The holiday season often brings together strange bedfellows, and Thursday nightâ€™s opening of the Mica & Ahmet Ertegun Atrium at Jazz at Lincoln Center was no exception.
â€œTonight is a very extra special night, people,â€ said host Bette Midler, taking the atriumâ€™s stage overlooking Columbus Circle. â€œIâ€™m thrilled to see so many jazz fans here tonight. I see Kid Rock over there. What are you doing here?â€
In fact, Mr. Rock was leaning against a pillar, festive in a bright red sweater and fedora. â€œAhmet Ertegun and Mika, old old friends,â€ he later disclosed, before offering a sly smile. â€œMe and Ahmet used to have some fun together.â€
Michael Bloomberg, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, Paul Haggis and Candice Bergen had also come out to toast the opening of the atrium and remember Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who died in 2006.
â€œHe was a great philanthropist. He was bigger than life and knew more people in the music business than anybody,â€ said Bloomberg. â€œHe was an extraordinary man,â€ Douglas confirmed. â€œHe was instrumental in getting this whole Jazz at Lincoln Center going.â€
Another draw of the night was certainly the centerâ€™s annual Big Band Holiday performance with Wynton Marsalis.
â€œThe chance to listen to Aretha [Franklin] and Wynton Marsalis up on stage together, are you kidding?â€ exclaimed Weaver. â€œThe whole city would be trying to get into those elevators.â€
Or they might have, if the nightâ€™s concert hadnâ€™t already sold out. Before intermission, the Queen of Soul herself took the stage to sing a few songs â€” largely a surprise, since she had been added to the lineup the day before.
â€œThis is one of the early places where I made my New York debut,â€ said Franklin, starting to play a melody on the piano. â€œThis happens to be my 50th year in the business.â€
What a Christmas miracle.