Monday, June 4, 2007

Scullers Weekend

Boston was a very busy place this past weekend: Numerous college reunions, commencements, high school proms, a Yankees-Red Sox three-game series at Fenway Park and my own Friday and Saturday engagements at Scullers Jazz Club. The quartet led by Norman Simmons consistently played Happy Jazz***, the audiences were attentive and generous, and I was pleased to sign copies of "Dearest Duke" after my shows. As for the baseball contests, they were intense for players and fans. The series split, with the Yankees taking two from the Red Sox: On Friday, 9-5, Saturday Red Sox prevailed 11-6, and last night's significantly stressful go-round ended in a narrow 6-5 victory for the Yankees. I am feeling justifiably spent.

***When the quartet is having fun, when we're all loose and enjoying our combined communication, it can only be described as Happy Jazz. No angst, no ego trips, no grumbling. I like to think it's the sort of ambience Ella Fitzgerald created every time she appeared, rewarded for her artistry by demands for more. Hers was A Perfect Voice! We loved her, smiled with her and generally had a good time sharing the music, toes tapping, bodies moving rhythmically just as they would to the pulsating drive of a Count Basie concert or the playfulness and swing of a Louis Armstrong performance. In a very real sense, this same sort of buoyancy occured at Scullers on Friday and Saturday night. I like to keep it light, mingled with one or more ballads containing classic lyrics. At least, that's my method.

I would be extraordinarily remiss if I failed to mention that Rebecca Parris, one of this country's finest jazz singers, graciously agreed to join me for a bit of fun on Friday night. I could never compete with Becca in the scat singing department, but she very tactfully chose not to issue the challenge. Also on Friday night, Ray Santisi, one of Boston's most respected jazz pianists and Berklee College of Music professor, joined me for a tune. Fun night.

AND THE ENVELOPE PLEASE! The First Ever Knucklehead Award goes to the unknown gentleman who guided his young sons (nephews?), approximate ages 6, 4 and 2-1/2, through the lobby of my hotel, cheerfully suggesting: "Okay guys! Let's go play on the escalator!" Familial love personified. Maybe he's the person who originated the idea of sending obstreperous children out to play in traffic. The boys completed two circuits on the moving stairs and were about to embark on the third go when my husband, grandfather of five equally young boys, made his move. Placing his hand firmly on the man's shoulder, he said quietly: "This is NOT a good idea", pointing out the very obvious dangers for the kids, information this Knucklehead seemed surprised to learn.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Work Takes Precedence

I am singing this weekend (June 1 & 2) at the-absolutely-wonderful-in-every-way jazz club Scullers in Boston. Backed by a superb quartet led by Norman Simmons, I expect to have a wonderful time. Copies of the new Arbors CD "Dearest Duke" will be available for purchase, copies of which I will happily sign if requested to do so.

Norman Simmons, piano; Steve LaSpina, bass; Paul Bollenback, guitar; Sheila Early, drums. I am submitting links to their web sites for your further edification. I am very proud to work with these musicians at any time, and have been fortunate to find them all available to join me when I am offered work.

Norman Simmons

Steve LaSpina

Paul Bollenback

Sheila Early: (Check Norman Simmons' site)

Hope everyone stays cool and calm this week, and that the Red Sox will continue their exciting string of victories. At this writing, the dear lads are leading the Eastern Division of the American League, ahead of the Baltimore Orioles by 11-1/2 games, Toronto Blue Jays by 12, and The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay tied at 13-1/2 games out each. Ah, the bliss of it all. May it last the season!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bird Calls

4:10 AM: No, I did not dream a dream starring Charlie Parker. Rather, I was awakened by vigorous bird song very near my window. The sound is sunny like a bride's wedding day smile and as complex as a Bill Charlap piano solo. I listen in quiet appreciation of the song's intricate message. After a few passages, I also begin to sense an urgency, possibly a stress call of some kind?

The song lasts up to six seconds, stops, and then repeats. It is so elaborate, I'm unable to recognize any rhythmic pattern. Three or four messages, separated by stops and then repeats. Then, I hear what I believe is a distant response. My chap's apparently been attempting to contact his partner: "Harry! WHERE ARE YOU?"

"I'm over here, Ralph. In the third branch from the top on the elm tree behind the barbeque pit". Ralph flew off to join his pal and I went back to sleep, vowing to listen to my Charlap cds while writing today.

(Currently enchanted by a 1997 favorite track from Bill's cd titled "All Through The Night", Criss 1153 CD. His newest release is the dazzling "Live At The Village Vanguard" on the Blue Note label. Go ... run ... buy it!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"What A Difference A Day Makes...."

On the day after cataract surgery, the vision in my left eye is remarkably clear and bright. I am understandably startled and delighted by the improvement, requesting the same procedure for the right eye to be scheduled as soon as feasible. My brilliant opthalmologist agrees he can duplicate the miracle at the end of the summer. I am anticipating a week singing at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York in September and I want to visit MoMA during that visit, plus Really See my friends, the musicians in the band and the audience!

The current exhibit at Boston's MFA features works by Edward Hopper through August 19 and I'm willing to face the hordes even more bravely now that the haze and fuzz are no longer a bother.

Coming this week: Meeting Mel Brooks in New York, pre-"2,000 Year Old Man".

Friday, May 11, 2007

I Remember, Mama

Here's deep gratitude to my mother, who dreamed of living in the most beautful home in our little town. When I was five years old, her dream came true. My parents, my sister and I became The Folks Who Live On The Hill. The house rested midst four acres of meadow and woods, bordering Mr. Bailey's farm where he kept dairy cows. Times were enlivened considerably whenever one of the heifers took advantage of an unlocked gate, casually wandering into our back garden. Summers found me quietly reading my Nancy Drew books under the tall trees. Could my childhood surroundings have been more idyllic? Well, yes: there was a small lake just across the road, down a path filled with wild blueberry bushes.

Thinking of my mother this Sunday and all the happy years I spent in that house (where, among other things, my sister and I invented a clever rainy-day diversion we called "Name That Tune"), I knew from the moment I heard it, the song "Looking Back" by Jimmy Rowles perfectly describes those days. The startling thing is that the lyric was written by a then amazingly mature nineteen year-old named Cheryl Ernst.

This is the house where I grew up, followed by the lyric:

I still see the meadow come alive with the morning
From the house where I lived as a child
And the sun as he lifted his lazy head
Shining down where the clover grows wild

The nights that I slept with all the windows wide open
The rain coming in through the screen
And the pale silvery mist draped around the moon
Was the loveliest sight I have seen

Then I left and I wandered
Through the world on my own
But that old house on the hill
The only home I have known

The shelter of tall grass
Was made for young lovers
To lie down and dream upon
Though the years and the worries
Have changed my life
All the memories of then still live on

And wherever I go
And the grayer I grow
I'll remember my home in the country

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

In The Middle Of A Buffalo Herd

I mentioned in a previous post (see Friday, April 27 "Coming Attractions") that Jimmy Rowles was an animal lover of the first magnitude. Here is yet another example of his undying devotion and fascination.

Jimmy told me there was a modest-sized Zoo located not far from his childhood home in Spokane, Washington. One of the exhibits featured a small herd of North American Bison. These shaggy creatures can reach up to 6½ feet tall, grow to ten feet long and weigh 900 to 2,000 lbs. The heads and forequarters are massive, and both sexes have short, curved horns, which they use when fighting for status within the herd and for defense.

At age seven, Jimmy loved to stand beside the buffalo enclosure, gazing at the huge beasties. He, however, craved intimate contact, so when he discovered a vulnerable spot in the fence, he used his trusty little pail and shovel to dig a hole deep enough to accomodate his slender child's body. He quietly seated himself on the ground near the herd, hoping one or two would be curious enough to give him the once-over. Before he was subjected to such spine-tingling scrutiny, his presence was discovered by a horrified Zoo employee who whisked him out of harm's way. Jimmy never forgave the man.

Fast forward to LA and a jazz club where an adult Jimmy is featured pianist. As he approaches the bar after a set, he sees a large man with long, luxurious hair and a full beard. Jimmy: "Man! You look just like a buffalo"! The man in question laughs and introduces himself. He's Bill Holman, the multi-talented arranger/composer. From that day to his last, Jimmy always called Holman "The Buffalo" and introduced me to him in that manner once when Bill was visiting New York. His hairy countenance suggested he was still on low scissors maintenance, and I could see why Jimmy saw the resemblance. At the time, we failed to appreciate the irony of it all: Buffalo invited us to join him to see a performance of Stephen Sondheim's brilliant production of "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street".

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Weekend For Sports

For those of us who relish sitting around, watching others exert themselves, this was a terrific weekend. A major golf tournament in Charlotte, NC provided Tiger Woods with yet another victory, although it wasn't exactly like eating a box of chocolates for him. The Red Sox took two out of three from the Minnesota Twins. A 20-horse field at The Kentucky Derby stymied all but the best handicappers. My personal, In-House Equine Counsellor (aka my husband) confidently persuaded me to place my faith and money on Street Sense. The horse paid $11.80 to win and I had him across the board and in combinations. I took him out to dinner. My husband, not the horse.

The coming week finds me flitting about to various doctors' offices, preparing for cataract surgery May 15th. But before that, I am looking forward to Tuesday night's performance by my friend Daryl Sherman, a singer-pianist I much admire, who will be a treat to hear even if she appears but a blurry figure on stage. She's at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston.

While I tend to these matters, I will also take some time to work on various drafts for posting which I hope will amuse you. Watch this space.