10351444_10153488672671521_2520539601490101178_nHere I am in the most beautiful city in the world, which I am returned to for my friend Andre’s wedding to Anastasia (that’s me at the reception singing two songs for them). Oh my God! This place is so friendly. People smile at you in the street as you walk past. Sometimes they say things like “Good morning!” Or “I’ve got two magazines, would you like to read my other one?”
Palm trees like giant green pineapples with flared leaves jostle with the bougainvilla and other blossoms I don’t recognize on the sidewalks. There are trams whizzing along Church Street near where I’m staying. Actual trams. That real people commute in. It would almost be too much (I think there is such a thing as ‘too beautiful’ just like there is such a thing as ‘too thin’ though perhaps not ‘too rich’) if it weren’t for the mess of cables all over the place, which stops it from being too chocolate boxy.

Yes I had to endure a 30 minute ride in blazing sunshine over the glittering Bay to Larkspur just to rehearse
I can’t believe I used to live here and then moved! Then again in the non chocolate box department, it would be hard to beat where I live in New York. Young men on every street corner doing pull ups on the traffic lights. Giant pit bulls straining at their leashes to get at the chicken bones strewn all over the street. The faint smell of … well, let’s just say, not eucalpytus trees and blossoms. And God forfend you should leave your brolly in the vestibule of Balthazar’s when it is bucketing it down as I did once (and ended up looking like a wet tee-shirt contestant by the time I got home).
Hah! Take that, San Francisco! With your clean streets and your people smiling at you as you walk past, and your ferry rides across the Bay to get to your rehearsals, and your Trader Joe’s and supermarkets which sell alcohol under the same roof! Not to mention your coffee shops on every street corner in residential neighborhoods, and your specialty cheese stores, And delicious breakfast confections such as those you have tried to tempt me daily at Martha & Bros coffee shop..Er … hang on a minute …

“Welcome to my humble abode — for the evening only!”
Oh all right. I admit., it is pretty fantastic. I’ve had TWO burritos (how come nowhere else makes them like they do here?), and got takeout from my favorite Chinese restaurant in the world — Eric’s on Church Street — the night I arrived. And even the cat I am sharing the apartment with runs to greet me PURRING, when he hears my key in the lock. Although it’s kind of hard to sleep with him trying to burrow in the bed with me at night.
And yes, yes, I am literally stopping in the street to smell the flowers. And I thought it was sweet when a woman on my commute to Larkspur (by ferry — sigh!) sneezed and the entire ferry-full of strangers said “Bless you!” in unison. And the wedding was beautiful. And the bride’s dress was like whipped cream. And her mum’s speech was absolutely hysterical — funnier than Tina Fey! The house concert I did the night before was amazing in a Russian Hill mansion owned by a woman who just loaned it to us (us being me and pianist Dan Zemelman) as a favor. Unbelievable house (and yes, since you ask, I really enjoyed greeting people the door and taking their coats and proffering wine like the lady of the house).


YOU in New York at the 55
But being here makes me realize I’m a New Yorker to my very bones. I even walk like one! — going at my normal pace the other day I suddenly noticed I was overtaking everyone on the street. And on my first day here, as i walked into a store, and the girl walking out said “Hello” I had to stop myself saying ‘Hell – oh — oh?” (i.e., in three syllables with a giant question mark on the end) — although I would never take someone else’s umbrella. So even though it is gorgeous (and even the weather behaved — for the most part) …. And even though I know Joni Mitchell would disagree with me ….
Ah but my heart cries out for you, New York
New York, I’m coming home
Will you take me as I am, strung out on San Fran (might be all those trips to Martha & Bros coffee shop)
You make me feel good rock ‘n ‘roll band
I’m your biggest fan, New York, I’m coming home
See you soon, I hope.
Love Tessa
NEXT UP: Joe’s Pub, New York, on October 8 (Yes, Yom Kippur! When all of New York is staying home for crying out loud!)

Arnie getting citizenship
Arnie getting citizenship

Okay, so I am not a “fellow American” quite yet. BUT I did get fingerprinted the other day for my citizenship papers, even though I was a day late (I didn’t mention it and nor did they), and any second now I will have my interview and will be a “fellow American”. Someone expressed concern at my last gig about anyone wanting to be an American, but see, English + American actually makes me Canadian, although when I say “a boat”, I still mean a boat, not “about”.

Americans and British people have this in common. When we say a boat we mean THIS.
Americans and British people have this in common. When we say a boat we mean THIS.

Meanwhile, I have been duly swotting like a banshee (and you thought they only howled) all 100 questions, 10 of which will be asked at the interview and six of which I will need to get right. I noticed during a friend’s testing of me that when the question “What was the declaration of Independence?” came up, I accidentally answered: “We declared independence from Britain.” And I didn’t even say “Great Britain” — eek! You can test yourself here  at this government website.

Being able to pass an English test is part of the interview, which I fully expect to ace, even though, strangely, there will be no translation questions, such as “plaster” meaning band aid, or “smart” meaning posh (British) instead of clever (which I have just found out in American has negative clever dickie connotations) or “fish ‘n’ chips” meaning good staple diet (British) as opposed to “British food” (American) meaning inedible.

I still struggle with this idea (American) that “British cuisine” is an oxymoron, but of course I won’t be mentioning that at the interview in case they strip me of my Green Card there and then. In the meantime, I think British versus American English should be added to the language skills test, since when I first arrived on this soil I once spent about half an hour trying to get a box of plasters in a drug store in SoHo until another customer took charge and bustled over, saying to the assistant: “It’s okay, I speak English!” like the woman in Airplane saying “It’s okay I speak Jive”.

Perhaps I will wait until I become an American to suggest these, er. … Amendments to the citizenship test. Don’t want to come off as “clever”. Meanwhile, belated HAPPY JULY 4th, which this time next year I will be able to celebrate as the day “we” got away from “us”!

Citizenship page passport

I was so nervous of being interviewed at the Jazz Standard by Brian Pace of the Pace Report. Click here to see the full interview and clips of our gig at the Jazz Standard two weeks ago. I love the title of it, by the way. One of my Mum’s names for me is “Butterfly Mind”.
Actually it was a hairy week because on the day of the gig, an article about me appeared in the Wall Street Journal by Martin Johnson. He writes about jazz and all things gastronomique — click here for his fabulous cheese blog.  And here to read the article on line, if your eyesight can’t cope with the copy below.
I have no idea what was so scary about it. Maybe being at the other end of it, and out of control. Or fear of saying something completely stupid by accident. I am quite sure, for example, that Ricky Gervais’s turn at the Golden Globes was a kind of Tourette-ian outburst.  But in some ways that’s the beauty of it. Not being able to do anything is sort of restful if you just let go. So … I decided to just relax and be grateful instead.

Click here to buy it in the UK from Amazon
Click this one to buy it on Amazon US
…. Or, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Never give in! Never give in! Never, never never!” A few months ago, for no earthly reason that I can think of, I was inspired to look at the website of my friend, artist Susannah Bettag. I say “for no earthly reason” because we aren’t in constant touch. She lives in San Francisco. I live in New York. And we are both busy. So we see only each other about once a year. What I saw when I went to the website were the most amazing paintings I’ve seen in years, by anyone. They seemed to me to represent some kind of culmination of all her previous work. Here are some of them, so you can judge for yourself. Click here to see many more. And this isn’t a “hobby”. She’s actually represented by a highly respected gallery.So I was absolutely shocked when, in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, she announced, over a cup of tea (the British cure-all equivalent of chicken soup), that she was “taking a break”. Possibly even a one-year break. She’s keeping her studio, and she’s going to keep going in from time to time but she is taking the focus off painting for a while so she can hang out with her children and work on doing up a house. It turns out that she, far from seeing these recent paintings as a culmination, sees them as a new direction that she’s not sure she wants to take. Hmmm.

Now, if you want my pennyworth, I’d say, by all means see them as the beginning of something new, but for crying out loud don’t stop now! Meanwhile, it’s a very apropos illustration of the blog that’s been building up inside me over the past few months about the importance of the fallow field versus (not that anyone around here is dreaming of doing this — of course!) giving up. One of the few Geography lessons I remember, in case you’ve forgotten it, a farmer rotates his crops so that one field (a different one each year) gets the opportunity to lie fallow. If it doesn’t lie fallow it becomes infertile and can’t produce good crops (which, come to think of it, might explain what’s happened to the taste of food, of late).

It is so easy as an artist not to take a break, and I have found that during those periods where I FORCE myself to have Sundays off, I am actually more creative the rest of the week. So I am all for lying fallow. Some of our greatest talents took LONG breaks — Sonny Rollins took off years (although he practiced every day). Miles Davis also took off years (and didn’t practice, and had to catch up when he came back to it). However …. the trick is to know when you need to lie fallow — and whether a year is possibly a bit much (unless you are a field of course) — and when you need to keep going.

The other day, in Half Moon Bay to perform at the wonderful Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, I took a walk in the morning along the cliffs. There were two little surfers in the distance and I thought I’d watch them and maybe take a photo. It was fascinating to watch their progress out to sea. As the first surfer went out he kept getting pushed back by the waves. But each time he was pushed back, he was a little further out to sea than the time before. By the way, for no reason at all that I could see, the progression of the second surfer was much faster. Just sayin’.

This must have taken a while to get out to, right?

However, if the waves had been harder to get past (which I am sure they are when you’re talking about Hawaii or somewhere), it would have taken a lot longer to get out to where the ride-able waves are. In that case, maybe a break to rest and gather your strength would make sense, right? Or maybe you just keep doing it and eventually build the muscles required to get strong enough to finally (one miraculous day!) get far enough out to catch a big one.

But here’s another analogy (which brings me to the title of today’s blog): When I gave birth to my son I remember thinking (after eleven hours in labor), my goodness, this baby is never going to come OUT! But I had three nurses on either side of me shouting “Push! Push! Push!” What must it be like to give birth alone without that encouragement? I can’t imagine! And, at this point, half the nurse’s job is to remind you that it’s not just agony for no reasons, there’s actually a baby in there! And it needs to be born! It reminds me of that period in your creative development when you are getting ready to move to the next level. Where you wonder what the hell are you doing. Where the hell you are going? What the PH you were THINKING when you started this whole thing? Where you have to have utter blind faith that there’s something in there TO come out. This is the time, second only to starting out, when you are most likely to give up.

And actually I think there is a point when you SHOULD give up and just do what you have to do at the final stages of labor, stop pushing and start panting. Oh my goodness! The panting. Yikes! I can’t remember why, but I remember them telling me to do it. And then at the very end, one final PUSH, followed by the blissful bumpity bump of legs and arms. And … Boom! Actual baby! If only we could love our creative productions as unconditionally and instantly. But, then again, perhaps creating a work of art is more like surrogacy than having your own baby. It’s not for YOU. It’s for other people.

So, I’m just saying … By all means lie fallow for a bit. Pant. Keep swimming to build those muscles, even if it’s only in the local swimming pool. But don’t stop! And, most of all, give yourself a break in that other sense.

Because wherever you are, be it near or far from your dreamed-of destination, the endeavor is so difficult, so fraught with doubts, so peppered with failures along the way, at times it feels it would be easier to give up. To keep going requires constant effort, confidence, self belief, preparation, a road map, assistance and encouragement from people around you. A plan. … As Julia Cameron points out in The Artist’s Way, “All too often it is audacity and not talent that moves an artist to center stage.” And just as often, maybe more often, it is lack of audacity, not lack of talent, which makes others give up. [From page 55 of my book]

To quote Andre Gide, “Art begins with resistance — at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.” Or as Po Bronson says in his ‘What Should I Do With My Life’ (and yes, I am the tea-making Tessa referred to in the chapter on community): “The hardest thing was not learning to write. The hardest thing was to never give up.”

Kendra Shank, me and Katie Bull

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately. Inspired partly by my thinking about a lunch I had three years ago with my one of my exes exes (it’s complicated!). That day we discovered we had a lot more in common than we’d realized when we were wary, peripheral “friends” — introduced (and kept apart) by our mutual ex. She made the wedding rings, by the way (check her jewelry out here). But as we sat down at the table, and before our bums had even hit the seats, she leaned forward and said: “I’ve been dying to have this lunch with you for twenty years!” Lunch? Schmunch! We laughed. We cried. We confided. Ohmygoodnessweconfided! Did we ever! We understood. We finished that lunch real friends. In Platonic love. But, the other thing, the main thing, is that we left that table stronger.

In my meandering mind (stick with me, because this is related), I’ve been thinking about community versus competition in my profession and … dare I say it? … singers seem to be so much more competitive of each other than instrumentalists. My boyfriend, Billy, who is himself an amazing drummer (and is always saying: “Music is not a competition!”) absolutely LOVES other drummers. If you go to a gig to see a great drummer (I don’t mean just famous, but peers), trust me, there will be at least ten or more other drummers in the crowd with blissed out expressions on their faces. And on the break they rush the bandstand to compare sticks, and rivets on the cymbals (what is it with rivets?), and other drum geekery. Same with guitarists. The point being that they celebrate and support each other’s talent. I rarely hear them talk about someone’s failings. Blimey!

But singers … Well, is it because we are mostly women and women are encouraged by society to compete with each other? For whatever reason, singers do.  Of COURSE I am not talking about all singers. And I certainly don’t mean YOU, dear reader. But the question bears thinking about because, true or not (and come on, you know which it is), singers have that reputation in the jazz community.

So it was particularly wonderful that at my 55 Bar gig last night there was a bunch of singers, GREAT singers, in the crowd. I’d known a couple of them were coming and had actually said a little prayer on the train on my way down there that I would be able to focus on being “real” rather than get all tangled up in having to be “good”, because I was playing with an out-of-town guitar player I had never even met and, well, you never know, do you! And I don’t care what anybody says, praying WORKS. Because the out-of-town guitarist, who I shall call John Stowell (because it was indeed he), got stuck in traffic on his way back from a gig in CT and was 40 minutes (count them!) late.

What to do, with a room full of restless people there to hear music (not the stand up I would have had to resort to)? Well, use the resources around me — namely the wonderful and amazing Katie Bull, Kendra Shank (that’s our picture in the break at the top) and my “New York Mum” Connie MacNamee, who all functioned as my vocal rhythm section. I wish I’d managed to get all the singers in the crowd to join us. I certainly would have if John hadn’t made it. And when John turned up he said he didn’t even feel like he was needed which, of course he was. But so was his lateness (on this occasion), because it allowed my “sisters in song,” who were there for me (in every way), to demonstrate so beautifully what I also learned from that lunch three years ago …United we stand!

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Or this one, to buy it on Amazon US







Praying it doesn’t start raining

So …. I guess I am stuck on the ‘Long and Winding Road’ theme because of where I’m at in my own career. It’s all very Saturnian – hard work, endurance, building, learning, tearing down the old, working on the new and MOST OF ALL, staying enthused. But I’m keeping hanging on – hoping I’m not clinging to a cloud!

[book excerpt]

“People talk about following your bliss,” says Simon Robinson. “But sometimes when you do that and you have to ‘play the game’ – pandering to shop buyers who don’t want to buy anything that hasn’t already been in a magazine – you end up hating the thing you once loved. It becomes such brutal, grinding work that you don’t want to think about it anymore.” I know what he means. I got to a stage in my music where I was so focused on turning it into something that would make me a decent living that I forgot why I was doing it in the first place — for love; for its own sake; because I just loved doing it in the moment.

“There should always be a sense of moving ahead and growing all the time,” says Michael Becker, former musician and producer turned photographer. “But you absolutely positively can’t be focused on the end result.” Interestingly, since Michael started focusing on photography and, consequently relaxed about his music, his music career has been quietly taking off again – most notably with the song ‘In the Deep’, which he co-wrote and produced (and played all the instruments on) with actress-singer Bird York, which plays out the Oscar-winning movie Crash.

But photography is now his first love and he has faith in it turning out well – to the extent that he was willing to mortgage his house at the beginning. “I’m not sure I knew where I was going but I knew I was going somewhere,” he says. And having researched his chosen career thoroughly , he was prepared for it to take a long time. “It was something I read over and over again on the websites I looked at. It takes time.”
[end of book excerpt]

So here are my tips to keeping it fresh along the way:

1. Be flexible. You really don’t know what you might be doing in ten years. Be willing to go in a totally new direction. Michael Becker, for example, is flourishing as BOTH a musician AND a photographer nowadays.

2. Keep going. Duh! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will get somewhere. Even if it’s somewhere you didn’t expect to get.

3. Having said that, it is probably good to have in mind a destination. Personally I love walking, but I have to be going somewhere, preferably to do something like shop or visit a friend or whatever. The thought of aimless walking with no destination doesn’t inspire me to even put my shoes on!

4. Which isn’t to say that you can’t make detours. Detours are good. Follow your bliss, as they say.

5. Keep learning. I am now studying theory and piano and I can’t wait for my next lesson!

6. Do the “artist date” that Julia Cameron talks about in her fab book, The Artist’s Way. I went to a Giacometti retrospective at MOMA a few years ago and I couldn’t wait to get back home and start composing. Perhaps if I’d been a sculptor I might have come home and thrown away my tools! Then again, Mikhail Barysnikov said, “No dancer can watch Fred Astaire and not know that we all should have been in another business.” But it didn’t stop him, did it! Be inspired by it all!

7. Banish all thoughts of “overnight success”. In fact, if you look deeper into all the overnight successes you will find that they were preceded by years of hard work. In fact, banish all thoughts of “success” and focus on doing whatever you’re doing because you love it. As Gene Hackman, one of my heroes, once said: “I was trained to be an actor, not a star!”

8. Don’t fret about your self doubts. If you didn’t have self doubt, where would be the inspiration to keep improving? Or so my very wise friend, singer Mansur Scott always says to me.

9. Treat failures and setbacks as lessons and soldier on. As novelist Veronica Henry says: “Some days I am all over the place, convinced that I have the hardest job in the world …. and how on earth can I be expected to dredge up inspiration from nowhere. After a few days of wallowing I have to give myself a stern talking to and tell myself to get on with it in a professional and objective manner!”

10. Be willing to throw out everything you have done up to now and start afresh. As Veronica says: “Sometimes you have to do the worst thing and throw everything out. That is seriously hard but entirely necessary. And after the initial pain, a huge relief, as you no longer have to do battle with something that’s not working. That’s when you can move on. In the meantime … the blackness. And the euphoria. Thank God for the euphoria.”

Okay so Belarus was hands down the most fun I have ever had traveling for a gig. I got to hang out with one of my very dearest friends (Essential Sue) and made some new ones (including Inga, who brought me out there and made it such a success), played with an unbelievably excellent band, taught a master class at the Belarus Academy of Music — my first! — drank lots of Soviet champagne, and had a string of amazing, mostly sold out gigs, playing for wonderful, appreciative audiences. What’s not to love? The picture is of my first concert at the Belarus State Theater — photographed by Yuri Dudinski from the US Embassy.
I almost didn’t make it. There was a blizzard in New York and the freeway to the airport was a long line of stationary red brake lights. Thank goodness for my amazing cab driver who, due to some nifty back street driving, put up with my pogo-ing up and down in the back seat, got us there only 15 minutes after the gate was due to close, and only TWICE said, “You should have left earlier!”
My friend Selene had managed to find a number at Aeroflot with a human being on the end. A stern human being. At Aeroflot. Who said there was NO WAY ON EARTH they would hold the gate and of course would not give me the number. But pleading tearfully for her to call the gate herself and tell them I was nearly there worked. When I arrived, I ran up to the gate with my arms and legs sticking up all over the place and they closed the gate behind me. Yikes. Thirty people were not so lucky and missed the plane. Then, of course, we ended up sitting on the tarmac for two hours waiting for permission to take off.

This made me late at the other end, where Bellavia (the national airline for Belarus) — after a phone call from Inga — actually held the plane on the tarmac for 20 minutes and sent a bus just for me to take me out to it. She’d told them we had all these sold out concerts that I couldn’t miss, which absolutely explained the mysterious extra special treatment I was getting — people scrabbling to help me carry my bags and being super nice … you know, like I was Elton John or something.  Here is a picture of Inga standing next to the poster she made for our first concert at the Belarus State Theater.

By the way, did I mention how ridiculously beautiful all the women in Belarus are?
The audiences everywhere were amazing. Many came over and told me that they had been moved to tears. One boy said: “Your music makes my heart sing with emotion!” And an older man turned to Inga in tears and told her: “She sings of the love I never met.” Profound. We got a standing ovation that night. The band, Appletea, was extraordinary — even though we were a septet and could have been an unholy mess. And there were so many young people there. I think maybe because the education system is so excellent so they are very sophisticated listeners. Here is a picture of the wonderful 17-year-old, Elisabeth, who speaks perfect English, which she learned from the Internet, sold my CDs and was generally indispensable! Note fab t-shirt which Inga had made.

That t-shirt has my face on it!


Speaking of young people, the students in the master class at the Belarus Academy of Music were fantastic. Not only did I hear some wonderful singers, but they were so deep. 

Workshop class at Belarus Academy
One young woman gave me a beautiful interpretation of the meaning of Summertime, when I asked her to tell me what the song was about to her. She not only talked about the horrors of being a slave but imagined how a slave mother would feel singing to her baby who was going to grow up to be a slave. But, of course, Russia has a tough history so it’s no wonder its people are so soulful. And there was so much raw talent in the room. It was very exciting to witness.
The next two nights — Sunday and Monday — we played at a little club called Graffiti, where the crowd was even younger and just as attentive — in spite of much Soviet champagne and vodka (“It is Russian tradition!”) and where it was so sold out the owner had to give us the second night for the overflow and still people couldn’t get in. I absolutely have to go back! Even the smoking was bearable!
Audience listening.
island video, minsk
Click the picture to watch the video on YouTube

The teeny club, Graffiti, was kind of like the 55 Bar, only a much younger clientele. And instead of wine and beer everyone was quaffing Soviet champagne (delicious!) and vodka. The tables in rows in front of you were where all the young people were sitting, looking super attentive and dreamy (okay, some of them were kissing!). And then at the back near the actual bar, where the videographer managed to squish herself in, was where the talking element sat. But it wasn’t too bad actually – from the stage, that is. Listening to the video, it isn’t ideal where the camera was. 

And here is some video of the second night — us doing The Island by Ivan Lins and the Bergmans. I think there are more videos to come. Also, I must chop the first concert video into separate tracks because I have that too and there is no talking. 

More please! Next stop … Moscow!


Belarus State Theater poster
221Belarus and Russia were magnificent. Let’s just say, Soviet champagne ROCKS! (No, not on the rocks). Plus … I played with incredible musicians, the audiences were appreciative (and poetic in their praise), I had a wonderful experience of giving a master class (more please!) and I had FUN.

Three out of the four gigs in Belarus were SOLD OUT with people trying to get in (and not succeeding), except for one restaurant gig we had, where the guys all dressed up in tuxedos at 10pm after our first concert (the one at the Belarus State Theater at 7pm) and where we ate unbelievably delicious food (and drank Soviet champagne of course!) at vast expense. I had a pasta with gorgonzola sauce with walnuts which was so delicious that I sought out a similar recipe which I cooked last night without incident.

As some of you know, I accidentally set fire to my favorite cook book — Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) the last time I attempted to get fancy (ie, cook anything that isn’t lentil soup or vegetarian chile). Some of you also know I make a mean mushroom lasagne — although I have now notated in the actual cook book “Add the damn mushrooms!” after the time I carefully layered all the ingredients, except the mushrooms (in mushroom lasagne), and had to start all over again!

Billy was so impressed that I believe he might actually let me do some cooking from now on. His eleven-year-old recently reminded me (by way of helpful explanation) of my first attempt to cook at his house — burgers, which mysteriously swelled up “burgerballs”. Anyway. the gorgonzola sauce (and so EASY!) has redeemed me. In fact, it is so good (and so easy), I am putting the recipe below.

Dressing room, Belarus State Theater
Dressing room, Belarus State Theater. I love dressing rooms

By the way, those of you who heard me announce at our last 55 Bar gig that I had found a brand new laptop on the subway last month, the end of the story is, by Sunday night the owner (a young woman) had emailed me and on Monday she got it back. She cried, because she said she had many emails from people saying things like, “Fuggedaboutit! This is New Yawk, baby!” However, one of you who had heard my announcement that night saw her mournful ad on Craig’s List the next day and sent her my email address. So her faith in humanity was restored.

The moral of the tale is … well, don’t even BOTHER to get in touch with the Lost and Found department at MTA. That would be the Lost department. I STILL haven’t heard back from them. But also,  put your name and address on your computer please! Because many people are honest and would want to return the computer. In fact, I just put my name and address on mine yesterday! Deciding to take my own advice — always a good idea. Meanwhile … the power of email and the internet is amazing!

And speaking of power …. here’s Mark Bittman’s …

Half a cup of crumbled Gorgonzola
Half a cup of half and half milk
Half a cup of fresh Parmesan
Two tablespoons of butter
Melt the butter. While that is happening, start adding the half and half to the Gorgonzola and mush it all up together bit by bit until all the milk is added. Stir cheesey mixture into the melted butter and cook — stirring all the time — over a low heat. When thick and absolutely delicious, add it to a warm bowl of cooked pasta (now, you DID remember to put the damn pasta on, right?) and toss in the Parmesan and stir. Serve with a simple salad of arugula leaves and tomatoes and avocado, drizzled (I say ‘drizzled’ because that always sounds like you know how to cook) with olive oil and a little balsamic. And VOILA!

w Apple Tea Jazz Band, Belarus State Theater, taking our bows. I love these guys

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“Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can do anything.” Goethe

reading elle picture
Me in the kitchen where I lived in SFO, reading one of the magazines I used to write for

I am so excited to be coming out to California again. Here is me in my kitchen in San Francisco reading one of the mags I used to write for. We could see Golden Gate Bridge from our window — behind me!

I leave tomorrow and have t gigs, one of which (in Sebastopol) was sold out two weeks in advance! To let you know, they are at Ruth Price’s wonderful Jazz Bakery, Ernie Shelton’s House Concert in beautiful Sebastopol, and the swanky new Yoshi’s in San Francisco.

San Francisco still feels kind of like “home” to me, even though I left there over ten years ago. Maybe that’s partly because it is where I first started on this madness of being a jazz singer, after I sat in at the Mint Karaoke Bar on Market Street down the road from the first Writer’s Grotto — when I was a writer and one of the “original six” Grotto members, along with Po Bronson, Ethan Watters, Ethan Canin, David Munro and Josh Kornbluth.

grotto party invite
Here is an invitation with all our pictures on it that I made for one of our fab parties at the Writer’s Grotto when we were just 6 of us.

So I’ve been thinking lately about Chapter Four of my book: The Long and Winding Road: Keeping The Faith. As I say there, “It’s easy to keep going when things feel good. The challenge is to keep going when it stops feeling good. Chapter Four is about how to get unstuck, as well as how to keep going when you lose faith, when you feel as if you reached rock bottom a long time ago but keep finding – no! – there’s still a ravine or two to go.” And for this I throw in a perfectly good career as a features journalist to become a jazz singer?

So when I say “thinking”… I mean specifically … “OhMyGodWhatWasIThinking?” Which makes me realize that doing this (and probably any creative endeavor) requires not only commitment but constant re-commitment. To quote Po Bronson in his book What Should I Do With My Life: “The hardest thing was not learning to write; the hardest thing was to never give up.”

And the answer to the above question is I wasn’t thinking. It just kind of happened after I sat in at the Mint Karaoke Bar in SF one night and one thing led to another and …. well, here I am, coming back to San Francisco to SING. Which is all well and good. But when I DO think about it my path gets all cluttered up with doubts and questions (mainly the ohmygodwhatwasithinking question).

So I was talking to my brother, Simon, on the phone yesterday and telling him I had reached the Frida Kahlo point (viz: when she said “I am still doing it but I don’t know why” — I paraphrase, of course). And he said: “Well because you enjoy it and one day you are going to be very successful at it.” I said, “Do you really believe that, though?” And he said: “Of course! But right now the main thing is that you enjoy it!”

Which is very wise, isn’t it. I mean, I can see why you might give up trying to “get somewhere” or win a Grammy, but why would you give up something you enjoy?

So the answer to that question is …


fatima pic of me
Picture by my babysis Fatima

It was so fantastic to have a totally sold out gig at Joe’s Pub last weekend, when I had been utterly convinced that there would be no one there! Because It was freezing cold. It was the Saturday after New Year’s. And I am the worrying type! But — hooray! — it was so sold out people had to sit on the floor, stand at the bar and were actually turned away at the door (not hooray for that bit!). And we were really lucky to have a lovely crowd — not just big, but nice! Here are some pix taken by my friends Fatima, Philine VanLidth DeJeude and Sirin Samman on the night.

We were helped by a fantastic review for Obsession which appeared in the January issue of AllAboutJazz-New York (read it here), and by being picked by TIME OUT NEW YORK as one of only two must-sees of the New Year weekend. The other one was Mighty Sparrow – fellow Trini!

Tonight (Friday) we will be at the 55 Bar, in a smaller configuration, and then I am getting ready to travel — to California (Southern AND “home” to Northern California, my first destination when I got to America) and Russia and Belarus. Meanwhile, here is a lovely review of the Joe’s Pub gig and at the end of this post is a video of us doing Vera Cruz on the night.

Sirin Samman pic

Joe's Pub 2010 by Philine VanLidth DeJeude

vera cruz joe's pub
Click the picture to watch the video on YouTube of Tessa Souter Band at Joe’s Pub, January 2