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Welcome !

Moments, Memories & Jazz site is my “home” on the internet.

Thanks again for stopping by.  To read a little about me and to see how cute I was at around the age of two, please visit my ABOUT page – just click here.  If you are interested in reading more about the freelance songwriting services I offer – then click here. Even if you are visiting on your phone, at the bottom of this page is a link to “FULL SITE” you can click there to see my latest posts.

-Laurie

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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]

Sorrow’s Garden – mixed media collage (c. Laurie Early)


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!
They know I fell in love.

-Laurie Early, 2018 [The intelligence of stars]


 

My fears are not about who you are or what you might have done in the past.
I see your light, your goodness, your passionate heart and creative spirit.
All of us have made crazy choices in life – that is how we learn what we truly want,
so, I find no fault in choosing to spend any time possible with you.
Do you wish to spend time with me too?
Oh, I would be filled with joy just to sit beside you in silence.
If you wish to fill that silence with conversation, or song,
then my heart will overflow.
If you wish to fill that silence with an embrace,
then my soul will forever be joined with yours
and my mind will bend to my heart’s determined longing.
My fear is that this is all a dream.
My fear is that if it is not a dream, that I will disappoint you, or cause you pain.
My fear is that I am not worthy of your affection.
My fear is that you have experienced so many things
and I have no experience in many things.
I fear I am ugly and old,
but if this is what I am, what choice do I have?
I can only be myself.
My fear is that myself will not be enough.
My fear is that I will give my life to you and you will abandon me.
My fear is that I will fall apart into a thousand pieces—
that I will beg you not to abandon me
as I watch you leave.
But, my greatest fear is not having you in my life at all.

Laurie Early, 2018 [My Fears]

“No Promises” collage by Laurie Early (c. 2017)

 

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 him for the past couple of months. Barry laughed out loud at this revelation — he thought it was funny I was “hanging with the Pres“.

“Now I really know what love does–
Wakin’ us up like all those cars honkin’
(and they were really honkin’ man.)
I never really knew that life could be so sweet, but
now that I’ve got you here with me
I know how good my life can finally be.
I never knew, I never knew,
Oh my God, I really never knew.”

-Laurie Early (March 2018)


Here are some “snapshots” of the week:

Of course there were jazz cats, playing late into the night, making us happily sleep-deprived.

 

And, there were house cats, street cats, and cats keeping watch over storefronts.

 

 

I stayed in the San Lorenzo area of town. It rained and rained and rained this month. It was also unusually cold. But I did not mind because my heart was warm.

 

 Rome –  it is never the same two days in a row. The day it stopped raining this impromptu chess game appeared near my ATM (Bancomat).

 

 

💙 Yes,  I was very happy on Via dei Sabelli 💙


One of the cool things that happened in San Lorenzo was meeting the artist/sculptor, Franchina Casella, as she was decorating the outside of her studio on Via dei Reti.

 

She had a effervescent spirit that instantly lifted my already happy mood.  Her website is: www.franchinacasella.it

 

 

 

 


Listen to Lester’s solo on YouTube

 

 

I NEVER KNEW
(on Lester Young solo)
©2018 Laurie Early

Over my head, and I’m goin’ round in circles;
am I seeing clearly? (Everything is spinning…)

I never knew that roses grew,
all around the world, every single day.
I never knew, anytime breezes blew,
all the little birdies flew around me, and it didn’t mean a thing.

I never knew, when dreams come true,
I’d lose my cares like they never were there.
Now I’m aware your love’s a magic deep in my heart (yes, it is)
and baby, it’s good! (You know it)

Every little breeze that whispers ‘round me in the summertime,
or night-time, when the moon, is shining above,
blows all my cares away!
Now, the way I feel about you, baby, shows.
I cannot hide it, so what!
I don’t care now who knows.

Grab your coat I’m takin’ you out on the town,
out where all the music’s crazy, and pulsing;
Baby, hold on to me and never let me go!
No! I don’t want to lose you!

When you’re in my arms I know you hear my heart,
it’s beating now like there is no tomorrow
waiting out there for you and me.
Listen to the beating of my heart!
Listen to the rhythm of all that we share.
Baby, don’t you think it’s time that we just go
(where lights are turned down low?)

Baby, watch out for all those damn honkin’ cars!
Not up at stars!
Now, just look at me babe.
Won’t you trust in me? Please, baby.

Now I really know what love does–
Wakin’ us up like all those cars honkin’
(and they were really honkin’ man.)
I never really knew that life could be so sweet, but
now that I’ve got you here with me
I know how good my life can finally be.
I never knew, I never knew,
Oh my God, I really never knew.

[I never knew life could be so wonderful, No, I didn’t.
Just let those cars and breezes blow around us now.
Ain’t nothin’ goin’ stop us now that we know
.]


Melograno e Pera

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 anyone who has the direct link.

Here is a list of some examples of musical studies playlists I have created (along with links to some examples on my channel). This is NOT all of them! I have too many personal lists to name; they inspire me, make me laugh, teach me how to speak Italian better, how to cook something the correct way…you name it, I might have a playlist for it!

  • Songs referenced each week in specific classes I attend – Great for reference and refreshing your memory, or, when friends ask what the song was last week, or last month. I try to find the most accurate version of the song, with as little embellishment as possible – unless a class assigns an instrumental version, or particular solo to study.
    See: “Jazz Standards – Barry’s Class
  • Backing tracks  – even though I love my iReal Pro for writing new tunes and practicing, there are some cool backing tracks on YouTube as well
  • A collection of songs that are in a particular book – I add them in the order they are listed in the book so I can listen while I review the sheet; this is not always possible to maintain as YouTube often deletes videos – so sad.
    See: “Italian Standards” Book referenced is: Italian Jazz Standards
  • Personal performance examples – build your brand! Create an unlisted playlist you can share with prospective venues/contacts; and/or a public collection to build your fanbase.
    See: YouTube Channel – Laurie Early
  • Jazz Theory classes – I will admit that I am WAY behind in my theory studies. Since I cannot physically attend classes everyday it is fantastic that they are always available when I have time. I especially love the classes posted in the last couple of years by BarryHarrisVideos: part of a collection of videos which Frans Elsen recorded during workshops that Barry Harris gave at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague between 1989 and 1998.
    See: “Jazz Theory
  • Lists dedicated to particular musicians and/or songwriters
  • Songs I want to learn – I actually have 3 types of playlists to keep track of cool tunes I want to learn:
    1. Basic “mixed” playlist where I save examples of a bunch of different songs I have heard.
    2. A playlist that is dedicated to one song, where I collect versions from various musicians, and in different musical styles. If it is a vocal song I usually include instrumental versions too because those are full of rich musical gold – magical phrases to inspire my vocal interpretation. And,

3. MY FAVORITE private playlist, a “faux-loop”. I love these! I create them all the time. Find the perfect version of the song or solo you want to study and create a new playlist with it. I usually name it “LOOP SongTitle”, something like that, and then I add it to the same playlist over and over as many times as I need it to repeat. Because I like to listen and study on my phone while I am walking or on public transportation, this saves me having to hit replay each time the song ends — or worse yet having it jump to another random song.
Once and a while you will have to endure an advertisement between plays, but to to me it is still a great timesaver. (And, depending on how well I have learned the piece, I adjust the speed of the playback using “Slow it Down” — described below.)
I have taken a a couple of screenshots of what this playlist looks like. You can even add a description – in my example “Sometimes I’m Happy” I needed to have Lester Young’s solo memorized by a class scheduled for February 1st, so I noted that for myself as a reminder.

  • In addition to the personalized View All Playlists page; I want to mention that there are a couple of built-in Playlists that require very little effort to use. (If you already have an account, you can easily reset or set the privacy.)
    1. “Liked” videos – saves everything you click LIKE on; easy peasy;
    2. “Watch Later” – Click the tiny ADD TO icon underneath the video window, click the “Watch Later” tick-box, and YouTube saves it for you to …surprise…watch LATER! If you don’t have any personal Playlists created it is a great way to collect a bunch of things quickly and look at them now or later. It is really easy to delete items too. And, then, last but not least,
    3. “History” (which updates automatically whenever you watch something) – you can clear it out whenever you feel so inclined, but if you are searching on a particular song and want to go back to one you listened to earlier but can’t remember how how you found it, it should be in your history. You can turn your history on and off

Slow it down*:

When trying to learn a solo, or to transcribe a phrase that flies by too fast for your brain to register, make use of the “Playback speed” function that is accessed by clicking on the 3 vertical dots in the upper right corner of the video window.

In my “Sometimes I’m Happy” example, I found the 0.75x (3/4 speed) best for me as it did not distort the sound too much and I was able to more easily hear Lester Young’s triplets. For other songs I am studying, I have to listen at half speed in order to hear the full phrases clearly.

*A special thanks to Roger Crosdale, Saxophonist-UK, for telling me about this feature.

Subscriptions:

Subscribe to your friend’s channels  – Support your friends by subscribing to their channels and keep up with the types of things they are playing, check out their playlists, and see what channels they recommend.


Share cool stuff you find:

There is a famous line from Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” that goes “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” It pops in my mind now as I think about how I now rely on certain friends to point me in the direction of amazing songs and solos to listen to, study and inspire my writing. I depend on them now, and I say: “I can always depend on the kindness of my dear friends.” I try to share things with them too, and I hope they find what’s exciting to me to be equally exciting to them.

Change the start time:

Is there a specific section of a piece you need to reference, or share with a friend? YouTube has a way to narrow down where your video to start.

Let’s say you want to share Barry Harris’ version of “Un Poco Loco” from his “Live in Tokyo” album with a friend who is interested in that Bud Powell classic. It starts at about 36 minutes and 57 seconds into the full album linked here: https://youtu.be/N8UP7oFXeMw. Select “SHARE” in the bottom of the video window, click the little square that says “Start at” and then click on “COPY”. (The url will now look like this:  https://youtu.be/N8UP7oFXeMw?t=36m57s ) After you have your final url you can “paste” this address into a reference list, an email, or a social media post.

Problems you may run into:

As with everything in life, some things need to be tended, they cannot stay intact on their own, this is true of YouTube playlists as well. If you do not regularly listen to a public playlist, something you have created to share with your friends or the world at large, you should check it once and a while to make sure that videos have not suddenly been deleted or become private. You will need to manually delete them from the list so it flows easily from one video to the next. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what video has become unavailable AFTER it has “gone gray”, so if a particular list is needed for any reason it is a good idea to keep a record of what you had there, either in a real notebook (I’m talking hold in your hand, made of actual paper notebook), screen shots of your list, or other note-keeping app. This way you can search on YouTube to see if the video can be replaced by another version that IS available.

Another issue that I have experienced is getting an error message that a video is not available in your country. Make sure you test videos for proper playback before adding them to your playlist; if it doesn’t work for you, search for a version that does.

**NOTE: Mosaics featured on this page are of, and by, the artist Chuck Close (and others). They are photos taken in the 2nd Avenue subway stations. It was a special joy to visit there and see the wonderful, George Braith, and his “Braithophone” double-sax, immortalized in beautiful tile.

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 relaxation and allowing into original lyrics for Oscar Peterson’s version of Easy Does It, a song by Sy Oliver and Trummy Young.

Easy Does It
©2015 Laurie Early

Take a tip from me,
and you will find that life can go so easily
if every day you smile and say
“I’ll wait and see”
then easy does it,
yes, it does!

Life can be so sweet,
if you just stay laid-back and elevate your feet
your heart is telling you
appreciate each beat
Oh, easy does it,
[Oh, man!] yes it (sure) does

Don’t hold on too tight,
just let it go and trust it all will be alright
look deep within yourself and
see that inner light
Easy does it,
yes, it does!

Float out with the tide,
no need to struggle, feel the flow, enjoy the ride
be like the water rolling off a duck,
just slide
oh, easy does it,
oh baby yes, you know it sure does!

Leave some room for fate,
live out your dreams and destiny will not be late
and if you find someone who loves you,
man, that’s great!
but, easy does it,
(yeah come on, you know it does)

[[break]]

IMPROV/PIANO SOLO:

Take it easy, take it easy,
take every day easy
Oh, yeah, easy does it every time
Easy does it, yes it does.

Take it easy, take it easy,
make every day breezy
Oh, yeah, easy does it every time
Easy does it, my, oh yes it sure does!

Take it easy, take it easy,
Baby, take it easy,
easy does it every time;
Take it easy, take it easy,
Baby, take it easy,
‘cause easy will do it every time

Take it easy, easy does it, baby
Take it easy, ‘cause easy does it every time
Easy does it, easy does it, my, oh, yes,
it sure does!

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.

Barry in Rome 2011

Rome – 2011 – Barry was offered a ride and turned it down, and then I said, “but Barry, how about just as a photo shoot” and he was so excited about the idea he said, “Yes, but just as a photo shoot.” Then when the owner helped him up I was suddenly very afraid — we all huddled around him, out of camera range. I was glad when he was safely back down on the sidewalk. But these photos are so cool now. I see pure joy in his face.

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 musicians who had passed on. The lyrics began “Who knows just when one’s life is bound to end? Perhaps it’s written in the stars…” I had no idea who Barry was but I was starstruck.

After he finished singing I was all choked-up and I turned to the people next to me and asked, “WHO is that MAN?” They whispered back something along the lines of “Oh, that’s Barry Harris. You don’t know him?” I did remember hearing his name at the 802 Union Hall, where the jam sessions were held. Some of the singers had mentioned studying with him, but other than that I didn’t know anything else about him.

Then asked them about the wonderful song he had just sung. What was the name? Where could I get it? I really wanted to sing it. They replied that they did not know the song, no one did, it was Barry’s original composition and only he knew it. I was very disappointed, but because of the strong emotions he evoked, the memory of this moment, and that touching song were all stuck in my mind. So, when two months later Ulysses was gone and I did not know where to turn to continue my jazz studies I immediately thought of Barry. I looked up his name online, found his calendar and I made sure to attend the very next vocals class, which just happened to be held at the same venue that particular week: University of the Streets. 

Classes with Barry can be paid for by the class, or you can pay a yearly dues amount and get a discounted class rate. I made sure to pay the yearly dues when I arrived and the musician at the door was a bit puzzled by this. He bent his head to the side and harshly questioned me, “Are you SURE? You have never been here before, this is for the whole year.” I told him I was sure, that I needed to make a financial commitment in order to make sure I would keep coming back. He took my money.

The song that night was “Autumn Leaves” and I learned all the words, but I did not get up to sing with the other students because I was holding back tears, too raw emotionally from losing Ulysses. But the next week was a special class called “Singer’s Choice” and I did summon enough courage to get into the line and sing the first song Ulysses had chosen for me to learn, “It Might As Well Be Spring”. As luck would have it, because none of the pianists that night knew the song well enough, Barry himself accompanied me. I will never forget it. It was the beginning of a huge shift in my life and I am so grateful for him, his wisdom, his classes, his personal advice to me, and his friendship.

I am sure I will post more about him in the future as “The Best is Yet to Come” but I would like to say how exciting he has made my life–because of him I have now traveled to Switzerland and England, singing all sorts of entrancing standards and his original pieces. In Italy, I have attended his workshops in Rome and Gela (Sicily). Because of him I have met so many amazing musicians and through some of those musicians I have met others who I now work with writing songs.

If I visually imagine my life as taking the form of the number 8, then 2008 was the middle point, the twist, the pivot, the movement from the top loop of preparation, into the bottom loop of fulfillment. I do not know what is going to happen to me next, but I am sure it will be something that springs from my love of Barry and his music.


Barry Harris in London at Pizza Express

Barry Harris and Roger Crosdale outside London’s Pizza Express Soho [photo by Nobuo Watanabe]

If you are not fortunate enough to own any of Barry’s albums or CDs, there are many wonderful YouTube videos that showcase his musical brilliance and many years of teaching around the world.

My favorite video is of Barry playing I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, called simply “Barry Harris Jazzpiano Solo” on YouTube. The lyrics to this song also sum up so many of the moments that I have been blessed to spend with him and the new people he brought into my life (although I will admit I know exactly what day it was, and what year it was, and where I was, and what my life was like then.)

Although it is difficult to put into words how he makes me feel when I am listening to him play, I will try and capture that emotion in future posts. He has brought so many wonderful songs and melodies into my life, and some of the cool, funny, or inspiring things he has said in passing made their way into my notebooks.  I think of these insights as “flashes” or “sparkles”, like the way a ray of sunlight randomly hits a wave in the water and it flashes in the corner of your eye and you are suddenly alert. (I call them “Barryisms”.)


Happy Birthday, Barry Harris!

I will conclude my tale today with one more reference to University of the Streets, that vortex of creative energy, I mean that rehearsal space on East 7th Street. It is no longer a jazz hub, but I have spent hundreds of joy-filled hours there over the years as it was where Barry held his Chorus rehearsals. I joined that group in 2009 and after the chorus performed with him at the Village Vanguard, he asked me what I had thought of the whole experience. I had never been to a jazz club before, never heard him play in that sort of a venue. It had been amazingly beautiful seeing him perform for an audience; So, I spontaneously said: “Oh, Barry! you were a jewel in the proper setting!” 

//embeds.audioboom.com/posts/599943-you-re-a-jewel-in-the-proper-setting-fast-version/embed/v4?eid=AQAAAF8hKlqHJwkA

Click above to listen to my crazy fast a capella version of “You’re a Jewel in the Proper Setting” (This is a 4-5 minute song at the regular slow tempo – this version is fast to fit it in under the 3-minute Audioboom file size limit, *smile*)

You’re A Jewel In The Proper Setting
©2009 Laurie Early
(for Barry Harris – on his 80th Birthday)

You can’t fashion a gem without making some cuts
and you’ve borne the pain of every one.
No one denies that you’ve had the guts
and now you’re second to none.

In this venue of gold and platinum you shine
creating such melodies, pure and divine
with chords that you dig from deep in the mine.
You’re a jewel in the proper setting.

Refracting the spotlight you illuminate the dark
mesmerizing us all with that magical spark,
suspending the moment, then leaving your mark.
You’re a jewel in the proper setting.

Blue as a sapphire, cool as an emerald sea,
red as the ruby that held back a tear for thee,
golden as topaz rising up like the sun,
deep purple amethyst when the night is done.

Such a precious, dear treasure, you are one of a kind
each phrase and each measure so lovingly designed,
perfectly polished, each facet defined,.
you’re a jewel, in the proper setting.

You’re a diamond, you’re a gem,
you’re a jewel, in the proper setting.

Poems for Billy Strayhorn (IV)

The technical side of this piece began when I read a songwriting book that suggested opening a set of lyrics with the word “And” (which, as we were all taught in elementary school, is NOT an acceptable way to begin a sentence.) So, just starting my poem with this word was a purposeful act of defiance in a grammatical sense, not even taking into consideration the subject of the piece which evolved into its own defiant statement. I have witnessed this violent story in many forms over my lifetime. It is never the same, yet it is always the same. These words were inspired by the melody and they flowed out of my pen and onto the page in a stream-of-consciousness way. They surprised me.

Listen to Lament for an Orchid by Billy Strayhorn  – The Dutch Jazz Orchestra
This song is also known as Absinthe – click this link to hear Duke Ellington

And Again
©2009 Laurie Early

And again,
he apologizes, as he
begs her, please, to give him
one more chance.

So, she bends, and
she accepts his orchid, and
she admits that maybe
this time was her fault.

Oh…Every waking minute
she’s on the defensive
Every day
in every way
she’s scared
to leave

Things are calm,
love returns a moment,
but then she speaks
of friends
she misses,
doesn’t he?
[doesn’t he?]

And he turns,
now his fist is raised, and
she can feel
so clearly
all the rage
within
him

Every waking minute
he’s on the offensive
Every day in every way
he’s scared
she’ll leave

So, she runs,
through the open doorway,
her orchid’s
crushed
just as she pulls
the door
closed
tight.

And she runs
And she runs
And she runs away to the night
And she runs away to the night


The other Strayhorn inspired poems I have posted here are:  (I) My Isfahan, (II) Chelsea Bridge, and (III) Lotus Blossom.

 

A Burgundy Twilight

I feel a major shift in my life, starting today, October 1, 2017. Without going into details, a nine-year cycle ended yesterday for me. Yes, yesterday I learned many things: revelations about people I know, observations about how love is expressed (or denied), thoughts about how I am (or am not) respected, and a new confidence about my ability to keep going through extreme periods of grief, stress, and rejection. I sometimes see flashes of my future, I know certain things are coming, and I try not to judge them as good or bad. This ability is sometimes very reassuring as it gives me hope. But, there are times I am frustrated when I know something unpleasant is heading towards me and there is nothing I can do about it. And, sometimes, I am just plain WRONG and my “prediction” turns out to be just a negative fantasy.

A small case in point, my lyrics for Barry Harris’ fantastic tune “Burgundy”. I wrote them the week following a class where we scatted syllables along with his tune. I incorrectly assumed the lyrics would be rejected, writing a reminder to myself in my notebook that read: “Show Barry the lyrics to Burgundy so he can complain about them.” However, he didn’t complain about them, in fact, he liked them and had the class sing them, right then and there. The only thing that seemed to bother him was the word “burgundy” right before the word twilight. He said he did not like the word “burgundy” at all which made me laugh! I told him that I built the whole song story idea around the color because that is what HE called the tune!

Here is a link to Barry playing Burgundy and my lyrics are below.

I would like to wish everyone a wonderful Autumn season, full of burgundy twilights where you are able to wrap your arms around the person you adore, cling to them, and visualize your wonderful future together.

Burgundy
Lyrics © 2017 Laurie Early
(for Dr. Barry D. Harris)

We’re flying
and from this height we see the beautiful sky
Below us are the city lights, aglow,
perhaps because they know
we are in love!

We fly towards the sunset
that softly beckons
and promises to wrap us in romance,
and splendor,
and burgundy twilight.

We wonder
how there could ever be a night quite like this
An evening full of wine and song
that started with the perfect kiss,
Oh, what a kiss!

As night falls around us
we cling together
and ever will dream
of our heavenly flight
on this burgundy night.

Ornithology

September–still warm from the end of summer, yet moving towards the frost. I am thinking of all the wonderful music that is my soundtrack now and I would like to share my lyrics for Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology”.

YouTube link to sing along

Ornithology
music ©1946 Charlie Parker
lyrics ©2012 Laurie Early

I bet you thought you’d never see me cryin’
you prob’ly thought my heart was just like a stone
I tell ‘ya, now that’s no lie
but you turned it into sand with your goodbye
yes, when you said “we’re through” I started to cry
the tears flowed down–now you know why

When I THINK of you baby I always cry,
must be that sand in my eye

(I) tried hard to build a wall around me
but when we kissed it crumbled down to the ground
You held me, and it fell
Baby, you know you had me under  your spell
I gave my heart to you, couldn’t you tell?
I didn’t want to hear “farewell”

Tag:
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Listen, baby, on my word, fly back to me, I will be your bird.

Alt. B section:
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It’s totally, totally, totally true!
It’s only, only, only you!

Childhood, Mindfulness, & Avocados

You might think my title for this month’s post is a strange trio of words, and I agree, but there are threads to tie them together–observation, reflection, and trees. For childhood is where I learned many ways to express my creative soul, when I first learned to explore the idea of mindfulness by observing a single tree. As an adult, I spent a few hours in a large grove of trees, observing the heavy dark green avocados swaying in a light breeze over my head. They were beautiful ornaments hanging under a shady canopy of leaves, fully protected from the desert sun above (that eventually burned my cheeks a bright red.) Years later when I heard a song that had the words “avocado tree” included in a rough translation of the original Portugese, I was reminded of those beautiful trees and that wonderful day. I reflected on the spiritual tranquility I experienced while walking alone there, and I was inspired to write a new set of lyrics in English which also speak to the practice of mindfulness.

Shadows of the Leaves

CHILDHOOD

I grew up in a small village on Long Island called “Sea Cliff”, and for many years I was lucky enough to be friends with children’s book authors Mercer and Marianna Mayer. They moved into the house right next door to mine when I was about 4 years old. I still have the most vivid memory of the first moment I saw them as they stood in their driveway near the back steps of their house. I don’t remember if I ran up to them, or if I just marched over with a big smile on my face, but I was really excited to share with them what I thought was the most wonderful opportunity–to peek into my little plastic “collection bag” filled with slithering, bright orange, garden slugs! They laughed, we introduced ourselves, but ultimately they turned down my offer because they had to look at their new carpets. I was very confused as I watched them go up the stairs to their door. I did not understand. How could looking at carpets be better than seeing my cool orange slugs?

Mercer was primarily an illustrator in those days, and he allowed me into his art studio every once and a while. He taught me a bunch of creative things, always something cool I had never done before:

  • He told me the secret of a mysterious guy named “Roy G. Biv” and then demonstrated Roy’s powers by mixing watercolors on a large sheet of paper;
  • He introduced me to the wonders of “salt-dough”, which we transformed into delicate Christmas ornaments;
  • He taught my brother, Chris, and I all the background vocals for In The Still of the Night (Mercer sang the lead, of course); and,
  • One year, when I was around 6 years old, my school day ended earlier than usual; I think they had to do repairs. Mercer gave me and some other children from my class a crash course in mindfulness on the grassy lawn of our village library.

MINDFULNESS THEN

Mercer told us to pretend that we were from another planet – we were aliens. He pointed to a flowering tree nearby and instructed us to describe the tree to him. We were encouraged to use all of our senses. What did it look like? What did it smell like? Describe the texture. I can still see that tree in my mind. I can smell the Spring air. I can hear the sound of the birds. I remember the joy.

And now, I feel the longing for that simpler time. A time when creative ideas were shared just for the joy of sharing. Some of my happiest memories of childhood was time spent with the Mayers. Marianna also inspired me to appreciate nature, to read, to write stories, and to interpret existing stories (fairy tales and other established tales)–to explore other angles of perception when reading them. I am thankful for her empowering, lovely, creative influence, (and her delicious lentil soup served on New Year’s Eve!) I think of these times often, to remind myself of how my creative, artistic, life began.

remembrance 1 with apples

MINDFULNESS NOW

I use the observation techniques I learned as a child all the time; I don’t consciously think about it anymore, it is a reflex to consider all the senses when I am reflecting on something. However, I never took a formal course in mindfulness until recently when an internet acquaintance introduced me to the Facebook group of Steven Webb (The Peace of Mind Coach). I found out Steven was offering a free book called The Five Secret Practices You Need for Peace of Mind and I started reading it (in conjunction with an online course he also had on sale.) I thought these practices would help motivate me to rededicate myself to creative projects I have let lag, but there has been a happy side-effect as Steven’s coaching has also been helping me to let go of many every-day stresses swirling around me.

I feel more “in the moment” now than I have ever been. I am more confident that I can maintain my inner balance even when my “outer balance” is still messed up. (I am still healing an ankle fracture from June. I am still a bit “wobbly”.) Steven’s “Peace of Mind” Facebook live feeds and videos have been a constant solace during my recuperation. So, in addition to taking external baby steps on my healing ankle, I feel like I am taking internal baby steps on the “mindfulness path”. I am thankful to Steven for that introductory book which has inspired me to learn more mindfulness practices and to incorporate mindfulness into my daily life.  

Lilacs by Laurie Early

AVOCADOS

On YouTube you can listen to the melody and the words “avocado tree” that inspired these lyrics based on my memories of that avocado grove I visited many years ago. Refazenda by Gilberto Gil

Avocado Trees 
©2010 Laurie Early

There’s a grove of avocado trees
growing in a courtyard
of a mansion
that looks out upon the sea,

and when I am feeling melancholy
all I need to do is
think of them,
and I forget my misery.

There’s a gentle sort of sunlight that
cascades down from the heavens
and caresses
each and every growing leaf,

and when just a little rain is needed
clouds appear like magic,
and provide each tree
a little cool relief.

A paradise I could view forever, 
and I never
would grow tired of imagining. 
I’m picking all of the fruit that’s ripened 
and I’m listening to
each little sabiá sing 

There’s a feeling of surrender to
the universe around me
as I contemplate
those avocado trees,

I focus all of my attention on
attaining the tranquility
inspired
by moments such as these.

Nice and easy does it,
Nice and easy. 
Light and breezy ’cause it,
makes the day flow
away…..ahhhhhhhh 

London Falling


“Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved?” that is the quote* I blurted last month when I finally arrived at a friend’s house in London and greeted my musical mentor with a kiss on each of his cheeks. I was so relieved to finally get there! It was truly a miracle as I could barely walk. I had fractured my left ankle in an unexpected tumble less than an hour before.

Yes indeed, I had fallen on some steps made slippery by the afternoon rain. I landed flat on my face. I don’t remember falling; no slow-motion-mind-racing moments to make corrections, no attempts to avoid the inevitable collision with the pavement. I did not hear any inner thoughts of, “Oh no! I am going to fall!” All I knew, all I felt, was the impact. I lay there thinking simply, “REALLY? … REALLY? …” Had I traveled across an ocean only to land on my face?

I wanted to just lay there. I did NOT want to move. I wanted the rain to dissolve me, to melt me into the stone. But then people started rushing over to make sure I was alright, and I thought, “oh, no! people are coming to help me. I will need to get up now. I don’t want to get up yet.” I knew I had blown out my ankle, but I did not know how badly until I tried to stand up. It was not good. 

I vaguely recall speaking to one of these good-samaritans, an elderly gray-haired woman. She was urging me sit down, to take care of myself, and suggesting I go back inside my office building, but I told her I needed to be at my friend’s house by 4 o’clock or I would miss the whole reason why I was here in London. I told her I was here to attend jazz concerts, I was on my way to one now. I could have told her my whole life story–it’s a bit of a blur now in retrospect, I rambled on and on, fighting self-pity as I reassured her that I would be okay. 

After I thanked her and said goodbye, I did sit down on a cement bench to contemplate what to do next – to give up and go back inside, or to keep limping forward toward what I had been dreaming about for months. I decided to limp forward.

Travel in the London Rain

I now call that London Tuesday: “Journey to Jazz in Dorking” and there are many little details that I remember now, like memory snapshots, some very personal (won’t be shared here–but they were like little epiphanies for me–they strengthened my character) and then there are these moments:

  • the constant rhythmic sound of my Lamaze-style breathing pattern. I had given birth to two daughters, I could breathe through this day too
  • sucking on a couple of acetaminophen tablets that were so bitter they made me gag. I had no water to help me swallow them like a normal person
  • trying not to cry from relief when there was an open seat for me on the underground (subway)
  • the super-sweet taste of water when I was finally able to buy a bottle from a vendor. The water was GBP 1.50, I wanted to keep moving so badly I tried to give him 2 pounds and to walk away. He was calling to me, urging me to come back, refusing the extra .50. He finally gave up and told me he would donate it for me and I nodded, “okay” as I watched him drop my change in a charity bucket next to his cash register.
  • trying not to cry from pain when there was no seat on the connecting bus, but then a woman noticed my condition and kindly offered me her seat. I thanked her and I will never forget her face
  • the strength it took to remove my sneakers so I could politely enter my friend’s home, and the endurance it took to put them back on when we had to walk to his car about 15 minutes later
  • the accomplishment I felt keeping my injury a secret from my teacher and my friend because I knew if they were fully aware of what had happened they would never have let me get into the car, I would have been sent to hospital
  • the wonderful “road trip” where I was not required to move for 2-hours (Yes, it was painful, but like child-birth, a pain you “forget”, yeah, right! lol)
  • the heavenly concert I had been dreaming about; the music I love; singing with the audience; the amazing musicians; the people I met; and the fun and exciting trip back to London where we accidentally drove into the woods for a short while before we made it back on the highway.


My sacrifice was Wednesday, June 28th. I lost the entire day in a haze of limping through the streets, and pain. I spent over 7 or 8 hours at a local hospital, missing a family-style dinner with my fellow musicians who were blissfully unaware of my drama, just the way I wanted it. 

And, thanks to the UK’s NHS which treats foreign visitors like family when they are in an accident, I was fitted with a large to-the-knee “rebound air-walker boot”. It looked like something out of StarWars. The rest of my trip I walked around London hearing Darth Vader’s Imperial March theme in my mind with each step. It made me feel empowered and fearless and ready to conquer!

The last four days of my London trip was spent at the Barry Harris Jazz Workshop with evenings at a little slice of heaven called, “Pizza Express Jazz Club”. Located in the SoHo area of the city, I was blessed to be able to listen to Barry and his Trio surrounded by an adoring audience that contained many of my friends. Jazz with people I love! What an amazing life I have now. I would pinch myself, to make sure it is really me, but I am still healing and I have enough pain to manage right now, *big smile*.

*****

I have fallen before. But, I have decided I am not going to fall again. Inspired by Dr. Seuss, I compiled some of the different places and crazy ways I have fallen in the past, and I have decided…

I won’t be falling up a hill,
I won’t fall when I’m standing still.
I won’t fall from a cliff or bike,
nor down a hill while on a hike.
No more tumbles from a bed,
I must be careful of my head.
No more trips down steps or stairs,
No icy ponds, or flimsy chairs.
I won’t fall laughing at TV
Yes! no more trash cans saving me
from falling headfirst towards a wall.
I will not, no, I will not fall!
(In love I’ve fallen, I’ll admit) but,
No more falls, I’m done, that’s it!

©2017 Laurie Early

* “O SON OF JUSTICE! Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved.” -Baha’u’llah