By Stanley Fine
Here’s a West Village secret. Right next door to the well-known and recently landmarked Stonewall Inn is another a local bar, with a lesser-known history, but nevertheless a history—the history of Jazz, man. A saloon that goes back to speakeasy in the Roarin’ Twenties, the ever-evolving 55 Bar is still making history.
If you crave exceptional good and free jazz, check out The Undigables at the 55 Bar. A toe tapping, hand clapping guaranteed good time would be had by all in this historical hip dive. Photos of Jazz legends decorate the wall. The entertaining barkeep livens things up between serving drinks when he introduces the band in his unique and entertaining way, setting the stage for the talented Undigables that perform hot enough to boil water.
An original hipster, Ollie Boy Lester, lead vocalist with a repertoire of mood swings, threads the group together to shake, bend and blend music, serving up a cool and hot harmonious smoothie with a topping of soul. Amazing stalwart lead guitarist, Stew Cutler, is beyond outstanding, stirring up surreal sounds that will carry you up, up and away and safely bring you back down to terra firma. Bass guitarist, Roy Holland, creates a fresh riff burst to the mix and steals it away, igniting beats like muffled explosive depth charges that you can’t get enough of, only to shift gears and put the pedal to the metal accelerating a deep vibe-hum of an Indy car passing in the fast lane. The verve is transferred to Nat Seeley’s intelligent, complimentary supportive percussion. Each artist whips the music to a froth for a most enjoyable hot toddy sound experience, only to be transformed again, with contrast and quicksilver. The silky, melodic cool jazz of Jahn Kjaer as he tinkles the keys is a delight.
You will not stand still. The musical power peaks so high that you start to miss it, although it’s not over. When it does end, the thunder from the audience applauding in appreciation is anti-climactic compared to and following the real deal.
Please visit the landmark Stonewall Inn for well-deserved history and drinks with old and new friends. But, be sure to check out next door to see, hear and feel The Undigables perform the last week of the month at the intimate ageless 55 Bar. Join in, and be part of the continuing history-in-the-making on Christopher Street.