All posts filed under: Writing Process

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 …

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 …

Holiday Cheesecake (Dexter Gordon Style)

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

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 …