I’m excited to announce the launch of my second Kickstarter campaign. We’re raising the funds necessary to produce my latest outing, a tribute to the great Nancy Wilson. Inspired by the Cannonball Adderley collaboration, I began exploring Nancy’s songbook from the beginning of her career and got as far as 1964. We selected and gussied-up 11 songs, with the help of my pal, pianist and co-arranger, Andy Ezrin, and got them ready for their day in their sun. And that day came suddenly in the new year when we reached out to Berklee College of Music and found an opportunity to pair with them an educational project for their students to sit along side 7 time Grammy Award Winning, Elliot Schiener, and observe a record be recorded in the space of two days. We had two weeks to put together the band, rehearse them in one fell swoop, and be ready for prime time in the first weekend of February.
Hal Leonard joined in on the fun, capturing the ‘making of’ footage for the teaching module they are producing with Elliot as the star. And for my benefit, we have lots of wonderful material to edit and put together to help us tell our story now and in the future.
Quickly following the recording came the mix. We invited the students to join us and they did so without haste.
So we find ourselves in the scenario, “the art before the cart.” We had to seize the opportunity to record at Berklee, but we didn’t have time to launch our Kickstarter at the same time. I know my limits and that would have been too much to navigate; what with producing, teaching, being video taped, phew, I’m happy we pulled all that off with such success as it is. So we find ourselves now reaching out to YOU, to help us finish what we started! And there is still so very much to do: mastering, artwork, licensing, marketing and promotion, etc.
Won’t you join us on this adventure? Follow the link below to learn more about the campaign, the incentives you can purchase, and how to become more involved.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
They say timing is everything. I say, being ready for timing is everything. And so the following dream came true as thus…….
I thought my last CD’s message was all about life coming full circle, hence the title Circle in a Square, but this latest project is that and some, kinda feels like Lightning in a Bottle. At the top of 2017, Elliot Scheiner and I found ourselves at my alma mater Berklee College of Music’s new state of the art recording studio, The Shames Family Scoring Stage, recording my latest collection of songs. I’ve spent my career writing and producing my original music and I thought is was about time to go back to where it all started, on my living room floor in Phoenix, Arizona, listening to my parent’s record collection. Of the many albums that I played over and over, one in particular made an impresson early on. The songs and performances were perfectly crafted and produced featuring an up and coming jazz chanteuse, Nancy Wilson on a collaborative record she made with Cannonball Adderley. He convinced Nancy to come to New York from her home state Ohio and she quickly found herself with a record deal and recording with some of the best jazz musicians of the time. Her soulful horn like resonance and phrasing, and her bewitching beauty made the whole world fall in love. But as a kid, I really didn’t understand things like that, I only knew that I loved her voice and the way the music made me feel. That was enough for me to learn all the songs way back then. They have stayed with me throughout my life, an indellible impression on my heart like a tattoo.
So when I was thinking about what my next musical project would be, I thought it was time to address the standards. I’ve consciously waited this long to feel certain about my point of view and now it feels like a welcome friend to give myself over to the Great American Songbook. I’m not big of themed CDs, but when musing on the prospect, the idea of paying tribute to Nancy Wilson and this iconic record with Cannonball came booming through my head. “Go home, go back to the beginning,” my instincts said. As I dug deep into that record, it quickly became clear that more repertoire would be needed, since half the project was instrumental tracks, so I started at the beginning of her career to cull songs from “Like in Love,” “Something Wonderful,” “The Swingin’s Mutual,” “Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderly,” “Hello Young Lovers,” and “How Glad I Am.” That was a far as I got, there was so much there from 1959-1964 to dig around and discover. I developed 13 songs and settled on 11 for the recording. It’s a healthy combination of deconstructing some of the songs and others being a nice nod to the existing performances. Ideally, it’s equal parts celebration of a great singer while leaving plenty of room for me to play and push around the notes.
Andy Ezrin, who I first met when I joined New York Voices, has remained one of my very favorite pianists. He and I began getting together batting around arranging ideas and developing the songs in 2016. Over the course of the year we played a handful of shows and brought the music to life on the bandstand. Looming large was what was the next step…?
The new year changed over and I was still trying to figure out how to launch a Kickstarter to get us and the music into the recording studio.
I called Elliot Scheiner, my partner on Circle in a Square and mega star in all things audio. On New Years Day we spoke on the phone and found ourselves talking about how to get this into motion. He had an idea to reach out to Berklee College of Music and offer this as an educational Master Class at the top of their semester to showcase the facility, his mic-ing and recording techniques and capture myself and my band performing a full set of music. The specific goal was to go for live takes and complete a record in the jazz tradition in two days. Hal Leonard joined this ambitious undertaking to capture the whole weekend on video for further educational material and for me to use to help tell the story. Suddenly, this became a mega weekend, ripe with high expectations and pressure, and there was no turning back. If I dwelled in the worry, I could easily have thought twice about the scope, but instead, I knew Andy and I could get the band ready and look to our mentoring skills to lure away the ego and put that energy into passing the baton and practising what we preach.
In short order a project went from a question mark to a reality. And even more so, a returning home to my Alma Mater where discovering my profound love affair with music would continue to be an unfailing and unquenchable desire hence forward.
I so enjoyed working on this music with Matt Wilson and Ben Allison early on, but both of their schedules prevented them from being available for this last minute date. We booked Jared Schonig and Matt Penman and had one long rehearsal a few days before the session. Ingrid Jensen joined us the day of the recording session without a rehearsal. They all brought a soulful, dedicated sense to the task, highly attuned artistry and joy of being a part of the teaching dynamic. It was a magical collection of musicians surrounded by an energized and curious student body and teaching staff throughout the recording sessions. There were many students and teachers coming and going throughout, taking in the Master Class, but there was a mighty few that stayed for the whole thing, becoming totally invested with the experience. In the end, we all shared lightening in a bottle, all conditions were ideal, everyone performed and completed tasks on point, the music stood the test of scrutiny, and there was a huge sense of pride in what was accomplished.
We all reluctantly returned to the real world. The Super Bowl was on deck, it would seem high priority to get thee to the beer and wings. But we all stood frozen, knowing that as soon as we exited, the bubble would burst and life would return as we knew it. So the music will tell our story. “A Sleepin’ Bee” was awoken. It was one of the most sacred experiences I have ever had in the studio in the midst of all the company and commotion. And I am so grateful to all the players that made this miraculous weekend happen. Following this is a list of thank yous. It must be said.
Next step is mixing in mid March. The faithful students that hung for the weekend, and they know who they are, are invited to be in the room while Elliot mixes. How ridiculously cool is that? And so we begin the artwork, and the next phase of how to get this out to market. Stay tuned for that news, there will surely be some.
In the meantime, happy birthday Nancy Wilson. Your musical legacy is most humbly and graciously appreciated….by so many of us.
Big thanks to Elliot Scheiner, Musicians, Andy Ezrin, Matt Penman, Jared Schonig, Ingrid Jensen, Berklee College of Music Teachers and Administration, Carl Beatty, Rob Jaczko, Mark Wessel, Dan Thompson, the film crew for Hal Leonard, and student engineers, Andres Abello, Pedro Calloni and Loren Dorland. Also special thanks to my niece Lolly Allsop who was a brilliant assistant and partner in crime and to Chris and Mark Allsop for making sure we could pull this rabbit out of our hat tout suite!
I really don’t know where to begin. Facebook, like a secret lover, has whisked me away from my duties of sharing on this platform. It used to be I felt weird self promoting. All that “look at me, see what I’m doing, I’ve got a cool life” kind of stuff, it was strange. Then I started to dip my toe in, “look at me here with NYV, look at these super cool students and bands we’re working with, etc.” Soon it became a living, breathing talking photo album, anecdotal, informational, out of body, 24 hour streaming infomercial. And you can see what others are up to, too, someone got married, someone’s fighting cancer, a student graduated from college, a distant relative attended a party. It’s all there for our voracious curiosity. I’ll admit it, I’m a voyeur. I’m living and breathing the Facebook fantasy.
But in today’s historic social upheaval, I’m not looking for it to be my People magazine of days gone by anymore. Nothing is the same since November 9, 2016. I feel like I’m living in the upside down world; everything I have ever valued is being reflected in it’s polar opposite apparition. It’s as if my pocketbook has been dumped over and everything has fallen out, things that were MINE; loose change, lipstick, business cards, keys, crumbs, reading glasses, playbills, empty candy wrappers, wallet, all on the floor. And now nothing is recognizable as you try to put it all back in. You can’t, it doesn’t fit anymore, because the reality has changed. The pocketbook is stiffer, smaller, restrictive, un-welcoming, the zippers have sharper teeth, and it can no longer tolerate certain shapes and sizes. Yah, the United States is suddenly unforgiving, inhospitable and in someone else’s pocketbook. We lost our souls with the ushering in of the Trump regime, we went to sleep a barely Democracy November 8, and we woke up to a surreal game of the Apprentice on the Grand Stage where Trump is the King of Hearts shouting “off with his head” and everyone is drinking the same cocktail, with a float of paranoia.
I hate it, I’m ashamed, I can’t seem to get back to work. Were it not for bookings already in the calendar, I’d be totally undone. But like everyone else in their various shades of despair, disregard or elation, I have to live this truth today. I say here and now, I am not going to be a party to this Presidency and I accept the consequences that may come as a result. It’s how I’m going to move forward. I am even more engaged and active as a citizen and it will enrich my work exponentially, for this I am certain. I embrace the cleansing, so I can make the most honest music and sing with my strongest open vowels, “I am what Democracy looks like today.” In and outside my musical world, I am the voice that will remind you that you can’t hate people you don’t know or understand; I am the body that will come between you and the preferences you have imposed on this sleeping culture legislating a woman’s right to govern her body and receive proper health care, I am the mother who will stand on the frontline protecting the Earth. Get your water hoses ready, I’m your greatest adversary, sound in my thinking, clear in my goodness and motivated on behalf of my daughter, my nieces, my friends, my friend’s kids, my neighbors, etc. YES, I AM HERE. WOMAN, MOTHER, FEMINIST, HUMANITARIAN, WRITER, COMPOSER, SINGER, and EDUCATOR.
The revelation of music is in the revolution, the evolution, the discourse and despair, the unraveling and assembling, the terror and joy, the discovery and risk. I’ve always been an artist that has led with my free will first, rarely an advise taker, always ignoring boundaries and limitations, just doing what comes most natural. It’s not that anyone is laying in adoration of my work, but as an artist, you must do what is pure, true and good. And in that exploration, I promise to do my best.
This is my New Year’s Resolution, like never before. I will reflect my heart in my music and in my daily actions. I will look deeper into myself to ask what I can do for others and how to be of service. I will be the walking, talking model of a grown up woman who will mentor young women trying to discover who they are and how to navigate this modern day suffragette saga. Let freedom sing, pure and strong, right before wrong, love before con.
Hold one another close this holiday season, spend time talking and helping the world be a more beautiful place to reside one act of kindness at a time.
I’m happy to share the news that I will be spending some time at the new Jazz Loft opening in Stony Brook, NY. This special venue functions as a museum of collected jazz memorabilia and houses a lovely performance space on the second floor. Curator and jazz trumpeter Tom Manuel has repurposed The Stone Jug, the local watering hole back in the 1940s, to function as a cultural exchange and education center for telling the story of jazz.
I will perform there once a month, just in time to build my latest project, a tribute to the great Nancy Wilson. This time and place provides the perfect opportunity for me to shape this story, living among such cherished photos and scores, using the history to build a new one.
My first two concerts, May 27 and June 10, will feature an incredible trio. I am so blessed to have such extraordinary conspirators and I truly hope there won’t be an empty seat in the house to enjoy this collaboration. I have been working with Andy Ezrin in the New York Voices setting for over 24 years. He is one of my very favorite pianists, his solos often leave the room breathless, and his sensitivity as an accompanist is par excellence. He supports, he inspires and he listens; a great musician to be in the moment with. He and I have been building the Nancy Wilson project over the winter, getting it ready for the next layer of dressing. Enter Matt Wilson and Ben Alison. Matt is one of my very favorite jazz drummers. He is so creative and a spontaneous playmate. Calling on him to “do his thing” is the next step, but equally as fun, when in performance, you can expect him to toss in nuances that shift and change the paradigm. That’s when the real fun begins. And finally, Ben Alison and I have been looking for that gig to join our creative forces on and I think his original thinking sensibilities will keep the framework of this project equal parts traditional and inventive. We’re not trying to preserve so much as spin off of the sparks that Nancy created with her voice, her song choices, her important partnerships with Cannonball Adderly and George Shearing (to name a few) and give us the impetus to take that music out for a new walk about. So join us at one of these concerts to hear this music come together before it’s all buttoned up and ready for pressing. These kinds of gigs are exciting to prepare for and for audience members to attend, you get to be in on the secret.
After hearing the concerts, I will be taking requests from the audience on what other Nancy Wilson song you think we should consider doing. The only way, however, to know which songs we’ve done and which we haven’t is to attend the concert. Aha
But before these concerts can happen, the Jazz Loft must officially open. So join Tom Manuel, the Jazz Loft Big Band and myself for the grand opening on May 21, 2016. There are events going on all day beginning with a parade at 2 PM, music and museum tours from 3-5 PM, and then the headline concerts at 7 and 9:30 PM. Reservations are strongly recommended. Sure hope you can come out and support this cultural center and endeavor. It takes a village to make something like this last beyond the hoopla.