakia and Transylvania. Sitar virtuoso Ikhlaq Hussain is part of a centuries-long line of master musicians in the Delhi Gharana tradition. This will be really awesome. (Uptown) >>

West African: Famoro Diobate & Kakande. An afternoon of music from West Africa. Harlem Meer has wonderful, intimate concerts, that are frequented by members of the neighborhood. (Uptown) >>

***Poetry/Music: La Casita brings together 14+ local up-and-coming artists (though not-so-local artists as well) to provide a glimpse into the poetic and musical offerings this city has to offer. This time, this program is in the Bronx. As I already shared, I’m particularly excited about Los Hacheros! (Bronx) >>


Salsa: A big night in Cuban charanga/salsa: Tipica 73 plays on Orchard Beach. (Bronx) >>

***Brazilian: Nação Zumbi / Nation Beat’s Carnival Caravan feat. Cha Wa / DJ sets by Vinil Pompéia. Nação Zumbi is one of the most important groups in Brazil, having introduced “manguebeat” (a hip-hop beat with a maracatu groove.) Nation Beat’s Carnival Caravan feat. Cha Wa opens with their blend of Brazilian and Mardi Gras Indian music. (Uptown) >> 


Film/Soul: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown / A Soul Train Tribute to James Brown. ImageNation puts together a nice line-up of films throughout the summer. Usually a music act opens. (Uptown) >>

***Brazilian: Ache: Lavagem da Rua NY. Lavagem da Rua is a sacred Brazilian tradition that translates as “the cleansing of streets.” African diaspora tradition acknowledges the road as a metaphor for the journey of life. The Caribbean Cultural Center brings together artists representing countries of the diaspora including Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and more to reflect the different roads of song, music, and dance traveled on the path to a joyful destiny. A long list of artists will participate, including Batala NYC! (Uptown) >>

Soul/R&B/Film: Felix Hernandez Rhythm Revue / Screening: “Get On Up.” In 1983, Felix Hernandez began a two-year project traveling the U.S. collecting hundreds of hours of interviews with R&B artists. The material was used for a 13-part radio documentary called Harlem Hit Parade, which was syndicated to 70 NPR stationss. In 1986, Felix introduced Rhythm Revue, New York’s first radio show devoted exclusively to classic soul and R&B. It premiered on WBGO and is now in its 29th year. Felix’s unique mix of classic soul, disco and funk consistently draws a crowd of 2,500 to 3,500 dancers per event. I heard this event is crazy. The film Get On Up is the life story of James Brown. (Staten Island) >>


Monday, August 3


***Jazz: Double-Wide at One Penn Plaza. The eccentric urban carnival band, Double-Wide is a quintet of A-list players. Led by my friend, the gifted, versatile saxophonist/clarinetist/composer John Ellis, Double-Wide occupies an imaginary (and extremely imaginative) space directly between the celebratory, welcoming spirit of New Orleans and the edgy, frantic streets of New York City. I love this project. When John played at the Newport Jazz Festival a few years back, I played the recording multiple times; his set was so good. Rumor has it that one of my favorite jazz drummers, Kendrick Scott will be accompanying him on drums! Not to be missed.  Full disclosure: I produce this. (Midtown) >>

Dancing: The incredible Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence Dance Company teaches an all-levels dance class steeped in African and contemporary dance. (Brooklyn) >>

Film/Talk: The Brooklyn Historical Society has a series that connects Brooklyn filmmakers today with innovators of the past. The two films today: Marina Fernandez Ferri’s short Temblor, which explores the complex feelings of an outsider in a foreign land (in this case, a Spaniard in New York), and The Spirit of the Beehive, the 1973 masterpiece by Spanish director Victor Erice that draws us into the mischievous and sometimes dangerous world of a child’s imagination. Be sure to RSVP. (Brooklyn) >>

Literary: Brooklyn Bridge Park’s annual literature series features a program with a reading, Q&A, and book signing with the authors, each curated by a different local, independent bookstore. This week, it’s WORD. (Brooklyn) >>


Tuesday, August 4


Mexican: Radio Jarocho. The leading son jarocho band in NYC performs in a beautiful venue with a backdrop of NYC. (Queens) >>

Classical: ECCO, East Coast Chamber Orchestra at the Naumburg Bandshell. The last 2015 concert in this beloved series, one of my favorite in NYC. (Uptown) >>


Wednesday, August 5


***Soul: Douglas and the Goodharts at One Penn Plaza. Described as “Soulful”, “Heartfelt”, and “Funky As Hell”,  this dynamic soul group has been delighting audiences with deep grooves and deeply personal songs, including an unrequited love affair with a neighbor, the pleasures of calling in sick to work, and how he “can’t commit but will commute” when it comes to love. Full disclosure: I produce this. (Midtown) >>

***World: Accordions Around the World. Ten accordionists play in different pockets of Bryant Park. Come for a stroll; leave with a tasting of music from around the world. Every Wednesday in July and August from 6 – 8pm. Full disclosure: I produce this. (NYC) >>

Dancing/Music: Regional de NY. Once again, the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library converts the plaza out front into a huge dance floor where they provide a dance lesson followed by Regional de NY. The quintet plays traditional and original arrangements of Brazil’s oldest popular music – choro— with deep groove and a love for improvisation. These guys have participated in my accordion series and are great! (Brooklyn) >>

Film: Cold Conflicts: Swedish Short Films. A series of shorts from Sweden.  I have come to trust Socrates Sculpture Garden for their amazing curation of films, each Wednesday in July and August. A mix of documentary and films from around the world, they keep it interesting (though their grass is kind of lumpy.) (Queens) >>


Thursday, August 6



Americana: The Ebony Hillbillies. This group is one of the last black string bands in the U.S., keeping an important legacy alive with a rootsy, homegrown style, a precursor to jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, rock and roll and country. I love these guys. (Bronx) >>

Music: Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Men. New Orleans based, Funk and R&B pianist Jon Cleary plays to a New York crowd. (Brooklyn) >>



Dance/Dancing: SalsaFest & Nelida Tirado. Nelida Tirado is amazing flamenco dancer. Check out her skills, followed by a salsa lesson in honor of Bronx Salsa Month. Part of Van Cortlandt Park’s creative Barefoot Dancing series. (Bronx) >>

Latin/Film: Passport Thursdays: Colombia. The Queens Museum regularly features some of the many international locales that fuel Queens’ cultural and artistic vitality. This week it’s Colombia, featuring one of my favorite groups, M.A.K.U. Sound System and the film Mateo. (Queens) >>

***Boogaloo: Joe Bataan, Ray Lugo and the Boogaloo Destroyers, ABAKUÁ Afro-Latin Dance Company, and special guests Richie Ray and Pete Rodriguez. “Latin boogaloo is New York City—a colorful expression of ’60s Latino soul straight from the streets of El Barrio, the South Bronx, and Brooklyn.” Boogaloo godfather Joe Bataan unites his doo-wop charm and Latin sounds. I’m particularly looking forward to Pete Rodriguez, of I Like It Like That fame. I’m hoping one of my favorite human beings, Benny Bonilla, timbale player for that song will also be present. I got to know him in my Bronx days and that man is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. (Uptown) >>

***Soul: Saun & Starr. Back-up singers for the incredible Sharon Jones (of Dap Kings fame), tonight these ladies shine with songs from their debut album. (Uptown) >>

***Dance: LeeSaar The Company, Ohad Naharin & Guest Dancers from Batsheva Dance Company. I know the names of these companies but have never seen either one. Looking forward to educating myself on modern dance. (Brooklyn) >>


Friday, August 7


Music: Queens Symphony Orchestra Salon Concerts. So rarely is classical music interactive. There will be music but then it’s followed by discussions regarding the pieces and their composers. The focus today is on brass. I went to Flushing Town Hall for the first time earlier this summer and it’s so great! The space is beautiful and the energy at their shows is really nice. Go support them! (Queens) >>

Poetry: The Nuyorican Poets Cafe featuring Sarah Jones. This woman is a genious. Her one-woman-show Bridge and Tunnel was brilliant. Thinking this should be good. (Downtown) >>

Gospel: The Fairfield Four and The McCrary Sisters. I’ve never heard of either of these groups but am intrigued by the blurb. A 100 year-old gospel group and Bob Dylan collaborators who helped to spark the rock and R&B revolution. (Uptown) >>


Saturday, August 8



All Forms of Art!: Summer Streets. The second of three consecutive Saturdays where seven miles of street are closed to vehicles. Bike, walk, rollerblade, and check out the fun stops along the way. I hear there will be a water slide! Also, dance classes, music performances, plus. Have fun! (Downtown to Uptown) >>

Festival: The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York. It’s pretty cool to watch the dragon boat races. There’s also a whole cultural component with examples of Chinese music plus other traditions from around the world. Also on Sunday, 8/9. (Queens)  >>

Music: Every Saturday afternoon, Bargemusic, a great presenter of classical music (and also a cool location: an old floating barge on the East River with amazing views of the city) has free concerts, including a Q&A with the musicians. (Brooklyn) >>



DJing: 30th Anniversary DJ Celebration with Quantic / Gilles Peterson / Afrika Bambaataa. These three guys are some of my favorite DJs out there. This will be a big, beautiful, dance party of music from around the world. (Uptown) >>

***Indie/Hip-Hop: tUnE-yArDs / Shabazz Palaces. I love Pitchfork’s description of the tUnE-yArDs: “songs that sound like playgrounds full of street kids ricocheting off each other like bumper cars.” Very accurate. I’ve never seen them live but I sense that put on a damn good show. Excited for this. Experimental hip hop group Shabazz Palaces opens. (Brooklyn) >>


Sunday, August 9



Jazz: Harlem Blues & Jazz Band. An afternoon of jazz and swing. Harlem Meer has wonderful, intimate concerts, that are frequented by members of the neighborhood. (Uptown) >>

Festival: The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York. It’s pretty cool to watch the dragon boat races. There’s also a whole cultural component with examples of Chinese music plus other traditions from around the world. (Queens)  >>

Jazz/Dance/Dancing: INVINCIBLE: Michael Jackson Tribute / Marika Hughes & Bottom Heavy. As part of Summerstage’s Family Day, enjoy an amazing show (it might sound cheesy but I’ve heard this tribute is amazing) and beautiful musican (I love Marika’s music.) (Downtown) >>


***Art/World: Second Sundays at Pioneer Works. Open studios and live music in a beautiful open space. This is one of the best parties in town. This month’s music is The Westerlies (who I’m not familiar with) and Janka Nabay, the king of Bubu – Sierra Leone’s brand of electro-pop. (who I love.) A fun place to wander, both inside and out. (Brooklyn) >>

Americana: Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. I like this description of Lovett: “effortlessly bridging the genre gap between big-band jazz and the Grand Ole Opry.”  (Uptown) >>

Film/Music: Latin Pop Music in Cities and Felix Hernandez. It’s the week of Felix Hernandez (see August 2nd to catch him at another time). This time he DJs before the film Latin Pop Music in Cities. Given the heavily Puerto Rican roots of the Lower East Side, this is a perfect venue for this screening! (Downtown) >>



Aight, that’s what I got. Have a good week everyone!

All good things,


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