Author: Laurie Early

Heartfelt Tokens – Miniature Collages

I have not blogged much about the visual art I enjoy creating. For this first month of 2017, I thought I would start out the year by posting one of my favorite projects–I call them “Heartfelt Tokens” because these small tags are personal one-of-a-kind collages that are really creatively satisfying to make and fun to give as gifts. If you are intrigued, and think you might also enjoy making them for your friends, family, and unexpectedly kind “strangers”, instructions and supplies are listed below. In general, I find it very relaxing and meditative to create collages of all sizes. In the future I hope to  write more about some of the creativity classes I used to teach that made use of this accessible art form. It’s great to have tokens already prepared for quick gift giving or timely thank you. I like to take them on trips because they fit easily in my carry-on and are a personal way to acknowledge a unexpected birthday or other occasion, or to thank someone for a kindness.   …

Holiday Cheesecake (Dexter Gordon Style)

The holiday celebration season is upon us! This time of year I am usually scouting the local Italian bakeries for a “Pastiera” (a ricotta cheesecake made with wheatberries) that is sometimes available around Christmas. Luckily my daughter is baking one, and I can scratch that difficult search off my “TO DO List.” So, for this month’s post, rather than dwelling on all the distressing, sad, and confusing things going on in the world, I have instead decided to write about another cheesecake; one that contains no calories at all! Here is the story of my favorite lyrics from 2016 — words I was instantly inspired to write after hearing Dexter Gordon’s tune “CHEESECAKE”. Background: In the middle of July, during a particularly stressful week, a link to “Cheesecake” arrived as an unexpected IM, instant message. What a joy! It exudes such an upbeat, positive energy. I was so grateful to receive it. (Thank you to the friend that sent it to me, you know who you are.) As I continued listening and thinking about what might have made Dexter call …

Small Beginnings

I have been called a “trouble-shooter” and a “self-starter” which in American business terminology are ways of saying that: I look for problems before they happen (or as they begin to occur), and I remedy them. And, I don’t need a lot of external management; I can usually determine on my own when to start working on a project, how the work should flow, and other factors to get the desired result. These are two recognized qualities in adults, especially in a business/work environment, and it occurred to me recently that these character traits have evolved since I was a baby. I wondered…Did curiosity and my love of patterns turn into an ability to recognize glitches and irregularities? Was I born with a natural tendency to study things on my own and to transform this internal “timetable” into a creative discipline? It is so easy to remember all the difficulties I have faced, but today, as I sit here pondering various discoveries and experiences I had as a child, this mini-revelation has filled my mind …

My Dreamy Man

A friend once posted on Facebook that her guy was “dreamy”. I wondered why we don’t use that word much anymore since its hey-day in the 1950s. My mind must have been pondering this idea while I slept because as I walked to work the next day, this song came into being. Subsequently, it has a nice “walking” tempo. Last year, in Gela Sicily, over a lunch break at the Barry Harris’ Jazz Workshop, I was able to record the song in the classroom.  On this link to our audio recording, you can hear Angelo Di Leonforte’s stride piano interpretation; so fun! My Dreamy Man © Laurie Early I love your face I love your style I love the way you always make me smile You, you, you you are my dreamy man. I love your eyes I love your mind I love the way you always make it easy to unwind You, you, you you are my dreamy man. I love the way you always cheer me up when life gets blue You always help me to …

Dear Lord (Happy Birthday, John Coltrane)

I arrived back from Italy on Monday night; I was totally exhausted, and literally bruised, from traveling back with luggage that was far heavier than what I had brought with me. Yes, I was unwise and brought back groceries for my daughter that turned out to be very heavy. I am not sorry I packed them, but if I had to do it over again I would have taken a taxi to the train instead of pulling my bags from San Lorenzo to Termini. I tell this part of the story to set the stage for the wonderful piece of music that was waiting for me in an instant message. You see, when I arrived home I felt totally numb creatively, but then I turned my telephone back on and John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord” was waiting for me. A jazz friend “across the pond” sent it to me while I was traveling and my phone was in airplane mode. I listened and immediately in my mind I heard the opening line in words–always a wonderful surprise. I …

Random Things About Me

So, hello, hi there! Here is something a little unexpected, a summer “fluff” post that you will hopefully find entertaining and maybe even educational about what memories are stored in my mind. It is a list of 16 random things about me. They are in no particular order, *smile*. 1. When I worked in a corporate setting, at approximately 3 PM, almost every day, I hiccuped.  Usually just one, and then it was over.  I have no idea why.  At the office, a colleague who sat next to me always noted the time and commented on how close to 3 PM I was. (Since I began telecommuting a few years ago, the 3 PM hiccup is no more. I still hiccup now and then, but not on a strict schedule.) 2. My favorite TV program is Eastenders. “Trials and tribulations impact lives in a close-knit community in London’s East End”  I love it!  I have been watching it since 1987.  I found it on a UHF channel before I had cable – it was one of the few things I …

Roses in Rome

Ah, yes, this photo is my first red rose of Rome, I refused it at least 3 times, yet, still, my friend bought it for me anyway. The vendor stood close to us, hovering over our dinner table at a local family-run restaurant. I had never experienced that before, salesmen coming inside a restaurant with bundles of flowers for sale. Of course, I thanked my friend, but at first I secretly wished he had not given it to me; I started to stress a little.  We had only just met, why did he want to buy me a flower? How would I keep it from wilting while we ate? Where would I keep it in my little B&B room? So many stupid worries that never came about. It did not wilt as I had feared and I ultimately found a good place to display it in my room, in a drinking glass on top of a little black counter-top. It stood there, perky, all week, next to a TV I watched for about 15 minutes one day. (I …

Poems for Billy Strayhorn (III)

In the early morning of May 31, 1967, Billy Strayhorn made his transition to another realm. In honor of him, and his musical legacy, I would like to share “Lotus Blossom”, the third poem from my series inspired by his compositions. I was deeply moved by the recording of Duke Ellington playing this piece as an impromptu tribute to Billy. I understand that it was accidently recorded after the session for Duke’s album “And His Mother Called Him Bill” was supposed to have concluded.  In the background, you can hear the other band members talking and packing up as he begins to play this intimate solo. Oh! I listened to this recording many, many, many times while I was writing the words below. You can also listen to it here: “Lotus Blossom” on YouTube*. I wanted to compose a piece where the lotus not only described how I personally feel about Billy Strayhorn, his life, the man, the artist, and how he inspires me and countless other musicians, but one that would also describe the natural life cycle of this mystical plant. It was the juxtaposition of these two metaphors that inspired …

Trying to Get Through Spring

There are so many beautiful songs about Spring–songs that cover different aspects  of the weather, the flowers, themes of renewal, loss, and love. I think that the seasons resonate with everyone, at least everyone who lives in an area of the world where they set the schedule for planting, growing, harvest, and fallow. Anyone who has experienced these shifts in temperature, these quarterly phases and physical reminders of life, death and re-birth can appreciate the metaphors of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn. The song I want to talk about today, analyze in a way, was written a few years ago. At the time, I was learning many jazz standards, all new to me, while also grieving a loss, so I happened to write a song that reflected my deep sadness, yet reminded me of all the lovely things Spring has to offer. I was especially focused on flowers I had been singing about in the other standards, or flowers that had personal meaning to me from my childhood. So, I will attempt to dissect and explain the song lyrics a little and to indicate …