All posts tagged: jazz

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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. 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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …