Books authored by Nick Catalano
A New Yorker At Sea
Aegeon Press 2012
Available on Amazon
"This tale of adventure on the high seas is gripping..."
"...episodes live up to the standards of classic sea-faring
"'I am a romantic.'" That's at least as good an opening
line as "Call me Ishmael"... "You can almost feel the heat and
grime...smell the salt air and feel the danger"..."a thoroughly
Internet Review of Books
Joe Pisano is a native New Yorker and university professor who has
sailed his boat Typee in local waters for decades. He dreams of adventure
and agrees to crew aboard Bravura - a 52 foot sloop - as it circumnavigates
the globe. In Egypt, he encounters con men and hustlers on his way to meet
Bravura and when he arrives aboard discovers that his sailing skills are no
match for the challenges ahead. As the boat manuevers its way into the
Mediterranean he must deal with desert storms, thieves and pirates, struggles
for food and water, and crippling engine failure in addition to his own
insecurities and fears. Out at sea, his fantasies of Odysseus and the romance
of ancient seafarers provide little relief from the dangers of treacherous
weather, patrolling marauders, and humongous oil tankers who threaten
to run him down.
Clifford Brown:The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter
Oxford University Press 2000
"To my knowledge, this is the only full biography of Clifford Brown ever written. It covers his entire life, from his birth, through his Blue Flame days, all the way to his historical work with Max Roach. The book also includes 8 or so pages of pictures in the middle, which is great for those of you whom haven't seen brownie, and a nearly complete discography in the back of the book. Simply put, Clifford Brown is one of the best jazz trumpeters of all time (my favorite, personally), and quite possibly the most tragic loss in jazz history. Any jazz musicians, Clifford fans, or general jazz aficionados should check this book out if they are looking to learn about one of the greats. "
New York Nights: Writing, Producing and Performing in Gotham
Auburndale Publications 2009
"New York Nights" Reviewed in the East Hampton Star
Notes of a Man About Town, By David M. Alpern
(08/04/2009) Those who can, so they tell us, do; those who can’t, teach, so they say. However true, Nick Catalano is clearly an exception to that rule. A professor of literature and music at Pace University, he’s been a performer since his teen years (a passionate jazz saxophonist), later a producer (as performing arts director at Pace), and a prolific critic (for The East Hampton Star, among others).
His life of “New York Nights” has produced a unique insider’s view of American entertainment and entertainers in the late 20th century — and this rich memoir to share it.
Like any good critic, in Mr. Catalano’s view, he is always clear about what he loves, from big bands and bebop to intimate cabarets and the girl singers who star there (a fondness I admit to sharing). Plus Mel Tormé and Johnny Mathis on the male side, and a generation of comedians whose early promise he noted and assisted from the start.
Above all he relishes the city that launched and attracted so much of this magic — New York after World War II — a period of cultural flowering that reminds the professor in him of 5th-century Athens, 15th-century Florence, and 16th-century London.
In fact, the academic in Mr. Catalano surfaces frequently in this book — providing context for the birth of bebop, the revival of swing, the Eurofetishism he finds tainting American culture, or at least many of its critics, and the negativity of many more.
Witnessing the start of “observational humor” in stand-up comedy by fledgling stars like Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Richard Belzer, Elayne Boosler, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry David, he books them for shows at Pace and enjoys their hilarious joking on car rides to each show at least as much as the shows themselves. He also thinks of ancient Greece and the Paris of Louis XIV.
Once he even finds himself answering comics’ questions on the history of their art. “Unbelievably serious faces commanded the table so I launched into a semi-serious précis of Aristophanic comic history and Moliere’s innovations in Paris,” Mr. Catalano recalls. “I’m sure I spoke for at least a half hour without interruption from anyone! I couldn’t believe it. A couple of guys actually took notes.”
His recollection of musicians he booked for Pace performances provides endless tasty tidbits: the bandleader Harry James as a sports nut, Benny Goodman always practicing, the elderly Artie Shaw dependent on a dating service after marrying enough beauties (including Ava Gardner) “to field a football team,” as Mr. Catalano once saw him confess.
There’s a particularly poignant anecdote about the Scottish-born jazz singer Annie Ross, who sang “Loch Lomond” in an “Our Gang” comedy before she was 5 and later appeared in “Presenting Lily Mars” with Judy Garland, Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” and as the distaff third of the trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Hired after just one hearing by the great Lionel Hampton, she was fired from the first of his “All-Stars” tours of Europe because audiences there would not accept a white singer fronting his black band.
As a reviewer, Mr. Catalano became properly sympathetic to the hard life of female vocalists generally, and especially in nightclubs like the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room or the Cafe Carlyle, where songs are not merely sung but must be felt, acted, and put into context — personal and musical — by the performer’s interstitial patter.
He pays rightful tribute to grandes dames of song, including Anita O’Day, who sees her voice as just another instrument in the band (“She figures herself to be a horn,” says her agent), and Julie Wilson, with her great humor and trademark gardenia, also a treasured mentor and cheerleader for younger singers. (Typically, another reporter once told me, Julie rushed across town bearing one of her glamorous feather boas to a tyro’s photo shoot.)
He praises the humility of Rosemary Clooney for sharing the spotlight with her musicians at the now-defunct Rainbow and Stars room atop Rockefeller Center. (I always said if Clooney never showed up, you’d still get a great show from her band. In her later years, though, it also seemed she used the time her sidemen were shining to lean against the piano and catch her breath.)
Mr. Catalano is a little hard on another queen of cabaret, Karen Akers, whose continental appeal belies her past as a West Side mom (I’ve met the couple who gave her their baby carriage). While admitting her “impeccable taste” and “technical prowess,” he reviews one of her shows, sung largely in French, as “just another evening of Piaf retrospective.”
Perhaps worse, he calls Akers “a fixture” at Rainbow and Stars. When I used that term in a question to Andrea Marcovicci, a cabaret star Mr. Catalano seems to have missed (along with other personal favorites of mine, including KT Sullivan, Bobby Short, Susannah McCorkle, and Nancy LaMott), I was lambasted for likening her to a lamp.
At the risk of seeming to be one of those negative reviewers at whom Mr. Catalano frequently snipes, one has to say his language is not always as hip as his subject matter. He relishes an Upper East Side restaurant where he can nurse a cappuccino “ad nauseam.”
Mr. Catalano’s language may not be as lyrical as the music he reveres, nor as smooth as the sailing he loves to do both day and night in the waters around New York (about which he has a separate chapter). But it captures a rich period in popular American culture with a unique sensibility that makes his “New York Nights” a great guide to that, thankfully, not quite bygone era.
“New York Nights”
Auburndale Publications, $19.95
Nick Catalano is a longtime summer resident of East Hampton, where he has been known to dock his sailboat, the Segue.
David M. Alpern hosts the syndicated “Newsweek on Air” radio and Internet program. He and Sylvia Clark had a sing-along wedding at the Oak Room cabaret. They live in Sag Harbor.
"New York Nights" Reviewed in The Midwest Book Review
"The life of a producer in New York is endlessly fascinating."New York Nights" explores the career and life of Nick Catalano, a man who has worked with countless comedians and musicians...from the highbrow works of Duke Ellington to the not-so-highbrow exploits of Jerry Seinfeld. "New York Nights" is an intriguing tale of the nightlife of New York and those behind it."
Paul T. Vogel
John Keats - Drama in the Age of English Romanticism
University of Michigan Micropress 1975
Books In Progress
Tales of a Hamptons Sailor Spring 2014