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New York’s jazz clubs improvise to the strains of Omicron | Culture

The walls of the Village Vanguard, surely the most famous jazz club in the world, have heard many things in their 87 years (the club’s birthday was last Tuesday). But until now, they probably hadn’t heard a star pianist making reference to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Sunday after a snowstorm, Vijay Iyer, the head of his jazz trio, told the audience: “My sister works for the CDC. That’s why I’m suggesting you don’t take off your mask during the concert. We will play masked. Let’s all take care of each other.” Iyer and the double bass player Linda May Han Oh were double masked. Percussionist Tyshawn Sorey’s mask broke in the middle of one of his volcanic solos. During the intermission, Iyer crossed the room looking for Sorey, who was seated at the back, to hand him a replacement.

The door of the Village Vanguard club at the start of the snowstorm that hit New York on January 28.
The door of the Village Vanguard club at the start of the snowstorm that hit New York on January 28.Alexi Rosenfeld (Getty Images)

This is the everyday life of the world’s jazz capital in the time of Omicron, which has once again set back the return of New York’s experimental musical scene. Before the pandemic, it would have been difficult to get tickets for a band of this caliber at the Village Vanguard, which seats only 120 people. One of the waiters explained that the return had been difficult, “more than anything due to the lack of foreign tourists.” Seated at a table, Tom and Bert, two local fans in their sixties, said that it was their first time back at the mythic location “since this nightmare began.”

At another table, the pianist Marta Sánchez, of Madrid, who has lived in New York for more than a decade, seemed more optimistic. She kept going during lockdown thanks to the classes she gave on Zoom as a professor in a Brooklyn conservatory, and to “help from music associations.” She is now being signed up to perform again, and weekly concerts are becoming the norm. She has two on her books, at the Barbès and at the Bayeux, both on the other side of the river.

“The pandemic has demonstrated the enormous resilience of the players and of the clubs,” Nate Chinen, the author of Playing Changes (Alpha Decay), a book about jazz in the 21st century, said in a phone conversation from Philadelphia. Chinen, who was a critic for The New York Times and now works for the specialized radio station WBGO, believes that the pandemic has been “a productive time for musicians,” during which they have at least had time to work on new material, which will now see the light of day. He gave the example of Immanuel Wilkins, the promising young saxophonist. At 24, he’s already released two albums with the influential label Blue Note, but “he still hasn’t done his own tour,” a project he’s embarking on now.

That Sunday in New York, Sorey, one of the most interesting contemporary composers, confirmed Chinen’s suspicions, and explained that he had taken advantage of the downtime “to compose more than ever.” This week, the fruit of that concentration debuted in Houston with a piece which, inspired by Morton Feldman, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of Mark Rothko’s chapel.

A few blocks from the Village Vanguard is the Smalls, which is run by pianist Spike Wilner, who’s also the manager of the Mezzrow. These two clubs are as exciting as they are intimate. Before sitting down to his instrument to offer a recital of standards arranged for a trio, Wilner recalled that in November, around Thanksgiving, business was once more at its peak. “People were relaxed,” he said. “We made money just as in other times. We thought that at last we were being compensated for having been able to withstand such a difficult time, the biggest threat we’ve lived through until now. Omicron arrived and people who were already vaccinated, and even those with a booster shot, began to get sick. We all got it. Omicron stopped us once again, and anxiety returned to the streets.” It also carried away the Christmas season. “Those are crucial weeks,” according to Wilner. “It’s when you harvest what you’ve sowed during the rest of the year. The concerts fill up, the streets are full of tourists, the whole world drinks without stopping…”

The empty stage at the Smalls club in New York.
The empty stage at the Smalls club in New York.

The odyssey of his clubs exemplifies what the scene has suffered already these past two years. They closed a few days before lockdown. And they were wrong when they thought the wait wouldn’t be too long. Programs restarted last April, with a third of audience capacity. In September, they could host at half capacity. Finally, permission arrived for full occupancy, which they haven’t taken advantage of yet: a maximum of 56 people fit in the Smalls and 40 in the Mezzrow (before, they fit 70 and 65, respectively) and one can only buy tickets on the internet, which has “taken away a certain excitement from the thing.” Both used to be the kind of tumultuous joints where one entered just by walking through the door. During the pandemic they survived by programming a daily livestreamed concert as a way to “spur donations, which arrived from all around the world.”

The Smoke, in northern Manhattan, reopened before Wilner’s clubs because they had an idea: they mounted what Paul Stache, the owner, calls “mini greenhouses.” Bands would play inside the club with all the doors and windows open. “It wasn’t the ideal musical format or sound, but people wanted it so much that it didn’t matter. So much so that sometimes it created a traffic jam in the street.” The experience that they acquired during the pandemic, when they began livstreaming on the internet, is helping to keep the flame alive now that the club is closed for renovations; they have taken the adjoining space, because “even if the virus ends,” Stache doesn’t think that “people will want to pile into a tiny joint like before.”

He’s also taken advantage of this time to record “more than ever” for his label, Smoke Sessions Records.

Saxophonist Donny McCaslin performs as part of Maria Schneider's orchestra at the Jazz Standard in New York in 2013
Saxophonist Donny McCaslin performs as part of Maria Schneider’s orchestra at the Jazz Standard in New York in 2013Jack Vartoogian (Getty Images)

There were other clubs that didn’t have as much luck, and simply didn’t survive lockdown. The most tender loss has been, without a doubt, that of the Jazz Standard. It closed in December of 2020 due to “the pandemic and to so many months without income, as well as a long negotiation about rent which has stalled,” it was said at the time. In New York there are some 80 stages where one can listen to live music, according to the list that the newspaper The New York City Jazz Record prints on its last page every month. Here there are basement joints, clubs with varied programs and not just jazz, others which are the reincarnation of legendary places (Minton’s, Birdland), hotels and restaurants with music, experimental refuges in progressive universities (The Stone) and institutional spaces, like Dizzy’s, in the Lincoln Center complex. But the Standard had something special. Maybe it was the music, or the fact that you could see well from any table, or “the sensational food,” an advantage highlighted by Fred Cohen, the owner of the Jazz Record Center, the only shop dedicated exclusively to the genre in the city.

“The news of that closure was terrible,” Cohen says from behind the counter of his establishment, on the eighth floor of an anodyne office building in Chelsea. Wilner is harsher on the competition: “The owners [of the Jazz Standard] are dedicated to the barbeque business [the club was in the basement of a restaurant of the famous businessmen Danny Meyer]. The programming, which was done by a man named Seth Abramson [who didn’t respond to this newspaper’s interview request], was stupendous, but when the hospitality business failed, the music ended.” Chinen advises that there are plans to reopen soon. If that were to happen, the Standard would return to a completely different scene than that which provoked its closure. Some 77% of New Yorkers are completely vaccinated. Leaving the worst of Omicron behind, coronavirus cases have fallen 62% in the last two weeks, and hospital admissions have been reduced by half. Now the use of masks isn’t obligatory in the clubs, although it is up to the discretion of owners to demand it. Still, to get inside the majority of these places, they ask you to show a completed vaccination card (and there are even clubs that ask for proof you have received the booster).

“What we need,” thinks Wilner, “is for people to relax, to return to New York and to enjoy what we still have, even though it’s not much after two years. It’s still possible to get our lives back. It worries me that this won’t happen, because I’ve realized that I don’t love this city where I was born the way I used to love it,” he concludes. These wishes could take a while to come true. For many New Yorkers, what good news there has been still isn’t sufficient to prompt an adventure inside a club, as seen in the tables that the restaurants have scattered across the city’s sidewalks. They look full in the second winter of the pandemic, including when the temperatures drop to various degrees below freezing.

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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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