All posts filed under: Writing

Bird Feathers

A quick post this month as I have been resting and healing and generally catching up on musical and personal projects. I have learned a new song in Italian, “E la chiamano estate”, polished the vocalese on a couple of Lester Young/Teddy Wilson tunes that have been on my “FINISH THIS NOW” list for a long time: Our Love is Here to Stay, and Blues in C Sharp Minor, and started writing lyrics for two original melodies (for two new friends). I have some good starts on a few original tunes too, so there is something to be said for being house-bound another month with my sciatica issue. Here is a bit of vocalese from 6 years ago. Barry wrote lyrics on Bird Feathers that are really fun to sing. We perform this song in his choir, but I wanted to sing it as a solo and to keep going a bit longer, so I wrote this additional lyric. The cool thing about this is that the word at the end of each section matches …

Carousels – Not For Me

This weekend I will be avoiding the luggage carousel by traveling light. I will also attempt to avoid any feeling of traveling in circles as just the *thought* of this makes me physically tired. I long to move forward. Perhaps I am feeling an anticipatory exhaustion because it has been so cold lately, and so very dark in the little room where I work by myself. Perhaps I am mourning the loss of the extra days that are cut off at the end of February, (I feel like I have skipped something important. Is it March already?) Or, perhaps I am just tired of the same-ness of each day so far this year. They seem to circle ’round and ’round on themselves like a merry-go-round where I am the only rider, and a calliope tune droning on in the background is never-changing. This is not a complaint, just a fanciful observation of what I am experiencing. Tonight I am struggling to gather the physical energy to pack the bare essentials, to plan my journey, and …

Vocalese 101

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly, live.” ~Dalai Lama Instead of drafting an October blogpost, I focused all my brain energy on completing my homework for Bob Mover’s Jazz Workshop. (Whatever brain energy was left at the end of each workday, which is not much, let me tell you!) Bob assigned the class “Donna Lee” (click to hear Bird playing it), and he told us all to memorize the head (the first 32 bars).  I was speaking to him on the phone today and I mentioned that I had completed the song but not the Charlie Parker solo. He reminded me that I did not have to memorize the solo, unless I wanted to (which I do want to memorize, of course!) So, I am happy to be done for now and prepared for the November 1st class.  Bob did not seem surprised that I was …

Ten Years After

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

Lyrical Triggers & Process

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

Sometimes I’m Happy

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

April Showers of Poetry and Prose

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

Roman Moments (I Never Knew)

I am back in New York now after a particularly poignant Barry Harris Jazz Workshop in Rome. It was really special being there with so many people that love jazz, that love Barry, and maybe even love 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 …

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 …

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 …