Greetings from Brooklyn where the sun shone bright today under mild skies. For the moment, its quiet just long enough to get some work done including sending this update and greeting to you all. The year started with a bang – a daily occurrence of public loss…loss of great souls and personalities. That gave music a whole new meaning ,entering this year feeling like a warrior. It’s important more than ever to say something when you can. All we have are our voices, let whatever art we create be reflective of who we really are. It has to be this way for me and I’m blessed to do music I love, music that matters. Thanks to all that came out to the January performances… lots of good stuff is coming up so please read on.
First up, I am more than honored to be asked to perform with the late vocalist Jimmy Scott Jazz Expressions in a tribute to his great legacy on SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13th at Sista’s Place, in the heart of Bed Stuy here in Brooklyn.
Then later in the month I head to Europe and so excited to share the news of FINALLY recording Herbie Nichols SUNG with Achim Kaufmann on piano and Tobias Delius on tenor saxophone and clarinet. WooHoo! We’ll record over two live concerts – at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and De Loft in Koln, Germany. I’ll also teach a couple workshops – one at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp (Belgium) and another in Amsterdam at Zaal 100. Will post flyers for the workshop and the concerts and please spread the word and share!
Royal Conservatory Antwerp
MONDAY, February 22, 2016
HERBIE NICHOLS SUNG BIMHUIS
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2016
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2016
WORKSHOP – to Scat and Beyond
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2016
in other news:
Here’s a video of the New York Jazz Workshop Jazz Vocal Advanced Class performing my arrangement of Work Song by cornetist Nat Adderley with lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr. Shot during the bi-annual school presentation in December 2015, this was the final tune of this groups presentation. I’m so proud of these ladies that also knocked out there individual performances.
In January 2016, the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music Jazz Vocal Workshop gave their end of semester presentation to a packed house. It was one of my most expansive presentations to date where the vocalists sang individual selections, duets and a group song – also Work Song – but with a completely different arrangement. I wanted to do Work Song with both vocal groups because it’s powerful political sentiment is an important statement today on mass incarceration that I wanted to make and I wanted the students to get away from singing ‘pretty’ for a moment and sing something evocative of the sentiment in the blues that Nat Adderley wrote.
Here’s a pic of the group!
This just IN: I was the vocalist last year for Lisa Mezzacappa’s Glorious Ravage on the West Coast and here is a little video excerpt of the show…via this link: http://gloriousravage.com/watch/
What’s coming up in March? A lot.
Heading to DC (March 16) as a special guest with the Amy Bormet Quartet for the Washington Women in Jazz Festival. Heading up to Hampshire College as a guest of the great reedist Marty Ehrlich to perform with his students plus give a masterclass (March 22-23). Will be on a Women in Music Panel with two esteemed panelists in Dr. Courtney Bryan and Farrah Jasmine Griffith in the Bronx (March 12) and back in the 55 BAR with in Praise of Ornette to close out the Month.
Finally, I want to share with you all something very important to me that I started along with blogger, professor and curator Cisco Bradley called the TalkRACE Forum that got started in December 2014. The whole point of the forum is to create a space to have uncomfortable conversations about race across gender, ethnicity and class. Since that time the almost monthly meetings have revealed so much about the work there is to be done and how important these conversations seem to shed light on how we feel. I’m finally making it public as we’re beginning to give public TalkRACE Forums. We gave one at Pratt Institute in November 2015 and on February 2016 we’ll moderate another TalkRACE Forum at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, NY. It’s a good time to let you all know that this is happening and anyone interested in know about these events, please feel free to reach out. Here is our budding FB page: https://www.facebook.com/talkraceforum/
What a month I had between Europe and Turkey. I first went over to do a tour with Herbie Nichols SUNG; after that I ran two masterclasses on my own at Bern University of the Arts in Bern, Switzerland, then moved on to Istanbul, Turkey to join the New York Jazz Workshop team for a week of master-classes at Bogazici University, truly the Harvard University of Turkey. Three different scenarios and each deeply fulfilling.
First off the Herbie Nichols tour…a small dream that revealed so much about where Nichols’ music can go and how open people were towards it. We’re taking an elastic approach to the forms, full of detours and improvisations that crop out of nowhere. So wonderful to hear how the music unfolds over four back to back concerts, every concert different from the other and always exploratory. I couldn’t have asked for better partners in pianist Achim Kaufmann and reedist Tobias Delius on this journey. These musicians know Nichols’ music inside and out, having played his pieces from years, a fact that left the possibilities endless. It was a revelation. I learned so much and see Nichols music in a different way now. Not just tunes that are a master-class in themselves of form, harmony and thematic development, but now as fluid materials so strong that those melodies are indestructible beacons of light carrying feelings, sounds and intuitive joy. The feedback and reaction to the tour were amazing and I was floored by the reaction to our unorthodox approach. The concert in Amsterdam, where the tour started had quite a few members of the Instant Composers Pool coming out to hear our way, musicians that know the Nichols’ book just as well, arguably much better than I do. The great reedist and shakuhachi player Ab Baars said “Good you came over to give us a great view on Mr Nichols’ music.” !!!
After the HBS tour ended in Berlin, Germany, I spent a few days there getting to know that great city during springtime. Always a lover of history, I learned more about the history of the city as East Berlin, with enough evidence around to back up the conversations. The night before heading out of town, I got to check out the Bad Plus in Berlin doing Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction with a front line to die for: Ron Miles, Tim Berne and Sam Newsome. Very honored to be Sam’s guest at the A Train and sit front row taking in all the beauty. Just in awe.
Then it was on to Bern, Switzerland where the master classes went so well at Bern University of the Arts, I almost cried. It was a small group of 5 amazing students in total, diving into a deep place looking at vocal confidence and audience connection. Every time I’ve given this workshop, there’s been a deep emotional response from at least one of the participants. This occasion was no different. The second class was on improvised group vocal improvisations with a rhythm section joining us exploring improvisation by ear over the blues, Stella by Starlight as well as free improvisation. Great discussions with these students, many of them at the Masters degree level in music and composition and it looks like I can go back! I was thrilled. The stay in Bern was brief, just a night before the master classes there, taking the night train back to Amsterdam that same evening. Amsterdam now just as a mini vacation, seeing friends and family. A cool spring, hell everywhere was cool – yet sunny and beautiful too. I left there wishing I could stay just a few days longer. It felt so good and connected this time.
Istanbul, Turkey. I was the vocal instructor of the New York Jazz Workshop team and after a successful run last year, we were invited back Bogazici University to teach over 40 students during their Spring Break. The vocalists were so excited after last year’s proceedings that we doubled the amount of vocalists this year! The students aren’t music majors but they’re brilliant students in their own fields. From freshmen chemistry majors to biomedical engineers working on their online evaluations for medical marijuana
and Ph.D’s…all for a love of this music. For more marijuana news go to https://dankcity.com/. The week was dynamic and the team was immense: Drummer Tony Moreno, pianist Nikolaj Hess, bassist Jay Anderson, guitarist Kenny Wessel…alongside our ring leaders and co-directors of the New York Jazz Workshop – tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas and Marco Chelo. Last year, I had the group of vocalists entirely and this year, I had all of the vocalists in the morning, and floated around in the afternoon to the ensembles that they were a part of. Such a new way of interacting for me, which was uncomfortable at first but I got into it and learned so much about myself and the power of those vocalists integrating themselves into the different ensemble lead by the instrumentalists on the team. Last night when we put on the final concert…we were floored by the range, depth and power of the performances and the audience of a few hundred people responded in kind. How lucky I feel to have had anything to do with this amazing outcome and what a place in the world to have this opportunity. Istanbul is incredible.
I started to fall in love with Istanbul…the people, sounds (the call to prayer blows my mind), the food, the love of music, the chaos and the love people show. Passionate beautiful people…warm and appreciative was my experience. It’s such a beautiful city too, almost like a shining jewel. The house we stayed in on campus was decadently comfortable, with views from on high of the Bosphorus at every turn. The five minute walk from my room to where I taught each morning was like walking past a postcard with differing views depending on the light. The amazing barges colored orange and red..stood in gorgeous stark contrast to that Bosphorus’ blue hue, sounds of the water moving through the trees just outside my window took my breath away too many times to mention. We also played a great concert at Nardis, the famed Istanbul jazz club. Marc Mommaas lead the band and featuring his compositions, and I joined the band with a couple choice standards and two originals of my own. A packed house and a gleefully vocal audience!! An intense period of deep connection to great people in a dream like location with jazz as the catalyst.
This has been a dream month for me. I can’t begin to express the deep gratitude I have for my life and music in this moment. The force of it. The BEAUTY of it!!!! What it does to people. A few months ago…I questioned the importance of music and my place within it. I couldn’t see the value as I saw it before when I decided to become a musician in the first place. I went through a period of reflection and trying to find meaning, lasting months. I live in a country that doesn’t really care about these things unless someone is successful or making a wave. New York is too hard a city to get carried away by beauty alone. How would you eat and take care of yourself? How do you show the importance of beauty in a throwaway society such as ours. I had to come away and throw myself in the deep end in places that understand what that means. To make it real, we were here because someone decided they wanted the students to have this experience, simple as that. I write this post on the flight home from Istanbul where the experience hasn’t been processed enough but I can say that I had the time of my life, connecting to friends, students, musicians and people just happy to be where we met. I come home a renewed being, having gone through some sort of metamorphosis that I can’t quite put my finger on yet…but you’ll hear it soon.
Great love and thanks to Achim Kaufmann, Tobias Delius, Tom Baeten, Nico Chientaroli, Danielle Oosterop, Renate De Rin, Wolfgang Glode, Lukas Frei, Ali Yekta Ulgen, Marc Mommaas, and Marco Chelo for contributing so much to make this month happen and unfold the way it did.
So what’s next? More music of course! Back at the 55bar on THURSDAY, APRIL 30th with cellist Marika Hughes and pianist Aruan Ortiz…playing a wide range of things. 7-9pm. No cover. . Then I’m a special guest with the ICP Orkest at Roulette on WEDNESDAY, MAY 6 alongside trombonist Ray Anderson. I love that band and it’s an honor to play with them once again! Later on in May, I head to the West Coast for a concert and workshop at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, CA on SATURDAY, MAY 23 and SUNDAY, MAY 24th respectively. The concert will feature fantastic Bay area musicians Lisa Mezzacappa on bass and John Finkbeiner on guitar – with special guest Steve Adams from the Rova Saxophone Quartet. The Workshop on the SUNDAY, MAY 24th is called “Improvising without Scatting” and I’m excited to share with participants all the interesting ways we can use our voices outside of the scat realm. Learn more about all of that here. Then it back to NYC, ending May 2015 at the 55BAR featuring guitarist Kenny Wessel and bassist Ratzo Harris doing a totally jazzy Early Set on THURSDAY, MAY 28th.
Ahh music…you weave a thread so deep that carries across my life. In deep gratitude for what I do and for what others allow me to bring into their lives as a musician and teacher. At this moment, I’m full and have what I need to keep going on. We’ll meet along the way.
Greetings from rainy but warm Amsterdam, on this early day in March 2012 to tell you about the March happenings. I’m on the road, not playing in NYC until the end of April with the Fay Victor Ensemble after a sorta lengthy hiatus. I was off playing side woman for most of last year, a new role for me but one that I’ve been cherishing since I’ve learned oodles working with the likes of Anthony Braxton, William Parker and Dutch reedist Ab Baars.
Something special about this month too for, as it turns out, I’ll be collaborating primarily with pianists. All original and incredible musicians, in different configurations. A new development for me because I’ve been more attracted to guitar with so much music I do. For many years, I eschewed pianists, preferring the open-voiced sound of guitar and especially of the guitarists I’m drawn too. Yet, idiosyncratic pianists such as Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols are arguably my favorite jazz musicians.
So starting with Misha Mengelberg, that most economical of pianists, a person on the Monk/Nichols trajectory, it makes perfect sense that I’d be a fan of his. I’m a fan and perennial student and I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to not only play with Misha but that I have even gotten to know him.
I met Misha years ago when I still lived in the Netherlands, after we spoke on the phone when I was busy with looking for Nichol’s Music back in 2000, as I wanted to record “House Party Starting” (which I did with guitar no less…) and it was suggested that I call Misha about it. I was nervous when I phoned, we hadn’t met in person although I’d heard and been floored by the ICP (Instant Composers Pool), that conversation was the entree. I was so ‘professional’ when I called his home, all my questions laid out with the explanations at the ready. He dismantled that idea from the start of the conversation, me realizing that this conversation will go the way Misha wants it to go. So I better stay open and just listen, as hard as that was to do at the time. At the end of the conversation, I asked him if I could send him a copy of the record when it was done and when I did and followed up, Misha’s response to the record was “it reminded me of nothing”, which if you know Misha is about the best compliment you could get. I didn’t know then it was a compliment yet the more I grew to know Misha the more I would see it as such. Since then, we’ve done little projects/performances. I joined him the last night of his opening curation of the Stone in 2005 – where we performed the first time. Later that year, we played at the Bimhuis, him in a quintet I put together. And then for a series of concerts called the FreeSong Suite, in quartet with bassist Ernst Glerum and trombonist Wolter Weirbos, in which we began deconstructing pieces of Nichols, Monk, Ellington and my originals with free improvisation in the mix. These were wonderful, open concerts that lead up to Misha asking me to join his legendary ICP for a small European tour in 2010, I also joined them for an evening on their US tour in 2011, part of a the three day run at Ars Nova Workshop in Philadelphia where I was invited to join them for one night. So now, performing DUO with Misha is for me, a dream come true and we two are not sure where we’ll start or end in the free improv foray but that’s the beauty and the magic… We’ll play on a triple bill on March 7th at the Bimhuis that includes a solo set of Roscoe Mitchell right after ours, closing out the evening with Longrun Development of the Universe with Simon Nabatov.
Then I head to the Austrian Alps to play my first European festival with ReDDeer, a collective free improv trio of Austrian pianist Elizabeth Harnik and UK double bassist, Dominic Lash. We all met as Fellows in 2010 at the OMI International Musicians’ Residency and hit it off! Last October, the trio premiered at Korzo in NYC and many thanks to Elizabeth for her help with getting us on the wonderful festival of improvised music, ArtActs, held high in the Austrian Alps. What a line-up for the festival as well, check out all the serious people on the festival here.
Then I head to Berlin, Germany to develop a project with German pianist Achim Kaufmann of which I’ll say more of after we’ve worked it out. ))) We’ll play a house concert with Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm in Berlin before I head to Muenster to collaborate with drummer Ben Bonniger and Alexander Morsey playing tuba and bass at the Museum for the Lackkunst.
then back to Amsterdam and then home…
Please keep up with all the dates on the FV website and if you’re on FB or twitter, look for me and let’s connect. I love taking and sending pics from the road, and keeping everybody informed, I’d hate to leave you out if you want to know what’s happening.
In other news, I just completed a workshop for Creative Options for jazz inspired vocalists in Amsterdam. The venue I rented double booked us and just when I thought I may have to cancel, one of the participants offered the use of her Mom’s home if it were available and it was! The entire group went there and it was such a special workshop, so spiritual in what we could express with each other. I think the situation at the beginning immediately bonded us and when the course actually started we were already friends. A very special moment.
No desire to jinx the rest of the winter but we’ve been dipping in and out of a winter heatwave of sorts. I’m not too mad about it yet I actually start to miss seeing snow and can’t help but think about a warming planet that feels OK for the moment but what does this portend?
I’ll ease off thoughts of doom and gloom for now and move into sending thanks for the friends that came out to the shows last month and that stopped by the APAP/JazzTimes DIY Crash Course in early January held at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan. Wonderful to see so many folks in the audience the entire day taking part in the panel discussions, checking out the smaller presentations and asking lots of good questions about how to move forward in this music. Publicist Scott Menhinick of Improvised Communications and of the relatively fresh launch of the online trade journal JazzDIY was on hand as well to talk about the JazzDIY and the DIY aesthetic for the music in general.
Mid month, I had a couple shows in town, one with Other Dimensions in Music on the Evolving Series (January 16th) and the Jazz Vault Project at the 55BAR (January 25th). I’ve also started teaching a bi-weekly Jazz Vocal workshop for the New York Jazz Workshop! A fantastic group of students to start and we’ve added a new student each new session. The aim is turn it into a regular weekly workshop through out the Fall and Spring season so get in touch HERE if you’d like to sign up or know anyone that would. Please reach out to me with any questions as well and while we’re at it, I’m currently taking on new private students too. Best way to email about these matters is to email@example.com. Check out the recently updated teaching page for additional information.
Coming this month…I’m playing a very special concert this coming Friday night at the Firehouse Space in Brooklyn, with composer’s Moon Young Ha’s Mis-en Ensemble performing an incredible beautiful piece composed by Luciano Berio called O King, written in honor of and dedicated to the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is the first time I’ll be performing contemporary repertoire and I’m nervous and very excited at the same time. Please check out the link HERE or on Performance section of the FV site for details about the entire program for the evening. This concert is FREE. Later this month, I’ll appear with Ras Moshe’s Ensemble on the Evolving Series as well right before heading out to Europe to perform and collaborate with musicians there.
Much more about this in post for March but I can’t wait to share with you all the thrilling news of doing a DUO concert with the European Jazz master Misha Mengelberg at the Bimhuis on March 7th. Please check out a clip of Misha and myself playing Thelonious Monk’s ‘Ask Me Now’ in 2008 in Amsterdam HERE:
March will keep me busy including an appearance on the ArtActs Festival in St. Johann(Tirol), Austria featuring the collective ReDDeer trio with Austrian pianist Elisabeth Harnik and UK bassist Dominic Lash, sessions with pianist Achim Kaufmann in Berlin, a vocal workshop based in Amsterdam and more.
Finally, I’m honored to once again by chosen as the El Intruso Female Vocalist of the Year and to see so many peers and friends on the list including Anthony Braxton himself as one of the Musicians of the Year and for Mr. Braxton’s opera Trillium E! Check out all the winners HERE and many thanks to all that voted.
Here’s hoping all is well with you and since I’m writing this from not just a warm but a winning NYC, I’m wishing you read this in winning spirits!