In Gotham, parties are a way of life, but on New Year’s Eve, attending a party is mandatory. Whether at a house party, a night out on the town or hanging out on crowded 42nd Street, watching the giant ball drop at midnight, it is all about bringing in the New Year in celebration mode.
Here are some happenings around town worth checking out from the reasonable and beyond.
Bill’s Place (148 W. 133rd St.) will present their “New Year’s Eve Speakeasy Celebration” from 9:30 p.m. on, featuring the Bill Saxton Harlem All-Stars. There will be a champagne toast at midnight, an open wine bar and hors d’oeuvres. The cost for the evening is $45 per person.
Saxton purchased this Harlem brownstone with its historical background in mind. When folks from downtown grew bored with cabaret revues, they went to the brownstone corridor of 133rd Street. Gin flowed freely during those prohibition days at clubs like the Nest and Mexico’s. Billie Holiday performed regularly at Pod’s Log Cabin, with house pianist Willie “the Lion” Smith.
For more information or reservations, call 212-281-0777 or visit www.billsplaceharlem.com.
Showman’s Jazz Club, a Harlem landmark, was a frequent watering hole and performance place for such notables as Arthur Prysock, Pearl Bailey, Grady Tate, tap dancer Honi Coles and the Copasetics, and Seleno Clarke. The tradition will continue on New Year’s Eve with the RT Funk Band kicking off at 9 p.m. Their usual delicious Southern cuisine (black-eyed peas, rice, yams, ribs and chicken) will be served.
The second sitting begins at 9:45 p.m.; seats at the bar are $195 per person and $245 per person at the tables. Price includes the same as the first sitting, plus a champagne toast. For reservations, call 212-864-6662.
Downtown on Manhattan’s East Side, the Jazz Standard (116 E. 27th St.) will be jumping, with the Mingus Big Band playing two sets: 7:30 p.m., $125 per person, and 10:30 p.m., $195 per person. The ticket purchases include one set and a three-course dinner with a menu from Blue Smoke (beverages not included); the second set includes a complimentary midnight champagne toast.
In an electronic age where big bands rarely survive, the Mingus Band has been in demand since its inception in 1991 under the direction of Sue Mingus. Some of the band members include pianist Helen Sung, bassist Boris Kozlov, drummer Donald Edwards and trombonists Ku-uma Frank Lacy, Robin Eubanks and Dave Taylor. The saxophone section includes Wayne Escoffery, Abraham Burton and Alex Foster; there’s also a swinging trumpet section.
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Jazz at Lincoln Center (60th Street at Broadway) will put two dynamic bandleaders together: Vince Giordano and Wynton Marsalis. They will join with an ensemble to play the music of Louis Armstrong from his “Hot Five” and “Hot Seven” recordings, originally made between 1925 and 1929.
The first set at 7:30 p.m. is $350 per person, which includes a four-course meal and party favours. The second set at 11 p.m. is $500 per person, which includes a complimentary one-hour cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres, five-course meal, champagne toast, parting gifts and party favors. Please call the reservation line at 212-258-9595.
“Ring in the Swing: A New Year’s Eve Dance Party” will be swinging hard at the Allen Room in Jazz at Lincoln Center. This is a new event–a swing dance concert featuring the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra. For over two decades, the orchestra has been playing the charts of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington.
The price is $325 per person, which includes two sets of live music, open bar, food, party favors and champagne toast. The dance party begins at 8:30 p.m. For more information, call 212-258-9800.
After all the heavy celebration, move into the New Year on Jan. 5, at 6 p.m., with an enlightening documentary “Billy Bang: Long Over Due” by the award-winning producer-director Oscar Sanders. The documentary is a part of the NewFilmmakers NY Winter Series at the Courthouse Theater in Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Ave. at 2nd St. in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
“There are documentaries and works on Billy Bang, but this one channels his thought process on making music as a free improviser, and how his music affects and influences those musicians working with him,” Sanders said. “It gives listeners an opportunity to follow the input of Bang and company as they prepare for recordings or live performances.”
Twelve musicians, including drummer Michael Carvin, bassist William Parker and trumpeter Roy Campbell, among others, were interviewed for this 77-minute piece on Billy Bang, the musician-composer who took the art of playing the violin to another level, venturing past the traditional shores of this music called jazz. Admission is $6.