In It’s Own Time: Part 1

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It’s been a long while since I wrote any updates about my album, ETHER . As it turned out, the universe had other plans for me, with many bends in my road, that included a serious health detour. An abscess root canal had centered in my left side of my jaw, that necessitated immediate ‘state of the art’ surgery for jawbone reconstruction. So, having come out the other side now, I am very relieved and thrilled to share, that I am currently recording my album, ETHER. And if I do say so … the thirteen original pop jazz songs are coming together beautifully!

I admit, the surgery was a bit of a nightmare for this singer, but once I got on top of the jaw joint mayhem, along with my new mouth, and tongue placement, I gained a gentler and more patient approach to myself. It  has been a rather profound healing process. I also learned,  yet one more time…that the creative process has its very own wise timing. Because during recovery, I honed and dug deeper into my music and lyrics while also deepening my spiritual practice and meditation. Songwriting is a humbling and mysterious process I deeply respect and love. So I believe through letting my songs ‘breath’ over this past year in particular, they have benefited all the more… yet I’ll let you be the judge of that after you listen to them, yourself.

 

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For this high achieving mother and musician, it was hard to let go. I always had way too much on my plate.  ‘Running to stand still’ had become an accepted way of life. Wasn’t that why we called it the human race after all? As someone who can revert to perfectionism, I also caught myself measuring my recovery progress and beating myself up for not healing quicker. That was not very nice. So when I finally gave myself permission to be and do nothing… sleep, think and heal, it felt good. Really good. And RECKLESS!  In a most unexpected way.

I spent a lot of time really listening to the gorgeous bird songs outside my window…  the sublime silence… and the rhythmic ocean’s waves… that happen to be right in my front yard. I know, pretty amazing. A memorable day was when two dragonflies literally hung out on my shoulder and lap, for over an hour, with a pod of Orca whales also in view! Which immediately dispelled the limiting thought ‘ life was passing me by’. What a programmed societal hoax because I was exactly where I needed to be, with the most incredible island sanctuary to recover in, and loving family and dear friends to support me… that most people would clamor to experience.  So, the most fascinating part of being forced to unplug from both the global timer and my own inner metronome was that it slowly took me back to my own natural rhythm. An innate kind of timing that as it turned out, was reminiscent of when my child was born.

So, since the ‘so called’ detour happened, I can honestly now say I am sincerely grateful for the insights I’ve learned because of it. For one thing, I am certainly far more in touch with my tongue. That may sound unusual, but it’s true. After my operation…my poor tongue (and joints) took the brunt of it. Dominique Eade, an exceptional Boston teacher and vocalist, first opened my awareness up to ‘connecting to my tongue.’ For instance…did you know that our tongue is ‘ridiculously’ connected to every muscle and nerve in our mouth, throat, neck, shoulders and jaw? I mean, who knew how much tension could be stored in one’s tongue? And what a difference to one’s sound, it makes to release it? It’s just the beginning of my new-found body wisdom and self-awareness, which I happily now find myself self correcting with each conversation, yawn, kiss, each bite of food, and… each note and vowel in every song. Is my tongue relaxed? So, the deeper metaphors of this experience continue to be far-reaching for this evolving singer, songwriter.

With my recording cycle now in full tilt again, I take all these experiences and more… into the studio and my songs.  I feel very fortunate. Sure, my life has sped up once more and my plate is full again, yet, it is at my own pace with an easier stride as I feel a new sense of calm excitement and curiosity, about what lies ahead. I adore recording and the relaxed and intimate process of this recording cycle, with my talented pianist, Juno winning producer, co- writer and engineer extraordinaire, Chris Gestrin. It is the highlight of my year so far.

I LOVE completing my thirteen pop, jazz songs that I happen to feel are pretty special. I hope you will too. I really look forward to sharing them with you, at release time, next fall. So to you who have taken the time to read this, many thanks. I welcome any of your comments or feedback and I will be sure to post ‘Part 2’ and the further adventures of this ‘Reckless Grace’ journey, soon!  Life… isn’t it something?

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INTERPLAY JAZZ CAMP Impressions #1: Gospel Choir!

Performance at Billings Farm

Thanks to my friendship with NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, that began last Feb. at a vocal workshop in Vancouver, I decided to apply to INTERPLAY JAZZ & ARTS .  http://www.interplayjazzandarts.org/ IPJ&A is a unique jazz camp in pastoral Woodstock , Vermont that was created by  the talented couple, Fred Haas and Sabrina Brown in 1996.  Over the years, it has attracted a roster of world-class jazz teachers/musicians ( including Fred) plus an ardent following of  “play” ers,  including myself.  Some of the teachers ( and students)  were new this year, but most have been with IP from its genesis.

With IP’s unique , holistic approach that integrates yoga and mediation , it encourages a balanced and integrative approach to the improvisational art of jazz . A fan of holistic medicine, and yoga IP was right up my alley. To my delighted surprise, I became the first recipient of the Georgina Williamson Vocal Scholarship, generously provided by the wonderful Mimi and Marshall Heuser, close friends of Georgina’s. I announced my scholarship on FB, at my gigs, in my email newsletter and to anyone who wanted to know. I knew that it would be a great adventure, yet I did not know just HOW great. I was intrigued by the description “ a holistic jazz experience that will change your life” on their website. It made me wonder, to what extent?  I am no stranger to testing myself in unknown waters . I have had a lot of unusual experiences from communal living to studying in LA, to raising my daughter on a rural island, to attending workshops at Esalen, Big Sur or Hollyhock on Cortes Island . So, I was ready for the experience,  yet with the impending release of my third CD… I still wondered… how much would it change me? I am not sure I can fully describe this yet, as I continue to feel the changes initiated at IP very much at work in my life now. Yet, perhaps in sharing aspects of my process, over the course of the next few weeks in this blog, you will both get a good sense of it.

Upon arriving, I was excited and anxious. I did not want to let anyone down.  Or myself. I am happy to say, I did not. To take full advantage of my time, I inhaled every possible musical moment I could.  Of course I could not experience it all, as so much was always going on in tandem, but I sure did my best to try. During our “meet and greet” dinner party I met folks from all over the US ranging from 14 years of age to Maestro Gene Bertoncini in his 80’s. It was tough to decide where best to focus my energies as there was so  much to choose from. Yet, based on their helpful advice, that night, I joined the Gospel Choir with the inspirational Dartmouth Director Walter Cunningham.  It was a very good decision. It was also the first of many …” Oh My God”! moments .  Why? Not only can Walter sing like an Adonis Angel who has a massive octave, perfect pitch range, he is also as beautiful to look at as he is to listen too! It’s no secret. He is fitter than any fiddle with a winning smile and expressive, warm eyes. He exudes a stadium of unlimited energy, joy and focus. He’s the kind of easy, happy person everyone wants to hang out with. And yes, I like and respect him a lot. Check out his website if you don’t believe me. http://www.shoutlife.com/profile_view.cfm?uid=103702 All I can say, is I have never heard anyone sing as powerfully, nor as tenderly as Walter.  He is a humble genius, a gifted musical conduit, who shares Gods’ and his wisdom through Gospel music . Walter’s stories are the best!  When stumbling blocks came up vocally,  he shared vignettes of personal imagery that helped elicit the sensitive, specific nuance he wanted us to feel in the words or the phrasing or the vowel shape of each line.  All was taught and sung carefully, note by- alto- tenor- bass-soprano note, while accompanying us on the piano. All by ear and memory. Which is part of the gospel tradition.  Walter was also adept in how to reach the range of folks in our group, from experienced vocalists to beginners, from all paths, from the Jewish tradition to Buddhists to atheists. Very quickly we all came together under his expansive, universal musical umbrella.

Folks, I am a native Northern Ontario, Canadian, white, brunette ( EH?)  who relocated to the West Coast in the 70’s. I listened to some gospel over the years including Mahalia Jackson   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJg5Op5W7yw  but never had the pleasure of being in a Baptist or Gospel Church choir.  I had  I sung in a local church choir  for eighteen years, and in a gospel choir in Vancouver a couple of years ago.  Not to diminish those stepping-stones, but perhaps it took all those experiences for me to really appreciate whose presence I was in. For, within our trans-formative three-hour rehearsal,  by night ends our new group of thirty plus singers actually sounded like a real gospel choir. Most importantly though was that we all connected. In those pristine moments, I felt like I began to understand the spirit of Gospel music that is fundamentally at the root of  jazz. Under the focused, commanding, and compelling direction of a teacher like Walter, I knew I was with a Master.  My bumps goosed! That was just the first night…

Walter & I at Billings Farm