Jazz musicians Anton Kosachev and Ian Kenselaar met for the first time outside Perk Up Café on Broadway, minutes before their scheduled 7 p.m. set on Thursday, November 3. Musicians normally meet and practice before a show, but not these two.Kenselaar, an upright bassist, went to high school with a trumpeter who studied jazz at NJCU with Kosachev, who was missing a bassist for this gig. Even without the practice, Kenselaar walked his bassline, seamlessly improvising alongside Kosachev’s smooth straight-ahead jazz guitar. They played classics from Stars Fell on Alabama to Stella by Starlight.
The performance was intimate and low key, appropriate and typical fora coffee-shop gig, but rare in Bayonne. A woman came in to drink coffee and work on her laptop. Cheryl and Christopher Mack, who run the Bridge Art Gallery, stopped by for food, and Merrill Jacobson, a local publisher, came hoping an acquaintance from the café’s last jazz performance might be there to continue a conversation on Russian literature.
“Jazz speaks to the adult part of your soul, I think,” said Jacobson over a salad.“The hook is less than the pop, and the pop gives you that quick hook melody. This, there’s something adult about it.”
Straight-ahead jazz is classic and soothing, or as Cheryl Mack said, “Very mellow. It’s great to relax to at the end of the day, and it’s nice to have something like this in walking distance.”
Said Jacobson, “The world assaults us every day, so we pour a little drink and put on some Red Garland.” For him, the set evoked memories of discovering his affinity for jazz in the 1960s. “When I was a boy, straight-ahead jazz like Garland and Oscar Peterson, to my ear that stuff is as good as Mozart and Beethoven. The genius involved communicates itself and speaks to my soul.”
“Jazz speaks to the adult part of your soul, I think.” – Merrill Jacobson
The back story
Kosachev moved to the United States to study jazz, after completing an engineering degree in his native Russia. He said when he was applying for the jazz program at NJCU, he’d practice a few notes on a chord to learn melodic variations for six hours a day for two months.
“I fooled the jury,” he said. “Then they figured out I only knew how to play two tunes. It was a little bit hard in the beginning, but I caught up.” Now he’s graduated and works as an engineer in Bayonne. “Maybe eventually I’ll try to switch completely to music,” he said.
Kenselaar studied jazz at Rutgers and now lives in Jersey City, playing many genres in different bands; gigging is his full-time job. “By nature, I have to take a lot of different gigs, some weird gigs, some bad gigs, some gigs I wish I didn’t take,” he said. “Latin, Turkish, Bluegrass, Indie Rock, any pickup gig I can get. I’m working all the angles, trying to be versatile.”
Barista Melanie Aguilar likes the java/jazz combo. “It gives the café a little more personality,” she said. “It’s something different to have in Bayonne.”
Kosachev plays at Perk Up Café every other Thursday. Look for him to improvise alongside a new musician next time.
Rory Pasquariello may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.