Pianist and singer/songwriter Adam Rushfield, who goes by the professional name of Jaz Jericho, comes from a long line of musical talent: his great grandfather banged singer Sophie Tucker! When we met with Adam in his tiny room/music studio recently, he played us a tape of longtime resident 87-year- old Stormé DeLarverié belting out an old standard, "Since I Fell For You," her voice still as impressive as in her heyday in the 50s and 60s, husky, evocative, and powerful.
Of course we immediately asked Adam if we could share Stormé's song with our blog readers, but it turns out he wants to keep it under wraps for awhile, as he is working on a song cycle partially revolving around the remarkable recording. (The work will delve into the lives and lore of Chelsea residents as well as other stories.) He played us a couple of pieces on his piano and they expertly evoked the dysfunctional family dynamic of the Chelsea.
Where are you from?
I was born in Okinawa, Japan in 1979. I grew up in Las Vegas, where I lived from the time I was six months old. It's a very comfortable place to live, but not easy for a musician unless you play cover tunes and don't care if people listen to you or not. Everybody wants to get out, but nobody does anything about it. But by this point in my life I was ready to go, I needed a change. Some of my friends who were musicians moved to LA, but that wasn't for me. I visited NY three years ago and something about it just grabbed me.
How did you hear about the Chelsea?
Just from folklore and movies and books and then later through my work in music. When my friend and I visited NY it was too expensive to stay here the whole week, but on our last night we walked in to check the place out and the guys at the front desk were really cool and offered us a discount, so we decided to stay one night. We rode up in the elevator with Rene Ricard, of all people. He was carrying an envelope and he opened it and showed us that there was a knife inside. He said, jokingly, that we'd better not be up to no good. If we were here to steal the art, we'd have to answer to him. That was when I knew I had to move to the Chelsea.
How did you become interested in music?
My Dad's a musician. He plays in a 50s and 60s rock band. So I grew up around all kinds of music. My great grandfather played in a big band, and banged singer Sophie Tucker. That's his claim to fame.
What are your main musical influences?
Bowie, Beatles, Motown, everything. In college I was a musical theatre major, and I'd like to write musicals someday. Or maybe not, since they're so cheesy. Rock Operas, really, that's what I'd like to write.
You moved into the hotel in February of 07. How did you score your room at the Chelsea?
I called Stanleyfrom Vegas and told him I was thinking of coming to New York soon, and asked if he had any rooms available. He said not right now but just let me know when you're on your way and I'm sure we can find something for you. I called him when I crossed the Mississippi. When I got here he brought me right up to this room and I took it, the first one he showed me. It was pretty expensive and he was charging me by the night, as a transient guest ($75/night, plus hotel tax), but he said he'd try to get my rent down, and he did lower it at one point, right before he left ($70/night, plus tax). I believe that he would have eventually offered me an affordable, permanent, monthly rate.
At that point he was forced out by the minority shareholders and BD Hotels took over. What did BD say about your rent?
They still tried to charge me the high rate. I said I had been here long enough to be considered a permanent tenant and I was being illegally overcharged and they needed to reduce my rent, but they refused to listen to my arguments. I decided not to pay until the courts could resolve the issue. Though I kind of feel like I was cheated out of my full Chelsea experience since Stanley's no longer around, I plan to get as much as I can out of what's left of it.
Where will you go if you have to leave the Chelsea?
Well, I think the Chelsea has spoiled me, so no place else in New York would do. Maybe the Lower East Side, but everything's too expensive anyway. I have some friends living in Providence so maybe I'll crash with them for awhile. There's a pretty cool art's scene there, with lots of space in all the abandoned factory buildings. The Chelsea is a place where I can just relax and be, and I know it's not going to be easy for me to recreate that vibe somewhere else.
Withholding his rent allowed Adam to buy some time at the Chelsea, time well spent, it turns out, as he has been using it to soak up the inspirational atmosphere and transform it into music. I accompanied him to Housing Court on Wednesday, Dec 12, hoping I could at least offer moral support. He met with BD's lawyer and they negotiated a deal whereby Adam will be given an affordable rent through the end of February, at which time he will be expected to leave the hotel. So, while it certainly wasn't an ideal result, at least it will make a full year that Adam has lived at the Chelsea. We'll be sorry to lose Adam, as he seems a perfect fit for the Chelsea, with his respect for the history of the hotel, coupled with a forward-looking creative impetus to celebrate and reinvigorate that tradition. On the other hand, he's not gone yet--and no one knows what the situation at the Chelsea will be in two months. -- Ed Hamilton