#jazzcongress, music biz

First Morning – Wake Up Calls

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Jazz Congress Confidential – Part Two

I have never been a “morning person”, and living on Pacific and Mountain Time for the past 25 years has only exacerbated my inability to fully function before noon in the Eastern Time zone. That said, I really DID want to get as much from attending the Jazz Congress, so I’d done a lot of research and had planned to attend the panel on The Power of Crowdfunding. At 9:30 AM, for me, it just didn’t happen. I DID talk later with others who had managed to be there, and they filled me in on how moderator Mac Randall  had led the discussion with  Leigh Lust , Jon Madof  and Maria Schneider.

 

It probably didn’t help that, in addition to the (to me!) relatively early hour, I really dislike the concept of crowdfunding. It may be “the wave of the future”, but I’m old-school and find the idea of online begging repulsive. In the past, organizations like the NEA helped artists finance their projects, and even though the recipients were utilizing “other people’s money”, the funding came from a collective; the US taxpayers. Artists weren’t reduced to figuratively standing hat-in-hand, begging for survival from complete strangers.  And trying to entice donations by offering premiums and pseudo-creative involvement cheapens the paradigm that much more – I don’t know about other creators, but I sure don’t want anyone peeking over my shoulder while I’m deciding the next word or next note or next chord in my project! I want to wait until I’m sure I’m finished with it before you get to hear/see!!  While I know there’s a current trend towards soliciting input from the community, requesting the audience’s opinion and pretending we’re ALL creating together, I prefer a little more respect for the creative impulse, which, like a shy person in a public toilet, doesn’t want to be observed. For me, there’s a time for privacy (composition) and a time for the spotlight (performance) – at least when it comes to non-disposable art that the creator actually values!?

So it’s probably just as well I couldn’t pull myself together first thing that first morning – I might have said something I would have regretted. As it was, I had to bite my tongue when I passed by Maria Schneider later that day; “Girl!”, I wanted to say, “you HAD a recording contract with a major label! You won freakin’ GRAMMY awards! What is WRONG with you? Why couldn’t you enjoy letting the music biz machine work for you and just concentrate on the music part!?” Something I may never understand.

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I DID make it to the next panel on the schedule:  Gender & Jazz – discussion starts at 1:36:00 in  with Michelle Mercer  moderating Terri Lyne Carrington, Ingrid Jensen , John Murph and Ellen Seeling . I had high hopes when the discussion began with the words “systemic sexism” because to me, that’s much more important than reciting specific instances of individuals being sexually assaulted by their bosses and/or peers, and addresses the ocean of misogyny in which we all swim. But Terri Lyne and Ingrid have apparently never had to grapple with this to the extent that most females I know have had to, and their comments revealed an airy-fairy reality that doesn’t actually exist for most of us humans! There’s nothing wrong with being aware of “the soul connection thread of life”, but let’s not ignore the elephant in the room, eh?  Terri Lyne and Ingrid seem to believe that meritocracy always trumps gender, which makes me wonder: are they innately superior musicians, able to deny the problem actually is a problem, at least for them? Where does this leave the rest of us mere mortals, who are not superstars?

 

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Ellen Seeling – photo courtesy of Sandra Marlowe http://www.sandramarlowe.com

On the other hand, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with everything Ellen Seeling said – from her description of decades of gender discrimination on the bandstand and its impact on women and girls – to her well-reasoned solutions to correct this prejudiced treatment. While not discounting the spiritual nature of creating music, Ellen focused on how soul-destroying misogyny is in the real world, and offered suggestions of how to level the playing field in real life. I applauded her resilience as a musician forced to confront sexism every day of her career, and the audience and I embraced her practical ideas of how to change the landscape by portraying and promoting women as musical mentors, judges and leaders. The Girls Jazz Camp pioneered by Ellen and her partner Jean Fineberg is a life-changing opportunity for young female musicians to learn the musical and social skills needed to compete. Active encouragement for girl music students starting in elementary and middle schools, to shape their self-esteem in spite of all-pervasive patriarchal pressure to the contrary, is the beginning of equality for all.

In the professional world, Ellen identified established groups that systematically exclude women from consideration, including our hosts, Jazz at Lincoln Center, whose big band amazingly hasn’t included a single female instrumentalist in 30 years! The lack of a standardized code of conduct demands to be addressed, and women musicians need to organize and educate their communities about the discrimination that persists in spite of decades of effort to achieve equal treatment. At the very least, OPEN job listings for available positions and blind auditions are called for.  Boycotts of jazz festivals that fail to feature women instrumentalists will bring more awareness to this problem, including boycotting sponsors of these sexist events. When asked how audience makeup affects sexist attitudes, Ellen responded that including women on stage will increase audience size – and I believe she is right! I’ve watched for 45 years as women musicians have been passed over, ignored, minimized and… #timesup !!

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#jazzcongress, music biz

Mama may have…

JC1-11-12-18Jazz Congress Confidential – Part One

As a singer/songwriter myself, the panel discussion on Jazz Vocalists and Repertoire last Thursday was of great interest to me.  Ann Hampton Callaway, Jazzmeia Horn, John Pizzarelli and Catherine Russell joined moderator Deborah Grace Winer for an hour of talk and performance.  I was especially interested in seeing and perhaps meeting Ann and Catherine, as I hoped I might interest them in some of MY songs.

The discussion began with the obligatory joke about advising female singers in their early teens against adding Love For Sale  to their repertoire.  Then there was a lot of talk about how critical the lyrics were – the apparent sanctity of the words of a song completely overshadowing the significance of the melody, rhythm and chord progression. I might have bought into this partially, at least – except for the performance of “God Bless The Child” by Catherine and John towards the end of the hour – which inspired winces when she substituted the wrong words and he played some very un-choice chords behind her. You can see/hear for yourself HERE  – starting at around 57 minutes in. Both John and Catherine were apparently quite pleased with themselves, as was much of the audience – but after carrying on about the sacred nature of the lyrics and their ability to convey the message of the song, I’m here to tell you that to me, there’s a world of difference between “though the Bible says” and “so the Bible says” – also “empty pockets don’t even make the grade” vs. “empty pockets don’t ever make the grade”.  The devil is in the details.

I have a great deal of respect for both John and Catherine as established legacy artists, i.e. their parents were “heavy hitters” in the music industry – and so I hold them to a higher standard than generic club date musicians/singers. They know better, thus they should do better! Sloppiness in performance affects meaning and creates the wrong impression of the song. Catherine and John need to remember that while most people in the audience are well acquainted with Billie Holiday’s work, for some people, this could be the first time they hear this song. For someone else, it may be the last time they hear the song. Being careless is perhaps caring less than a performer should – and an industry panel on repertoire is not the place to be careless!

So I say: God Bless The Singer and the Musician… who care enough to get the lyrics and music right!!

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Home

Once a New Yorker, Always a New Yorker

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Although NYC was Mecca for my family, I moved away permanently almost 35 years ago. Still, some things about living in the city have stayed with me; my visceral reaction to the energy on the streets of “the city that never sleeps”, the memory of the sounds and smells, the incredible amounts of noise and traffic, and, like a true New Yorker, my inherent distrust of strangers when it comes to handling my purchases, bags, etc.

One of the things besides classical music that made 2017 survivable was that throughout this past year I received The New Yorker magazine in the mail. Frankly, I was puzzled, because I had only signed up for a brief 6-issue special subscription, and yet… it kept arriving! I knew that I hadn’t paid for it, and I was slightly tempted to bring this apparent snafu to their attention – but I was enjoying the writing so much that I really didn’t want it to stop coming! While I’d always enjoyed the cartoons, I experienced a deep satisfaction from the stories and articles about life in general as well as commentary on our current political climate. With all the sensationalism of these events, compassion and insight have been absent in much of the media reportage lately, and it’s comforting to read about how people are coping in these tumultuous times.

My benefactor was revealed today; a dear friend who also had moved away from New York in the 80s – and I thanked him profusely for the generous gift. Even though neither one of us was originally born within the city limits, once you’ve claimed NYC as your home, at heart you are ALWAYS a Native New Yorker , with all the privileges such sophisticated status bestows! Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 12.54.02 AM

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music biz

Waiting for Harold Vick

I fell in love with recording studios the first time I stepped into one, so in the 70s I was always happy to get to hang out observing sessions after I’d finished copying parts for the musicians. One winter afternoon my client had booked Harold Vick, (who I had never met before), to add a solo to the song “Dream of a Child” on David Forman debut album  but at session time Mr. Vick wasn’t anywhere to be seen. So we waited. And waited. Tweaked David Forman’s vocal track, listened to some preliminary mixes. And waited. And waited.

90 minutes late, Harold rushed in to the studio. I can’t recall his excuse for being so tardy, or if he even offered an excuse. And I thought to myself, “buddy, you’d better play your ass off, after making everyone wait around so long for you!”

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Harold brushed the snow off his coat, got out his tenor, put on headphones and absolutely nailed it, first take. He was perfect. Turns out his contribution had been well worth waiting for.

Unfortunately, my client’s work on the album was thrown out and replaced by Joel Dorn. And although Harold is still listed in the credits for this album, there’s no trace of the gorgeous solo he’d played on the final release.

In spite of the album being virtually all ballads, Rolling Stone thought quite highly of it – even 40 years later. I can only imagine what they would’ve thought of the record with Harold’s solo!?

My old boss at E.B. Marks Music, Don Sickler agrees with my high opinion of Harold – he was head and shoulders (literally!) above the rest. Harold was taken from us way too young, but is remembered in Did You See Harold Vick? – Sonny Rollins – a 2-chord riff of a song that doesn’t evoke Harold in any way, other than mentioning his name. It’s the least Sonny could do, considering that Harold played rings around him, IMHO.  Here – listen and judge for yourself:

Harold Vick – Don’t Look Back

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growing up, Home, politics, self-acceptance

Why Can’t a Moose be President?

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I became aware of the “double standard” pretty early, but I was stunned when my dad explained dating once I hit puberty; he told me that many men see women as “pieces of meat”, as that had been his experience growing up and especially while serving in the US Marine Corps during WWII. In my early teens, I had a great deal of resistance to this idea; having read a lot of magazines, my head had been filled with romantic notions, aided and abetted by pop songs of the 50s and 60s. Even back then, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” sounded pretty innocent and non-threatening.

It often takes me a while to process difficult emotions, and this past year has been especially challenging in that regard. Like every woman I know, I’ve been sexually harassed, and although such abusive treatment has diminished in my advancing years, it’s still a fact of life which grieves me deeply, as I’d hoped we would have made more progress as a society in regards to treating ALL people equally and equitably. Alas, that has not been the case – a fact that has been rubbed in our collective faces, especially since Election 2016 when DT became PussyGrabber in Chief.

I almost wish I could just point the finger at “toxic masculinity” and leave it at that, but I think that having the inequities of our society in such bold relief, in regards to race as well as gender, has encouraged intolerance and contempt for one another. It’s no surprise to me that more people are coming forward these days with their stories of being molested – there have always been “dirty old men”, but as I feared, these men have become emboldened by the so-called leadership of our country. It’s now officially Open Season  on the female gender. What else can we do besides #metoo ?

I’ve recently taken comfort in revisiting YouTube videos featuring kinder, gentler men from my youth, the cadence of their voices and the kindness in their demeanor – men like Art Linkletter, (whose warmth and humor reminds me of my uncle Larry), Mr. Rogers, who liked you “just the way you are”, and my favorite, Captain Kangaroo  The Captain sang, told sweet stories, dealt with challenging cohorts like Dancing Bear and Bunny Rabbit – he even did his own housekeeping! And he featured the absolute BEST political candidate: Mr. Moose – whose campaign promise, “if you elect me, every American will have antlers! (or uncles!?) … and all of our friends will be bunny rabbits!”

Sounds a lot better to me than promoting pussy-grabbing.

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growing up, Home, Uncategorized

Where I Go In My Dreams

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Just as many people I know return to the classroom in their dreams, (usually for a test for which they haven’t studied!?!), I go back to places, real and imagined, when I’m dreaming;

NYC apartments where I may or may not have actually lived, that turn out to have additional secret rooms where I’ve never ventured.

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In my dreams I inhabit the extreme left side of this floorplan and have no idea of the existence of the rooms in the middle and on the right side… until I open a door and… there they are! Wow!

The Japanese garden in East Hartford, that turns out to still exist!

And my Aunt Helen’s house in Houston

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– as well as the house where she and my mother grew up in Rye, NY. The former is HUGE, on many levels, with beautiful sunlit rooms everywhere – and in my dreams, I can never find a bathroom!  The latter is remembered here, drawn by my mother’s hands and memories.

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This house was HUGE in comparison to the apartments where I grew up! I remember warm summer evenings after dinner; the swing on the screened-in back porch – large enough for at least a couple of us kids at once. And the backyard, so green and lovely, seemed to go on forever.

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The cellar was earthy, dark and mysterious, with lots of secret nooks.

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It’s not on this floor plan, but for ME, the MOST important part of the house was on the first floor – the baby grand PIANO!!  I love that my mother remembered where the marigolds and lilies of the valley were planted! She was a surprisingly impressive companion walking through a park or Botanical Garden – she knew a lot more about flora than you might expect!!G-House-2ndFloor

I haven’t figured out the significance of these locations, but they touch something deep inside me when I wake and remember where I was visiting during dreamtime.

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growing up, Home

Lunch at McPrison

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.16.23 AMLike most people, I grew up with McDonald’s. The first one we visited was probably in 1963 on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, CT. The novelty of cheap, fast food was thrilling to the Harris family; prior to McDonald’s’ arrival, we’d rarely eat out, and when we did, it was Howard Johnson’s, or the luncheonette counter at Kresge’s or Woolworth’s 5-&-10¢ store. So the economical menu appealed to both of my Depression-era parents, and even though we all knew it wasn’t exactly the most nutritious meal, it was such a treat!!  Long before the “you deserve a break today” jingle hit the airwaves, there was ♫♬”McDonald’s is our kind of place – it’s such a happy place! A clean and snappy place!” ♫♬ YOUR kind of place!

While I never made it a habit to eat at McDonald’s, I generally enjoyed it when I did, remembering fun times with my dad and sisters (Dad loved their coffee and was a real fan of the Filet o’Fish). Over the years, it became more of a “road food” option, especially on long trips; I stopped at a lot of McDonald’s on my cross-country road trips: FUTURE STREET tour ROUND TRIP tour. I did best ordering the “side salad”, which could be consumed without dressing while driving. As one of the Dollar Menu items, I felt okay ordering 3 or 4 at a time and skipping the sandwich and/or fries… (tho I always had a weakness for their hot apple pies.)

A lot has changed at Mickey D’s over the years – and not just higher prices and a more varied menu! I noticed the decor making a quantum shift from the familiar yellow/orange/red palette a while back when the corporation attempted to turn their outlets into “McCafes” complete with Wi-Fi.

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And then the backboard menu “came alive” with a frantically changing video menu featuring huge photos of the food in fast rotation with the names and prices of same, which made it much more difficult for economy-minded folks like me to figure out what we wanted/could afford to order!

The latest wrinkle appears to be in response to the rising minimum wage paid to fast food workers; the closest McDonald’s to our house has remodeled their outlet to a new design which apparently necessitates employing only half of the former staff. This remodel has an “industrial” look, to put it kindly; dark gray cinderblock walls interrupted by hyper-busy mostly black wallpaper surround the public area. There’s no background music, only the mechanical hum, buzzing and clicks of unseen machines. Frankly, the ambiance is dystopian, unfriendly and feels like… McPrison.

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Electronic kiosks shaped like giant iPhones stand like Stonehenge, available to take your order. In fact, this is the ONLY way you can order. Walk up to the counter and you’ll be turned away, directed back to the kiosks by the attendants, whose forced-cheery greetings sound desperate and reminded me of the little waitresses working at Raisins on TV’s “South Park” Since transactions cannot happen thru any other means than these kiosks, heaven forbid there’s a glitch and the computer ever crashes?! (We all know that NEVER happens, but if it does… well, No Soup For You!)

McDonald’s is probably not the first place most people think of when trying to lose weight, and yet the menus list the calorie counts for each food selection in large bold numbers, mostly obscuring the prices which don’t show up until another few click-thrus on the kiosk. Said prices on the big board (if you’re quick enough to actually see them while they flash around in a frenzy!?) don’t always match the kiosk prices. And, as you might expect with all this technological “progress”, ALL of the prices are substantially higher; a small hot fudge sundae that used to cost $1 is now close to $2.

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The acoustics of the room are weird; while many customers were buried in their smart phones, the ones who spoke to one another were clearly audible to everyone – so much for privacy. Every conversation we overheard was about how much they didn’t like these new, streamlined “improvements” to their McDonald’s experience.

I have to agree. While it was never a substantial part of my diet, I didn’t think that I would ever completely “age-out” of McDonald’s. But apparently that day has come.

New wall signs now limit customers’ visits to 30 minutes – then you’d darn well better vamoose! Lunch time is OVER! Back to your cell!

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P.S. Forgot to mention: GERMS!!! Consider all the HUNDREDS of grimy paws that will be using those giant touchscreen ordering kiosks each day… how many of us order and pay for our food and then run to the restroom to wash our hands BEFORE we pick up that hot burger or sample a few fries? Brother-in-law Dr. Tim Wolfram wrote this little ditty, and he should know – he’s a DOCTOR!! http://markwolfram.com/MrSUDzFrameset.html

UPDATE 8/10/18 – Sorry, it’s still McPrison to me!!  McPrison in Chicago!

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