Tuesday, January 15, 2013

☞ LISTEN: A Little Live Music in Harlem

Harlem resident Jeffrey LeFrancois had a charming diary piece published in the New York Times that provides a glimpse of city living in a part of town that has attracted many artists to the neighborhod:

Dear Diary:

 I had just settled down to my dinner of a chickpea stew with cashews, onions, cinnamon and curry over rice. I was catching up on an episode of “Dexter.” A scene was unfolding on the screen with the sound of a bellowing trombone. When the scene changed, the trombone music stayed.

I paused my TV and went over to the window. From inside, I couldn’t see the source, so I opened the window more and stuck my head out. Looking down, over, and then up, I suddenly spotted the musician, playing away at his window in the brownstone directly across the street from mine. I’m on the third floor; he was on the fourth. I watched a few minutes, then settled into my chair by the window to enjoy the music.

 After a few more minutes and some flashing lights, the music stopped. I stood up and popped my head out again. The person playing was now leaning out his window, looking down. I yelled across, “Why did you stop playing?” He laughed and said, “I saw the cop lights and thought it was from me playing. I’m just practicing!” “Don’t be silly,” I said. “This is Harlem. Play your trombone for the neighborhood!”

 He continued to practice for an hour and a half. I enjoyed a live concert in my (chilly) studio apartment on Strivers’ Row of jazz numbers, sprinkled with Christmas carols and even the national anthem. I finished “Dexter” when the concert was over. I hope this new neighbor keeps practicing – I’ll have the windows cracked.


  1. This isn't a "good" story. What if the person wanted peace? What about the people in the musician's building? What if they were having a dinner party, or trying to sleep before work, or even wanting to watch television in peace and quiet? "This is Harlem," seems to be code to cover all types of bad behavior.

    1. Huh?! He has the right to practice in his apartment within certain hours as would any musician in any neighborhood in NYC. There just happen to be many really good musicians living in Harlem as the rent is not too high and it is a more artsy area of the city.

    2. Rental leases forbid playing a musical instrument or A/V equipment so as to disturb or annoy another resident, but if no one is annoyed then it's ok. I think people with A/V equipment are the far more frequent and egregious violators.

    3. Norah, how sad that you can't appreciate the goodness of an impromptu musical experience. Your interpretation of my comment "This is Harlem," is wildly off base. Harlem, as I'm sure you know, has long been a neighborhood for musicians to foster, share, and grow their musical talent. It's a tawdry shame you think this bad behavior.

      Don't live in New York if you can't handle a little random entertainment from the street or your neighbors.

  2. God bless you, he, as well as the writer of the Diary piece.

  3. He must have been a good player! There's nothing better than good music and little worse than loud croaking. As someone who used to have a trombonist flatmate, I can attest that it all depends on skill.

    I was treated to a parade of musicians and revelers down 126th Street just last Wednesday evening. Melodica, tuba, trombone and tambourine. It seemed like a taste of New Orleans (although I confess I haven't been there).

    By the way Jeffrey, if your windows are open this time of year it's little wonder that your apartment is chilly!

  4. Thank you for sharing my story! Love this blog, and love it even more now!