learning

Books Report

🎵🎶 “If they asked me, I could write a book…” 🎶🎵

C’mon now – everybody’s doing it!! (heck, WE even did it a few decades ago!)

I just finished reading Randy Rainbow’s memoir PLAYING WITH MYSELF – and it’s pretty much what you might expect: about as saucy and irreverent as he is. No huge revelations, nothing too surprising about his story; essentially he works his ass off to create his YouTube musical commentaries and is having the time of his life doing so.

I confess I got a lot more from reading Paul Evans’ HAPPY-GO-LUCKY ME – in part because Paul has had a longer and much more dimensional career, and also because we’ve had the pleasure of working with him and being friends for over 40 years.

There are any number of coaches out there who can guide an author on how (and WHY! ) to construct, edit, publish and promote their books. And I believe that while not everyone needs to tell their story in printed form, ALL of our stories are valid and worth the telling. Though it’s none of my business, I badger a few friends on a regular basis to get crackin’ on their memoirs – mainly because I want to re-savor their adventures, but also because, as my grandpa (and Hank Williams!) always said, “none of us are gettin’ out of this alive!” Let “the world discover” your story while you’re still here to set the record straight!

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Home, learning, self-acceptance

Dog Trust

When it comes to trust, I’ll almost always choose dogs over people. We recently watched an episode of the Netflix series DOGS, and I found myself judging Alana, the young military woman who had rescued a beautiful homeless puppy while based in Iraq. Her support system moved heaven and earth to bring Jet🐾 home to Boise, ID for her, before her latest deployment was over. Everyone involved gave their all, especially Tara, the woman who fostered Jet back in the States. It was heartbreaking to see Alana ultimately return Jet back to Tara, his foster mom, but I also found myself thinking, “what’s wrong with Alana that she can’t handle Jet, after ALL these people went to such lengths to bring him back home for her?”

Granted, Alana is a single woman in her 20s who had never had a dog before, and a lot had happened to both Alana AND Jet while they’d been separated. Jet had grown into a much larger dog, and after being held in quarantine and moved halfway around the world, whatever bond they had originally had was broken – on both sides. Neither Jet nor Alana were the same people they’d been when they’d met, and they just didn’t trust one another!

And then I began to feel guilty, as I realized that we’d had a very similar experience just a few years ago. In May 2019 we rescued a pair of beautiful mini-schnauzers but the chemistry had been “off” pretty much from the get-go, and they’d never bonded with us OR our other pups – so after 10 days we chose to return them to their foster mom! We were inconsolable, but Elke & Dana never relaxed around us, and we could never relax around them. They wound up being adopted by a different family and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault – it just is.

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Charity, growing up, politics, Responsibility

The April Of Dimes

As a Baby Boomer kid, I remember The March Of Dimes https://www.marchofdimes.org as my first exposure to charities. I was handed a collection card at school, and expected to fill it by begging dimes from my parents and their friends, or even (gasp!) contributing my own meager allowance! Even during the Great Depression, every “buddy” was expected to at least have a DIME to spare, right? https://youtu.be/nLZTdhY1GVE

The thing is, I’ve always had a thing about money. While I didn’t think our family was “poor”, I knew that we didn’t have a lot of “extra” – certainly not enough to go splashing money willy-nilly into other people’s hands. And by the late 1950s, most kids my age had been vaccinated and polio was no longer the scourge it had been when the March Of Dimes charity was started by FDR in 1938. Ella Fitzgerald, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and even Elvis still made appearances in support, but they had a LOT more dimes than I did! – and besides, I had better things to do with MY dimes, like saving for a piano! https://marilyn801.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/i-love-a-piano/

I don’t like to think of myself as stingy. I’ve donated blood. I donate books to the library and assorted items to Goodwill. I volunteer my time and energy to worthy causes. However, my reticence to make hard cold cash contributions has persisted my entire life, and even increased in recent years; for one thing, I’ve noticed malfeasance on the part of some charities and seen various “Matildas” take-the-money-and-run-Venezuela. For another, I’ve become aware of ulterior motives creeping into and polluting original causes; internet scams, email entreaties, GoFund Me campaigns and even mainstream media reporting on the horrors of war all muddy the waters of what constitutes giving. When gifts-in-kind aren’t accepted, but only MONEY welcomed… well, that raises a red flag for me about the nature of the actual charity.

easy for YOU to say, my billionaire buddy!

And I abhor being shamed. That just doesn’t work for me. I think being bullied into making a contribution is appalling and the opposite of sincere generosity.

So what exactly IS our responsibility? I like the idea that charity is kindness and compassion – both qualities that have a lot more to do with maintaining a state of heart and mind than making financial donations. My responsibility comes down to owning my own actions – or inactions. There are so many ways to delude and blame others for our lives – so many ways to be distracted and irresponsible. Being honest with myself and the world is the most charitable thing I can do.

and what I need for and from myself
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excellence, music, music biz

As Good As It Gets?

Is Carly Simon right?

My original plan had been to head directly to NYC where I would make music for a living. But Hartford High wouldn’t give me a diploma, even though I’d accumulated the required 16 credits. And I couldn’t stand the idea of spending another year there, and I didn’t have the nerve to begin my career as a high school dropout. So I applied to the only college that was still accepting applications in March, and wound up living at home and attending classes at the Hartford branch of UConn my freshman year. Which was a blessing in disguise, as I was about as ready to live by myself in Greenwich Village at age 16 as I was to fly to the moon.

Long before UConn became a basketball powerhouse, it was an agricultural school https://uconn.edu/about-us/history/ – and when I attended, virtually all music majors studied to become teachers. Serious students with professional aspirations opted for conservatories like Oberlin, Eastman & Juilliard, though there were a few exceptions; Marco & Ernie Calouri were gifted French horn players at UConn during my tenure, and they both joined the US military bands upon graduation. There were probably a few others who pursued something other than a Music Ed. degree at that time, but I don’t recall who, or where they ended up.

My first winter in NYC, the Calouri brothers asked me to help them get tickets to the NY Brass Conference for Scholarships, a weekend hosted by music publisher Charles Colin. The following year Dr. Colin hired me to extract parts to some compositions that had been commissioned for several large brass ensembles, and I got a real idea of the calibre of musicianship in the NYC freelance scene. Of course, there were legendary performers, teachers & honorees like Clark Terry, William Vacchiano, Manny Klein, Don Butterfield and Art Farmer – as well as headlining celebrities like Bill Watrous, Doc Severinson and Marvin Stamm – but there were also so many incredible rank & file players whose skills were astonishing! To hear a group of 20 to 30 of these guys all sightreading a new piece was mindblowing to me – I’d sure never seen anything like that at UConn!

Chuck Colin was a charmer! He got me to squat down so that I wouldn’t tower over him in this photo!

After the conference was over, I got to attend some “rehearsal” bands that got together to play for the love of it, and to keep their chops up. Wayne Andre along with Alan Raph led an octet of trombonists whose sound was pure heaven! Much like the Los Angeles counterpart, Hoyt’s Garage https://alankaplan.hearnow.com/secrets-of-hoyts-garage – which shaped and encouraged musical excellence among Hollywood session players.

It can be difficult to find such ensemble perfection these days – and not just because of these past two years of the pandemic. I think my generation was spoiled by our culture; by a public education system that valued music enough to make it a required part of the curriculum from kindergarten through high school. By commercial radio stations that programmed all types of music simultaneously, to appeal to listeners of all ages, so that Louis Armstrong’s HELLO DOLLY was on the top of the Billboard popular charts the same week as folk, rock, surfer songs, Motown and The Beatles! By TV variety shows that featured all genres of music, from classical to dance to pop and beyond. And by respect for the amount of individual effort that went into continually refining and raising the standards of professional musicianship.

Billboard magazine 5/9/1964

I remember when I finally got to live my heart’s desire and work in the recording studios. And how older musicians would tell me how I’d “missed it”, because for them it had been SO good in the 1950s and 1960s; everyone had been working all the time, everybody was busy with records and jingles and film scores, and I’d just been born too late! I’d MISSED the heyday of the music business!

But I hadn’t. I’d seen and heard and been there when it was glorious; when music was rapturous and took my breath away; when superbly skilled musicians worked miracles, outdoing one another with inventive ideas and exquisite performances. To me, that was as good as it gets.

to a dog, maybe bacon IS as good as it gets!?
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music, music biz

WHUZZAT? It’s Bob Dorough!

Sometime in the mid-1970s I was in discussions for a record deal; Ray Passman had heard my demo tapes and played them for his neighbor Irv Kratka, who owned InnerCity Records (altho he was much better known for having originated the MusicMinusOne label). When Mr. Kratka insisted on owning the copyrights to my songs, I said no. Even though I had been promised that Bob Dorough would produce my album.

Sad to say, up to that point I had never heard of Bob Dorough. No one played any of his music for me, and I was too distracted to research and find him myself. Until, decades later, when I did! Then… wowie-zowie! What songs!!

I introduced myself after one of his gigs at The Jazz Bakery in L.A., and asked him to write the liner notes to my upcoming jazz CD release. Then I called him until he agreed to do so. Bob’s liner notes to FUTURE STREET are, like him, cooler-than-cool! I can’t imagine anything better; this guy Dorough really GETS me!!

Marilyn Harris is, in my opinion, on a fast express track to Future Street, where it’s at, to a beat so sweet and bittersweet, you’ll want to go there too. Here she gives us a varietal songbook that covers every aspect of life and love, surrounding herself with a pack of talented cats that bounce us along on a breezy ride to satisfaction and completion. Ms. Harris has been around the block and now, as a singing songwriter, and driving a mean piano, she zooms through your neighborhood, sweeping out the care, the blues, and other debris and leaving you with a feeling of – WHUZZAT? Besides the listed players, she has the inestimable company of arranger/producer/engineer Mark Wolfram, who also does a zippy vocal duet with Marilyn. She also has, as guest vocalist, the great Mark Winkler, an already arrived Future Street cat, who co-wrote five of the songs with her. Ah, the songs! Aside from one brilliant “standard,” she wrote them all (there is one other collaboration in the set.) So, drop the needle, as we used to say, on this baby: sit back and relax – fasten your seatbelts. Play it in the car! Play it in the bar! Play it anywhere.  We’re gonna take you there…to Future Street!

There it is. Play it agin! – Bob Dorough, on the cusp of the new year – 2004…

When it came time to record the next album, Bob agreed to singing a duet with me, much to eternal my delight! And NOW “I’ve Got Everything I Need” !!! (his most perfect song, IMO!)

Isn’t this wonderful?? (and TRUE!!!)
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excellence, learning, music biz

All In The Game

I had a realization tonight – an insight that had eluded me for as long as I can remember, which is that my career has been stymied by my own resistance to playing the game.

I’ve gone to extremes to learn the rules of the game, to get to know the players and their strategies. And then I’ve turned my back on this knowledge, insisting that “it shouldn’t be that way – it’s not fair! – that’s not how the game should be played!”

Flavortown!! Ever been there?? Funny how I got hip to Guy’s Grocery Games after watching a few episodes (well, okay – MORE than a few!) I saw that no matter how delicious any given dish was, (created from the insanely limited food list allowed), no matter how many nummy-sounds the judges made, if the chef hadn’t incorporated the prescribed ingredients according to the rules of the game, that chef would go home empty-handed. The Winner, while perhaps not as accomplished or skillful at creating wonderful FOOD as other contestants, would have ACED the game requirements, thereby prevailing and sweeping up the prize.

There are always excuses that can be made to explain failure, and sometimes I’ve hidden in the comfort they provide. But I think the truth in many instances is that I wasn’t willing to play the game, to kiss the Pope’s ring, to do whatever it took to succeed. I’m still not sure exactly why I made those choices, but tonight while listening to a recording of THEY’RE GONNA LOVE ME, I heard the bitterness and anger in my voice, my refusal to worship the dead gods of jazz at the expense of the living mortals. And I understood.

The good news is that there’s actually more to life than Winning The Game. And there are always other games to play.

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family, Home

Putting It Together

I wasn’t a fan of jigsaw puzzles until I got married. In lieu of hard partying at a big New Year’s Eve bash, the Wolfram clan traditionally brings in the first of the year by completing a picture puzzle. Over the years I’ve played enough NYE gigs to know that puzzle-making is a more peaceful (if less lucrative!?) way to celebrate the holiday, and I’ve grown to appreciate them.

Certainly jigsaw puzzles, like board games and other pastimes, have flourished during these pandemic lockdown times. And they are satisfying to assemble; I’ve found them to be calming to work on, giving a sense of accomplishment and control as the pieces come together and the picture takes shape.

What makes a good-but-not-too-challenging puzzle is up for conjecture. Go on YouTube and you’ll see there are many differing opinions – some prefer still life, or scenic beauty, while others like abstracts. I lean towards scenes with lots of tiny details, because sometimes the loveliest photo has too much same-colored background, making it almost impossible to finish.

I’m comforted by the familiar – old LP covers of records I used to own, or Times Square in NYC, or old movie posters, or candy bars from the past. (Hey – a gal can dream!)


Then there are some puzzles that are just plain EVIL: https://www.rd.com/list/most-challenging-jigsaw-puzzles/

When it comes to puzzles, you’ve gotta choose your battles!

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growing up, self-acceptance

Lynnsie, Go Home!

When I was in 4th grade, a classmate and I used to walk home from school together. Lynnsie was a very lonely girl – she may have been an only child whose mom, unlike mine, wasn’t waiting for her after school. In any event, she almost invariably wanted to hang out together much longer than I wanted to, and I had to tell her that I had other stuff to do – hence the title of this post. My family thought I was being cruel – and I definitely was being rude – but Lynnsie never took a hint and had to be repeatedly told that she’d overstayed her welcome. As much as my parents tried to make me feel guilty about telling Lynnsie to go home, I never did. I wasn’t exactly proud of my behavior, but my parents had also taught me to be self-reliant and I knew even at 8 years old that I was responsible for how I spent my time and in whose company I spent it.

Due to pandemic stay-at-home orders, we’ve all had plenty of time of late to consider who’s in our lives and why they remain. I peek in on friends via social media more often than I make phone calls nowadays. I actually began writing this blog with ruminations about former friends, and I continue to puzzle over the disappearance of certain people from my life. It isn’t exactly “ghosting”, but I think we DO amend our interests, priorities and affections over time, and definitely change what kind of treatment we will tolerate.

I’m not alone in this – https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/930e6df4-582b-4ec0-bc21-cb26613cd6f1

How much of an explanation do we owe other people when we recoil from them? I used to assume that everything needed to be totally understood before it could be accepted, but then I learned the hard way that some things are never explained adequately, and yet we have to keep living. Bottom-line, a lot of people are like Lynnsie (and I include myself!); we’re a bit in denial about unpleasant realities. Whose job is it to “make it alright”?

While the Golden Rule is a great ideal, there are limits. Ultimately it’s our own job to make peace with how things actually are. As my dad used to say, “nobody can take your bath for you.”

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music, music biz

Gil Evans’ Copyist

One March afternoon in 1974 I got a call from Gil Evans (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gil_Evans); could I come over to his loft-apartment in Westbeth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westbeth_Artists_Community) to fix up some parts before his band’s gig that night at the Village Vanguard? I was then living in a basement apartment at 7th Ave. and 21st St., so I grabbed my supplies (pen, ink, manuscript paper and lick-&-stick staff strips) and headed downtown to meet with Gil.

Saxophonist Trevor Kohler was Gil’s copyist at that point, and I was surprised to see that many of the parts he’d copied were in turquoise ink (not exactly “standard”!) I’d also never seen as compressed sketch scores as what Gil handed me; talk about economy! Many of the sections had been erased and revoiced more than once. He was going to get his money’s worth out of that paper, by gum!

Thus began our relationship; most Monday afternoons I’d be on-call to patch up whatever section of an arrangement Gil was reworking, and then I’d spend my evening enjoying the band’s music at the club. The music itself was much looser than I was accustomed to, and week to week, I could rarely tell the “new” sections from the “old”, but my cover was waived and everyone seemed to be having a great time, so… what the heck!

David Sanborn had recently joined the group – behind him here are French hornist John Clark and multi-instrumentalist Tom Malone (on tuba). Howard Johnson must have had another gig or been playing bari sax that night.

Gil was a very laid-back guy, as was his wife Anita. It never occurred to me that their relaxed attitude may have been augmented by chemical enhancement. I’d get my assignment and be left alone unsupervised in their apartment for hours. Once when the phone rang, I answered and had to tell Miles Davis that Gil was asleep in the bath tub and unavailable to talk. I didn’t know about Miles’ raspy damaged vocal cords, so I took a message for Gil to return his call and then advised Miles that vitamin C might help, but maybe he should see a doctor for that horrible cold!

A few months after I began my tenure as Gil’s copyist, the band went on tour to Europe; I recently came across this YouTube: https://youtu.be/ihDjcW9u6y4 – they all look and sound just as I remember them; young and full-of-beans.

After a long delay, Gil was VERY excited to finally be recording the Jimi Hendrix album that first summer – and after having worked exclusively from sketch scores for months, I was shocked that Gil was actually capable of writing a full score, complete with individual staves, properly transposed for each instrument! Consequently the sessions at RCA were less last-minute and hectic, tho I missed the spontaneous backgrounds that the horn players would invent behind their cohort’s solos at their regular gigs. (Gil generally surrounded himself with younger people and encouraged them to take liberties with what he’d written).

Gil was particular about personnel, but understanding and relaxed when someone had to sub out, because there was never a dearth of fine players eager to play with the band. To my recollection, certain stalwarts were always there; Lew Soloff and Howard Johnson made Gil a top priority. I did, too – until more lucrative work came in. (https://marilyn801.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/getting-out-of-the-jingle-business/) (https://marilyn801.wordpress.com/2019/09/27/a-dime-a-dozen/)

Though I’ve looked back and wondered why I didn’t parlay more business connections from my copying clients, I never had the ambition to “go to school” on Gil, like Maria Schneider, who copied for him in the mid-80s. Sure, I admired Gil’s work. But to my ear, his orchestrations were too similar one to the next, and I was usually more interested in the original tunes themselves. (and distracted by the musicians, to be totally honest!)

I kept copies of some of his sketch scores, though – and after unearthing them from my file cabinet, recently decided to share them with the Library of Congress. Now anyone who’s interested can see first-hand how Gil was writing back then.

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learning, self-acceptance

ThredUp/ParedDown

Well, it’s Spring… so that means Spring Cleaning, eh? This recent New Yorker article made me smile with self-recognition AND weep (at the end) with the same: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/03/08/how-to-practice

So much of what I personally need to let go of is “aspirational” – a word I feel applies to physical possessions as well as beliefs, strategies, ambitions and ideals. If things actually DO hold energy, sending silent messages, as author/minimalist-extraordinaire Fumio Sasaki claims, then decluttering is more than just making room for different stuff; it’s creating space for new ways of thinking and feeling, being and identity.

Sometimes the silent messages are amplified by human intervention!

For women in our society, appearances are deemed extremely important, and though one would never guess by the baggy knits I’ve worn over this past pandemic year, my wardrobe includes quite a few aspirational pieces I’ve retained for a while – decades, even. It isn’t too far of a stretch to imagine that these clothes are whispering from the back of my closet: do you still love me? will you EVER wear me again?

I came across an online consignment shop a couple months ago and scored some bargains – the opposite of downsizing, I know! The Rescue Box of scarves (over 2 dozen for $16) REALLY blew my skirt up!! – https://www.thredup.com

A few days ago, after rigorous self-query, I was able to release a couple of boxes of otherwise-lovely items that no longer fit my psyche, coloring, age or figure. In Marie-Kondo-speak, they don’t “spark joy”. I hope they will soon for someone else.

Part of growth is realizing how we’re always changing. This isn’t my first go-’round with decluttering; https://marilyn801.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/baby-with-the-bathwater/ – and I’m sure it won’t be my last. 💚💜💛❤️

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