“On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us…” So wrote Irving Berlin in “Easter Parade,” back in 1933, and they sure did this year as New Yorkers got decked out in their best attire and fancy bonnets to walk down Fifth Avenue this Easter, despite the unseasonably chilly weather. However, it didn’t last. The police cordon started at two-thirty and swept everyone down from Trump Tower down to 49th Street. Fortunately, for those in the know, the best part was just starting. As the police began their sweep we headed north to the Plaza Hotel, where The Glenn Crytzer Orchestra was about to start the third annual Easter Ball, a perfect after-party for the Parade! Composed of some of the best jazz musicians in the city, Crytzer’s big band has been entertaining audiences throughout New York for years, playing for tourists, vintage scenesters, the lindy-hop and swing dance crowds, and fans of Jazz Age music alike.
The Plaza Hotel opened in 1907 at the corner of 5th Avenue and 59th Street, just across from Central Park, and has been a New York icon featured in film and literature ever since, with a memorable chapter in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” The Champagne Bar, next to the Fifth Avenue lobby, opened with the hotel and was renovated in 2014, now it serves gourmet food and cocktails and has live jazz. Last year the Plaza showcased the Glenn Crytzer Orchestra in the Champagne Bar for its Easter Ball, and New Yorkers (and tourists and hotel guests) were thrilled for their return.
The event was free for all ages, and Crytzer put on a special Easter program of classic big band music from the Twenties through the Forties. The band was in black tie, behind elegant black and white music stands emblazoned with the logo “GC.” Well-dressed patrons filled the Champagne Bar next to the Plaza lobby, where they enjoyed the live music as they imbibed great cocktails and crowded the dance floor. Others climbed the stairs to the Rose Club, where they could sit overlooking the band. (I sat with friends above the brass section where we delighted in wine, tea, champagne, and a few craft cocktails, including a “Mister Marmalade,” a blend of Balvenie Scotch, orange juice, orange bitters, orange marmalade, and agave nectar…a drink unique to the Rose Bar. The beverages were complemented by a few hummus platters and local cheese plates.)
The band set the tone from the start, opening with “Easter Parade.” Emcee Dandy Wellington, a regular with the Orchestra, wore a dashing top hat, white tie, and tails, singing the hits and keeping the dancers on their feet while Crytzer led the band through his arrangements. Dancers and other attendees wore fancy dresses and suits, both new and vintage, and many had hats especially for the holiday. Some were classic chapeaus, large and decorated with flowers and trim, while others had Easter themed costume pieces and hand crafted adornments. Two ladies had oversized marshmallow Peep hats, and someone was even dressed as a rabbit with a basket! Dancers spun and twirled in front of the band as everyone took pictures of the party and the fantastic atmosphere of the Champagne Bar, with its gold and white design, large chandeliers, fresh flowers, and gilded wrought iron railing on the stairway to the Rose Club. Looking over the crowd as the band went into the instrumental of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the drums immediately getting people out of their seats, patrons were treated to an experience as close to the era of big bands as they are likely to ever have.
Stephanie Robinson, Hospitality Event Coordinator for the Plaza, made announcements and introduced the band at intermission. Featured vocalist Hannah Gill, another Glenn Crytzer Orchestra regular, did a terrific rendition of “Just A Little Bit South of North Carolina” as the dancers crowded in close. Soon the Rose Club balcony was so crowded that the Plaza staff stopped letting people up, and soon after that the Champagne Bar was also at capacity. Service slowed down as the wait staff, working as fast as they could, tried to take orders and deliver them as fast as possible. The crowd outside, anxious to get in to hear the band, formed a line to get into the Plaza that stretched down the block. Some arrived too late, still waiting in line at the end of the last set, but the lucky ones were able to get in before the band closed the event with a reprise of “Easter Parade.”
Many wished Crytzer’s band had played an additional set, as many would have gladly kept dancing, eating, drinking, and dancing again. Perhaps the Plaza will let the band play until the evening next year. We can only hope: After the turnout of this year’s Easter parade After Party, the fourth annual one will likely be twice as big.
Related: Jazz Blooms at NYC’s Easter Parade, Glenn Crytzer on Playing Pre-War Jazz: 8 Things You Won’t Learn in Jazz School, On Programming an Album of Original Swing Music, The Glenn Crytzer Orchestra: Ain’t It Grand?(CD Review #1), The Glenn Crytzer Orchestra Ain’t it Grand? (CD Review #2), Glenn Crytzer CD Release Party