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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!” 


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

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
just as she pulls
the door

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.

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.


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

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”

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

Alt. B section:
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


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.


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


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


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
by moments such as these.

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

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

I am always singing to YOU

I love creating music; I enjoy the process, the experimentation, working with other musicians, and I really like sharing the final musical piece or song. This month, as I begin the second half of my life on this planet, I have created and now share something else…a new public “Laurie Early – Singer Songwriter Lyricist” Facebook page to showcase all the musical people in my life, projects I am involved in, and links to other things that interest me such as art, writing, science, culture, and creative expression.

You will see that as my cover photo I am featuring the street art image below (and my epiphanic thought). My friends might recognize the image as it has already been posted on my personal Facebook page. I created it to accompany a song-clip of when I sang “You, My Love” in a recent workshop class. What especially touches my heart when I listen is hearing Barry distracting me (he sees me start to cry a bit) and encouraging me to keep singing, shouting: “BE in love! THAT’s right! Be in love!”

I believe the stencil of the girl and bluebird are by “Banksy” a well-known British artist. I was attracted to it because it is peaceful, calm, and evokes the ideas of affection, connection, and contemplation. To me, it symbolizes sharing a still moment with the “bluebird of happiness”. That little bluebird reminds me of my various muses–my inspirations: people I love; little things that I see each day; and emotions that flood my heart when I am creating something.

The phrase is something that came to mind recently when I was thinking about a specific person. I wanted to let them know they are in my heart and thoughts, always. I hope they can recognize when I am directing this creative energy to them–my voice is the vehicle, and the inspiration comes from them (and my own heart, which has a mind of its own).After I wrote it down, I pondered the phrase a little more and I realized that singing is a VERY intimate thing for me, even when I am singing all alone, to myself. Therefore, I do not think I will ever see myself as an “entertainer”, it’s is all too personal to be part of an “act”. My music is something I share with those who happen to be listening. In my mind, I am singing to the focus of my affection, a person I want to feel the song, to hear my words, to understand the story I am trying to communicate to them. I sing to them even if they are not there in the room with me. I trust that the universe will transmit my intention to them.

I am always grateful for the audience’s attention and feedback, but the songs I choose to sing, the words I stress, the phrases I emphasize, everything about my delivery are a personal message to people I care about. I hope they know how important they are to me. 💙

Inspiration Notebook to capture fleeting thoughts

Introspection and the Collage Process



I have made paper collages since I was very young, maybe 4 or 5 years old. One of the first pieces I remember making was a butterfly. I used the image of a carrot as the body of the butterfly, but I do not remember what I used for the wings. I wish I could see it again. I do recall that I had to use “baby scissors”. They had small thin embossed metal blades that had little rounded tips so I could not cut myself. I was also given a bottle of mucilage, a plant-based non-toxic glue, which I don’t think they even sell any more. (That kind of adhesive is not very useful in the long run as it turns yellow or brown with age. So, even if I still had that butterfly piece today it would probably look like a monochrome moth now.)

I now follow a more introspective practice, using slightly more dangerous tools. I will outline my process here as I have found it to be a very relaxing, contemplative and often insightful exercise. It can be completed in an hour, a week, a month, or a year – as it is totally up to you to decide how far you want to explore a topic.


Asian Splendour




Preparation – I like to make a cup of tea and remind myself that whatever I create will be for my own enrichment and pleasure, not for the public. I do this in order to be more free while I work. (This might not be a necessary step if you are a person who does not overly criticize your own work in progress.)

After I lay out all the things I will need to make a collage, I get into a meditative frame of mind–I clear all stray thoughts, I ground myself. If I have not already done so, I choose my inspirational thought  – something I wish to ponder and reflect upon, anything I wish to attain a deeper knowledge of. This inspiration could be as simple as how I am feeling at that moment, or bigger ideas like what goals I am pursuing, a powerful word, an affirmation (for example, I AM creative!), or a longer quote I am studying. 


It’s “Shoe Time”!

Supplies needed – There are many books available that can instruct you on how best to adhere the elements of your collage. In this post I will only touch upon the construction steps using very basic supplies. You will need to have only 5 items on hand to create a simple collage: 1. old magazines (and other paper products with images and patterns); 2. a sharp scissors; 3. a glue stick or other adhesive of your choice; 4. a pencil or pen; and, 5. something to adhere your collage to like a sturdy piece of cardboard.  (Additionally you can gather together other supplies you might like to use, like – gel pens, stickers, rubber stamps and ink pads.)

Gathering without analyzing – Now it is time to gather together the wide range of images, ideas and materials you will need to draw from when working on your collage. (You may wish to start playing some music in the background at this point.) This is the stage of the process which partially determines how long the project will take. If you have appropriate materials and images on hand you can complete this step quickly, if you don’t, or if you feel you do not have enough to work with, you will need to go out and search for good materials.

Among Friends

Among Friends

Flip through the magazines cutting or ripping out pages that you are attracted to, don’t analyze any of your choices at this point, just keep flipping and ripping. As you sort through your images repeat the word or quote in your mind, look for any free associations that occur. Set aside anything that you feel goes along with your theme, a certain shade of paper, a certain word that pops out at you from an advertisement, a large landscape, a golden candy wrapper. These pages might contain images, colors, patterns, text, or other items that consciously, or subconsciously, you feel fit in with the theme of your inspirational thought.

This is a very meditative practice. I happen to have a couple of boxes full of ripped pages and images saved over the years, so I go through them first before I go through new magazines I may have. (This takes me a couple of hours.)  I enjoy this part of the process almost as much as making the collage itself.

Okay, so, set these ripped pages aside and keep going until you want to stop. If you don’t want to stop, don’t! There are no rules here. Set aside these things until you feel a shift, a gut feeling that you have enough, and that’s when it’s time to get to work.  


Maid of Heaven

 Culling – Clean your work area a bit. Keep only your ripped pages and place all the other magazines where they will be out of your way. Make yourself a another cup of tea if you need some hydration. Sit back, and slowly look at all the materials you’ve selected. Read or think about your inspiration again and decide which of the items you really feel pulled to, which are the most attractive? At this point I take out my scissors and begin cutting out images, elements, and text and other details I especially like. Cull the pages that you do not feel strongly about. But, keep them close at hand in case you need just “one more” element to complete the collage later. 


Celestial Rest

 Arranging and re-arranging – Lay out a nice sturdy piece of illustration or cardboard, something appropriately sized based on the images you intend to use. Decide if you will “treat” the board in any way by applying paint, an overall background image, or sheet of solid-colored paper. Without using any glue, begin arranging your images on the board, think about whether or not you intend to place the text of the quote on the finished collage and where you would want it. 

Finishing – When you feel you have a final composition, when it makes you happy, take a photo of it on your phone, or use the “old fashioned” method and lightly mark the placement using your pencil. (This way when you have applied the glue to the back of each element you will be able to place it back where you intended it to be.)



Glue everything to your board. Of course, you must glue the background elements down first and then layer the other elements on top. I use a glue stick for paper elements and a strong tacky glue for heavier items.

You are done! Give your finished collage a title and make sure to write it, along with the date completed and your name, on the back of the board.

Final thoughts – I sometimes attach all the paper items to the board using an acrylic medium (available at art supply stores in a gloss or matte finish.) However, I do not recommend using medium without practicing first with paper scraps because it can create bubbles and wrinkles if you are not used to using it. It can also make certain papers soggy and they might get damaged. I will sometimes coat the finished piece with a layer of the same medium as a “varnish”. This not only gives the piece the look of a painting, but it protects the surface as well. If you decide to finish your piece with this method I recommend that you “varnish” before you attach any heavier, not paper, items.



Sorrow’s Garden

For an interesting “workshop” consider inviting some friends over to create pieces inspired by a particular word, quote, or perhaps an entire book that you have all read.

Mail the selected word/quote/etc. with your invitation; or choose a theme and have each person come with a quote of their own choosing.

You provide food and other refreshments, as well as a couple of collage making supplies like backing boards, magazines and glue.

Have each of your guests bring their own scissors, more old magazines, and maybe some other fun elements like old greeting cards, wrapping paper, rubber stamps, fabric scraps, notions and ribbon.

Set all the materials on a table, or in the middle of the floor on a washable tablecloth (like a picnic); Have some quiet music playing. And, encourage “parallel play.” (It’s what two and three-year old children do– making your own little mess, and learning something on your own, but with the comfort of having your friend right beside you making his/her own little mess. You can glance over and talk a little while you play, maybe steal a neat idea or two without guilt, each one coming into his or her own, and reaching their own conclusion, their own finished piece.)

 After everyone has created a collage, go around the room and each person can tell their story and share what each of the elements in their collage means to them.


Beyond Omega

Although my collages do contain images and pieces of material copyrighted by other photographers and artists, I consider them new creations. I am thankful and grateful to anyone who has inspired me with their art work or provided wonderful photographs that I’ve clipped from major magazines such as National Geographic, and I hope that you (the artists and photographers who created these original images) will allow me to display my collages in this venue. All the work displayed here is ©Laurie Early  No use is permitted without permission from the artist


Remains of the Day

Stay in the Now

I suppose I should be disappointed, sad, or perhaps even a little angry, about all the unusual circumstances that recently came together, all at the same time, like a “perfect storm”, thwarting my first professional gig (as well as a separate CD recording session.) But, I am not; I feel none of these things. All I feel is grateful. How lucky am I to be working with these amazing musicians in such a beautiful country as Italy? My heart literally pounds from the joy when I think about it! And, if you catch me crying when I talk about it, that’s because I am overwhelmed by the beauty of it all, not because of any sadness.


These two events, a gig in Latina and recording session in Rome, involved a lot of planning over the last year or so, but this arc of creative activity actually began in 2014 when I chanced to meet bassist, Nicola Borrelli, at a house-party in the hills of Rome. (Is there really such a thing as “chance”?) After a couple of additional conversations with him about songwriting, sporadically spaced over the years, Nicola shared some of his original compositions with me and I was blown away! He writes terrific melodies, and so far I have written lyrics for four of his pieces.

The culmination of all this creativity was my trip last month to Latina. I scheduled a week to work with Nicola and his trio, “Triology” in preparation for the performance and recordings. We spent a few days rehearsing and arranging the original tunes, and had some fun deciding which standards to play. And, as I have already said, these are precious days I will always remember.

Yes, I am cherishing the memories of my writing process, our rehearsals, and still enjoying the songs we have created together. I am grateful for all the preparation and scheduling that Nicola coordinated. I am grateful to Erasmo Bencivenga and Tommaso Tozzi for their time, musical creativity, and patience with me and my poor Italian language skills. And, although there is a lot of flux and uncertainty in Latina right now over where live jazz will be able to flourish, I am hopeful that we will be able to professionally record these tunes in the near future. In the meantime, Nicola has given me permission to share some clips from our recording sessions here on my site and I will be including links as I discuss each song.

If you are a regular visitor here, you may remember my post from last March, “Prelude to Spring – Singing & Learning”, I included a YouTube link to The Big Mystery a video of our 2016 performance at Démodé restaurant in Rome. This was the first melody Nicola shared with me. He had already entitled it “The Big Mystery” and because of that intriguing name, it took me quite a long time to write the lyrics. First I had to figure out what the lyrics should say, and then I needed to reveal the mystery (in the lyrics and also really, to myself!) The full lyrics are posted on YouTube.

For this month’s post I would like to feature another one of Nicola’s melodies as it inspired the title of this post: “Stay in the Now” because that is what I am trying to do, while still looking forward to more creative collaboration in the future. “Stay in the moment, stay in the now” is a line from Nicola’s piece, “The Rest of Your Life“, a bluesy tune that took me more than 6 months to conceptualize–I kept throwing away stories (lyric ideas) that did not fit Nicola’s title. I finally settled on lyrics that are almost a self-guided meditation. And I feel as if I have given myself some good advice too.

Here is a link to our rehearsal run-through of the song.

The Rest of Your Life
Lyrics ©2017 Laurie Early
Music ©Nicola Borrelli

Close your eyes
now just imagine all the things you love,
picture everything you’ve ever dreamed of,
every face you adore;
this is what life is for!

Breathe in slow,
and think of everywhere you’d love to go.
When you open up your eyes, you will know
it’s your world/time. Go explore!
See what’s outside your door.

If you stop to wonder why? or how?
there’s a chance the blues will knock you down
so don’t forget to stay in the moment,
stay in the now.
Baby, don’t hurry,
you have the rest of your life!

Baby, don’t worry,
you have the rest of your life!

Longing for the Roman Moon

Once again, as soon as I rolled my luggage back into my NYC apartment, I was struck with a longing to return to Italy. I am experiencing a feeling of homesickness for a country where I was not born and a longing for friends I did not grow up with. I cannot imagine living without this musical community. Now that these people are part of my life, I must endure this temporary separation from them. I have left pieces of my heart, and hope these traces of my love and respect will keep a little of my energy there with those I adore so very much.

Roman Moon
Music © Gianni Leone & Francesco Manfredi
Lyrics ©2012 Laurie Early                              

I let go and I fall
silent yearning for you
then from darkness recall
the bright glow of the Roman moon

All those nights you were mine
I gazed lost in your eyes
hypnotized by their shine
star-lights stolen from April’s skies

Every moment held promise
every song was a soft kiss
Your embrace was the sweetest atoning
while the hillside was moaning,
postponing what we both knew, but time flew

Won’t you please send me a sign then?
for I long to be with you
wrap me in silver again, Roman moon

When the dawn showed me home
and the night gave its sigh
high above the piazza
flew a skylark, was that our goodbye?

Oh, la luna di Roma
Is it true you don’t need me?

Your embrace was the sweetest atoning
while the hillside was moaning,
now my worst fear has come true, I miss you
Won’t you please save me from breaking
for my soul now is aching
wrap me in silver again, Roman moon