For the past seven years I’ve had the honor of being the vocalist for the Carolina Chamber Jazz Players during the Carolina Summer Music Festival. The group is lead by bassist, Matt Kendrick, with Federico Pivetta on piano and John C. B. Wilson on drums rounding out the rhythm section. As if that’s not talent enough, Ken Wilmot on trumpet, Wally West on tenor sax, and Jacqui Carrasco on violin complete the band. Each year we’ve focused on a different composer of the Great American Songbook.
The last couple of months have been spent working on a live disc featuring music from three of our years of playing together. We chose the concerts of Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, and Hoagie Carmichael from which to draw some of our best performances. In homage to my favorite tune on the disc, it’s called “Blues in the Night.” That was one of the first songs to peak my interest in jazz as a twenty-something classical singer when I heard the velvety voice of Mel Torme on the radio. Fun fact: Sue Bassett, my kids’ paternal grandma, danced with Mel Torme when his tour came through Greensboro back in the day.
So if you need help finding Christmas presents I offer you “Blues in the Night,” as well as any of my other discs, which I will autograph, wrap (if requested), and send to you or anyone else on your gift list. We’ve updated the website so you can listen to all the songs in advance and order just what you want. If you have special requests or multiple addresses, shoot me an email and I’ll make sure they get into the right hands. Or if you’re near one of our shows in December, come out and get them in person.
I wish you and yours a peaceful and joyous holiday season.
The view from above
I haven’t really climbed any charts, or any social ladders, but as a kid I was known to climb trees. We had a row of large black cherry trees in the yard, and each limb was like a room in a house. I’d spend hours there out of reach of the grown ups, the dog, my little sister. It was my private sanctuary. When the cherries were ripe I hardly had to come down at all, except to sleep at night.
My sister and I had bunk beds and, as the eldest, mine was on top; a perfect place to read and daydream. It was off limits to everyone; my personal space.
Our barn had a loft that overlooked the cows. If you climbed along the fence you could get up into the loft without ever touching the mucky ground of the cow pen. If I kept climbing even higher, the beam up by the roof became my high wire. I never fell, but if I had, piles of itchy hay would’ve cushioned my landing somewhat. Nevertheless, it was a thrill; a secret, solitary adventure from a lofty perch.
Back in those days a kid could take off on her bike and ride miles down a dirt road, climb a cliff, and disappear for the afternoon in a cave. Complete freedom.
Just off the kitchen in my current house, if you climb a ladder seven rungs high, there’s a cubby just deep enough for a twin mattress and just tall enough to sit up on your knees. One wall is lined with shelves filled with books about gardening, cooking, poetry, music, philosophy, fashion. Huey, the cat, follows me there. I read while she naps. The arial view of my kitchen never ceases to please me. It’s as if I’m ten again, looking down from my secret treehouse that’s just big enough for me (and a cat).
Everyone should be so lucky.
Huey on the porch.
Close friends often marvel at my lack of knowledge about current events. I gave up TV in 1996, only listen to the radio occasionally, and almost never see a newspaper. I figure if anything happens in the world that I need to know about, someone will tell me. So recently when I saw “RIP Miley Cyrus” posted on facebook, I underestimated the public snark factor and assumed that young Miley had met her demise. I said a prayer for her family and felt sad about it for a couple of days. Imagine my relief to find out that she had only dirty danced on national TV and was very much alive and kicking. I was so happy. That’s perspective!
About 3 years ago, when I was feeling really down about the music business and my place in it, a friend who is older and more experienced suggested that I consider the long arc of my career instead of focusing on my disappointment with specific goals unmet at the time. And he was right. Pretty soon things bounced back to normal and I’ve been working hard ever since. I suspect that during the next economic downturn I’ll again see a dip in business. Nothing personal.
Last night, Pat and I sat at the computer watching the launch of LADEE, which occurred about 6 hours away on the coast of VA near Delaware en route to the moon. We ran into the yard and looked in the direction we thought Delaware might be. It took 2 long minutes before a blinking light emerged from the skyline and crossed over our heads to the south faster than anything I’d ever seen fly. I think the announcer said it flew 7 miles per second. I figured it took 2 minutes to get from Delaware to me, and another minute from Central VA to Winston-Salem. I wondered if my sons were watching it too in Greensboro and Boston.
Perspective is hard to hold on to. How nice to have reminders.