(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Dearest New Yorkers

Man, the news looks bad. In fact, if I read it last thing at night I actually can’t sleep. And singing, which is the ultimate synthesizer of pain, is not hitting the spot in the silence of my lonely room without the added chemistry of you.

So no, I won’t be at the 55 tonight – it feels surreal that we were even there last month! – and I don’t know when our next gigs will be. But I am trying not to be too despondent about everything. And the giant hullaballoo every night at 7pm of children and adults cheering and cars tooting their horns works (for me) as a kind of call to prayer for all our frontline workers – of course medical staff, but also door people, transport workers and grocery store staff. I don’t even like going to the shops. Being there all the time must be doubly stressful – especially if you have to get there on the subway.

But there is good news out there. Look, the giant pandas in Hong Kong Zoo, because it is closed to visitors, have finally mated – after ten years! I hope they were successful because baby pandas are adorable beyond belief. If you don’t believe me, here is some gratuitous cute baby panda video taken at a place where they breed and reintroduce them into the wild.

Meanwhile, in lieu of meeting (I said meeting, not mating!) and actually singing for you, I am sharing my personal list of alternative activities:

  1. Decluttering. I did my bookcase and am going to start on my CDs. If it doesn’t spark joy, out it goes! I recommend a sweet series on Netflix, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. Not as good as her fantastic book, but still good.
  2. Playing Codenames with friends on Zoom using Horsepaste
  3. Having dinner on Zoom. Billy and his son had dinner with me for my birthday and it was surprisingly fun.
  4. Trying to try to paste various 55 Bar video snippets on my Facebook music page so you can still “come to the gig” kinda sorta. Thank you Caroline Borderies for the video snips. PS This is an ongoing project.
  5. Looking out of the window and thinking I really must go for a walk.
  6. Watching and crushing on the Cuomo Brothers. Stockholm Syndrome? Part of me feels it is must be wrong but I don’t care!
  7. Bingeing on this video of Naturally 7 over and over again singing ‘Feel It In The Air Tonight.’ 782,420 views. 420 of those were me! They took a great song and made it into an anthem about bravery and faith in the face of fear. And this is how to make an entrance! I’m expecting you all to learn your parts so we can do it at the 55 next time!
  8. And here they are doing it in the Paris metro.
  9. Reading the Good News Network stories.
  10. Missing you all, especially right this second when I would be fixing my hair and make up and wondering what clothes to wear. On which note … this is from me to you.

If there was ever a man who was generous gracious and good / That was my dad, the man / A human being so true he could live like a king cos he knew / the real pleasures in life / To be devoted to and always stand by me / So I’d be unafraid and free   

Song For My Father, Horace Silver                                                

The day before yesterday a little bird flew right in front of the kitchen window, in the morning when I was doing the dishes. It twisted in midair and then flew straight up! I’ve never seen a bird do that before. I said to it out loud: “Wow! You are so happy!” Then at 6pm, Mansur’s twin sister, Kathy, called and told me that he had died that morning.

As those of you who know me know, Mansur was my spiritual guru and my musical mentor and, more than that even . . .  my dad! Hence the lyrics above to ‘Song For My Father’, which Mansur often sang when he sat in on my gigs. He came to nearly all my gigs before his first stroke and still struggled out to see me afterwards, even though it was a trek from Harlem.

Just a few days ago I was lamenting to my friend Deon that I was really missing him lately because, up until he had his latest stroke a couple of years ago, we would speak nearly every day. The last time we spoke, a few weeks ago, he wasn’t able to say anything beyond “What’s happening, Tess!” But I am grateful to be one of the few people he still remembered. And Kathy told me yesterday that whenever she mentioned my name it lifted his spirits.

He certainly lifted mine. He was a giant influence on me in every possible way, advising me on everything! Love. Men. Spiritual matters. Music. He heard all my compositions and lyrics first before anyone else. And he taught me to sing my story and not worry about whether or not it was jazz. He was a deep, deep soul. And wise! He didn’t know everything but he knew 99% (especially about the men!) He sang like that too! As you know, if you ever saw him sing. Man, he is the only person I know who got signed to a record label (Pau! Records) without trying.

I had the strong urge to call him on Sunday but I didn’t remember until 3.30pm, which was too late in the day (his sister was there daily from noon to 3 and she would hold the phone for him). That’s a lesson to follow our urges! And also to stop being so “New York busy” – something he never was. Even if you called him at 4AM he’d be right there for you with “What’s happening, Tess!”

A lot of people have written to tell me that he really loved me, which is lovely of them, even though I already knew that. And, as is clear from the video of him singing (click the picture left to watch him singing on my gig at the 55 Bar), I adored him! When he had his first stroke in 1999 I was at the hospital so much we told the doctors I was his daughter, and he renamed me Jemilah, which means “One who is Beautiful.” My name for him was Mancini, because he was music.

Never Forgotten. Always Remembered. . 

Thirteen cities in less than a month, playing Philharmonic halls (mostly sold out) from Siberia to Podolsk (a couple of hours outside Moscow) with some clubs in between . . .  I’m still recovering three weeks later! Actually I was sick when I arrived and seriously worried that I was going to have to cancel the entire tour but my voice came back during the first rehearsal! I gradually got better over the next few days and I did have a day or so between gigs to at least rest my voice – if not actually rest – Russia is HUGE and involves gigantic journeys on planes, trains and autombiles between cities. Thank the lawd for adrenalin during the actual tour itself.

And I had a lot of FUN with pianist Daniel Kramer (who brought me), Gregory Zaytsev and Anton Kuznetsov. And Russians are passionate audiences, which is utterly inspiring. People come up to you after the gigs and say things like “You made my soul explode!” I met so many amazing people and was given so many flowers and chocolates, Even a bottle of Lambrusco. I felt completely spoiled by the time I left for Budapest. In fact, the entire tour was kind of “pinch me!” – even though it’s not my first time playing some of those venues. The one in the main picture above was an early one (maybe even the first) and I pointed at it and said, “Oh, is that where we’re playing?” Kidding! But it was!

Being hugged and kissed and squished  by so many women after the gigs was . . . amazing! I also sold out of CDs. I only brought 100 because everyone warned me that no one sells CDs anymore but I was cleaned out by gig number three, with ten more gigs to go. (including Budapest). Sigh! But at least I still got to go out and meet people and sign tickets and . . . get my hugs! And flowers. And chocolates! I even survived being a vegetarian. Not easy in Russia – especially at some of those little cafes on the road. And I got to hang out and have lunch with one of my best friends in the entire world, Neil, who lives in Moscow and then he and his wife, the Audrey Hepburn-esque Eva,  brought a posse to Esse Jazz Club to hear us.

It was so wonderful to come back to Russia. Thank you so much for having me.  See you next time! (Or, as I said by mistake instead of Dosvedanya) . . . Dostoyevsky!  Pictures and captions below.

Ya Lublyu Vas!

The only thing more amazing than playing in a gigantic venue, is getting a standing ovation in one! I totally get crowd-surfing. In the right outfit, of course.

Small planes. Probably my least favorite mode of travel – especially at 2am! Lord!

This is my favorite way to travel. Trains. I like the clickety clack. And lying down! Planes take just as long when you factor in all the faffing around.

Yes. My favorite tea! Actually, Russians really know tea!

The “boss” – piano maestro Daniel Kramer!

My orange balaclava was actually VITAL! Never mind it it’s too “matchy matchy”!

Things you can buy in RUssian roadside rest stops

Is it just me, or are bananas actually funny!

When you are driving along, you have to KEEP wiping the window or it gets covered in ice again completely.

Can you imagine waiting for the bus in this weather!

Team Kramer on our first night!

No warning! No makeup!

No this is not vodka . . . at least I don’t THINK it is!

I love this crazy dress!

Sound check. I took lots of pictures like this.

The most bizarre bedding of the trip. The honeymoon suite?

Bundled up after the concert and ready to face the elements!

People filtering in for the first night.

I think this was after our concert at Omsk Philharmonic

I signed the Wall of Fame at Podolsk Philharmonic. What a great audience that was!

 

Novosibirsk poster! Does Diana Krall still get excited by posters!

Never too late for a drummer to pick up bass playing tips!

Frost on the INSIDE of the train window!

Antosh took a bunch of pictures of me from the drum position.

The craziest stage on the tour!

Thank you, Novosibirsk ladies!

Novosibirsk Philharmonic

My friend Natalia came!

 

Lovely ladies at Everjazz Club in Ekaterinburg

My wonderful band at Everjazz Club.

The fabulous Cleveland Watkiss – who blew me away when he sat in on a gig of mine at Pizza Express! On the wall at Everjazz

Wonderful Al Foster! So nice to see a bit of home on the walls!

My brothers on the road, Grigory and Anton

Dressing room way too dark to do makeup. I had to go and put makeup on in the kitchen, where the staff didn’t seem to mind at all. Everjazz

My cool band and friends at Everjazz. Alexandr Bulatov Trio

In Moscow with Neil. One of my dearest friends in all the world!

 

 

      

THE POSTERS . . . some of them

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!

  

Rochester Magazine arrived in the mail yesterday and somehow my picture and story leads the “Most Memorable Moments from the Festival” cover story. Thank you Gary Craig and Rochester Magazine and the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. So great to be included among some of my favorite musicians – including Catherine Russell, Joe Locke, Gwyneth Herbert, Grace Kelly and more. In case the print is too small in this picture, you can read it online HERE.

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.

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.