My debut tour of Japan was utterly amazing on so many levels. The food, the people, the music, everything . . .  EXCEPT . . . on the very last day I had sashimi. Delicious sashimi. Fresh sashimi. Positively glistening with freshness sashimi!.

People! I ingested an Anisakis worm!

This happens often enough in Japan (maybe 3,000 cases a year, although it has increased 25-fold in the past year) that the Japanese doctors probably would have spotted it as soon as I went in to the ER .

However, in the US, there are only maybe 10 – 30 reported cases a year. This is because all fish, which all have parasites and worms (and yes, I have given up fish and am now vegan), are frozen on catch to minus 4 degrees according to FDA regulations to kill all worms. In Japan, where they prefer the fresh flavor/texture, it is not frozen on catch.

Thus, the worm (sorry, if you are eating, perhaps stop reading now), sensing that its host is dead or dying, quickly burrows into the flesh where it is harder to spot, except by the most brilliant of sushi chefs perhaps, and where it waits for the next fish host. In humans it doesn’t live longer than three weeks but can (as in my case because I had the allergic reaction) wreak total havoc.

Kandinsky meets Martha Stewart

I had stomach pains too but didn’t focus on them because I was distracted by the insanely itchy rash. However, “Have you had any strange stomach or indigestion-like pains in the past few days?” would have been a great question to ask me in the ER the first time I went in with the rash. Right after, “You were just in Japan, you say?” As it is, when I went in on the Sunday, I was given Prednisone, which then masked the allergy markers they looked for when I had to go back in on the Tuesday, with a raging temperature and the Cray Cray itchy full-body version of the rash.

Four hospital doctors (at a cost of God alone knows what each) were put on my “team” and all failed to catch it, although one got close with a diagnosis of “Definitely Scombroid” which I am so glad it was not!

Meanwhile, I was hooked up to an IV machine and given Prednisone and Benadryl to no avail and would have gone completely mad if it hadn’t’ been for the incredible nurses who were above and beyond! If you are a nurse and you are reading this, I LOVE you, even if I’ve never met you! Thank you for your amazingness!

YIIIIIIIIKES!

And I have to say, I liked all the doctors, too. But, over-worked and over-extended, they were like those iRobot vacuum cleaners you see on TV which are activated into auto-piloting away in reaction whenever they hit a wall. They were impossible to find (e.g., it took until the next day to be seen by the infectious disease specialist and no one even CALLED the allergist until Thursday evening and I NEVER saw the promised dermatologist), When they did appear, they would swish in, hit the edge of the bed (which would activate the autopilot retreat response), ask about the symptoms, not appear to be listening, and be already backing out of the door before asking “Any questions?” (if they did) – by which time they were just a forehead in the door. And my case was probably only getting that much attention because it was so weird and bring-in-the-students-worthy.

This is not their fault, I realize. This is how hospitals run BUSINESSES. When I asked the pulmonologist a few weeks ago why he’d made my appointment for 2pm and not seen me until 5pm, he said his hospital insists on a certain number of patients per day in the quota and he took the spend-the-necessary-time-with-each-patient-choice, as opposed to the start-backing-away-as-soon-as-they-walk-in-choice.

Healthcare has no business being a business!  I literally was barcoded on arrival and every single procedure I had I was zapped with a barcode reader. Every three hours through the night having my temperature and blood pressure taken. Every pill. Every blood test (30 in all) Every kind of test – one of which was delayed because they needed a bar code to process it and it hadn’t yet been entered into the computer system by the chief doctor. I mean … just the time-wasting alone!

Those little boys and girls that dreamed of being doctors when they grew up probably did not have this in mind – and I am quite sure that with all the paperwork and crap they have to deal with, their jobs are even harder than they look from the outside. The doctors are made to run from patient to patient to make the most money for the hospital and are too tired and overworked with insanely long hours (one of my doctors seemed to be there from dusk til dawn and back again, literally) to NOT miss things. I certainly couldn’t work like that!

The diagnosis came from the one doctor (called in from the outside) who made the time to listen. The allergist, Dr. Bielory. He turned up at 7pm on Thursday night, wondering what had taken so long to call him. He introduced himself. He walked in. He closed the door behind him. (Wait, how will you back out of the room if the door is closed?) He had a cup of coffee in his hand. He SAT DOWN on the comfy chair (the rooms were amazing!). He looked right at me and said: “Tell me what’s happening.”

He listened to my answers while remaining in the chair. He looked at the rash. He touched it. He said, “I’ve seen this before and I’m pretty sure I know what this is and I am going to go away now and come back tomorrow morning when I am sure.” He had on no white coat. He was in casual clothes with a baseball cap covering his yamaka. He looked like one of Billy’s audiophile buddies. Maybe he even WAS an audiophile. He sure knew how to listen! I felt SAFE! I felt ATTENDED TO! I totally trusted him with all my instincts. He then went and worked for another two hours in the nurse’s station doing extra research on his phone (according to one of my spies – a nurse, of course!).

The next day he came in around 9am and broke it down for two of the other doctors. He explained how he arrived at this diagnosis (including my vivid description of how “it couldn’t be Scromboid because the fish was so FRESH” – which is the problem!) and why my IgE markers were skewed and then he prescribed THE SINGLE FRICKING ANTI ITCH ANTIHISTAMINE THAT WORKED and the medication to get rid of the worm.

“I start with the patient,” he said. “That’s how you get to the diagnosis.” When he left, I turned to one of the doctors and said, “Wasn’t that amazing?” And she said, “That’s why I went into medicine!” (Oh, not to fill in forms, be made to fulfill patient quotas and run around from bed to bed activating the hit-and-back-away reponse?) Incidentally, Dr. Bielory emailed me daily over the weekend to check on my progress.

By the time I left the hospital on the Friday it was evening, and my insurance auto-refused the remaining medication and was closed after 5pm and over the weekend and Veterans Day (crying out loud!). But I had taken two days of it, and probably didn’t need any more, since the rash quickly disappeared after treatment started.. This saved us all from enduring the merry little insurance dance of having the already overworked hospital doctor waste precious diagnostic time filling in stupid justification forms to get it. And it saved me from ingesting more poison (I’d already had a day of it in hospital and had been sent home with another day’s worth).

However, had I needed it, the cost of the pill in the USA is $962.28 per pill! Per pill! In Canada (online) $1.17 per pill. In the UK all medication, whatever it is, costs 8.60 pounds per prescription – not per pill – unless you are over 60, under 16, under 19 and in full time education or – God forfend in the US! – have cancer, when it is free! (I believe there is penalty for cancer here!). I am so glad I got a relatively painless education in how the system works (this is WITH insurance! God knows if I didn’t have it). But I worry for the people whose education is painful – or worse. Fatal!

WORM-STUNG LIPS! WELL … NOT LITERALLY OF COURSE.

As the giant welts and dark purple stains faded to a sort of mauve beige, that Martha Stewart Paints might have called “lilac mist reflected in fur of country mouse,” and as some of the Kandinsky drawings on my face and neck weirdly totally vanished, I felt more and more grateful for my lucky escape and lessons learned!

Like how we should bow down to all nurses, even while they are zapping the bar code on our wrists. How not scratching an itch is virtually IMPOSSIBLE – never mind if everyone says it will leave permanent scars! Like how kind people are when you are in trouble. There is a lot of “beauty is as beauty does” out there, for which I am truly grateful. Even the Walgreens in Rosedale called me to make sure I was okay and to say they were chasing up the prescription – without me even asking them to! Like there is a thing called Scombroid which I am very glad it wasn’t. Thank you also everyone who sent/brought flower/plants/cards/provisions.

And although it was hard to look at, thank the lawd it wasn’t  contagious – unless you killed and ate me without freezing me to minus 4 degrees first. And if you did that, then I guess you’d have deserved it!

BACK TO NORMAL!!!!

 

Perfect egg salad sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) that appear to have been lovingly handmade by actual angels. You can buy these at railway stations even, where no one is counting on your being an hour away on the train by the time you discover your sandwich is inedibly stale as in America. No! These angel-made sandwiches will still be fresh many hours – possibly even days – from now. Everything is so thoughtful. It’s not about getting the most money from you and too bad if you have to buy an entire loaf of bread, never mind that you’ll have to feed most of it to the birds in a few days. In Japan you can buy two slices of bread at a time. One egg. A tiny can of beer. It’s all about what is best for YOU!

And you know how in Macy’s, when you buy something the sales associate screws it into a sort of ball, like a teenager might, before shoving it into the plastic bag and pushing it across the counter kind of at you (as in “Take that!”)? Not in Japan. Everything, even in the 7/11,  is beautifully packaged, carefully folded, sealed and handed to you as if it were a pearl on a pillow (except without the pillow – or the pearl).

It’s all about presentation. It’s how you are handed a business card (with both hands) and how you receive one – in the same way, before inspecting and fondling said business card with the utmost interest and concern. There are so many ideas to copy in Japan but the Japanese attention to detail and concern for the “other”  is my favorite.. This society is not about the money, it’s about pride. Integrity. respect. These things rule.

First night at Mumbo Jumbo in Kobe

We had such an amazing time. From beginning (three sold out nights in Kobe) to the end (thank you, Romero Lubambo  for getting us into the Cotton Club on our last night –  wow! What a concert with you and Peter Martin). It was so exciting to have people show up all across Japan with our CDs and even vinyl to sign! Actually, it was crazy! Perhaps people get used to these things. I don’t know if I would. One person even came with pictures they had taken of me at the 55 Bar five years earlier!

From the 55 Bar five years earlier!
Thank you Masa for epic hangs and help. Thank you Dai for everything you did to make Kobe amazing – and sold out. . Thank you Hristo Vitchev for everything, particularly your riveting musicianship, and your sweet company in our teeny weeny airbnbs.. Thank you, incredible Star Eyes in Nagoya for sheer audiophilia amazingness and great sound. Thank you, Body and Soul and Kyoko in Tokyo for packing the house for us.  Thank you Akihiro for guidance. Thank you Masaki for hangs and lunch and my souvenir phone ring. Thank you to all the clubs – Mumbo Jumbo, Seishin NT, Bar Request, Star Eyes and Body and Soul.. Thank you, Tower Records for carrying on the good work SOMEWHERE! Thank you, Mount Fuji for just being there when we wihizzed by on the train. This was truly a dream come true!

 

Bar Request
Body and Soul with owner Kyoko
Owner of Star Eyes
You can leave your bicylcle unlocked because NO ON E WILL STEAL IT!
These places are so tiny! How do they make money? Anywhere else they’d be closed down for not doing more custom!
Soundcheck on our first night.
The grooves are for blind people’s canes. They carry on along the manhole covers! So thoughtful!

  

I hope you can make it to Pizza Express on June 23, to celebrate love and happiness with Sean Hargreaves, Alec Dankworth, Winston Clifford and me. The deal has now been changed (well, the World Cup is on!) to TWO sets for $20.  So if you can’t get enough of me (which I hope you can’t), then come to both. And if you can only make the second set, that is only $15. So book (please!) accordingly. The other day after a strangely happy set, Kirby (bar person at the amazing 55 Bar, where I am blessed to have been singing every month for the past 15 years) said I should do an entire CD of happy love songs called “Love Wins.” So let’s test it out! Love is a many splendored thing (no, I won’t be singing that) and should be celebrated more.

But I may have to include one or two sad songs, to keep people … er, happy! Because, apparently, negative emotions are addictive – activating the exact same beta-endorphine and dopamine pathways in our brains that heroin does! Here is a great article on TinyBuddha on what to do about it if you are a negaholic (yes, that is a word!).

Meanwhile, I have certain songs I simply won’t sing because I can’t mean them. “Don’t Explain,” for example. Are you kidding? “Skip that lipstick…?” I don’t think so! And if you can’t come up with a convincing explanation (what is amazing here is that you might think there IS one!) I will be a private detective until I find out whose it is. Now that I am with someone “perfect” (well, except for the hoarding!), I know that if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer. And having got used to a “good” one, and perhaps broken my addiction to that other kind, just looking at that other kind turns my stomach, like smoking does now that I’ve not had a ciggie for years!

In related news, I am on a “Negativity Fast” – you are not allowed to say anything negative for seven days and if you do, you have to start again from the beginning. Which is hard (in fact, just saying that might mean I have to start again from Day One – let alone bringing up the hoarding!). I’m on about Day … okay, I’m on Day One (again!). But it’s great to keep trying and be aware of it. And every night I list ten things I am grateful for. On my list today, I am super grateful to be going to Vienna for the weekend on the 15th to stay with one of my very best friends/kinda-sorta spiritual guru, singer-saxophonist Sheila Cooper – I will be recording one of her songs on my next album – followed by singing at Pizza Express and eating my favorite pizza, the FIorentina. Here we are the last time I was there.

Picture by Sue Edwards. Showing me with Neville and Winston last time

It was such fun playing the London Jazz Festival, which was sold out! Two separate sets – they turned the house – and amazing audiences. The first set they were so quiet I wasn’t sure if they were even enjoying it (yikes!) but in the break so many people said they loved it and even cried (one person was “transformed” they said!) that I realized yes, British people are kind of shy – unless, of course, they are football hooligans (hopefully, the hooligans will be at the world cup).

There was a mini review of the second set at the Jazz Festival in LondonJazzNews: I have helpfully included it in its mini entirety  below, but please do google Mini Reviews and LondonJazzNews to read more festival mini reviews, including Chris Potter, Jameo Brown and more. My friend Sue Edwards had requested I do the song, even though I wasn’t prepared and suddenly thought, Crikey! Will I remember the lyrics, it has been so long. But looking into Winston’s eyes reminded me. We used to sing it on every gig (about once a year). HERE is a 2009 version of us doing it.

Me and WInston Clifford singing my original tune, Usha’s Wedding Song.

“Tessa Souter, Pizza Express Jazz Club (18 November) A really beautiful, surprise a cappella duet from Tessa Souter and her drummer Winston Clifford at Pizza Express Jazz Club on Saturday night. Tessa’s version of Wayne Shorter’s Ana Maria (with her own lyrics) was also very moving.” (John Watson)

See you there! PS If you want to review my book, which would be super helpful, this is the LINK, where I see someone called Natascha just reviewed it. Thank you, if Natascha is one of you! What? You didn’t buy it yet? Well, I’d love it if you would. That $3.99 (minus Amazon’s cut), along with all writing proceeds, is going towards my radio promo campaign for the new album, which officially drops in September.

1. SOME VERY COOL PRESS

It’s kind of cheating to put this in, but I think it was almost January when I found out via an email from Sebastian Scotney of the fabulous LondonJazzNews blog that Beyond the Blue had made Number 6 on Clive Davis’ Ten Best Jazz CDs of 2013 in the Times. I was also surprised to see I’d made it, for the second year running, into the Downbeat Critics Poll as a Rising Star vocalist
rochester crazy headline from rochester jazz fest
But probably the most  shocking was “Souter Steals the Show” in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle by Jeff Spevac, the day after our gig at the Xerox International Jazz Festival. We also had some wonderful reviews and previews from Jack Garner, Ron Netsky (who was the very first person to write about me in Rochester), and an interview in the green room between sets with Derrick Lucas, host of The Spectrum on Jazz90.1 every Sunday from 10 p.m. – 1am. Basically, I am in love with all of Rochester. Thank you for making me feel like a movie star!

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2. SOME VERY COOL GIGS

This year I discovered Yotam Silberstein and Francois Moutin at my gig at Rockwells, part of a great series curated by Doug Panera. I also discovered the great young bassist Yasushi Nakamura in May, and guitarist Pete McCann

 

fun gig at pizza express
In London, at Pizza Express Jazz Club – another place that feels like a “home” gig to me – I got to play with Jim Hart again, along with Oli Hayhurst and ever-brilliant, Winston Clifford.  Clive Davis from the Times came on our second night. He didn’t look anything like his picture – which is probably because, he said (when I remarked), that picture was taken when he was five years old. He was very polite and didn’t say “You don’t look like your pictures either!” I live in fear of being dragged off the stage by irate people shouting: “We came to see this woman! Where is she?” waving flattering pics at me menacingly
Sitting in with Jason Rigby, Cameron Brown and Billy Hart at Trumpets Jazz Club
Okay, so not strictly a gig (at least not mine), but I was invited to sit in by Billy Hart with him, Jason Rigby and Cameron Brown at Trumpets Jazz Club. Bit nerves-inducing, but if I hadn’t said yes I’d have kicked myself for months afterwards. I sang The Creator Has a Master Plan to calm me down – Billy is on that recording with Pharoah Sanders

 

Blues Alley sign, 2014
I also returned to Blues Alley in DC. It feels so strange to be singing on the same stage as one of your heroines (Blues Alley was the “home gig” of the late and amazing Eva Cassidy). I love all the staff there too. They make me feel very welcome every time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3. SOME VERY COOL DEBUTS

Had a wonderful gig at Sheila Anderson’s Jazz in the Garden series at Newark Museum, NJ, except not in the garden because we were rained indoors, which everyone agreed was a good thing because the sound guy said the sound was better for our vibe. Plus the auditorium  was sold out (some people had to watch TV monitors out in the hall) and we got a standing O. With Yasushi Nakamura, Yotam Silberstein, Lew Soloff, Billy Drummond

 

iridium
And I had a great debut at the Iridium with Lew Soloff, Pete McCann, Yasushi Nakamura and Billy Drummond and fell in love with house manager Grace and sound man Rich who took care of us that night
w Pete McCann, Lew Soloff, Yasushi Nakamura and Billy Drummond at Iridium, Pic by Janis Wilkins

 

november Singing for Sheila's birthday at Metropolitan Room
Me singing with Cameron Brown at a tribute to Sheila Jordan. Another Janis Wilkins pic
Fort Grand, Perm. I blogged about these two gigs last month
Everjazz, Ekaterinburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4. COOL NEW YORK HANG WITH DEAR FRIEND AND ROOMIE FROM #$&*! YEARS AGO

Dinner in NYC with dear friend Graham McTavish
Graham McTavish and me at dinner in Macy’s, New York

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5. SEEING LIVE AND MEETING ONE OF MY VERY FAVORITE JAZZ SINGERS

Youn Sun Nah
Catching my first live concert of one of my very favorite singers, Youn Sun Nah, at the Blue Note, and meeting her afterwards, when she gave me 3 CDs, which I now listen to on my new-to-me B&W speakers
This picture with Billy Drummond and Youn Sun Nah. Picture above of Youn Sun Nah and Ulf Wakenius. Extraordinary music

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6. HANGING WITH MUMS IN LONDON FOR THREE DAYS

spending time with my mum

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7. FINDING THIS MAGNIFICENT CHAIR ON A FOR SALE SIGN IN MY BUILDING

IMG_1149
Finding the chair of my dreams after checking out the real thing at Room and Board THAT VERY DAY. Came home and saw a sign in my elevator saying, “moving sale” and there it was. It’s a fake Charles Eames and it’s a bit worn but it is so comfortable and I have put it in my “sweet spot” and now spend many happy hours listening to music in it. #lifechanging – as are my new-to-me B&W speakers (oh, did I already mention those?) One day I will have it re-upholstered. But until then ….

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8. CATCHING BILLY DRUMMOND’S FREEDOM OF IDEAS DEBUT AT SMOKE

IMG_0969
Billy with Seamus Blake, Eric Reed, Dezron Douglas at Smoke Jazz club in August

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9. HAVING A HOLIDAY IN SPAIN/MOROCCO/GIBRALTAR WITH (AND COURTESY OF) MY BABY BROTHER

Holiday with bruv
Me and baby bruv in Spain
Accidentally trekking the Rock of Gibraltar in the  insane sun
Accidentally trekking the Rock of Gibraltar in the insane sun

skirt

 

So I am back from LA which was on fire (literally!) and hot! Not in a good way. I have never been so hot in LA. But I did get to play with the amazing Hamilton Price (bass) and Joe La Barbera (drums) and Jason, of course. And I got to add names to my mailing list and was informed by some Japanese people there that I am “big in Japan” (like Tom Waits said!) because of my album Nights of Key Largo, and Hajime Sato from Eastwind Import even turned up with a VINYL copy of that album for me to sign! If you are an audiophile and like the idea of having your own vinyl copy of my CD — among many others to choose from, check out www.eastwindimport.com. And I got a lovely review from Don Heckman which appeared in his wonderful International Review of Music. And I stayed with my California mum. But please, California, try not to burst into flames next time I come!

13eee-catalina
My name in neon lights, and it’s not even Broadway.
669c9-wnightsofkeylargo
Me and Hajimi.
Hamilton Price, Joe LaBarbera and Jason Ennis
Hamilton Price, Joe LaBarbera and Jason Ennis