Gotham Diary:
30 September 2011

There was no babysitting last night — Megan was down with a viral sore throat that there was nothing for but to suffer through — but I did make it to the Kitano Bar to hear Chip White Quartet’s second set. At a time when, lately, I’d be getting ready for bed, I was getting dressed instead, and sharply, too, mindful that the Kitano is in a Japanese hotel.

Before the musicians assembled, I saw the “Zildjian” marque on the back of Chip’s largest cymbal, and I remembered watching a clip about the company, which was founded by an Armenian alchemist in Istanbul in 1623, to serve the sultan’s court, and which now, somewhat more prosaically, supplies the greats of rock and pop from a factory in Massachusetts. I’m not a big fan of cymbals (except when Mozart goes for a “Turkish” effect, in which case I giggle like an unreconstructed toddler), but knowing something about the Zildjians — or, better, knowing that I had once upon a time known something about them — focused my attention on how Chip played them. What had hitherto seemed the random banging on the graduated discs now revealed rhythms and patterns that it was a pleasure to follow. Chip’s jazz is not only inspired by the classics (Parker, Gillespie, Rollins, Jackson) but an embodiment of it as well; it’s Chip’s leading from the drums that makes for a bit of difference. I especially liked his more ruminative pieces, “The Other Side of the Rainbow With Sybil” and “Rain.”

The Kitano is a great live jazz room, and I hope to go back at least a few times a year. It’s a cosy little corner of a space, and there’s a no-talking rule that didn’t need to be enforced last night. As the MC put it, “silent” is an anagram of “listen.” The frites are great, too.


Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 is a very rare treat: a charming and delightful movie about cancer. It is charming and delightful because the actor playing the young victim of a rare sarcoma, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, projects a persona that it is impossible not to care about. It is also not so much about him as about the people in his world, all of whom have a hard time coming to grips with his very bad luck. In a profound if cinematic way, 50/50 refutes the proposition that we all die alone: facing possible death during a delicate surgery, Adam Lerner (Mr Gordon-Levitt) seems aware that anaesthesia will assure that only he will miss the news of his death. Death is something that happens to all of us, more or less repeatedly, until at last it ceases to happen, along with everything else. At no point does the movie plump for hospital drama; for the most taken up with Adam’s course of chemotherapy, 50/50 underlines cancer’s spooky but debilitating uneventfulness. And, by the way, 50/50 is actually very funny. But do bring a hankie.