NYC Events,”Only the Best” (12/21) + GallerySpecialExhibits: Chelsea

“We search the internet everyday looking for the very best of What’s Happening, primarily on Manhattan’s WestSide, so that you don’t have to.” We make it as easy as 1-2-3.

For future NYC Events, check the tab above:  NYC Events-December”
It’s the most comprehensive list of top events this month that you will find anywhere.
Carefully curated from “Only the Best” NYC event info on the the web, it’s a simply superb resource that will help you plan your NYC visit all over town, all through the month.

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Have time for only one NYC Event today? Do this:

FREDDY COLE QUARTET FEATURING JOEL FRAHM  (thru Dec.25)
at Birdland / 8:30 and 11 p.m.; $50
“Cole will never fully escape the shadow of his brother, Nat King Cole, who died in 1965 at age 45. But the younger Cole — also a pianist and singer with a low, lambent voice and a repertoire that centers on romantic balladry — has become a popular performer in his own right, particularly over the past few decades. He plays here in a quartet featuring Frahm, a luminous tenor saxophonist. On Dec. 24 and 25, the young vocalist Veronica Swift will join as a second special guest.” (NYT-GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO)

This may be heresy, but I like Freddy’s voice just as much as his brothers, and that’s why I made this show today’s go to performance.

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7 OTHER TOP NYC EVENTS TODAY (see below for full listing)
>> COUNTDOWN 2019: JOHN COLTRANE FESTIVAL
>> ROY HARGROVE TRIBUTE CONCERT
>> GILAD HEKSELMAN
>> MARKY RAMONE’S HOLIDAY BLITZKRIEG
>> ‘OTELLO’
>> Kenny Barron Trio
>> Norm Lewis: Nutcracker Cool
Continuing Events
>> Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
>> New York City Ballet / “The Nutcracker”
>> Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes

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Music, Dance, Performing Arts

COUNTDOWN 2019: JOHN COLTRANE FESTIVAL
(Dec. 21-30 and Jan. 1-6; will be 7, 9 and 10:30 p.m.;
Dec. 31, 6:30 and 9:45 p.m.).
at Smoke / $45
“Smoke is uptown Manhattan’s trustiest home for world-class, straight-ahead jazz; the venue also runs its own in-house record label. For the next two and a half weeks, it will present a festival featuring all-star groups made up of some famed performers who typically grace its stage, and its albums. This Friday through Sunday, a quintet featuring the trumpeter Eddie Henderson and the pianist George Cables will play. From Monday through Wednesday, it’s another heavy-hitting five-piece, this time guided by the bassist Buster Williams and the drummer Louis Hayes. From Thursday through Jan. 2, the pianist Harold Mabern will lead his quartet. Throughout the festival, there will be separate performances at 11:45 p.m. and 12:45 a.m. each night, New Year’s Eve being the only exception. From Friday through Thursday, the pianist and vocalist Johnny O’Neal will play these midnight sets; for the rest of the festival, they will feature the pianist Marc Cary and his Harlem Sessions ensemble.” (NYT-GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO)

ROY HARGROVE TRIBUTE CONCERT (Dec. 21-22)
at the Jazz Gallery / 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.; $50
“The unexpected death of the pre-eminent trumpeter this fall shocked the jazz community — particularly in New York City, and especially at the Gallery, a club he co-founded over 20 years ago. Hargrove typically played every holiday season at the Gallery, and this weekend, an all-star squad of musicians pays homage to him: the alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, the pianists Orrin Evans (on Friday) and David Virelles (on Saturday), the bassist Eric Revis and the drummer Nasheet Waits. The group will be joined by various special guests over the course of the two evenings.” (NYT-GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO)

GILAD HEKSELMAN (Dec. 21-22)
at Cornelia Street Café / 8:30 and 10 p.m.; $
“Hekselman, a fiercely melodic guitarist and an increasingly shrewd composer, released a strong album this year, “Ask for Chaos.” He appears at Cornelia Street with the rising-star vibraphonist Joel Ross and the drummer Kush Abadey on Friday, then alongside the tenor saxophonist J. D. Allen and the drummer Colin Stranahan on Saturday. The shows are worth catching on their own merits, but it also bears noting that this storied performance space will close on Jan. 2, after 41 years in Greenwich Village.” (NYT-GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO)

MARKY RAMONE’S HOLIDAY BLITZKRIEG
at the Gramercy Theater / 7 p.m.; $
“The Ramones’ fourth album, “Road to Ruin,” turned 40 this year, and Marky Ramone, born Marc Steven Bell, is the only member alive to honor this milestone. So he’s doing just that at this show alongside his band Blitzkrieg, which features Greg Hetson, who has played guitar for bands such as Circle Jerks and Bad Religion. The show promises “40 Ramones classics” (“I Wanna Be Sedated,” the biggest hit on “Road to Ruin,” will almost certainly be among them) and a screening of the 1979 film “Rock ’n’ Roll High School.” (NYT-NATALIE WEINER)

‘OTELLO’ (next Dec.28, 7:30PM)
at the Metropolitan Opera / 8PM, $20+
“Bartlett Sher’s production is back for the first time since its debut in 2015, but the headline here is the Met debut of Gustavo Dudamel, the superstar conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Sonya Yoncheva returns as Desdemona, with Stuart Skelton in the title role and Zeljko Lucic as Iago.” (NYT-David Allen)

Kenny Barron Trio (Dec.18-23)
Village Vanguard / 8:30, +10:30PM, $35 (may need to try late set)
“In 2001, the pianist Kenny Barron and the violinist Regina Carter released “Freefall,” a duet recording that found these two unleashed virtuosos romping through a program of standards and open improvisation. Carter, in a less intimate but equally stimulating setting, joins Barron’s immaculately crafted trio, featuring the bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and the drummer Johnathan Blake.” (Steve Futterman, NewYorker)

Norm Lewis: Nutcracker Cool (thru Dec.22)
Feinstein’s/54 Below / 7PM, $75+
“Who says nice guys finish last? Broadway leading man Norm Lewis exudes amiability, but that hasn’t stoppped him from a long career that has included stints in Porgy and Bess, Les Misérables, Side Show and Chicago; in 2014, he became the first African-American to play the Phantom on Broadway. In his annual Christmas set at Feinstein’s/54 Below, he welcomes audiences to enjoy holiday favorites, warmed by the hearth of his voice.” (TONY)

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Smart Stuff / Other NYC Events
(Lectures/Discussions, Book Talks, Film, Classes, Food & Drink, Other)

More Smart Stuff coming soon.

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Continuing Events

So much going on in this town over the holidays. Too many events & performances to list here. For a much fuller list, expanding every day, check out the tab above: “Holidays.”

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Midtown Manhattan’s winter wonderland.
Bryant Park (btw 5th/6th Ave. @42nd St.) / shops to 8PM, rink to 10PM
Enjoy the Holiday Shops, The Lodge by Urbanspace, and The Rink, the centerpiece of Winter Village and New York City’s only free admission ice skating rink.
The Holiday Shops are open through January 2, 2019.

The Rink
This 17,000 square foot rink features free admission ice skating, high quality rental skates, and free skating shows, special events, and activities.
​October 27, 2018 – March 3, 2019
Daily, 8am-10pm (Rink hours are weather permitting and Rink may be closed for events – check here)
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New York City Ballet / “The Nutcracker” (Through Dec. 30)
NYS Theater, Lincoln Center / various times, $40

“New York City Ballet continues performances of its acclaimed 1954 production that would melt the Scroogiest of hearts. The elaborate staging includes a one-ton Christmas tree that grows from a 12 feet to 41 feet and an 85-pound, nine-feet wide Mother Ginger. The ballet highlights dozens of talented and adorable children from the School of American Ballet, but the star of the show isn’t just one dancer but a bevy of Snowflakes. Their waltz — full of beauty and daring — will take your breath away. ” (NYT-Gia Kourlas)
212-496-0600, nycballet.com

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Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes  (Nov.09- Jan.01)
Radio City Music Hall / various times, $46+
“There’s more great precision dancing than ever in the show’s current edition, which was revamped in 2007 and tweaked again this year. Glamorously outfitted in a series of eye-popping costumes, the Rockettes perform on a double-decker bus, a sparkly staircase and a snowy forest and enact a lightning-fast version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Not to worry: They’re still doing the classic “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” number, too. Each scene is enhanced by video backdrops displayed on one of the world’s largest LED screens.”

“Along with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, the Rockettes’s “Christmas Spectacular” is one of New York’s most colorful and popular holiday traditions. An army of beaming beauties in candy-cane colors participate in eight dance numbers that range from tap dancing to that famous razor-sharp kick line and other merry scenes of highly synchronized prancing. In a new ending this year, the dancers get aerial reinforcement from a unit of blinking drones.” (NYT- Brian Schaefer)

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♦ Before making final plans, we suggest you call the venue to confirm ticket availability, plus dates and times, as schedules are subject to change.
♦ NYCity, with a population of  8.6 million, had a record 63 million visitors last year and was TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Top U.S. Destination for 2018 – awesome! BUT quality shows draw crowds. Try to reserve seats for these top NYC events in advance, even if just earlier on the day of performance.

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Bonus NYC Music Venues:
So much fine live music every night in this town. These are my favorite non jazz music venues on Manhattan’s WestSide. Check out who’s playing tonight:

City Winery – 155 Varick St., citywinery.com, 212-608-0555
Joe’s Pub @ Public Theater – 425 Lafayette St., joespub.com, 212-967-7555
Beacon Theatre – 2124 Broadway @ 74th St., beacontheatre.com, 212-465-6500
Town Hall – 123 W43rd St., thetownhall.org, 212-997-6661
Le Poisson Rouge – 158 Bleecker St., lepoissonrouge.com, 212-505-3474
and one more, not quite WestSide
Bowery Ballroom – 6 Delancey St. boweryballroom.com

For a comprehensive list of the best places to hear All Types of Live Music in Manhattan see the tab above “LiveMusic.”

Special Mention:
Caffe Vivaldi – 32 Jones St. nr Bleecker St. caffevivaldi.com, 212-691-7538
a classic, old jazz club in the Village, Caffe V often surprises with a wonderfully eclectic lineup. It’s my favorite spot for an evening of listening discovery and enjoyment.

Alas, Caffe V is no more, another victim of a rapacious NYC landlord. Owner Ishrat fought the good fight and Caffe V will be sorely missed.
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NYCity Vacation Travel Guide Video (Expedia):

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Chelsea Art Gallery District*

Chelsea is the heart of the NYCity contemporary art scene. Home to more than 300 art galleries, the Rubin Museum, the Joyce Theater and The Kitchen performance spaces, there is no place like it anywhere in the world. Come here to browse free exhibitions by world-renowned artists and those unknowns waiting to be discovered in an art district that is concentrated between West 18th and West 27th Streets, and 10th and 11th Avenues. Afterwards stop in the Chelsea Market, stroll on the High Line, or rest up at one of the many cafes and bars and discuss the fine art.

Here is one exhibition the New Yorker likes:

For a listing of 25 essential galleries in the Chelsea Art Gallery District, organized by street, which enables you to create your own Chelsea Art Gallery crawl, see the Chelsea Gallery Guide (nycgo.com) Or check out TONY magazine’s list of the “Best Chelsea Galleries” and click through to see what’s on view.

*Now plan your own gallery crawl, but better to plan your visits for Tuesday through Saturday; most galleries are closed Sunday and Monday.

TIP: After your gallery tour, stop in Ovest at 513W27th St. for Aperitivo Italiano (Happy Hour on steroids). Discuss all the great art you have viewed over a drink and a very tasty selection of FREE appetizers (M-F, 5-8pm). OR try this NYT recommendation: “When you’re done, adjourn to the newly renovated Bottino , the Chelsea art world’s unofficial canteen on 10th Avenue (btw 24/25 St.) “

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For other selected Museum and Gallery Special Exhibitions see recent posts in right sidebar dated 12/19 and 12/17.

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