(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.

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

IMG_2878 IMG_2877

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

Red-Shoes-posters

Being a professional musician sometimes feels to me like being the girl in the Hans Christian Anderson story, The Red Shoes. Now that I’ve put the shoes on, I can’t get the damn things off, and I have to keep dancing no matter how tired I get. Except, I’m not dancing I’m singing.

In the Powell and Pressburger movie, inspired by the fairy tale, when the heroine is asked why she wants to dance by the ballet director, Lermontov, she says:

Vicky: Why do you want to live?
Lermontov: Well, I don’t know exactly why, but… I must.
Vicky: That’s my answer too.

At the same time, “music” is a sort of separate entity which I love like a child.  Or, at least, how I feel about it reminds me, at times, of how I felt about my son when he was a child. I feel protective of it. I look after it. Do things for it that I wouldn’t do for myself – odd though that sounds.  I would fly in a small plane to get to a gig for it. Train it across the Siberian tundra in sub-zero temperatures for it. Sacrifice things for it. Go without fancy clothes for it. Forgo holidays. Give up journalism for it. Not only would, … I have done all the above –  except fly in a small plane – yet. And I would be scared but I’d even do that (with my fingers crossed, of course).

It is my quest.

quest

noun ˈkwest

: a journey made in search of something

: a long and difficult effort to find or do something

Both of those.

And like all good quests, following this path professionally has taught me more about myself – my faults, my strengths, my weaknesses, my good side, that er …  other side –  than anything else I have ever done, with the exception of child-rearing. And it utilizes everything you are… every experience you have ever had,  every death of a friend or relative, everything you’ve ever believed, everything you think you know and (I’m sure) a ton of things you know that you don’t consciously know you know.

Each experience adds another color, and the more experience you have, the more colors you have to express yourself with. All communicated wordlessly – even if you sing actual words. All perceptible to anyone who wants to perceive it. Or receive it. Or resonate with it – with you. Which is probably why, when someone else gets it, that is the most affirming thing ever. And, even though being a musician is work – hard work, constant and full-time, on call 24 hours, even while you are sleeping –  few things can beat the feeling of communicating absolutely essence-to-essence with an audience. It’s about that.

Every now and then I have flirted with the idea of taking off the red shoes but, I realized recently, they are my feet now. So here I – still – am.

“To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

Yes I am returned! The Edinburgh Jazz Festival was superb and sold out. But I wish I had taken some pictures. This is the problem with not having family in the audience – though, of course, the benefit is you don’t have embarrassing scenes like my mum reading aloud from my book – er, that would be LOUD – to her entire table, or parents busting in through the doors shouting ostentatiously: “Excuse me! Excuse me! We are here to see our DAUGHTER, the singer!” My dad (bit of an attention seeker) has even perfected a sort of Royal Wave for when I acknowledge him in the crowd, which – God forfend! – I forget to do. Early in my career, he even once pounced upon the stage but was, thankfully, wrestled to the ground by my brother as he reached for the mic. Meanwhile, here is a picture of the venue I performed at, nabbed from the internet.

I spent most of the rest of my trip doing social things – including attending my niece’s wedding at which I was reminded of what it was actually like to spend a prolonged period of time with my ex-mother-in-law (who makes my own mother seem shy and retiring, even – almost – discreet).  Somehow we are great friends (his three-year-old calls me Aunty – poor confused darling!), even though he has a swimming pool nestling in the acreage of his back garden (as my mother-in-law was very eager to show me within seconds of greeting me – she had pictures!) and I live in penury in Harlem wishing I had a back garden to look at (and maybe a window to look at it through).
 
Meanwhile, my journey home was insane! The line to get through security snaked through the entire Heathrow airport and into the parking lot! By the time I got to the end there was no time to even buy duty free (naturally this is the only reason I have not brought all of you gifts of wine and incense). And the list of things you can and cannot take is bonkers. For example, you can’t take moisturizer or cosmetics but you can take massive big knitting needles. 
I foolishly admitted to having a lipstick in my purse (I mean you can’t lie can you, even though I think I would have got away with it) which meant the confiscation of my precious TWENTY-FIVE DOLLAR lipstick (I know, I know … bought during some kind of mental blackout). Annoyingly, I didn’t have a knitting needle with me to stab the girl who confiscated it. Or my glasses case (also forbidden) to assault and batter her with. I mean, it’s no wonder that poor deranged woman the other day tried to hijack a plane with a pot of Vaseline. – although thank goodness some brave person managed to overpower and wrest it from her before anything terrible happened!