#jazzcongress, music biz

Proud To Be A Marilyn

Jazz Congress Confidential – Part Five

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The Stagecraft Masterclass turned out to be the highlight of Jazz Congress, at least for THIS delegate!  In spite of having checked her out online beforehand, I wasn’t prepared for the glory that is Marilyn Maye,  and everything from her musical chops and good humor to her playful flirtation with Paquito D’Rivera utterly charmed me! When they began to make music together with pianist extraordinaire Tedd Firth,  I literally couldn’t stop smiling! THIS is how jazz is supposed to be, folks; joyful and spontaneously combusting to beat the band!

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Ms Maye’s advice to performers is straight-ahead:

  • take the stage with energy and make eye contact
  • sing TO the audience, not FOR them!
  • acknowledge and appreciate the audience, no matter their size
  • start with happy songs about the audience (sensing a trend yet?)
  • grab ’em at the beginning and don’t let go
  • THEN follow with your ballads and stories
  • Be considerate about who’s on after your appearance
  • It should be a party!
  • use tools to connect with who shares the stage; soft respect and intense listening
  • reveal the context, i.e. describe how and why you’re performing this song now
  • make your patter have a payoff
  • use rubato judiciously
  • if you’re “a woman of a certain age”, wear sleeves and cover your knees!

She made me proud to be a Marilyn!

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Bringin’ It All Back Home!

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#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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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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Home, politics

My Undumpy White House

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As accustomed to the frequent barrage of BS from the current administration as I’m becoming, I confess to being more than a little taken aback by #45’s critique on Tuesday of his current digs; “That White House is a real dump.” Over the past 196 days, #45 has said and done some doozies, but something about dissing The White House itself, a spectacular home which is paid for by our taxes, just boggles my mind. I picture him leaving his dirty socks all over the West Wing, littering the White House with greasy fast food wrapping, the way he’s been littering our country with trashy hate-filled speech and Twitter tweets.

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The comment kept coming to mind the past couple days, until it occurred to me to consider my own concept of “home”. And I realized with a start that MY home is my body – where I live, the physical manifestation of my being – and that in the past I have been treating MY White House as “a real dump” – every time I don’t take care of it. Every time I overindulge in food or decide to stay up too late or make myself jittery with too much coffee. Every time I blow off exercise and fritter away hours window-shoppping and doing stupid puzzles online. I’m offended at #45’s lack of respect for his home because I’ve been disrespecting my own home.

I’m actually grateful for the wake-up call. I can only hope that #45 will tune in and hear himself as clearly as I am hearing him now. Because where we live is NOT a dump, unless we make it so. You don’t have to be a billionaire to figure that one out!

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politics, self-acceptance

Redbook Magazine 3/2016

I had occasion to page through last month’s Redbook while waiting for my car to get an oil change, and was struck by the messages that pervaded not only the advertising but also the editorial copy. Here’s what I saw:

“You’re OLD!” (or you at least LOOK old!  So FIX it, already!)

“You’re FAT!” (or at least heavier than you should be. Shape up, fer cryin’ out loud!)

“You’re just not attractive enough! You need THESE clothes, THIS haircut, THAT makeup!”

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No matter HOW drab and ordinary! ‘Cause what YOU’RE wearing just ain’t cuttin’ it!

“You will most likely DIE from cancer!”

“Now, Julianne Hough – SHE has a life worth living! Be like her!”

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You, too, can be KICKY! Go ahead! Be KICKY!!

“You’re too stupid to manage your money!”

“You complain too much! Knock it OFF, already!”

“Your house looks drab and dated! You need to redecorate!” (something more kicky!)

“Never mind how expensive it is, or whether you can actually AFFORD to go – your whole family NEEDS to visit DisneyWorld! NOW!!”

“You should cook complicated dishes and eat indulgently, meanwhile miraculously maintaing a slender figure, because otherwise? You’re a LOSER!”

I felt the entire issue had been written by Donald Trump.

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Uncategorized

Brushes With Greatness

While I confess to having been a Beatlemaniac in my teens, I like to think I’m not a fan of the cult of celebrity – I guess because I never saw my parents gush over famous folks. They’d gone to Syracuse University and performed on stage with Jerry StillerPeter Falk and  Jerry Adler – so they took the fame-game pretty much in stride.  And in show biz, it’s a given that you probably know some famous people – or people who would become famous later. For instance, my folks performed in community theater with Nelson & Joan Baker, Mark Linn-Baker‘s parents, in the 1960s:

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And at my first job, I worked right down the hall from Nell Carter, back when she was still “only” a singer:

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Celebrities are America’s royalty and I’ve known and worked with many talented and well-known musicians and singers (check my website!) But it’s the serendipity of crossing paths with famous folks that tickles me. For instance, my husband once literally bumped into “Moses” AKA Charlton Heston, (who might’ve been packin’!?)

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better not try to take that rifle from his hands!

and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, (whose bodyguards definitely were packin’!),

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don’t mess with Hizzoner!!

and Woody Allen, who literally bounced off Mark’s chest while shooting Broadway Danny Rose and running into our apartment lobby!

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“Cut!!!”

There was that time we saw Jack Palance dining at an Indian restaurant in Studio City:

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no one-armed pushups, Jack – cash only, please!

and James Coburn  the next month at that same restaurant:

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“I’d like another round of lassi for my table… and a touch more turmeric in this curry, eh?”

At our favorite, now long-gone Mexican place Caramba! we saw John Schuck and Jack Gilford crunching tacos between their matinee and evening performances:

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“I’m Lovely!”

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“Tomorrow – tomorrow – it’s only a day away!”

We caught sight of Shirley Hemphill in the parking lot of a Hughes supermarket:

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“FOOL!!!”

and stood in line behind James Woods at a different Hughes:

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(he was wearing glasses at the time, like he did in “THE WAY WE WERE”…he looks a little less forbidding in glasses!)

Mark pulled up beside Weird Al at a stop light, when he was still being discovered on the then-new M-TV channel:

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was he driving a Yugo? I dunno!

But I think my favorite was one rainy autumn afternoon when I heard a school bus full of children in front of the Plaza Hotel calling out to “God” AKA George Burns – the whole street burst into applause when he waved to them and everyone grinned ear-to-ear!

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“When I was a boy, the Dead Sea was only sick!”

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