• photography by ©Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas

Cornelia Street Cafe has been a vital meeting point for the New York artistic community since 1977. Located at the heart of Greenwich Village, the place offers great food in combination with live music, art exhibitions, and occasional poetry shows. Undoubtedly, a site of preference for jazz musicians who want to present their work as well as folks who love to hang out with friends and meet new people.

Sadly, Cornelia Street Cafe is closing doors on January 2nd. Engulfed by the greediness of our times, the establishment, owned and co-founded by Robin Hirsch, couldn’t match the unreasonable rent increase it was subjected to, a problem that keeps affecting hundreds of businesses in Manhattan.

Despite the general frustration associated with this news, the music didn’t stop. The trio of drummer Tom Rainey, featuring saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and guitarist Mary Halvorson, paid a grandiose tribute to the Cafe in a memorable performance where improvisation was never separated from musical integration. Rainey, who has been holding this annual gig on the 30th for about ten years, talked briefly about the importance of Cornelia and how much he is going to miss it, with Halvorson adding that the first concert she saw there (around 2000) was Tom’s.

Now let's talk about music. The second set brimmed with inventive musical ideas that were developed and then modified with discernment and expertise. As some of the most respected improvisers and music conceptualists out there, the trio efficiently drew a variety of scenarios that included tribalistic Afro dances, sturdy alternative rock, Indian raga-like sounds (with Halvorson’s guitar at the center), and avant-jazz obliqueness, in its ebullient and composed forms.

Rainey’s multi-colored timbres were at the base of brilliant grooves shaped with both industrial-like complexity and honest, forthright simplicity. Composing the whole picture, Laubrock and Halvorson embarked on pointillistic counterpoint, freewheeling drives, and circular movements, balancing moments of itchy obsession set around a particular musical figure, and breezy time frames marked by sophisticated rhythmic tapestries. In all cases, the stimuli were abundant, sometimes grounding us to the earth through droning effects, sometimes projecting us toward the sky with expansive timbral explosions and zealous interplay.

It was indeed a very special night. Exuberant, thanks to the incredible rapport and energy of Tom Rainey Trio; but also sad, as we remembered all the good time spent in this intimate, familiar site. Farewell Cornelia, and thanks for all that jazz!.