By NOAH BECKER February, 2020
I had a chance to talk to singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked and blueswoman Christine Santelli about their upcoming shows at New York City's Cafe Bohemia. Truth be told I'm performing at Cafe Bohemia on February 21st with my jazz trio. This is how I met Michelle and Christine - through the club and it's growing scene. I became curious about the cafe and its long history and also wanted to catch up on what shows Michelle and Christine are planning.
Noah Becker: So great to meet you Michelle Shocked, I've been a fan of yours and aware of your music. I'm also here with the great blueswoman Christine Santelli.
Christine Santelli: Great to be here.
Noah Becker: Christine you're a famous blues artist.
Christine: Well, I don't know about famous, but I've been in the blues world for the last 30 years, yeah.
Noah: And Michelle, you are a singer/songwriter and rock star. Is that how you would describe yourself?
Michelle Shocked: Me? I'm a singer-wrongrighter, man.
Noah: And you were in Los Angeles how long before coming back here to New York City?
Michelle: Oh, about 20 to 25 years. And I've been here in New York for the last three and it's brought me to this anchorage that we call Cafe Bohemia, which Christine is bringing back to life.
Noah: So Christine, you have resurrected Cafe Bohemia? Or was it always there but it just wasn't offering music anymore? What's the story?
Christine: The owner, Michael Zieleniewski, who played saxophone as a child, knew about the venue from 1955 and always had a dream to open up the venue again. He just didn't know the right person to do it with, and a friend of ours put us together and we both put our heads down and said, "This is much bigger than both of us, we need to just start working," and we just started working on it last February.
Noah: Michelle, when are you playing at Cafe Bohemia?
Michelle: The first Sunday of every month will be with my rumba trio, Les Chocolats, and each Sunday in February I'll just be doing my little singer-songwriter thing.
Noah: Right, and your music, I would know from the nineties originally? Is that when it became known, the 1990's?
Michelle: Yeah. I had Grammy nominations in '92 and, and '88 for albums that were pretty diverse. Short Sharp Shocked is probably my signature album and also known for the cover image of me in a chokehold by a San Francisco riot cop. And Arkansas Traveler was my last album for the Mercury label, and then I've been an independent artist since then.
Noah: Right, and the two of you will be collaborating on some music eventually?
Group: Yes. (laughing)...
Noah: Christine and Michelle will be collaborating on some new music, which I'm looking forward to hearing because I'm, well, besides being a saxophone player, I'm a fan of soulful and meaningful singing.
Christine: We're even going to tell you the name of this collaboration.
Noah: What is the name of the collaboration?
Group: The Memphis Minnies!
Noah: The Memphis Minnies, cool name. Okay, and Michelle, tell me a little bit about The Memphis Minnies?
Michelle: Memphis Minnie was a legacy blueswoman who was established in Chicago by the time Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy and all those cats came to Chicago. She was the queen bee. She was in a nursing home in Memphis when Led Zeppelin was on the airwaves with a huge hit song called When The Levee Breaks but they did not give the credit to the proper songwriter - Memphis Minnie. So, there's a lot of history that needs to be set straight. Memphis Minnie was the first one to introduce electric guitar to the Chicago blues scene and she has just been written out of history and we are going to invite a cadre of fellow blues women and we're going to bring that history back to life.
Noah: Fantastic. Well, I'll come by Cafe Bohemia and check it out and thanks for talking to us. WM
Cafe Bohemia is located at 15 Barrow St. in New York City tel: (212) 691-6127
Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023.
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