Half Note Club and related Articles 4

That was it Two songs. Maybe ten minutes. But, man, t was great. Maybe she wasn’t at her peak, but she was still Judy Garland, and for those few minutes she was part of the music, she was in the music

We had to help her down from the stage and back to her table. Then we sat down and talked, you know. We all gathered around Judy’s table-Pop, Judi Marie, the guys in the band, Anita, Charlie and his boyfriend. And we got pretty friendly. And me, at that time, I was wide open. I’d say anything. I said, “You know, you look too skinny, man. Very thin looking. And my cid man said, “Now that you know us, why don’t you hang out here? Maybe we can put some meat on you. If Pop had his way, he’d have had her come in every night so he could cook her up somefood

She said, “I really can’t do that? She said she was going to England in the morning. I think she just got married to someone there. But she said she really loved the place and as soon as she got back, she was going to hang out with us, that this was going to be her hang out. You can tell when somebody’s just saying something. I think she meant it. If you’d seen her, she seemed so happy there, just like we were. Just being in the music.

She stayed right till the end, about four AM, when we were closing the place. We wouldn’t let her pay, naturally. She was a little bombed. We all were, I guess.

Everybody said their good-byes. I walked her to the door. We sort of kept little distance, you know. I mean we loved her, but you couldn’t hug her or anything like that. She looked too fragile. It must have been hard being Judy Garland. Everybody in the world knew her. ? Everybody loved her. How could she hug everybody in the world?

She shook Pop’s hand.

I went outside and watched her walk away with Anita, Charlie and his boyfriend. It was summer, and it was nice out. The joint was on Hudson and Spring, and they were walking east on Spring, I guess looking for a cab. The last thing I remember was watching her walk away into the dark Her legs ware like toothpicks.

It was a great night. But, you know, you just got nervous looking at her. There was something ominous, like she was sick or something Like she was at the end of the line. She was like a shadow of herself-except when she was up on that stage. Then she was Judy Garland again,

You wanted to just grab her and keep her there, because for a little while she seemed so happy You wanted to hold onto that. But what can you do? wish she could have come back and hung out at the joint It was such a great place. A place where she could just get into the music. Where she belonged. Where people loved her. Like a home. One thing that Judy taught everybody is that there’s no place like home.

That was on June 15th. We heard on the news that a week later, on June 22nd, they found her dead on her bathroom floor in London. I guess her body just gave out.

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An affectionate portrait of a unique New York jazz club/ By DON NELSEN

A FREQUENT DAYDREAM of mine concerns an underground of musicians whose mission is to terrorize night club owners, agents managers are men, and selected officials of the American Federation of Musicians Nat calls, this being my dream, critics would be exempt from harassment and so would three New York City gentlemen med Frank, Sonny, and Mike Canterino.

Frank and his two sons would escape the rope because, though members of the club-owning class, they have proved themselves loyal to the jazz proletariat This is why they are probably the only owners in existence who receive birth day presents from musicians and customers and why one well-known group actually refused a raise they offered. 

Such events must be unique in the history of night spot and indicate why the Half Note, perhaps the only family operated jazz clues in the country, has become. in seven years, the favorite hangout of many New York City – musicians, writers, accountants, bridge workers and other sound addicts who comprise its nightly auditory, What brings the person back is a combination of comfortable physical surroundings and an atmosphere that reflects the personality of the Canterinos

The Hall Note, 291 Hudson St. part of a corner building located amid a jumble of reputable waterfront think any differently of Sonny and warehouses and trucking firms. For Months New York cabdrivers couldn’t find it which added to its financial strain in the early days.

It is a two-room club split by a bandstand above the bar and deco rated with album covers and modern wood impressions of instruments ram pant on a field of green paint. Everything in the rooms from the bandstand to the raised mezzanine came into being under the hammers of Sonny and Mike.

Unlike most owners, whose attitude toward their clubs reminds one of a man who married a woman for her money, the Canterinos act as if they really enjoy what they are doing. Lennie Tristano, who for years refused all offers to play clubs because of his distaste for owners, has said:

“The Half Note is the most comfortable place I ever worked in. Everybody is cool. Neither Sonny, Mike, nor Frank have ever told me what to do or how to do it. They are the only clubowners I know who haven’t ended by hating musicians. They are friendly, groovy people who pay a musician a good wage despite the fact that they don’t have the resources of other owners who pay less. They share a bigger percentage of their profit with the musicians. I never heard anyone who has worked for them say a bad word about them.” 

Tristano’s salute is delivered with strong personal feeling. 

In 1958 the pianist was a legendary musician who stayed home and taught rather than play in clubs or for owners he despised. He had no reason to think any differently of Sonny and Mike Canterino when they came to visit him that summer after preliminary soundings on their behalf by Tristano’s friends. Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. Both had played the Note and knew Tristano would like it.But Sonny and Mike didn’t want to rush things. They wanted Tristano to play their club, but, in view of the pianist’s attitude, they trod softly. They made their visits social rather than business occasions and plied him with Canterino pasta brought directly from the Half Note kitchen. Finally they got him to come down in the afternoons to get the feel of the place. Then he tried the piano. 

“No good,” he said.

“But it’s a Steinway.” they replied.

“Too stiff,” he said. “We’ll buy another,” they declared.

“Will you pick it out?” 

He did: a $2,000 Bechstein. Sonny and Mike wondered where they were going to get the cash. but they signed the bill. That August, Tristano opened with his own group after a four-year self-imposed exile from the scene. He’s never been sorry, he says, and sees no reason to change his original estimate of the Canterinos.

“They haven’t changed a bit in five years,” he said. “They are still the best. Even after all this time they will drive me home at 4 a.m. if I need a lift.”

Tristano was, incidentally, unwittingly responsible for an addition to the Canterino menage. For a time he taught voice to a girl named Judi Derwin, who dropped by the Note to hear him. She dropped by often and now is Mrs. Mike Canterino.

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Mike Canterino

I first met Mike Canterino in 1962 as a young man in New York to pursue career in jazz, 1 can remember venturing down to Hudson and Spring street to hear the John Coltrane quartet. The placed was so packed that I was barely able to get into the door and so I stood right inside the door amidst a wall of people packed like sardines. I listened to a whole set and didn’t spend a dime because it was too crowded for the waiter to get to where I was and I remember feeling “This is great! I got to hear music of this caliber and all I paid was the subway fare to get there and back. At the time I was poor as a church mouse and hadn’t broken in yet un tie New York scene. I remember also feeling “what a soulful place.” “Nobody seems to care that I’m not paying for this music and somehow I feel welcome anyway.” It wasn’t untill about a year later that my friend Ross Thompkinssent me there to sub for him with Zoot Simms that set the Canterino family. I recall. since I was still struggling, I was hungry and I wanted to order some food and Mama Canterinoasked me if I’d like a meatball sandwich on Italian bread. Of course 1 did and she brought it out and it was delicious. At the end of the night after I got paid I went to pay my bill and they wouldn’t accept any money. Wow, I thought, “Who are these people?” Back then New York was a cold place and people didn’t treat people as well as they do now. I sort of recall that the meatball sandwich was the only food I had that day. Mike was the bartender and Judy was working the cloakroom. The mother and father were running the kitchen. They all took a liking to me and seemed to like the way I played. I could believe how warm and friendly to me they were and I knew right away that was in the presence of some really special folks who genuinely love this music and the people who play. Judy was like this beautiful angel and Mike was like the most accepting guy who loved musicians regardless of their flaws and fallacies. For example, a musician would show up drunk and in most cases would be booted out and told he would never work there again. Not the Canterine family. They would have genuine concern for the musician and pour black coffee down. I’ll try to get him sober enough to make the gig. Then they would pay him in the end as it nothing happened. And furthermore they would book him back because they were very des standing and had a genuine love for this music and the people who played it. I cannot recall any place in the world where I witnessed such compassiontowards musicians in a jazz club than the Half Note and the people who ran it They were like family to the whole community of jazz musicians who played there. I became friendly with Mike and Judy and Sonny as well as Mom and Pop whose memory is still with me too this very day. If you were a jazz musician and scuffing in New York you felt like you mere home with family anytime you were in the Half Note. One of the things I recall about the place was the number of people who fell off the bandstand there. remember: Billy Butterfield being drunk and falling off in the cat room ant demolishing it. Jody was in there, if and the first thing they did to make sure Billy was not hurt the next thing they did was roll on the floor with laughter. he’s the kind of people they were. i recall Major Holly falling and breaking his arm. I had the distinction of falling off myself when I was working there with James Moody and Moody, who was my best friend in life, ran into the coat coons and hid his head among the coats so I wouldn’t see him laughing at me. That was Moody’s thing. If you’d slip on a banana peel he would make sure you were breathing and didn’t need an ambulance and then he would be rolling on the grand laughing. 

I remember Mie and Judy as the most loving people who always treated me with love and respect. They frequently gave me work more and when they moved uptown they booked me as aheadliner with a quintet that I had just recorded a new album with. I was frequently there as a solo pianist between sets of the current headliner. And when business was bad, the first thing. they did was make sure the musicians were paid. Mike was always this straight up guy who was totally honest and didn’t pull any punches when it came to the truth and reality. I recall working there with Ruby Braff who was known for his eccentric personality and he would get into arguments with people all the time but he played so beautifully that people just accepted that from him. Mike, must have gotten the brunt of one of Ruby’s tirades and instead of getting mad at Ruby had a tee shirt made that said, “I had a beef with Braff” That is one of the things I loved about Mike, his marvelous sense of humor towards life. He would tell some of the funniest stories of characters in the neighborhood, like “Mike the Milkman” who drove a milk truck and would be drunk and drive his truck into all the garbage cans along the street where the club was. And instead of getting angry, Mike would find it the most humorous thing in the world and the source of another of his famous folk tales. And to hear Mike’s Zoot Simms stories, which were works of art, was one of the most entertaining things any one could ever experience. I always remember when ever you were around Mike and Judy they always made you feel good and happy to be with them. I recall one incident when I was playing Zinno’s, a club that used to be in the village, and Mike and Judy came by to hear me and Mike had a violin and a bow with no case with him. I think Judy had given it to him as a present and he was club hopping with his violin and bow even though he couldn’t play it. I guess he just wanted pool to see he had one. You see, Mike loved music and musicians and he was just proud to awa musical instrument. Although he wasn’t a musician himself he was one of the few people the musicians considered as one of them. He was “One of the Cats” to many of us and definitely a bona fide member of the New York jazz scene who was loved by all of us as was Judy and the entire Canterino family. I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a truly great human being and Jazz has lost one of its own. Rest in peace my friend, I will miss you greatly und thanks for the memories. 

Mike Longo