Three of Diamonds
Three of Diamonds
This is the trio I’m playing in, at Santino’s Santa Monica
Saturday May 24 th
8:00 pm – 10:30 or so…
3021 Lincoln Blvd. 90405
and it’ll be such FUN TUNES! (pop/indie/rock—60s/70s/80s/90s!)
in solo, 2-part, or 3-part vocal arrangements with guitar
Great songs! …are what I love to sing, any genre… (I really don’t care much for genres, as you know)
Just to be clear, Spoiler Alert:—this is not jazz, (except maybe when Eric channels Frank) although you can be sure I'll be jazzin' things up for my part:-)
The guys I’m playing with are Eric Vincent and Tony Perez, who had the Diamondcutters, a Neil Diamond & 70s cover band, from 1999 until some months ago—they played everywhere around LA, in all kinds of venues.
Tony is a classically trained guitarist who can play anything, a local boy who grew up singing harmonies with the whole family in the station wagon—a fine musician with a melodic, Gordon Lightfoot–esque voice.
Eric was the front man for the band—originally a drummer (background in theatre—like me!), he is a wonderful performer and great singer—very charismatic!
& the energy among the three of us is such a joy:)
Someone said, Harmony is the ultimate love
We do our own versions of great classic tunes by Neil Diamond, the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, & the like, and I get to do my cool indie tunes! …we’re talking Indigo Girls, Nickel Creek, Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne—so fun!
And I have to end this blogette with shameless pitches for my stunningly talented local musician friends with wonderful projects happening:
Friend/accompanist Capital’s GORGEOUS new Bossa Zuzu CD:
ps. thanks for reading. As for my recording mixes, three down, one to go!
See you all one where or another, I hope!
Farewell to Dan
This is basically one of those infamous situations where, like Joni Mitchell says in the song, “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”
My accompanist for over a year-and-a-half of monthly Saturdays at Santino’s, Dan Andersen, has left town with his wife Karin and baby Stuart, for Austin, TX.
Dan hails from Humboldt, but spent most of his professional career on cruise ships, along with some years working in New Orleans. He had completed the PhD program in jazz at USC not too long before we met.
Stu was born just as we started playing together, and is now trucking around!!
So this is a paean to them, Dan and Stu, because over the past many moons we rehearsed most every month, which we were able to do because Dan had Stu, so I would go down to their tiny apartment in Culver City and we would play and take care of Stu together—to my great good fortune and joy!
Often I danced with Stu to keep him happy and loving the music, while Dan played and I sang… could it get any better than that?
Likewise our nights at Santino’s got better and better. Dan knows his instrument deeply, has perfect rhythm (plays bass too) with exquisite improv lines, and he learned my (pretty widely varied!) repertoire inside and out—what a gift.
By April and May we could capture the reverberating room, no matter how many & much eating and drinking, most everyone listening and enjoying—we knew each other’s moves so well.
Check out his own compositions too: sophisticated, cool, gorgeous (note The Spark):
But of course, starting a family as a pro musician in LA is tough. He has a buddy in Austin, is already playing in his band, they got a roomy apartment off the bat and are hoping to be able to buy a home before very long, and he was immediately hired for the house band at the Brass House in downtown Austin—
So, goodbye to them… my jazz heart has been broken and closed up.
It will open again with the new year, soon in fact! But I’ll still miss them.
My friends, here’s a heads-up for my EP for the recording project I’ve been working on for so long. When it’s out I will tell more stories, but for now let me say that I have recorded these four songs each in several parts, as is the jazz way, but each developed so it really is a “suite”—variations on the musical themes.
And that will be the name of this EP, Four Sweets. You can read about it more below in other blogs from May 7, 2011 through Jan. 25, 2013 but each tune features Brazilian rhythms from the north (Bahia) as well as from Rio, modified to each song:
My Man—the classic Billie Holliday jazz lament—includes the French version, and an original French rap by me and Marina Urquidi, with horn arrangements by Liz Kinnon that steal the show!:-) (really, they’ll make you weep and laugh, so hot!)
Chega de Saudade—by Jobim—includes my original English translation of the Portugese lyrics
A Felicidade—also by Jobim
And finally—If These Walls Could Speak—by Jimmy Webb.
The musicians are among the finest in LA—and you know what that means! What solos! Liz Kinnon, Hussain Jiffry, Kirk Brundage, Roberto Montero, Enzo Todesco,+
My Man is completed, the mixes of Chega and Felicidade are completed (I think!); and we are still tweaking the mix for If These Walls. Ideas are popping for videos and am working on the video for If These Walls myself… we’ll just have to see…. Anybody wanta help? & the artwork is close to settled for the little EP jacket: so, it won’t be long now!
Spoiler: this is not straight-ahead jazz!
Speaking of which, it’s that time of year for getting good music very inexpensively: here’s the link for my first CD, Softly, holding its own still, & especially beloved by moms everywhere! Two for $10: just text me your address and I’ll send ‘em right out to you & bill via Paypal.
& in honor of the season, what more appropriate than shamelessly promoting my friends’ outstanding music?...
Wayne Wallace, from San Francisco, just got nominated for another grammy! For this album (giving you Amazon for easy access …weird link but it’s there):
Fingers crossed they get it this time!
Wayne also produced a CD for Trelawny Rose, who has coached me from 2005/6 until she got hired last spring on The Voice—and she produced my vocals on the above described tunes—her voice is one in a million, and these tunes on her CD are clear, gorgeous, exquisite (I especially like the originals!):
Kathleen Grace’s new CD is hypnotizing in its moody style, country-crossing jazz:
And here’s an exemplary jazz CD from the lovely and fine singer Janice Anderson, who runs the wonderful Jazz Vespers at Mt. Olive:
Here are a couple thoughts for the road:
Ego is (just) a thought.
I don’t think, therefore I am no-thing.
… my contributions to the seasonal spirit!
See you Saturday if you can!
On Culture in my Neighborhood—and the Shootings
My rule for myself is that this blog—like my website, like my Facebook sites—is essentially about music. So this weekend I had trouble reconciling that with my need to write about what happened Friday in my neighborhood. But of course you can’t separate out the art, the artist, from the person, any more than from the culture. Anyway there is a music connection…
I’d been thinking specifically about my neighborhood already, because the Saturday before, I made it to see/hear the last band at the Santa Monica Festival at Clover Park, right down Ocean Park from me, just past where my mom lives in her board-and-care facility. The Boogaloo Assasins were great and deserve this plug: another terrific LA group who undoubtedly pay the bills playing sessions. The percussionists were particularly smokin’...
Anyway as I walked to this free neighborhood festival with great music (not so much else, admittedly) I was thinking/seeing how in my neighborhood there are still lots of poor people, normal people I would say except we know now how extremely divided and far apart the classes really are: the uber-haves, and the have-nots. And nowhere is this more evident than in Santa Monica, with its wealthiest and most famous and most powerful citizens (it doesn’t get wealthier or more powerful, nor more famous)— and on the other hand, its rent control, and copious and generous services, which can make for an amazingly high quality of life for us 99%-ers who somehow are still here.
And of course there’s a geographic trend to this divide: roughly, below the freeway (south, my side) and farther from the coast is a lot less affluent (not counting the wonderful residential areas blanketing the prettiest hills): Santa Monica City College is a few blocks from me towards the freeway; and then north of the freeway you’ll see old industrial areas, art complexes—the gamut from waste disposal to shiny Yahoo. Right there is the wonderful private school my little guy Kai was in on Friday—about to go into lock-down like every Santa Monica school. Then comes Sta Monica proper, and then upscale residential, increasingly so the farther north, up to the frighteningly opulent homes above San Vicente, one of which President Obama was having lunch in on Friday the 7th.
Walking to the festival the previous Saturday, I had noticed all the funky tiny old bungalows that fill the avenue corridor 20+ blocks from the coast—thousands even—studios and one-bedrooms with all kinds of people—very young, very old, students, families: many if not most of them live pretty near the edge, I should think. And I saw them attending this free festival—how great! And the same goes for the many old, un-remodeled homes, especially near the freeway, where our shooter’s family home was located.
So this last Friday, these juxtapositions stood out. I was up on San Vicente near 23rd street demonstrating against the XL pipeline and tar sands, upon the occasion of Obama’s visit. Only some hundreds demonstrated it seemed, in this online era, but nice folks, seasoned activists except for the energetic student types who led most of the chanting at top volume. (I was luckily hanging with my piano player and friend Liz Kinnon, who was even happier than me to stay behind the bullhorns.)
Our corners were blocked off, but then the President took 17th apparently so we didn’t see him. But we moved to the end of the street where he was having lunch, thinking he would at least hear and know we were there.
You could draw a line pretty much straight down parallel to the coast (perpendicular to the freeway) from where we (and the President) were, several miles down to Clover Park on Ocean Park Ave. About ¾ of the way down that line, at almost the same time on Friday, the day before his birthday, this angry young man went deep into his rage and his hatred.He dressed in polished, fatigues-ish black, such that everyone later attested to believing he was police or SWAT, describing him as "calm," "relaxed,"—until he looked in their eyes. His mother, a quiet, "classy" waitress at a chic cafe nearby in Venice, was out of the country visiting her native Lebanon.
This young man returned to his (estranged?) family home, shot dead his father and brother, set fire to the home, and then went on his shooting and car-jacking spree that left six total dead (so far), it's not clear how many injured, some seriously—until the police shot him in the SMCC library foyer. It's easy to become obsessed about where he was exactly, the route he took and what happened—when he got out of the car at the busiest intersection and shot (strafed) the bus and businesses, stopping and shooting the 68-year old groundskeeper and his young daughter dead at the edge of the parking lot—then the woman at the entrance to the library, a 68-year old volunteer dropping off (or picking up?) donation cans—so... did no (more?) students get hit when, chased by the (ready!) cops, he ran firing into the library?
After the gunfight in the foyer, they carried him outside, where he died. So many emergency helicopters were buzzing in & out of Santa Monica airport (right adjacent to/ below Clover Park), they had to change the gameplan and take the President to LAX in his limo.
What are the lessons? I don’t think I know, though I certainly believe in more stringent gun laws. Can we say this young man, with his history of instability and gun-obsession, fell through the cracks? But I do feel there’s something here about how weird it is to live with—rub right up against—such extremes of class and culture and values. The way communications are now, people have such a hard time anyway connecting the dots to establish a coherent worldview.
Seems to be a time of extremes. (Like, why is everyone so extremely silent on this incident???). I like to think that art—especially music—crosses many? most? divides. Right now, I’m just so, so sorry for the destruction and the damage and the pain for everyday folks (of every stripe) living their everyday lives, whoever they may be.
Kristin Korb's House Concert with Bruce Forman and Jeff Hamilton
I went to the CD release party house concert for this marvel—
“What’s Your Story?” with Kristin Korb singing and playing bass, Bruce Forman on guitar, and Jeff Hamilton on drums. What more could you need?
Kristin is a buddy—we knew each other through Tim Sweeney and have performed at a few weekend conference shows together…
She married a beautiful Danish man and moved to Denmark so it was great to see her after more than a couple years, of course she goes all over the world but this is a special US trip, what a project!
She looked great, sounded great, the cuts in that link tell it all except how happy she looks, which is beautiful to behold!
And she plays smokin’ swingin’ bass, what can I say, what a woman! Real jazz!
Playing with her is another marvel and another buddy, Bruce Forman.
Bruce comes from my neck of the woods—well, almost—he was in Carmel Valley before coming down here, I’m not sure when, but not long from when I did…
As legendary down here as he is up there, one of the foremost jazz guitarists on the planet and a wonderful person to boot… (appropriate expression in this case! :)
I actually met them after they moved down, happened upon Cow Bop, his swingin pseudo-Western swing/be-bop band he has with his wife, they’re fabulous! and he & I played together—I never had so much fun~
and Saturday night he played at the very top of his form, these beautiful tunes… that was a peak experience !
And Jeff Hamilton—I’ve heard him several times live and every time I think, this is the best drummer I’ve ever heard, and he is unbelievably gifted, skilled, and seamless-smooth... talk about A-list
(Go, Irish!, she thought!)
He’s so big there are Jeff Hamilton knock-offs :)
And these three played that jazz to within an inch of its life...
…Plus I saw and met some lovely people—it was a great night! Listen to that CD!!
Tomorrow night at Hoffman's!
I’ll be singin’ jazz at Hoffman’s tomorrow downtown Santa Cruz
—6:30 to 8:30—
With Barry Scott’s Trio, that’s Barry on guitar, Victor Revere on bass, and Steve Velasquez on drums.
Barry is my brother—without him I’d never be a singer. We’ve been playing together since I first started singing jazz out. Now he plays hot jazz with the trio, those wild chords, we’re talking swingin,’ every Tuesday.
Victor—Victor is also my brother, we go way back—he even helped me work on my home one time. He’s a good one.
And you will know Steve Velasquez, the drummer who is the father of India and always played with her.
And I’m doing some of my favorite songs…mostly just jazz, “this music” as Sheila Jordan calls it :)
Would love to see you!
One singer's night out—Jose James at the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice—March 12, 2013
I bought the ticket on a whim—read a feature in the LA Times, had a gut instinct, plus I’d wanted to hit the Del Monte Speakeasy, & especially to see someone about to break big play in such a small venue. I suspected it would sell out right away—or certainly before I could herd anyone into going with me. That’s okay—checking out venues I often prefer to be alone.
But of course that was many weeks ago, and by the day of the concert I was running ragged, with a houseguest for two nights (in my tiny apartment, albeit a dear friend), the kids for the afternoon, and my email software freezing/crashing maybe 10 times during the day (I could hear my computer guy saying, "Word programs don’t really like Macs all that much...").
And I had received an email carefully pointing out that the Jose James concert did not start at 9 (as all the promotion & the ticket said it did); the doors opened at 9. Uh-oh, I thought. And sure enough—after a quick miniscule dinner and throwing on my latest favorite ensemble (while trying to respond sensitively and appropriately to my friend’s stories)—I got myself down there at 9 only to be told the concert started promptly at 11. Well at least I’ll get a good seat, I thought. But it’s not that kind of venue, not when a show is on.
The Del Monte speakeasy is totally cool. It was an actual speakeasy during Prohibition—how cool is that. Here’s the history and some pics—fascinating stuff.
Best of all, though: I can get down there in 10 minutes, and it’s right by the beach—for that matter I can walk there in 30!
So, last night, there I was sitting at the bar for two hours as the place filled. It’s got a lot of ambiance as the pics show, the low ceiling is a little claustrophobic but hey, at least they took out the trap door & dumbwaiter and put in stairs.
The good news was I got my second drink for free because the bartender (not the one I made friends with) threw away my first drink before I finished it. The bad news was I was starving, so I spent most of the two hours thinking about food and how I might get out and back with some food. And then also, as often happens when I’m alone at a bar, all the guys getting their drinks chose my spot to belly up to get served. With no one joining me to form a battlement, I’m like the Cajon Pass of the bar stool crowd.
The Del Monte space is mainly an empty floor where people stand—or dance as the case may be but this was a getting-big name show, so people staked out their spots as close to the stage as possible. I had my plan though—I’d zip up my pack-purse tight, put it on my back, leave my scarf and jacket on the hook under the bar, and work my way closer to the stage. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at slithering closer, after a lifetime of superlative concerts— Bob Dylan in Long Beach and Boy George in San Francisco come to mind, but I could tell you a wild story about the Yardbirds at Catalina’s Casino Ballroom…
So I slithered and got to where I might be able to see the man when he appeared (it always amazes me how 6’4” men plant themselves with impunity in front of 5’4” women). When the band started to play, I was a little surprised—they were fine, they’re very good (they got better as they adjusted to the scene & sound—and believe me, I know how that is). They’re like him—authentic, heart-ful, deep in the music. [Sorry i don't have this info yet--have to fix this later!]
But when they first started to play, I confess— while keeping peeled for a next slithering opening to get closer, I was internally humbly expressing my gratitude to the universe for getting to play with jazz musicians, and with some of the greatest musicians in the world. I’m so lucky!!
And then the man started to sing.
Before he did the medley that claimed it, I had it: Bill Withers, Al Green. And while he extends that tradition, his voice has a unique timbre.
& at the end of the day (night), it’s all about heart. And of course, soul.
They played some original, some perfect covers until after 1, I think. I got home about a quarter to 2 and to sleep an hour later. It was completely worth it.
See for yourself
Many years ago, when first getting serious about performing singing (had lifelong been acting) I had a dream I knew was seminal, and it stayed with me. The dream was an enlarged image of a scrap of paper I had written on in waking life, with one of those crashing insights—duh, of course! . . . a half sheet of notebook paper covered with the names of tunes I knew I should do, and in the middle, writ large in my handwriting, the word Corcovado. I can still see it.
Both the notation and the dream were prescient about the significance of Brazilian—and Jobim’s—music in my future work.
But in the dream, the word Corcovado splayed on torn notebook paper was surrounded with images of guitars.
And that has been my great good fortune, to play with wonderful guitarists (too many to name but you know who you are) who have given me so much—then and ever since.
But to pick up again the tale of my new recordings, I have to back up a bit, so I can tell you about one guitarist in particular—Roberto Montero.
I met Roberto, who plays guitar on my new tunes, after I saw/heard him play with Cathy Segal-Garcia, visionary singer and educator. Cathy put me in touch with him and I told him about my project.
I had just moved to Santa Monica after two years in the Marina. So this was early 2005, I believe. Like Kirk, like me, he was someone come to LA from somewhere else, but in his case it was from Brazil—the south, actually.
We walked in my neighborhood and talked about music, and Brazil, and life, and became friends.
Like me, he was very excited about blending Brazilian traditions with American soul, jazz, and pop.
And to this day we have the most wonderful discussions... and though often under the radar (like other LA artists, just working all the time!) Roberto is a great artist and a fine man... and just wait until you hear his licks in my music!
My Story of Santino's
Sergio, who owns Santino’s (both Venice and Santa Monica) is from Argentina, & he's a terrific chef and a great cork artist! Everything in the restaurant is made of cork! (The restaurant is named after his son.) And that's where I met Los Pinguos,his buddies and one of my favorite bands ever— then and now.
Here's my favorite youtube of them:
A couple of them were living upstairs at the restaurant then, it wasn’t too long after I moved to Santa Monica, & not too long since they’d come from Buenos Aires.
Santino’s is in my neighborhood, so while roaming between my apartment and the beach one late-ish afternoon, I poked my head in to ask about their music. I somehow knew they had music (that sixth sense). Those of you who know: this was before the fire, which later closed them down for maybe a couple years.
And Fefe Lee the bass player was in there (with the reddish hair:), and we talked a bit. A guitar was hanging on the wall like decoration, and he reached up and grabbed it and started playing (what a fine artist), and we played & sang every song we could, mostly Jobim. And have been saying since how we must play together, and I know we will.
And so I went to hear Los Pinguos one of those nights and many after, and it’s very special when they play there (they used to play on the Promenade until they gained their fans). The guys are along the wall and the place fills to the brim, the whole room swaying and loving it.
And finally one day a year+ ago, I was in there hearing Norma LaTuchie and Fabiano, who play usually Fridays, and I had this slap-the-head moment, duh! and I asked them for a night. And have been there since :)
Los Pinguos are in Buenos Aires for a spell, but were playing at the restaurant some Thursdays as a trio… and Cory Phillips plays there...
Monday nights are the kicker there, because Sergio cooks the whole night and dinner is free with a glass of wine or a beer! And that’s when the really cool folks go, that’s all I’m saying but it’s an international set, and a blast.
So yeah, they always have great artists there, great food & wine, and it’s just an all-around win. One super-sweet example of advantages of the big city.
A Thanksgiving Story
The last blog (lo these many weeks) that I wrote about my new CD project told the story about Jazz Camp West in 2005. This one's about my overwhelming gratitude for another indirect outcome of that fateful week: my meeting Liz Kinnon—arranger, composer, pianist extraordinaire, and without whom this project would still be a pipedream.
At Jazz Camp I met Jackie Ryan, whose star has zoomed upward since then—yay!!—she was teaching there and we became and remain friends.
And she connected me to Liz.
Liz is one of the most behind-the-scenes virtuosos (virtuosi!) around, a real musicians' musician. For many years she has been one of a small group of highly respected musicians who have the last fail-safe word on the accuracy and efficacy of all arrangements/ scores/ charts for the Academy Awards shows.
She teaches at Colburn—the most respected & prestigious music conservatory in LA. All of this with two sons, both brilliant young artists, one in college and one about to be. Liz is married to Dick Mitchell, first-call horn player (& plays on my recording!:) who can usually be heard at The Pantages.
And wait until you hear what she has done for my music! She’s arranged and directed, and she composed a horns solo for My Man that’ll knock your socks off. And I say with deep humility— to me, her solos are what I most enjoy hearing on the four tracks we’re completing. Plus she has become a cherished friend, and is just a super all-around person.
Want to hear the most gorgeous rockin’ Brazilian jazz? Here’s her latest CD:
Music in Hanapepe
I’m taking a break here from writing about my recording to tell you about my time in Hawaii, on Kauai, where I (mostly) stayed in the little old hamlet of Hanapepe— southwest Kauai. I like that area because it has many locals and not the high-end groomed vibe of much of the northern coast. Hanapepe has its river, which is huge and beautiful, and the Talk Story Bookstore, which is great. But as everyone echoes, Hanapepe never recovered from the 1982 hurricane, let alone the major 1992 hurricane Iniki. So it’s funky, which is just fine with me.
What I didn’t anticipate at all was how much music there is in Hanapepe—it’s everywhere!
My house in Hanapepe was right on the river—what a gift. On my first morning walk to the main street in town, I passed several eating places: a Chinese restaurant on the corner of my street and the highway—run-down 50s-ish building, long empty room—it seemed like anyone who could open a restaurant, did—a taco stand catty-cornered did steady highway business. But I chuckled to myself about the Chinese restaurant, that empty was not a good sign, and I probably wouldn’t try it. On the nearest corner was a Hawaiian-style deli and fish market with different pokes every day—that looked more promising. A quiet, sleepy town drumming up business however it could. Or so I thought.
But a couple nights later, I got the real picture. I heard this rocking music, very cool, latin-y but groovin, live and loud—where was it coming from? Not far away… I walked in the deepening dusk down the dusty road, and sure enough, it was the Chinese restaurant on the corner. Cars spilled over the long parking lots onto the street and highway shoulder. A live band played one end of the room and the place was packed— with plenty of dancers and mostly full tables.
I went in to see what it was and the woman at the bakery end filled me in: kachi-kachi music. What kind of music is that? Mexican-Portugese, she told me, selling me some bread for the following morning.
Okay, so it was only later I got the real scoop. “Los Kauaianos” originally were a traditional Puerto Rican sound with old mountain instruments and music (imported by Puerto Rican sugar workers, with the style named by the Japanese after the sound of the guiro) and the current band is headed by Portugese musican Wally Rita, and known and sought widely—and not just on Kauai—as great “move-your-feet kine” music. But they regularly pack the Omoide Bakery & Wong’s Chinese Restaurant in Hanapepe :)
But that was only the beginning! When I found the greatest thrift shop I’ve ever met (not the Salvation Army, which was across the street and fine, but the Habitat for Humanity warehouse thrift store, down the road a piece), I met a woman trying on the same dress, and it turns out she’s a singer, going to be performing that night with Westside Smitty by the swinging bridge for the Hanapepe Art Walk, their once-a-week big event, everything open 6 to 9 (including many trippy and excellent galleries) and lots of music. And so it was.
But, I wasn’t to catch it all. Because by then I had encountered the greatest gift of my whole trip: Susan and Michael Barretto. That first walk across the highway to the town proper (my place was makai, ocean side of the highway, not mauka, or mountain side) I saw a shop on the river (by the old bridge) with the sign, Hanapepe Naturals. Right up my alley (lit. and fig.)! Turned out to be an ayurvedic healing center, healthfood shop and spa, owned by Susan (who is Australian).
We struck up a friendship right away, the way it sometimes happens, and then as I was leaving, I saw the CDs on the counter: Michael, her husband. So we chatted music a bit, and she invited me to hang in their shop during Art Walk, and that’s what we did.
Without wifi I knew almost nothing about Michael when I met him that Friday night, but I could see he’s a major musician, and I was awed and grateful when he graciously played and sang songs I knew—and we played and chatted the night away. It turns out he played and toured for many years with Taj Mahal, one of my lifelong favorites, and he regaled us with stories. When I wanted to buy a CD (seemed right), he said the first one was his “pride and joy,” so I bought it.
That was not my last encounter with them—I spent some more time before finally heading north—nor was it the biggest surprise, as much as I like them and fully intend to strengthen this sweet new friendship. The real kicker was the CD itself—I fell in love with it immediately! Maybe that happens to you fairly often, but it pretty much never happens to me, not anymore. Entitled Sometimes I Go, it is simply wonderful.
Michael is the real-deal Hawaiian, from the south of Kauai (Koloa) but with all those intersections of style of our generation—blues, folk, rock, country—and is a first-rate songwriter and performer. Honestly, I’ve been listening to it ever since. And everyone I’ve played it for has the same reaction—it’s just good.
Hearing his music online is a bit challenging, though there are live videos. The best way, I found, is his myspace site—this link should get you to the song I’d love you to hear, the title track Sometimes I Go.
But you know, this experience of being introduced to Michael’s music has me again wondering, what actually makes music good? What is good music, what makes it work? And I guess, I think, it’s something about having lived, loved, lost. Just straight-up heart, movingly rendered in art, one embedded in the other.
This new CD... the first few years, and Jazz Camp!
This is continued from the previous entry, below...
For several years starting in 2003, my ideas for this new CD were germinating & percolating. I developed Brazilian tunes to comprise the core of the project—Chega de Saudade, Felicidade (these two are among the four already recorded) and other contenders. It was a challenge to get many gigs here in LA but I did get some very good ones, and when bands were comfortable doing these tunes, we performed them. I took percussion lessons and classes from Kirk (Brundage—see previous entry) and learned more wtf I was doing—how the different Latin rhythms work— for example in the Cuban tradition vs. the Brazilian tradition.
In 2005 I attended Jazz Camp West, an incredible northern California orgy of jazz education and performance immersion—check it out at http://www.jazzcampwest.com, and if you’re a musician at any stage get yourself there—beg borrow or steal the dough but do it— you won’t regret it. With a ratio of about one instructor to three students, and classes of all kinds, it was and is extremely intense and intensive—I only regret not being able to attend since.
That week I had a daily percussion class with Carolyn Brandy (!) and one in duet performance with Ricardo Peixoto, one of the great Brazilian guitarists in this country. Luckily for me there were few students in his class, and not only did I study and play with Ricardo daily, but at the end of the 8-days we performed Chega de Saudade as a duet before the whole camp. Wow!! Watching that video now I’m embarrassed, but I learned a great deal—and an interesting thing happened...
That night when I came off the stage and out the back of the auditorium, several of the Brazilians were there—I specifically remember heavy-hitter pianist Jovino Santos Neto—waiting for me. They told me what a good job I had done with Chega and with the Portugese for the tune—they were very encouraging, and of course that made my week.
But the other interesting thing was, I had sung the English version of the tune written by Jon Henricks, No More Blues, the first time through before Ricardo soloed, and then the Portugese the last chorus. The Brazilians all told me how they hated that English version, mainly because it doesn’t at all reflect the original lyrics, but tells a completely different “story.”
That got my attention, and started me on a journey to write an English version of Chega that was an accurate rendition of the original story & lyrics. So that’s what I did, which took me years, and that’s what you’ll hear as the English version on my new recording.
Perhaps the most important catalyst for me at Jazz Camp in 2005 was meeting the gifted prodigy Trelawny Rose, whom I tracked down to be my vocal coach as soon as I could, and she has been my vocal coach ever since. She’s a Santa Cruz girl, so we hit it off right away, but at the time she was living in LA working with Roger Love, the famous “vocal coach to the stars."
In a great LA story: she first took a job as his nanny, and then finally bit the bullet and asked him if she could be his apprentice. So she became his only ever apprentice, and has built her own clientele (and singing career) since. She later moved to Oakland, now has moved back here, but we have met fairly regularly over these years in the north and the south.
She’s a superb singer (check out her CDs!) and an outstanding teacher and coach, and now she is the producer of my vocals for this CD.
Next time: yet more developments from Jazz Camp West
The Story of the new CD? first installment
My new CD project (see also below, under my French rap and In The Works) was born in a discussion with Kirk Brundage, maybe the second time we met, as we walked along the Marina Peninsula beach. I lived on the Peninsula most of my first two years here—though all I could manage was, first, a little bedroom with a balcony overlooking the Ballona inlet that feeds the Venice canals, and then a basement studio (no windows but a private outdoor sunken patio:) on Quarterdeck.
Matt Goldsby (composer extraordinaire and now a distinguished judge!)—of the family long dear to me from SF bay area theatre—knew Brazilian dance troupe leader Linda Yudin, and Kirk was then playing for her Viver Brasil, so that’s how we met.
So Kirk and I were walking on the blazing beach, bonding over being new & raw in LA and over what it’s like to partner with someone from Brazil:) And he had turned me on to Daniela Mercury by then. And we agreed with that special, big-new-idea enthusiasm, we each had been thinking we’d really like to try doing some great old soul and other classic American tunes (jazz and not) in Afro-Brazilian rhythms.
That was in 2003.
Stay tuned for the next installment…
my French rap
I did it, I wrote a French rap—that was the idea to end one of my new four songs and Marina helped me write it, my dear friend who lives in Paris. We went there together during the Viet Nam war (enrolled in “philosophe” at the Sorbonne, but everyone was on strike)—and she never came back.
So here it is, my archetypes, only in French. Got the idea from one of my influences: medical intuitive/mystic Carolyn Myss, who says we all have twelve archetypes. Archetypes like Jung’s—generalized patterns like story characters that we enact in our individuated incarnation in order to learn the lessons (or not) that it’s our lot to learn: we learn through acting them out in our life stories.
The archetypes are neutral—they have a golden side and a dark side. We all share four: the child, the victim, the saboteur, and the prostitute. The rest are up for grabs. What are yours?
But initially I just set out to write a French rap, and I had one line, “C’est le saboteur…qui me fait peur…” (because the saboteur sabotages through fear)
And I had some other lame ideas, and then suddenly I realized, maybe I could use all my archetypes and make simple couplets, but I would need help: Marina! Creative work together is something we have done and will do :)
So I explained the archetypes and how mine are working in my life right now and wallah!— Marina came up with more cool couplets that just fit and we’ve been working on them (indeed she was here for a visit & shored up my pronunciation—her daughter and my also-bud Veda leads French tours out of LA).
So you see, it’s not really just me expressing myself in these, but also Marina so you’ll never know which is which! Again, a true collaborative effort, gotta love it—
And the thing is, the 12 French couplets all just fit, in the ending we had recorded, the twelfth one just ends on the end of the song :)
You’ll see it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek—but archetypes are pretty fun and very cool… and helpful, you bet. Any effort at consciousness is helpful don’t you think?
Most importantly of course, wait until you hear the song! (Still under wraps…:).
Here’s the French:
C’est le saboteur
Qui me fait peur
Mais pas la pionnierre, qui,
Toujours me nourrit
Puis la prostituée
Se ballade dans la journée
L’amant, lui, me fâche
Il est toujours si lâche !
La rebelle en moi s’éclate
Alors nous prenons date
J’suis donc une artiste
Ca éclaire mes pistes
Oh-là-là, la mère !
Me fait payer bien cher !
Meme la professeure
Peut-etre c’est un leurre
Surtout c’est l’enfant
Qui me guide maintenant
La victime partout
Les prend tous jusqu’au bout
Le délivreur est la
C’est mieux quand il s’en va
En fin la déesse
Est la source de ma sagesse
And here’s a translation:
It’s the saboteur who causes me fear
But not the pioneer, who always nourishes me
Then the prostitute… she strolls in the daytime
The lover— he makes me mad—he’s always so lax
The rebel in me strikes—and then we make a date
Therefore I’m an artist—and that lights my paths
Oh-la-la the mother—costs me dearly
Ditto the professeur—maybe he’s a lure
Mainly it’s the child who guides me now
The victim everywhere—takes every one to the limit
The rescuer is there—it’s better when he leaves
Finally the goddess is the source of my wisdom
But it sounds better in French!!
Write me please, send me anything. If I had a thousand dollars for every dear friend I haven’t contacted lately, all my debts would be paid off…
In the Works
If you prefer headlines, skip to the end...
(But don't miss the plugs for my brilliant friends...)
My New Album!
It's a concept album, in some important ways (you know... everybody's always trying to get you to describe your work in categorical terms).
So here’s the concept, tweeters, for this album :)
Different genres of music—Brazilian jazz, soul, folk, country, blues (centered more or less around 1970)—and a few jazz standards (30s+), in Afro-Brazilian rhythms.
And I must add, it’s being developed collaboratively and improvised with some of the greatest musicians working in LA——completely jazz that way, this so-called coming “concept” album.
Okay, here’s the plan, fates willing. I will release The First Four as an EP.
This EP with my first four tracks will include three different genres of music (two of one): two Brazilian jazz (yes Jobim!) one country, and an old bluesy standard.
These tracks started in samba reggae rhythms and evolved to include elements of reggae, traditional Rio samba, samba afro, baião, and xote.
There you have it! When the EP is ready, you’ll hear about it.
Moreover, the above rhythms are among those to be found in my collaborator Kirk’s new books !!!! Kirk plays on my CD and we developed the different feels for the songs together with Liz Kinnon the pianist and musical director (as well as the other musicians): check out Kirk Brundage’s beautiful blue (Intro), red (Carnaval) and white (Candomble) manual series on Afro-Brazilian percussion, books that I edited at various points :), get them
at Alfred.com or at Amazon—on sale there for only 11.99!
While you’re out & about, check out my piano player Liz Kinnon’s CD Ms. Behavin’ for some glorious, exuberant, soaring, smokin’ Brazilian/American jazz—Liz is a greatcomposer and a great musician. With husband Dick Mitchell, master reeds man, who plays on my Dulce—here’s the CD:
Also playing on my new recordings, beside piano and percussion—that is, on Dulce Amor(demo), The First Four (jazz movements… soon!) and the full CD (to come)—are:
Enzo Todesco on drums, Roberto Montero on guitar, and Hussain Jiffry on bass.
And you must—especially you Playtime fans—please check out the new CD, To Eva, With Love from my vocal coach, Trelawny Rose, without whom my vocals would not be happening like this…
Talk about great cross-genre music—Eva Cassidy, one of my idols: Tim Prince turned me on to Eva Cassidy—he was my engineer and helped produce my first CD.
And speaking of, last but not least, that little CD, softly, is still going strong. If you haven’t bought it, you should! You’re listening to it on my site, unless you turned it off, which you can easily if you need to :)
There! That’s my blog!!
Okay here's the rest of the headlines:
The Playtime band is no more—may she rest in peace, and in the glow of glowing about all the sweet hours we’ve spent playing music—which we will still do (in fact, soon) just not as Playtime. But Barb and Mark and Linda have formed a new band, with grandson Elijah, 18, on bass. It’s wonderful, and they call themselves The Shady Characters :).
And you can catch them at Vino Prima on the Santa Cruz Wharf when you can—go get on their mailing list: just write Barb Gerry at email@example.com.
I have to update the last blog on this site, about my sister—those of you who know me well, know my (younger) sister went into congestive heart failure late this last November. Happily she is doing very well with her New Valve (it should probably have a name).
Those of you who didn’t get your free Mp3 versions of my prequel release, Dulce Amor (or Day After Day, in my original lyrics)—too bad, missed your chance. But I’ll be happy to send you another prequel pretty soon—gorgeous Dulce Amor—always with my great CD band—with new vocals. You’ll like it :)
There’ll be other gigs, I promise. Write me anytime you feel like it, please! firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently spent time on Kauai with my family (how fortunate can you get?) and my sister—singer-songwriter Ibby Cline (www.ibbycline.com)—had gotten a gig there, and I sang in with her and Richard Armentrout at a great venue in Kapaa on the eastern shore not far below Lihue: Trees. Comfortable, no-nonsense, music-focused place with good food. Hawaiian music in various forms predominates on the island (and is it lovely) but jazz is also to be found on Kauai, as well as good ol' fashioned (or even new-fashioned) rock 'n roll. This trip I learned more about the spiritual as well as the political history of the ancient Hawaiians. I think the atmosphere itself imparts joy— it does for me. Aloha, and Mahalo.
Avoiding the obvious
Is it weird to avoid writing about my CD that I'm working on— in this blog about my music— when that's the MAIN OVERWHELMING musical thing going on in my life?
Is it okay if i write about camping instead?
I think you know what I mean. You can't talk (in this case, write) about something so important when you're in the middle of it. The connections are still shimmering with process in flux.
But you should know I've been working on it steadily, session after session, with this outstanding, all-star band that includes Liz Kinnon on piano and arranging, Kirk Brundage on percussion and arranging that (maybe I could write about his books on Afro-Brazilian percussion instead, which I've been working on too....?!), Hussain Jiffrey on bass, Enzo Todesco on drums, Roberto Montero on guitar, and so far Dick Mitchell on reeds. I'm working with Paul Tavenner of Big City Recording. There—now you can go google those folks and see how great they are!
But there really will be a free download pretty soon, and it'll be nice. Oh, here's someone else you can google—Rodgers Grant. He's a composer who used to play keys with Mongo Santamaria back in the day and wrote Yeh-Yeh, which I as well as other singers have been performing since it's a knockout, timeless—and genre-less—tune. And he wrote some other, lesser-known but even more beautiful songs—like the one I've written lyrics for and that will be the free download. There, that's all I'll tell you for now. I'm happy to tell you more in person!
Now, about camping. Usually when I go to Santa Cruz to play with Playtime I stay in friends' houses, but in the summer I like to camp. I camp at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which has two parts—the very old and classic Big Redwoods part in the San Lorenzo River valley, and the part on the highest hill above, which is this fantastic micro-climate and micro-system of ocean floor risen up millions of years ago, quite rare, which is so beautiful and pleasant—clean, fine white sand, twisting orange-red madrone of all sizes and shapes, smallish oaks, brachen fern that comes up unfurling bright green little shoots everywherein the spring—it's a gorgeous place. The camp sites have plenty of space in between—in the one I had this last trip, I could see absolutely no-one else and no-one could see me. Living outside just feels so good!
To get to the river, it's a mile straight down almost, joining Eagle Creek to follow it down to the San Lorenzo. There's a white sand beach called Cable Car beach which gets just the right amount of sun most of the day but has dappled shade too. Lots of rocks—at the bend in the river below the beach there's a rapids over the rocks and you can sit in it if you hang on to the rocks and that's the best place to bathe. Or you can stroll along the river to the other part of the park, where the Big Trees are and right across the tracks is Roaring Camp which I suppose purists might dislike—an old amusement-ish park with a narrow-gauge railway, etc.—but I love it. Get this: the oldest big trees in the park (founded in the 1860s to preserve them) are 1400 to 1800 years old!
Have I sold you on it yet? I should do so well when this new CD is done!
30 Oct 09: Reflections on Santa Fe (New Mexico)
I was there to visit a longtime friend, but Santa Fe is a great music town—jazz, rock, plenty of roots.
I did a radio interview on the NPR station KSFR—for the eclectic show Jazz a la Carta with wonderful DJ & interviewer Ricardo Perez. (An earlier one with him is on the About page—check it out).
And I saw the light there, the sky, felt the air, a bit of the country. I didn’t have much chance to see the amazing art work which is everywhere (except for a couple wonderful hours in the Georgia O'Keefe museum), but saw a few historical buildings (the chapel at Bishops Lodge, written about in Death Comes to the Archbishop).
If you've never been to Santa Fe, the architecture is amazing. It's highly regulated to two types so is mostly all the same—low curving brick-orange-red adobe, which is very cool, except that it makes it harder to tell the more authentic areas from the less so. At altitude of around 7000 ft., it was true fall there, with golden leaves carpeting the walkways and river beds.
Best of all was our trip out to Bandelier (Nat’l Monument). What a wealth of nature and culture. I LOVE the ancient pueblo dwellings (I guess Anasazi is not used anymore). I was able to spend a couple hours on my own there, to weave through and to climb up and up the steep! ladders to the top cave under the cliff and watch the sun flare out behind the opposite ridge. And what a beautiful little valley (Frijoles). They said there are many, many sites there, most of them inaccessible except by trail, which got me thinking about backpacking in there sometime—those old cave dwellings really do it to me, push some deep button.
I¹ve always basically been a cliff-dweller.
Sunday night it snowed—soundless white. The air is so high, dry, cool!
Could for sure feel the altitude.
Good to feel another part of the country.
16 Oct 09
Last Monday at the Hotel Angeleno was pretty great. The chic narrow room curve-wraps around the sky-scraping restaurant—it's like you're leaning right over the glittering lights everywhere below.
Ryan (Cross) is funny, really funny as well as a terrific player, Lorca Hart's sound—fat, deep or smokin'—is as back-easing as his sweet slow drawl (crossgrooves.com), and Peter Smith is one of LA's young lions—brilliant, warm, can play anything and does (petersmithmusic.com).
Sherwood Sledge put on a virtuoso show like I've truly never seen before—from him or anyone else. I did my thing, and Elmer Hopper (xplatter.com) came with his guitar and his husky-clear, heart-squeezing voice and he played and we sang together and Ooo Baby Baby had patrons dancing a slow bear-hug in the aisles...To top it all off blues ace Todd Johnston played and sang the last song, leaving everyone thirsting for more...
What a feast of pleasure (even the food is terrific), leaving me with a deeper appreciation of this bursting city—get thee over there on a Monday night!
09 Sept 09
Photo-blog for this site's start-up
For my first entry, I wanted to rif on the images in this new site and write about some of the people near & dear to me who guide me through life’s mazes. You can see the first four pages/photos (Home, About, Music, & Calendar) are by professional photog Mike Quain, a pro unbelievably fantastic at what he does (the best pros in LA are unpretentious, open and giving people), and a great guy (from San Jose, so we bonded immediately). He & his downtown studio have it all.
The photo on this (Blog) page is by my longtime dear friend Jude Todd, former faculty colleague and artist & writer extraordinaire, and mother of Sammy the cat. She was very humble and reticent about taking pics of me, but she’s a great photog, and she captured the ship, my ship! on the beach at (my hood) Aptos.
The last two (Press Kit and Contact) are from the Scarfplay series, I called it. For a fuller range of the Scarfplay series by ace Barb Gerry, see the video she made of me with Triste, on the Music page, click on the VIDEO button. Barb* took these one of my trips to Santa Cruz, last August, before I knew what to do with this site. One afternoon before she Mark & I* were to play—she & I went up Bay Street towards the U, that median pathway with bushes & hidden oasis-creek between the hustle of Mission and the world’s most gorgeous University, flung far over meadows and redwood vales climbing from the Westcliff coast into the mountains.
The scarf Kathy* gave me for my birthday in 07, it has super (and changeable) colors and you can wear in hot weather, which it was. We also took pics that look like a Midwestern Madonna wearing a mantilla to church (see the Music page Video). Besides a killer singer and my Playtime bandmate (with Mark and Linda), Barb is a superb artist at making a girl look good. And see her latest film! (besides the video she did of me:) CHECK OUT THESE CROCODILES IN COSTA RICA!
I vetted Barb's shots with some closest homies* and they liked them. Except for Nina, who just did not get the scarf :)
Just for fun, here’s some of their responses: about the pic on the Press Kit page called Scarfplay 1 Manj thought this was S & M-y and both she and Kath said you can’t see you. Kath also said it isn’t animated or emotional enough. Barb Ketchum said this was arty but not welcoming. Ibby loved it; Becky liked it too. I of course love a picture where you can’t see me, I’ll take any opportunity to hide and be invisible that the universe offers, and the scarf was good because it gave me something clear to do (business!! So essential!). Judy, my terrific web designer (2WorldsInteractive) put it right in herself. The pic on the contact page was nearly unanimously the hands-down fave.
*Glossary of Homies
Barbara Gerry, who took the Scarfplay photos, is a fantastic photographer, singer, and beautician. She and lifelong professional guitarist and songwriter Mark Chetkovich have a killer rock/ pop/ folkrock band, Playtime, that I sing with in Santa Cruz, where they live and I come from. Come hear us!! Also, Mark is the brother of my best friend Kathy, see below. Barb regularly has photo shows in Santa Cruz.
Manj is my daughter Manjula Martin, artist, writer, editor, performer, musician—definitely the coolest, hippest, and among the very smartest individuals I’ve ever met, & with the greatest offbeat taste. She lives in San Francisco, in a to-die-for apartment in the Mission.
Kathy is Kathy Chetkovich, possibly the most exquisite writer on the planet and the smartest and sweetest and sharpest advisor ever and my best longtime & creative buddy and dear friend—if you want to know more, you know what to do, but FIND her book of short stories and track down her essays, and btw this March her second play ran in New York… I was there! Kathy lives in New York City now and sometimes in Santa Cruz.
Ibby is my younger sister Ibby Cline, a singer-songwriter, musician, writer, Buddhist and scientist. She lives in a house at over 8500 feet near the top of Copper Canyon, between Denver and Boulder in CO. My younger sister’s site: http://www.ibbycline.com/index.htm
My other sister, Barbara Gaylord, lives in Hunstville Alabama with her husband and grandkids, and she was the one with me wearing the lace mantillas to church every Sunday. (The best part came after, when the veil came off or the hat was pulled down tight, when our Daddy would drive us to Uncle John’s Pancake House with the top down on the caddy.)
Becky Linder is my dear friend who’s an artist and teacher, flashing bright and cool and funny, a wonderful person and mom of Miles, wife of Brian. They live in Culver City. Barbara Ketchum is a wonderful artist, businesswoman, and dream buddy who also lives in Culver City. Nina Bongiovanni is my dear friend whom I got to know when her sister Joanna, one of the reasons I moved to LA, was in the process of taking her leave of our planet. Nina is the creator of the gorgeous silverware line NinaB (Annie Glass has it) and an accomplished cook and businesswoman. She lives in Santa Monica, just a straight cross-town shot from where I live.
Thanks for your interest! For more bio-type stuff go to the Memoires tab.