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BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

Ted Koehler advised us to "Forget your troubles, come on get happy" and Brandy's is the place to do just that.

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

This is it. This is the famous spot where it all happened:

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic Last winter, as the cabaret and club industry struggled to navigate the harsh economic climate created by the pandemic, the employees and neighborhood patrons of Brandy's Piano Bar handled Mother Nature's climate with aplomb: they put on an extra layer of clothing and got on with it. Here, in their version of the shanty patio that sprung up all over Manhattan, bundled-up customers drank their hot toddies and fixed their gaze on the sidewalk, where equally bundled singers filled the air with music and hot-breath clouds. This is how, like any family of Upper East-siders, they survived the quarantine and lived to see another spring.

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

Today, the shanty stands, ready for outdoor patrons to enjoy the night sky, but the customers have all moved indoors to enjoy the dive-bar charm and old-school ambiance of one of NYC's most durable nightlife establishments, that little piano bar that could called Brandy's. It's a good thing, too, because all that charm and ambiance is so enjoyable that this writer didn't mind leaving his Hell's Kitchen neighborhood and taking the subway (first time) to the Upper East Side (first time) to check out the action. Indeed, the commute up was so quick and easy, courtesy of the nearby Q-Train, that I can say, without reservation, that everyone should leave their home base and home bar, and head uptown to see what all the fuss is about, and how Brandy's has lasted, lo, these many years.

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic When this guy arrived in New York a few decades ago, the piano bars were rooms of varying sizes (and when it comes to piano bars, size truly doesn't matter) where a mostly-show business crowd could congregate to listen to (or sing) show tunes without paying the cost of a Broadway ticket price. Though the core foundation of The Piano Bar as an entity remains the same, the clientele broadened out over the years to include tourists, locals, and people whose job in show business is limited strictly to paying their money and applauding. The music has also changed over the years, and while show tunes are on the menu, the main course is more Top 40. Last night's crowd at the bar heard the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Elvis, The Beach Boys and Bowie, there was even some Fleetwood Mac and some Elton John. Gone are the days of a pianist lugging around a twelve-inch thick music book - Michael Isaacs (like most modern musical directors) carries a tablet - a slim piece of magical machinery from whence he can immediately call up the charts for any song someone calls out. It's a modern-day miracle that makes his job easier and the night more musical, as there are no lengthy breaks as he flips through a book, looking for the music. As entertainers and patrons alike take turns at the (open) mic, music stands hand-in-hand with comedy, in a kind of time capsule where anything can happen... and if you have your eyes open, you will see it when it does.

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic With the glow of red light dimmed to a level that permitted me to remove the sunglasses that protect my tired eyes, I couldn't help but mentally follow Isaac's off-handed (and often naugty) monologue and think "This place kind of DOES remind me of The Eagle... or the Quiet Bar at The Roxy" other rooms in other clubs where tawdry things have happened in the past - the most unsavory thing to transpire at Brandy's last night, though, was some bold and bawdy banter between Isaacs and Alison Nusbaum, the singing server on duty for the evening. With Isaacs at the keyboard, Nusbaum floating the room, and Jon Satrom slinging the drinks, the Brandy's team was at the ready for every customer, whether the order was a drink, some social intercourse, or some rockin' three part harmonies (and tambourine, thank you Mr. Satrom), and it is only through the expertise of the entertainers that the mood of the room was consistently welcoming and warm (not that warm - happily the air conditioning works, which will matter as we move into summer). The entire Brandy's experience is informed by playfulness and playing with one another. Unlikely is the chance that one will find a sad sack sitting at the bar, crying into their drink and saying, "Set 'em up, Joe" because it is the clear mission of the three artists on duty to make Brandy's a happy place to be - and there is little doubt that the other members of the team are as good at it as the threesome who were on last night.

And, boy, were they on.

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic Remember the movie The Big Chill? The kitchen clean up scene with all the old friends dancing around, spreading love and friendship among one another? Well, that's Brandy's. If someone had written a musical version of The Big Chill set in a piano bar, that is precisely what was playing last night. Some piano bars feature crowds of people at their tables, enjoying conversation that is conducted at a volume calibrated to be heard over the live music, while other piano bars are an immersive, inclusive experience during which the bodies at the bar turn on their stools to smile along as they watch the shenanigans of the evening's entertainers. It only seems natural to this writer that this be the practice, one that was in full play last night, for the Brandy's crowd knows: if you want to drink and talk, go to a regular bar; if you want to have some fun, turn around on your stool and watch Alison Nusbaum and Michael Isaacs crack wise to some Olivia Newton John (do look over your shoulder to see Jon Satrom's skill with that tambourine, by the way).

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic That's the Bandy's Piano Bar experience, a happy and unique one, no matter what time of the music shift you should arrive. After all, last night was a Tuesday in New York, not the wildest time to go out, but it was just wild enough to make a difference, as musicians and customers, management and neighbors, and two journalists sitting in the corner all let go of the balloons labeled stress, worry, and unhappiness to enjoy one of the time-honored traditions of New York nightlife: drinking and singing with strangers, in a family atmosphere.

Brandy's Piano Bar has a full schedule of performers, with their bios, available on the Brandy's website HERE.

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

It was hard to get a photo of Jon Satrom from behind the bar, so here is his headshot, off the Brandy's website:

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

BWW Feature: Brandy's Piano Bar - The Little Club with Big Attitude Stands Tall Post-Pandemic

All photos except Mr. Satrom's headshot by Stephen Mosher.


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