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:
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.
Playing Codenames with friends on Zoom using Horsepaste
Having dinner on Zoom. Billy and his son had dinner with me for my birthday and it was surprisingly fun.
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.
Looking out of the window and thinking I really must go for a walk.
Watching and crushing on the Cuomo Brothers. Stockholm Syndrome? Part of me feels it is must be wrong but I don’t care!
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!
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.
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!.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.