Councilmember Steven Levin, in a more serious moment, perhaps, than his jam session with his Conservative opponent John Jasilli. Credit: William Alatriste
It was just happenstance — and a shared passion for music, it turns out — that brought together two rivals one recent Wednesday night.
Councilman Stephen Levin, currently running on the Democratic ticket for re-election in the 33rd district, had just had dinner with a friend at Fornino's at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. They were strolling through the neighborhood and happened to pass Montero's, a little bar on Atlantic Avenue.
"I heard blues coming out of the bar and I thought that it was the juke box playing because it sounded like real, authentic, professional blues," Levin recalled.
He had heard that his opponent, Conservative candidate John Jasilli, plays guitar there, he said.
"So I peeked my head in and there was a guy, he was playing kinda down-home blues with a slide guitar and he had a couple friends with him and it was excellent," Levin enthused.
He and his friend decided to go in and take a seat. Levin still wasn't sure that the star musician was his opponent, until a mutual friend of both him and Jasilli came in and said, "You know, that's your opponent playing."
"So they invited me up to jam with Jasilli!" Levin exclaimed.
As Metro has previously reported, Levin is himself a former musician, and used to play in a band called Stylofone with a member of the indie rock group MGMT.
"I have some experience in rock and roll," Levin said modestly. "So I picked up a guitar. I said, 'What key do you want to play in?' And he said 'key of E,' and he took the lead."
Levin sounded almost smitten with Jasilli's musicianship, repeating what a "fun time" he had and what a talented musician his opponent is.
"He's excellent, he was an excellent blues guitar player and singer," Levin said. "It was a real pleasure to jam with Jasilli."
And there was a greater symbolism to the impromptu interaction, of course.
"It was a nice way to show that politics does not have to be contentious and acrimonious," the rocker-turned-councilman said. "If you get a couple of guitars and a mutual love of the blues, you can come together."
Levin said they parted that night on good terms.
"I wished him well," Levin recounted. "I told him that I would likely see him on Election Day but as soon as the election is over I look forward to going back to Montero and jamming with Jasilli again."
It's been reported that Jasilli has a weekly gig at Montero, but no one answered the phone number listed for the bar. Levin said he's pretty sure Jasilli plays there on Wednesday — and he urged New Yorkers to go check him out.
"If you want to see some authentic blues, Mr. Jasilli at Montero is the place to go," Levin advised.
The Levin-Jasilli jam session was first reported by Gatemouth.