I am so excited to be included in the Top 100 list in the Sunday Times and in the top 10 Jazz Records list! My cousin, Alastair told me this morning and I’m still in shock. To be included in that list, along with some of my heroes – inlcuding Sir Ron Carter, Houston Person, Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux – is a huge honor. Giant thanks to my amazing band, Yotam Silbertstein, Adam Platt, Dana Leong, Keita Ogawa, Yasushi Nakamura and Billy Drummond.

 

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’ve just found out about Tidal –  according to the blurb:. “the first music service with High Fidelity sound quality, High Definition music videos and curated editorial, expertly crafted by music journalists.” Anyway, you can now stream my music on Tidal.  One of my audiophile friends let me know, so I’m letting you know. Click the picture to go to the Nights of Key Largo album, but I think Obsession is on there too. In other news, my albums Nights of Key Largo (Venus) and Beyond the Blue (Venus) are now available as SACDs – Super Audio Compact Discs, For those who don’t know, single-layer SACDs can only be played on a Super Audio CD player. Check them out on the CDs page.  

It’s a little bit funny … being in such great company. But it’s true! I can’t quite believe it happened – especially given all the cock-ups on the journey to get there. (See two blogs ago). Thank you Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival for having me, and for everything. Thank you Dana Leong, Adam Platt and Keita Ogawa for being such great sports.

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So here is a picture of my wonderful recording band. We will be playing this Friday at the 55 Bar in New York (if you or friends happen to be here) – all deets on my gigs page. Billy, is in Argentina so he won’t be at this one, which is a shame. Playing with him is like riding a racehorse – both incredibly sensitive and powerful at the same time. And, even if he is playing gently, you can feel that immense power is available to you – should you decide to go galloping off into the sunset, flying over every fence and hedge on the way. It’s so exciting. If you’ve seen him perform, watching him play gives you some idea, but actually playing with him is … well a whole other …er, animal. A horse animal.

Picture of me by Walter Wagner. Yotam Silberstein (guitars and oud), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), Adam Platt (piano), Billy Drummond (drums), Dana Leong (cello)
Picture of me by Walter Wagner. Yotam Silberstein (guitars and oud), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), Adam Platt (piano), Billy Drummond (drums), Dana Leong (cello)

Meanwhile, the rest of the band is amazing and we actually rehearsed (with Billy) and had more ideas. And I’ve had tons more since then. It’s hard to make myself go to bed even! I am so inspired by the subject and by my musicians (we have chemistry) – both their incredibe talent and their confidence in me (and mine in them). I can’t wait to go into the studio on Saturday and Sunday. I am so excited – and grateful – to be making this recording, and the more I think about it, the more important I think it is – speaking of runaway horses. I feel like I’m just riding this idea with no reins – clinging on and seeing where it’s going, hoping I don’t fall off (like I used to when I did real horse riding as a girl) because I really want to see where we end up. I have never been so excited to make a CD – and this will be my fifth.

In other news, my dear mentor, Mark Murphy died while I was in California. I was asked to write a tribute, which ended up being the Number One most read article in LondonJazzNews that week – which he totally deserved – and more. You can read it HERE.

w/ John Schiflett (bass) and David Udolf (piano) at Cafe Pink House, Saratoga, CA. Photo credit: Walter Wagner
w/ John Schiflett (bass) and David Udolf (piano) at Cafe Pink House, Saratoga, CA. Photo credit: Walter Wagner

And speaking of California, HERE   is one of the songs we are recording this weekend in a video made by someone who heard me the last time I was in Saratoga and asked if he could film me this time. Somehow one of the camera mics got messed up but I think it’s manageable. This is a trio version. When I record it for the album, I think I want to do it just duo with my fabulous cellist, Dana Leong – one of the ideas I had this week. But we’ll see how it goes in the studio. More to come. Meanwhile, here are some photographs of my trip to California.

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Picture credit" Walter Wagner
Picture credit Walter Wagner

 

My little trailer for two nights staying with dear friends Xandra and David and Jasmin
My little trailer for two nights staying with dear friends Xandra and David and Jasmin
Hanging out with one of my sweetest, oldest friends, Fordy, in Los Angeles
Hanging out with one of my sweetest, oldest friends, Fordy, in Los Angeles
It ended up being standing room only at Doc's Lab in San Francisco, where we had SUCH fun
It ended up being standing room only at Doc’s Lab in San Francisco, where we had SUCH fun
Jasmin's little tea set
Jasmin’s little tea set
Alisa Clancy and me before my KCSM radio Desert Island Jazz interview
Alisa Clancy and me before my KCSM radio Desert Island Jazz interview
My favorite airport. So retro
My favorite airport. So retro
The new tram in LA - not even operational yet
The new tram in LA – not even operational yet
Outside a jazz establishment where the Rat Pack used to hang
Outside a jazz establishment where the Rat Pack used to hang
Pool at house concert number 2
Pool at house concert number 2

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Egg provider at Xandra and David's
Egg provider at Xandra and David’s
My little trailer INSIDE for two nights staying with dear friends Xandra and David and Jasmin
My little trailer INSIDE for two nights staying with dear friends Xandra and David and Jasmin
Please note retro cowgirl curtain fabric
Please note retro cowgirl curtain fabric

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Me with “Jamie” (Sam Heughan) and “Dougal” (Graham McTavish) at the Outlander premiere mini party

I had a fantastic birthday week this year! Those of you who were there when he popped in to my gig a few months ago will recognize Dougal – AKA my friend Graham – in the picture (left). He took me to the premiere of Outlander Season 2, on April 1, which was one of the most fun parties ever! More fun even than mine and Graham’s “Come as a Cocktail” party we had in the 80s. I was a midnight lace (I know, I’d never heard of it either). Graham was an aviator. This was so much more fun – not just because I got to have my picture taken with the (other) series’ hunk, AKA Jamie. Phoar! But mostly because I got to hang the whole night with one of my oldest and sweetest friends. And of course there was Champagne! And unlike our “Come as a Cocktail” party, I didn’t pass out and wake up the next day having missed the entire thing. (I think the Golden Cadillacs did me in).

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My birthday at Birdland Jazz Club with cake provider, Billy Drummond

Graham, by the way, is given notes and gifts of things like undies (okay, they were socks, but still!) by people in the crowd. Shameless! After Party # 2 (the picture above was taken at Party # 1) Graham’s limo dropped me at Birdland where I had a lovely hang with Sheila Jordan and the Steve Kuhn Trio and was groupie to my own man, Billy. If I’d had socks to give, I would have! And Kurt Elling was there and sat in. It was fun. And then on Friday I celebrated my actual birthday at Birdland and Sheila sang Happy Birthday to me from the stage. And Billy had secretly procured a chocolate cake for me with nine candles (hmm!) which I made a wish on. And I wore the necklace my brother made me which spells out H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y T-E-S-S-A – a fitting gift for a nine-year-old, except I was minus 29 when he gave it to me because I’ve had it 20 years.

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Emmet Cohen on piano with me sitting in at Richard and Tara Dolan Wright’s fab party

And then on Sunday we went to an Easter party with MORE cake – and also Pavlova (an Australian confection which is insanely delicious … recipe HERE). And they had a great pianist Emmet Cohen and I sat in and I wasn’t nervous at all! (which I normally am if it’s just sitting). Billy took this picture.

Being a musician is such a hard road (maybe even if you are wildly successful, I’ll let you know when that happens!) that these little things –  a fun party, performing (speaking of which, I am at the 55 Bar on Friday with Saul and Yasushi), a surprise birthday cake (especially chocolate), Pavlova cake,  having the great Sheila Jordan sing Happy Birthday to you, hanging with old friends – make it like you have memory foam in your shoes – not those horrid hard gel inserts (will someone please explain those to me!) – a bit easier.

And speaking of old friends, Graham is Grand Marshall this Saturday for National Tartan Week in New York. Leading the parade starting at 2pm on 6th AVenue between 44th and 55th Streets. http://nyctartanweek.org/ if any of you want to go and throw socks at him!

And here is Sheila singing at Birdland – an entire week at age 86 and a quarter – where she sang Happy Birthday to me and made me feel like a movie star!

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Sheila Jordam at Birdland, with Steve LaSpina in background.

Inspired by Stephen Graham’s excellent Marlbank comparison blog on Angel Eyes. I thought I would share six very different versions of ‘Send in the Clowns’ that you might not know. This song has been recorded by so many people. Kind of like ‘My Way’ – except I don’t think Sid Vicious actually did it. Thank the lawd! And speaking of ‘My Way’ (made most famous by Frank Sinatra), here is a gorgeous version of ‘Send in the Clowns’ by Frank, performed duo with Spanish guitar – not sure what to make (if anything) of the fact that he doesn’t look at the guitarist at the end. There is also a karaoke version that you can do, a figure skated version (I have a weakness for figure skating and this one is amazing), and an instrumental solo piano version by Freddie Mercury (who knew?). But first, the (I think) definitive version by Sarah Vaughan. All on brilliant, wonderful YouTube. Click on the picture. In order of appearance Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Blossom Dearie, Freddie Mercury, Yuna Kim (start at 1:17) and you!

Sarah-Vaughan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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xmas tree 2Everjazz was fantastic. Perhaps particularly because I actually made it, after a hair-raising drive from Perm, which was … fascinating – if by ‘fascinating’ you mean scary as hell and twice as fast. We started out at 9am, still dark, under a mauve sky which turned to blue to white to gray as our journey progressed into a snowstorm. “Finally!” I thought, all excited. “Real Russian snow!” But I kind of got less excited about the weather as we drove.

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L-R: Mauve, to blue to white skies

Hurtling along a slippery road, with snow blowing about on it like stage smoke, lined with relentless pine forests on either side – or silver birch copses hiding the odd triffid-like pine tree – every now and then we’d come upon twisted trucks stuck in a ditch, sort of like Star Wars metal beast versions of skeletons in an elephants’ graveyard. It reminded me of Los Angeles driving, except the cars whizzing by are only on one side of you because the road to Ekaterinburg is only two lane traffic. That sounds like it would be kind of country-lane-ish, doesn’t it. It wasn’t.

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Holiday Triffids lurking amid the silver birches

Who knew there were so many trucks? And daredevils wanting to play “Chicken” with trucks. At one point I dozed off and woke up to see – skittering towards us  out of the blizzard (at speed) – a car in OUR LANE (at speed) with a huge truck in its lane. Yes, at speed. We were all at speed!

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The car in front of us had just overtaken us and was at this point merrily tailgating the truck in front of us

“Is okay! Is okay!” said my driver, Tatyana, patting my arm, as I hurriedly texted Billy the details of my travel insurance policy, which includes a clause to have my body shipped home so my son never has to pick up that cost. “Russian drrrivers!” she said, rolling her eyes. “Crrrazy!” (and her Rs) “Da!” I thought, with one eye on the speedometer (120 km per hour!) as we shot past a fresh wreath on the snowbank to our left followed by about 100 feet of charred car remains.

No danger of me falling asleep again. I don’t know why you feel safer if you keep your eyes peeled (well, obviously if you are driving, but I mean even as a passenger). But every time I looked up, it was to see cars or trucks looming out of the white coming towards us in our lane (at speed). And Tatyana patting my arm and smiling comfortingly. So when I say like driving in Los Angeles, I mean with cars hurtling towards you in your lane, as opposed to on either side of you heading in the same direction (which is quite bad enough, thanks). I guess the car in front was having trouble picking a lane because of the ice. Eek. Eyes closed! No, eyes open! No closed! Okay, open!

Rather like Los Angeles, I was very relieved when we came upon a huge accident-induced traffic jam, until Tatyana (who could have given Lewis Hamilton a run for his money),  whizzed off the road to make a massive detour through several snow-submerged villages, linked by extremely narrow one-lane roads. The only signs of life were gigantic Newfoundland type dogs on long chains in people’s front drives. Oh, and one guy ahead of us who seemed to be digging himself out of a snow drift. Amazingly, about half an hour later, we came out on the main road, ahead of the traffic. If that had been me driving, we’d have come out two or three hours later in exactly the same spot we went in (that actually happened to me in Central Park once).

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Success! Back on the main road (and off the snow-trail detour!)
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This poster is not from THIS trip but from my 2008 debut at Ekaterinburg Philharmonic. I have it somewhere. Unfortunately it is too big to fit anywhere in my apartment. It is HUGE!

But it could have been worse. I could have been waiting for a bus in one of the many bus shelters we passed. What? Are people air-lifted to them? Because I didn’t see any towns or villages nearby. Or buses, come to that. Just miles (and miles) of snow and pine forests. There were also random pedestrian crossings. I’m not kidding. In the middle of nowhere! Perhaps they are thinking if you build the pedestrian crossing, the pedestrians will come or something.

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A bus shelter. No houses (or buses) for miles.

Anyway, arriving at my lovely hotel (the same one I stayed in when I performed at the Ekaterinburg Philharmonic Hall) was … well, lovely. More than lovely – a blessed relief!

The club, Everjazz, was great! I loved the decor – even though the tables had all been moved around for the party. Huge photographs lined the walls, the menus were sort of vinyl records, and in the room where the band ate dinner, the lighting was beautiful – cymbals (pictures below). Very clever. cymbals lightingThe band was wonderful again (same pianist, Anton Zoobarev, along with Portuguese drummmer, Luis Candeias, and bassist, Nelson Cascais), and the entertainment was … fantabulous.

They even had a bar tender show, with people flinging bottles around and making cocktails at the same time. And then I came home and packed – no time to sleep – so I could be ready for the 4am lobby call to come home …. for Christmas … with Billy.

how to do a fruit plate
Fruit plate, or wot?
red carpet treatment
Literal red carpet treatment at Everjazz
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Snowspike shoes, which double as Russian man-catchers
everjazz giant posters
Full size poster of Esperanza Spalding
guitarist
with guitarist, Igor Trekusov
everjazz menu
Menu

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stage 1 xmas tree 1
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