5 Courses with Damien DiPaola of Vito’s Tavern

Published in the April 19th “Guy Issue” of STUFF Magazine (p. 41) or read it online here. Click below for larger text.

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The Living Link to Boston’s Jazz Heyday

It’s 9:30 on a Saturday night on Massachusetts Avenue and Wally’s Café is already at capacity of 99 people. A group of about ten twenty-somethings wearing trendy sneakers and perfectly distressed jeans wait anxiously outside the chipped red door blocked by a large African-American man, who lets two people out and another two in.

Inside it’s dark. The tiny place is packed; men and women guard their mate’s barstools, because a open seat at Wally’s is hard to come by. Black-and-white photos of long-gone jazz legends line the exposed brick wall parallel to an elongated bar that stretches from the to the stage. The four-piece ensemble is already playing on the barely-elevated stage—an amber-red drum set, a golden Les Paul guitar, a brassy sax, and a hefty double bass are all tenderly plucked and pounded on in ten-minute improvisation jazz tunes all while submerged in moody red lighting.

Sitting dead center at the bar, is a young well-manicured man wearing a dark wool tuxedo jacket with a stiff, pale pink shirt collar peeping out, head swaying, toes tapping.The bar’s younger patrons, dressed in ripped jeans and sneakers, also swing and drum to the twisting jazz grooves.

The owner and manager, Frank Poindexter, flutters down a white paper napkin before carefully placing the dapper man’s cocktail in front of him “There are not that many places in Boston where there is so much nostalgia there, and a lot of people want to be part of that,” says  Poindexter. “ Wally’s is an American story.”

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The Return of Vinyl

Jared Lucas Nathanson fondly recalls his creamsicle-colored plastic record player; he would prance all over the house with it listening to the Mister Rogers album “Josephine the Short-Neck Giraffe” when he was just three years old. When he was eight, Nathanson graduated to funk band Heatwave and Saturday Night Fever, then as a teenager onto Men At Work. He’s been a record collector ever since. Nathanson is now 38 and plays in Boston-based blues, pop-rock band The HeartSleeves and dreams of distributing his music on vinyl: “When you put your soul into your music, wouldn’t you rather someone listened to it in that thoughtful and respectful context if you could?”

Nathanson is not alone. More and more Boston audiophiles are buying vinyl records in the age of digital music. Although overall music album sales dropped 13 percent in 2010, vinyl sales increase by 14 percent—marking a new high point for vinyl sales since 1991 in the wake of the CD explosion—according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2010, Vinyl is the fastest growing music medium with 2.8 million units sold. In October 2007, Amazon.com launched a vinyl-only store—today the site sells over one million records.

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Lyrics & The Health of Teenagers

The Boston Public Health Commission deemed Usher as the least healthy artist of 2010, with his singles “Lil Freak” and “Hot Tottie” topping their list of Top Ten Unhealthy Relationship Songs of 2010. The list also includes Eminem featuring Rihanna’s “Love The Way You Lie,” Ke$ha’s “Your Love Is My Drug,” and Justin Bieber featuring Sean Kingston’s “Eenie Meenie.” How do you determine if a song is unhealthy for teenagers?

“It’s technically a very rigorous process,” said Casey Corcoran, director of Start Strong, an initiative of the Boston Public Health Commission that focuses on the well being of local adolescents. According to Corcoran, the main five components of unhealthy songs are drama (unhealthy conflict—such as yelling and resentful arguing), possession or obsession, disrespect, sex as the main part of the relationship, and manipulation. The Start Strong team of 24 students that were recruited from healthy relationship community centers throughout Boston and range from 15 to 18-year-olds, chose popular songs from the Billboard Top 100 chart and examined the lyrics in co-ed pairs to determine if these toxic elements were present, then scored them up to fifty points according to their intensity.

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