Author: Laurie Early

Signs, Guides, and Flow

I really had no clue what I wanted to write about this month, until a sudden epiphany yesterday at choral rehearsal, which occurred during a short verbal exchange, that caused me to think deeper about processes I use to navigate my life now. One of the basses was asked to conduct a piece “rubato” (“out of time“) and we began to sing, but, unfortunately, one choral section was reading the music–not watching the conductor. They were not in synch with the rest of the group. I tried to get their attention with my arms, wildly pointing at him (because, I thought, “Maybe they don’t know we are supposed to be following him.“) But they did not see me at all, so I gave up and just sang along until the song was over. I glanced at the conductor and we exchanged a mutual shoulder-shrug, because it was what it was. What can you do? Overall, it wasn’t really a big deal, just a rehearsal moment, but I really longed for us to be a cohesive …

Ten Years After

Anniversaries are a natural time of reflection. So I am commemorating ten years of my new life in jazz. Ten years since I was told that I could sing in the jazz style – that I did not sound horrible and that I could confidently go forward with my studies. Yes, ten years since I learned about the Jazz Foundation of America and I met a group of musicians there that became a new family to me. Ten years since I met a certain pianist at the 802 Musician’s Union Hall, a man that I now consider one of my dearest friends. Last month, we counted how many countries we have performed together–Six including the USA. (That is amazing to me since I have only been to seven countries in my entire life.) It has been ten years since I started studying with Dr. Barry Harris, and through him, was introduced to so many new friends around the world. (I feel so lucky!) And, next month, it will be ten years since I was last …

Moments of Silence

Silence can be the loudest sound in the world, especially if you are longing to hear the next note, the next phrase, the next part of the story. And…“Silence is PART of the SONG!” (Dr. Barry Harris shouted this pearl of wisdom at his classroom full of singers a couple of weeks ago.) It is such a simple thing to remember. So true! I saw a similar thought attributed to Thelonious Monk. He is recorded as saying, “Don’t play EVERYTHING (or every time); let some things GO BY. Some music [is] just IMAGINED. What you DON’T play can be more important than what you DO play.” A few years ago I touched on this idea in an introductory verse I wrote for my song, “I Lied to Myself”. It begins, “There’s a limbo in this world where the silence is so loud….” This phrase was my attempt to capture in words the desire to hear someone speak to me again, and that feeling you get deep in your heart when you miss the sound of …

Lyrical Triggers & Process

Sometimes it is as simple as a title I have no control over; an inspiration that opens a floodgate of lyrics. A poignant melody combined with the title “Charlie” inspired these words: I once was young I was new we shared a kiss that’s what you do I didn’t know you’d go Charlie A tender branch on a tree will bend not break that once was me but now I am old I’m not so free My brittle heart will surely break it only takes one small mistake, I know, so….. I’m careful And if I try, I’ll be strong and I won’t cry I know, this feeling will go I’ll hold this thought in my mind of innocence, and love that’s kind of youth and truth Charlie CHARLIE ©2011 Laurie Early [Based on melody by Johannes Faber, as played on: Artram-Mantra by Fausto Ferraiuolo] The original musical piece is a tribute to the saxophonist, Charlie Mariano, but Charlie was also the name of my boyfriend when I was 13-years old. So, my lyrics reflect the contrast between taking …

Sometimes I’m Happy

Things are getting really interesting this year! I am taking an improvisation class with saxophonist, Bob Mover, and have started to re-learn all the basic music theory I had forgotten. Bob has been really kind to me by tailoring his instruction to my level of understanding. He does that for all of his students, even though the class has a mix of fully-informed professional musicians and musicians such as I who have compensated for a lack of technical knowledge with many types of audio-focused “work-arounds”. (Which in my case means trying to hear what’s needed in a particular composition – playing “by ear”. Or, it means trying desperately to pull up, from the deep recesses of my brain, theory and voice leading concepts I foolishly suppressed years ago during a musical “dark night of the soul”. I had mistakenly thought I would never have music in my life again.) I appreciate the fact that Bob “dumbs it down” for me without making me feel dumb. Thank you, Bob. One of the best parts of the …

April Showers of Poetry and Prose

Do I have regrets? Yes, I do. I do. I regret every lost opportunity to look towards you and to smile, (instead of looking down at my feet, or at your feet, how lame!) I should have gazed more deeply into your eyes. I should have tried to say what I feel but without words, with a glance; words were not needed. (Are they needed now?) Oh yes, I regret that I was shy. I regret thinking that you could read my mind, thinking that you understood that I could not bear to look at you. It was pure fear you would see how much you meant to me. (You mean so very much to me.) Do I have regrets? I used to say, “No.” but I realize now, that’s not true, I regret every lost opportunity with you. –Laurie Early, 2018 [Regrets] He says: “the sun doesn’t know anything, it’s just a stupid star.” I die a little inside. No poetry remains in his heart. He doesn’t realize all those “stupid stars” know everything! …

Roman Moments (I Never Knew)

I am back in New York now after a particularly poignant Barry Harris Jazz Workshop in Rome. It was really special being there with so many people that love jazz, Barry, and maybe even me a little too. At one point I was overcome with emotion as I looked around the room and realized I knew almost everyone by name and that some of the dearest people to me were there. People I truly love and cannot imagine living without. At a casual “picnic” dinner a couple of days later I mentioned this epiphany to Barry and I thanked him for bringing so much joy and love into my life. After we finished eating he asked us to sing and I did an a capella rendition of one of Lester Young’s solos on “I Never Knew” – not as fast as Lester blows it out, but fast enough (I include my lyrics below). I had joked with Barry earlier in the week that Lester was my new boyfriend as I had spent every evening with …

Tips and Tricks on YouTube

YouTube is an inspirational online platform for musicians and songwriters. It is so much more than an online-radio. We know it is an easy, free, way to simply listen to a song, watch a movie, or listen to a “TED talk” but I suspect that many of us do not explore other ways it can serve us and our musical lives. In this post I will list some of the things I do that work for me, but I wonder how other musicians use YouTube, and other free online tools, to assist them in honing their craft? (I would love to hear your tips and tricks. Please email me or comment.) Okay! Let’s get cracking! Tips and Tricks for Musical Studies on YouTube YouTube Playlists: I use the playlist feature every day. You can create 3 types based on the privacy level you want: * Public lists can be seen by and shared with anyone; * Private lists can only be seen by YOU and the users you choose; * Unlisted lists can be only be seen by you and …

Easy Does It

“Blue skies, smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see”….for a while that song meant everything hopeful. I had a glimmer of a wonderful future that seemed to be possible. For a short time I began to believe that life could really bring exciting, joyful experiences my way. I was really happy, until I was hit with some difficult life upheavals and it took me a long time to get my balance back. I allowed external situations to influence my feelings, my reactions. Now I have learned that responding often means just allowing, just observing and not turning everything into a stress, not feeling that I have to fix or control what is going on around me. As I learn to ride the waves of life more languidly, I find that I am happier. I see those Blue Skies again! In the Spring of 2015 I was in Basel, Switzerland, for a week and while I was there, surrounded by fresh air–redolent with roses and flowering trees–I turned some of the images of …

88 Keys + 88 Years = Barry Harris

Dr. Barry Doyle Harris will be 88-years old next week. Born on December 15, 1929, he has lived one year for each one of the 88 keys on the piano, his musical vehicle—a vehicle that he uses to transport his listeners to jazz paradise. I will let others expound on his theoretical genius, or explain mathematically why his scales and harmonies are so exquisite. I will instead share a glimmer of what has happened in my world since Barry came into my life. I will start this story in the summer of 2008, when I was still studying jazz vocals with Ulysses Slaughter. A friend from the Jazz Foundation of America’s Monday night jam sessions, pianist Richard Clements, invited me to attend the memorial of a dancer being held at “University of the Streets” in the East Village. At the memorial, Richard was playing a beautiful white grand piano, and at a certain point in the program Barry came on the stage area and sang a song that he wrote to commemorate the lives of …