Perhaps more to the point, how does the place manage to stay in business, when admission remains to this day by voluntary donation only? The musicians who play there – always well-regarded, many of them name acts, others up-and-coming artists who are generating a buzz in the jazz, blues or acoustic worlds – clearly don’t do it for the money. But somehow, owner Tony Falco has managed to attract a steady stream of serious musicians to his rustic club on the main drag of a southern Ulster County town that isn’t really on the way to anywhere anymore – not since the 1950s, when the New York State Thruway replaced Route 9W as the north/south corridor of choice on the Left Bank of the Hudson.
To be fair to the Town of Marlborough, the recent proliferation of wineries in the area, the opening of tony resorts like the Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa and concerted efforts by local farming folk to tout their stretch of 9W as a destination for locavore agritourism have certainly begun to turn things around. And it can’t hurt that the Falcon’s current location in “downtown” Marlboro is right next door to the Raccoon Saloon, whose fabled burgers keep acing their category in the Best of the Hudson Valley awards year after year. But most of the credit has to be shared between Falco’s commitment to supporting living artists and the appeal of the space itself.
An environmental scientist by profession, Tony Falco was a hipster moonlighting in a rock band called the Wild Animals of North America in the mid-‘90s when he discovered and bought the original Falcon, a former Methodist church. At first he tried to make it a viable performance space by splitting it with a day care center, but the effort didn’t fly until the local post office offered to buy the land out from under the building. Falco proceeded to dismantle the 19th-century structure and reassemble it in his own backyard. In 2001, he formed Falcon Music & Art Production, Inc. to book and promote (rather quietly) an ongoing “house concert” series in the building’s upper floor.
Falco invested in a grand piano and quality sound and lighting systems for the rebuilt space and used the walls to showcase works by regional artists. Unable to resist the pay-what-you-can policy, the local community, musically sophisticated or not, began to turn out on a regular basis and bring potluck dishes to share. Word-of-mouth spread among jazz performers that this space not so far outside New York City offered a nice vibe, great acoustics and a respectful audience, and somehow the club’s improbable launch took root.
As the venue became more popular, the Falco family’s neighbors reportedly began to have issues with the resulting auto traffic and spillover noise; so in 2005 Tony’s company took another leap of faith, purchasing a larger building right on 9W in Marlboro. The home of the current Falcon was originally a 19th-century button factory, its power generated by the small, scenic waterfall over which the building is still perched. At 3,500 square feet, the “new” building at 1348 Route 9W offered room for a full kitchen and bar, so listeners don’t need to bring a covered dish anymore (although the Donation Box still occupies a place of honor); light gourmet fare is now furnished by a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, beginning at 6 p.m. The concert hall is upstairs, while the downstairs space can accommodate catered events.
So why have so many people in our Valley still not heard of this place, let along been there yet? Is it just because jazz people pride themselves on being low-key? Coolness is a wonderful thing, but it seems high time to rectify this situation. There’s something worth checking out at the Falcon most any Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening at 7 p.m., and this coming weekend is no exception.
On Thursday, February 10, the Falcon strays (as it often does) outside the jazz realm to present the interestingly rough-edged singer/songwriter Amy Correia, who has been compared to Michelle Shocked and Tom Waits by Jon Pareles of The New York Times. Stephen Clair will open.
On Friday, February 11, tenor sax rising star Donny McCaslin will be touting his brand-new CD release on Greenleaf Music, Perpetual Motion. McCaslin’s curriculum vitae includes four years on tour with the Gary Burton Quintet and a 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for his Concert in the Garden. His current group includes Uri Caine on keyboards, Scott Colley on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums.
Undoubtedly the most familiar name among this weekend’s offerings at the Falcon is another artist not generally regarded as working in the jazz idiom. Eclectic singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys, who fronts an acoustic trio on the Falcon stage on Saturday night, February 12, crosses over from rock to blues to soul to reggae and is perhaps best-known for his widely covered tune “Wild in the Streets.” His songs “Ghost Writer” and “R.O.C.K.” and his version of “96 Tears” are also all staples on alternative radio, and “Matador” was a Number One hit single in Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. He has a dozen albums out and has opened for or played with…just about everybody. Expect a full house for this performer. Reed’s Bass Drums are the opening act.
For directions to the Falcon, visit www.liveatthefalcon.com/about-us/directions. The website also has lots more info about the venue and upcoming acts. For dinner reservations call (845) 236-7970; plan on arriving before 7 p.m. if you plan to dine.