All posts filed under: Songwriting

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 …

Let It Rain !

 I will be leaving for Italy in a little over an hour from now. It has been a crazy morning of cooking–a huge baked ziti prepared in the dark, (yes, boiling pasta and creating the mozzarella/ricotta filling with just a small hallway light, my apartment is so small and people were sleeping); searching for my “performance shoes”; and, conquering the challenge of getting 2 weeks worth of necessary clothing and technological paraphernalia to fit into one very small carry-on bag (and what the airlines call an under-the-seat personal item.) Just as I thought I had completed every task, I remembered I had not posted here for February, so here is a sneak peek at a song I have been working on for Nicola Borrelli, composer/bass player in Latina, Italy. UPDATE: Here is a link to a rehearsal clip of Let It Rain Let It Rain © 2016 Laurie Early (for Nicola Borrelli) Each cloud has a melody and when there’s a storm I hear a symphony Yes, it’s a song I can’t explain I hope it …

My Dreamy Man

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

Dear Lord (Happy Birthday, John Coltrane)

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

Poems for Billy Strayhorn (III)

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

Trying to Get Through Spring

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

Prelude to Spring – Singing & Learning

Oh man! I have been singing in Rome and having so much fun! It has been especially gratifying this month because I was able to sing a couple of original songs/lyrics that had never been performed in public before. At one of the Barry Harris Jazz Workshop jam sessions, I was asked to sing a Bossa and chose to debut the English lyrics (called “Happiness”) that I wrote for Jobim’s A Felicidade. A couple of people approached me afterwards to tell me how much they liked my English interpretation, so that made me feel really good. It was a difficult song to transform as Portugese is so light and soft, English so harsh. I am glad people still connect to the story in English. Early Thursday morning, before the piano class began, I was able to test out my new lead sheet for a totally original song called “West of the Sun“. I am very grateful to Tomasz Bialowolski on piano and Luca Peruzzi on bass for their gracious assistance. They made the song come to life for me …

Happiness

I am always pleased to help when someone asks me to create English lyrics for a new song, but when it is a song I have never heard before, a song that really speaks to me, really touches something in my heart, then I am thrilled. This happened last year when I was approached by a friend-of-a-friend, a wonderful New York City singer who wanted English lyrics for Jobim’s A Felicidade. Some of you may be aware that this is the song that opens the 1959 film, “Orfeu Negro” (Black Orpheus). So when I struggled a bit to find a suitable lyric for the last phrase, instead of interpreting the original lyrics, I took a risk and tapped into the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice instead, as the film is a modern telling of their sad love story. It is set in Rio de Janeiro during Brazilian Carnival but perfectly matches the original Greek tragedy’s plotline. I am in love with this song, so beautiful and heartbreaking when you think about the story behind it. Live in the moment! Love now! …

Let Me Sing This Dance With You

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to sing a few jazz standards accompanied by Murray Wall on double bass (contrabass); he’s a wonderful musician. It was so much fun. No microphone, no piano, no drum, and a no distractions.  We had a small audience who also seemed to be sending out the “no judgments” vibe which was very sweet. It was a showcase-style performance with four other women, and we had a ball singing in this simple rotating format. It was conceptualized by one of the performers, and dubbed “Beauties and the Bass” by another.  A lovely group dynamic. After the performance, I spent a few moments talking to another friend. She was part of the audience, but had also assisted a couple of the singers with their choreography (suggesting hand gestures, slight movements to try while singing, and other things like that.) She is a very graceful person, and we spoke about her possibly dancing to one of my original songs sometime in the near future.  As we were talking I was immediately reminded of the following song that I wrote …