The Blog

Altercation: An Actual War Criminal

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

My new Nation column is called "An Actual American War Criminal May Become Our Second-Ranking Diplomat," and it contains the subhed,"Elliott Abrams spent the Reagan years abetting genocide--now, he has been floated as Trump's deputy secretary of state." You can find it here:

Also, I was genuinely honored to be asked to speak at the conference of rabbis, sponsored by Truah: The Rabbinic Call to Human Rights, yesterday, from which these rabbis decided to get themselves arrested to protest the travel ban last night. (And goodness no, I am not positing any relationship between these two events; just that I was happy to be in this gathering).

So I went to this awesomely funny (but not only funny) performance by something called "Three Day Hangover" of something called "Drunkle Vanya," in some place called "Tolstoy's Lounge" inside another place called "Russian Samovar" on West 52nd street and boy, now I know how to enjoy live theater. Apparently it involves sprawling out on a comfortable couch, having unlimited amounts of vodka, pretty-decent doing great Russian theater for (mostly, but not entirely) laughs (while listening to the guy on the piano bar downstairs the entire time). The play, adapted and directed by Lori Wolter Hudson, has been running since November 10 but had an official opening the night I saw it and it was crazy in (almost) only good ways, with lots of clever dialogue, enforced drinking and up-to-the-minute asides that (almost) all worked. (Someone or something, I forget which [remember the vodka] was referred to "as perfect as Justin Trudeau.") The cast is also quite winning in parts that demand all kids of different skills, (including, dare I say it one more time), drinking. There are gradations of ticket prices and I can heartily recommend "aristocracy" over "proletariat" for just this once, assuming money is no object, and "imperial family" over both. More here .

I also had a chance last week to get to the Jazz Standard, the jazz club with the Danny Meyer BBQ menu to see a show by Monty Alexander, and my first thought after getting there is why don't I go there more. It's a great space with excellent food and the prices are not that crazy. Monty, if you don't know him, grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, learned to play the piano and then had a stellar but also hard-working career playing with not exactly "everyone" but an awful lot of the key figures in jazz history as well as fronting his own bands. He did a week-long celebration that history at the Standard last week which included:
2/1 Revisiting "That's The Way It Is" 1969- Remembering Milt Jackson and Ray Brown Quintet
2/2 1977: Revisiting Montreux '77 (Jazz at the Philharmonic with Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Monty Alexander) (That's one I saw) and
2/3 - 2/4 Revisiting Jamaica's Studio 1: Monty Alexander's Harlem-Kingston Express

The show I saw was all old-timey stuff, like "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Duke's Place" played with sophistication and aplomb. But you should also check out Monty's Jamaican recordings which are unique and fun in equal parts. For the Jazz Standard, go here (and check out the Mingus Big Band whenever possible).

Finally, I wanted to let you know, in case you didn't, that it's Valentine's Day this week and I'm sure Donald Trump does not want you across the street from his vulgar hotel--which by the way, the E Street Band used to stay at, I hope that's over--thinking nasty thoughts at Jazz@Lincoln Center's weekend celectration with Dianne Reeve's in the big (Rose) room and the Freddy Cole Quartet at Dizzy's, followed by Brianna Thomas there. Freddy is Nat's brother but has quite a career of his own. Brianna has sung with the Jazz@LC orchestra a few times and it will be interesting to see how she does in the more intimate setting. Dianne Reeves is still Dianne Reeves and so I don't really know what more I need to say besides that except check the schedule, especially for the wonderful historical journey the Orchestra is now doing. We are coming up on the fifties, which is really the best time for Jazz, ending as it does with both "Kind of Blue" and "The Shape of Jazz to Come." There's plenty more here

Follow Eric Alterman on