Saturday, July 8, 2017

vinyl VS digital epiphany!

George and I have been carrying some of our favorite our old vinyl albums around for years even though we haven't had a way to listen to any of these recordings since the 80's...but yesterday he walked in the front door with a new turntable!

We connected it to his vintage Marantz receiver and pulled a Phineas Newborn record off the shelf where it had been quietly waiting to be re-visited for the past 30 years.

Looking at the cardboard album cover brought back an interesting sensation. A large close up photo of Pheneas Newborn's beautiful face looking straight into the camera lens and the anticipation of what this then young artist was going to sound like.

I took the record which was enclosed in a yellowing white paper sleeve inside of the well worn cardboard album jacket out and admired the shiny black disc,  tipping it side ways under the light examining it for any scratches.  It seemed a familiar ritual I had forgotten about.

Lifting the dust cover up and placing the vinyl on the platter was like going back in time. I pressed the start button and watched the arm lift...gracefully move into place over the record...gently drop down into the first groove of side A and then I heard it...that wonderful soft crackle before the music.
The notes that came rolling out of the speakers from his first attack on the keys moved through me in a way I hadn't felt in years...it really was a different sensation I kid you not!  There was something smooth and sonically satisfying about what was filling the room that digital means of listening can't replicate.  I was thrilled by it.  Then the low tones from Paul Chambers bass entered with Philly Joe Jones on drums. There was an occasional soft pop or crackle that somehow didn't detract at all from this unbelievable listening experience...in fact it somehow enhanced it all for me... bringing me to another place in time.

I turned the album jacket over to read the liner notes by Leonard Feather.  I immediately realized that reading liner notes on those nice big cardboard squares was also something I had missed!
Side A with the most incredible drum solo on "Dahoud" by Clifford Brown (sonically astounding, and of course we're talking about Philly Joe so it was undoubtedly amazing) and one of the most beautifully voiced versions of Strayhdorn's "Lush Life" Charlie Parkers "Cheryl" and Dizzy's "Manteca"  was over in 18 minutes.  A soft crackle, then the arm of the needle lifted and moved back into it's resting place. There was quiet in the room.  Now one can sit with what they've just absorbed for a moment and consider whether they want to continue on this musical voyage and if so, stand up walk over to the turntable, flip the disc to side B and you're ready for the next chapter.  I love that pacing!  It's sort of perfect!

George and I sat listening all evening.  It had been forever since we did that. One record after another. Reading the liner notes, laughing out loud from sheer amazement at some brilliant musical moments that we seemed so privileged to be experiencing.

I just had to share my joy of listening to music in this analog way. It was so preferred to a possibly more perfect, more clean, more sharp digital recording.  It went beyond my ears and into my body in a visceral way that is hard to put into words.

Thanks for letting me wax poetic about vinyl and I hope you can come catch some live sounds coming up soon with my band at the Elephant Room.  All the details are on my web site www.suzistern.com

Happy Summer listening!

Suzi

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Homesick

I'll begin with my 'good excuse' for not doing my weekly blog...the weekly essay that I promised myself I would do. I've been ill with a summer cold (cop out?) home sick, feeling feverish and crappy...holding up on my couch coughing with a book, a cup of tea and my herbs.

Home-sick /hom,sik/ adjective experiencing a longing for one's home during a period of absence from it. synonyms: yearning for home, feeling nostalgic, pining; feeling estranged, alienated; lonely, unhappy, sad.

Maybe I'm a bit of that kind of homesick too. When I wrote "home sick" I asked myself
"what is home to me anyways?"
Since George has been living in LA part time my home feels less "homey" for sure. Especially when you're under the weather and  (I must admit)  it is so lovely to have someone bring you that cup of tea and give you a little sweet sympathy for looking so pitiful.  So I guess I am yearning for that complete sense of home a bit....but no regrets...we are on an adventure and I'm in.  No looking back at this point! The up side of the miles between us is that I tend to sit with my music more often, which is a good thing.

The last few weeks have been productive as far as writing music...Hmmm...you see how wonderful writing is?  I wrote that sentence and realized that I should never use my relationships as a logical excuse for not being productive! That's a cop out. There's that word again:

Cop-out  / noun / Kåp-aüt / 1.) an excuse or means of copping out: pretext 2.) informal / avoid doing something one ought to do.
Use of the term began in the early 1900's after the publishing of The Fortune Hunter by Joseph Vance "He simply can't fail to cop out the best-looking girl with the biggest bank-roll in town" / based on one of the many standard English senses of "cop"- to snatch, steal or grab.
In the '50's to cop-out evolved to refer to making a full confession...from this it moved on to mean backing down or surrendering. In the 60's it developed still further to suggest a person was making excuses or taking the easy way out.

Thank you Merriam Webster.

Here is a small sample of last weeks work. Some lyrics to a tune I wrote which we will debut at the Elephant Room on Friday, July 21st
I'll be singing with a group of dear old friends and I look forward to it!
Peggy Stern on piano, John Fremgen double bass, Scott Laningham drums and John Mills woodwinds.

Always Only You

Going back
Remember me
Close your eyes
Tell me what you see
Feels like not long ago
A fire burned so
It could be seen from a distance
Now like the ash 
From an inferno spent
Delicate so light 
It takes flight
on a breeze recalling
Loves heat
But the truth is I still fall to my knees
When I think of the past don't you know who I see

Only You
Always only you
Coloring
Everything I do
When I feel the wind
On my face
It's you I feel like a grace
I feel you moving right through me
Here you reside 
In every part of what is me
I know distance and time
Are a lie I choose not to see
Here is my kiss for the ghost of your lips
And your spice on the air follows me everywhere

Only you
Always
Only you




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Observing outside and in.

On a flight from Austin to Charlotte
On board, there was a young man two rows ahead...my sons doppelgånger, if my son had an alternate reality as a young attorney...not the artist that he is.
Same square jaw...sharp features...honest focused eyes framed by hip Warby Parkers.
But this doppelgånger was donned in expensive suit...shiny shoes...with brown leather satchel.
Catching myself staring at him, I looked away not wanting to seem weird....thinking: "I'll tell him if I run into him at Starbucks on layover that he has a double in my son."

Walking to the next gate. Charlotte to Buffalo...I kept stride behind three guys who looked like they'd be my friends...guitar over shoulder...sax case at side...third guy most likely a drummer.
I asked sax guy: 
"what kind of music do you play?"
"Blues"
"Oh yah? Cool! I'm a jazz singer based in Austin."
A more familiar smile broke. "Oh wow! We're with Dede Bridgewater!"
I thought he probably said "blues" because "jazz" is a dirty word.
"Dede! No kidding!!"
Now they all smiled. We were in the same club. I was some middle aged white lady in the Charlotte airport who knew Dede Bridgewater's music. 
"Have a great gig!"
"Thanks!  Yah! You too!"

Sweet.

O.K. Here's my gate.
Buffalo boards in 33 minutes. My imagination or do these folks look like Buffalo? Not so much Austin...or New York.
Dude...large with gimme cap and Hooters Aruba T...elderly woman Buffalo Bills sweatshirt. gold shiny sneakers, thick rimmed glasses, brown dyed hair.
I'm being judgmental...mental me.
I love Buffalo.
Find my way to my seat. 23 D.
A skinny toothless smelly man
and nervous goth teen daughter are trying to find 23 E & F
The flight attendant seemed annoyed with both of them trying to help them find their seats.
He finally settles in...next to me...teen at window seat.
"Shit that stewardess cops some attitude. Over book these flights. Shit. Them seats in back is open. Shit"  He says under his breath...not to me or to anyone in particular, but to the air.
Trying to smooth testy flight attendant vibe floating about the cabin I say: "Yah. I noticed. Maybe she's having a bad day."
I offered my iPhone charger to nervous daughter who was at 4 percent on her device... now we are friends.
At first they both looked so rough, but now I listen...to the skinny toothless father...talk comfort to nervous goth daughter...calming fear of flying...a gentle care for her...and I am touched.

Now I'm sitting...reflecting on last Saturday's wonderful festival. Lulufest was beautiful, and I feel so inspired about making this happen annually in Austin. So happy to be creating something musically important with Peggy Stern and sharing the stage with artists like Ingrid Jensen, Helen Sung, Albanie Falletta, Susanna Sharpe and so many other spectacular artists...both men and women.
Here are some images from the day:

Master Class Students 
with clinic leaders, Suzi Stern, Helen Sung, Masumi Jones, 
Peggy Stern, Joey Colarusso and Ingrid Jensen



Ingrid Jensen Quartet
with Jon Wiken, Daniel Durham and Peggy Stern


Helen Sung Trio with Boris Kozlov and Darryl Green


Ingrid Jensen



Students performing at Master Class


Helen Sung giving feedback at Master Class


Albanie Falletta 


Monday, May 22, 2017

Born 2000 years too late?

Teaching voice to teens keeps me aware of popular culture, and I'm grateful for that.  I immerse myself in a Katy Perry tune or a Taylor Swift song so I can better establish what it is my student wants to achieve through working on some of that material.  I'm often pleasantly surprised by how a simple lyric can be so clever, and I also appreciate the fact that writing a catchy tune with only a 4 note range is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Those 4 notes usually come back to haunt me, looping around in my head...over and over and over while I'm trying to fall asleep at night.

That being said...the "I appreciate simple can be great" thing...I sometimes feel like such an anachronism as far as music and poetry are concerned. I know I'm being a bit snarky here, but check out some Katy Perry lyrics:
"Cause I'm all that you want boy,
All that you can have boy,
Got me spread like a buffet,
Bon Appetit Baby!"

 (To be fair, It's funny...and it's great to dance to...)

Now check out some text that actually makes me let out an audible "wow"
Sappho 31 written in the 4th century BC, One of Sappho's most famous poems originally written in the Aeolic dialect so I'm not sure that this is the best translation...but it's still beautiful...and the point is...it's WAY OLD! Thus the anachronistic sensations I'm suffering from.

"He seems an equal of the gods,
That man who sits across from you
and your sweet speaking, being near,
I can overhear.
And that seductive laugh, which sets the heart to flutter in my chest
For when I glance that way,
My words dissolve unheard.
Silence breaks my tongue and subtle fire streams beneath my skin,
I cannot see with my eyes, or hear through buzzing ears"

There's more but I'll stop...

And then there's Rumi of course! A spring chicken next to Sappho:
"She drank a cup of ruby wine and sat by my side.
Holding the lockets of her hair, my face became all eyes, and my eyes all hands"

"Sometimes I call you wine...or cup,
sunlight ricocheting off those,
or faintly immersed in sliver.
I call you trap and bait,
and the game I'm after, all
so as not to say your name."

OK not the greatest material for a pop hit but just sayin'...
this was written in the 13th century and his stuff still makes so much sense to the human heart. 
Assuming the planet survives, will they be reading Taylor Swift in the year 4010? Maybe...but I kind of doubt it.
Maybe Dylan...good chance Joni will survive another 2,000 years.
Leonard Cohen?  Yes definitely.
But that's not generally the stuff my 16 year old students are listening to.

Perhaps I was born 2,000 years too late.


photo by Brenda Ladd Photography


Speaking of times and dates:
This Friday, May 26th I'll be singing at the Elephant Room...performing original material with lyrics penned my moi.  Not exactly Rumi, but Stern circa 2017.

The Elephant Room
315 Congress Ave.
9:30 to 1:30
GATO 6
Suzi Stern with George "GATO" Oldziey piano and accordion, Zack Varner woodwinds, Dennis Dotson Trumpet, Alex Browne Bass, Daniel Dufour drums and Bruno Vinezof percussion.

If you're in the Austin, Texas area I hope you can join us!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Much Love,

Suzi

P.S.
Please check out the web site and see who will be featured on a wonderful day of concerts and workshops which are part of Lulu Music Festival which I am proud to be the assistant director of:  www.lulu-fest.com
The festival will be held on June 3rd at Saint Edwards U Jones Hall, in Austin.
Helen Sung, Ingrid Jensen, Susanna Sharpe, Peggy Stern, Masumi Jones, Albanie Falletta, Suzi Stern, Michael Longoria, Sergios Santos, Marco Antonio Santos, Juliana Silveira, Glenn Rexach, Tonico Vanalli and more...





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trees and human evolution...or not.

I'm traveling around the Left coast again this week...soaking up different vibes from the various places that surround the big megalopolis that is Los Angeles California, and onward up to Portland Oregon.
Pasadena and Alta Dena feel relatively laid back considering they're part of such a huge metroplex.
I came up with a theory as to why that is...perhaps places that still have trees in abundance make for happier humans living amongst them.
I have a physical reaction that feels like joy when I'm near trees. Pasadena has trees...lots of tress...they're flowering purple and pink blooms right now and when the petals blow off of their stems it's like a pastel snow flurry.
For me, the Pacific North West is insane joy as far as trees are concerned. They smell like sweet pine and they are magnificently tall. The tops of those trees understand a completely different world...they most certainly host an entire eco system different from anything we're used to so far below. They are magical...powerful, and I am in awe of them.
Walking in Washington Park which is a forest right in the middle of the city, I began thinking that people who live near these monolithic beauties must by nature be more evolved and at peace in general.
 I was ruminating over this theory while drinking a cup of tea in a coffee shop in downtown Portland. Everyplace in Portland has great coffee. Coffee is the perfect thing to indulge in on a rainy Oregon day...but I was sitting in this café on the rare cool, cloudless sunny spring day.
Because of the cozy size of the place the tables were all very close together and I couldn't help but overhear the conversation at my neighbor table of 4 hiply dressed 20 something's.
I thought eavesdropping might allow me an opportunity to test my theory about natives of a place that's so close to grand nature and the awesomeness of those brilliant trees.

The one young woman at the table of four spoke.
"I wanna get a tattoo.  Not a serious tattoo. Maybe like a borrito tattoo. I wonder if I could find a good artist to do like a creative tattoo of a borrito. I love borritos. I got a tattoo when I was like super drunk once, but I don't like it anymore.  It like really hurt to get it too."

Some suggestions about where she might find a good artist to permanently embed a burrito onto her body were tossed around, which is when I started drifting in my own thoughts again.
Really? A burrito tattoo? Should I warn her that the chances are excellent that she won't like that tattoo in a few years either?

Hmmm...I will rethink my theory about the energy of trees assisting in the evolution of humans who live amongst them. The jury's not out on that one yet.

On another topic altogether I have some musical events coming up that I'd like to share with you!
I will be back in Austin, Texas singing with GATO 6 at the Elephant Room on Friday May 26th from 9:30 PM to 1:30 AM  This band is always so much fun! The charts are fantastic and the guys in the band are too!

Then on Saturday June 3rd Lulu Fest!  
I'm the associate director of an amazing music festival which will take place on the campus of Saint Ed's University in Austin On Sat. June 3rd.  An afternoon of music clinics and masterclasses will be followed by an evening of fantastic concerts... every band led by a woman. Ingrid Jensen, Helen Sung, Albanie Falletta, Susanna Sharpe, Peggy Stern, Suzi Stern, Masumi Jones and many of Austins top musicians joining them like Joey Colarruso, Michael Longoria, Daniel Durham and many more.
Please visit the site to buy tickets today!!  http://lulu-fest.com/

And please consider subscribing to my blog if you haven't already! It gives me the incentive to write and I welcome your feedback always! The subscribe thing-y is on the right column of this page, and you can un-subscribe just as fast as a click if you so wish. Thanks for being out there and for supporting art! (don't say, who's Art?)
xo
Sooz




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Not Invisible...

George has started a weekly blog about music and life recently. We decided to bring our lap tops, a blanket and some veggie wraps to the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, lay under the palm trees in the shade and do our weekly blogging together.

When We arrived at the gardens, we went into the cafe near the entrance to buy something to drink for our blogging lunch.  There was a line at the counter,  but queueing always affords a great opportunity to 'people watch' so I didn't mind. The adorable young barista behind the counter was quite chatty as he waited on a young pretty girl at the head of the line. They talked about various things while he placed her order. The next person in line ahead of me was a good looking young man who ordered an ice tea. The guy behind the counter was totally engaged with this customer...smitten might be a better description...which was cool...I thought it sweet actually. Then it was my turn. "Hi!" I said gleefully, (as I was looking forward to this upcoming picnic) putting my two bottles down on the counter. Glancing up at me for only a second and with out a smile he replied "just the two teas? 6 dollars."
Feeling invisible, I guess I wanted to grab his attention for a minute of human interaction.  I replied loudly...too loudly...and as the words came flying out of my mouth I even surprised myself with the volume "Thank you!  Yes just these two teas!"
He of course looked up at me...how could he not?  I handed him my money, smiled and left.

While George and I walked to the perfect spot to lay out our blanket and set up shop, I asked him if he as a man had noticed a shift in the way people interacted with him as he aged. Was this just a phenomenon that women experienced?  Looking at human beings as a species, with their mating rituals of constant youthful flirtation, I totally understand the abnormally exuberant if not absurd attention I received when I was young.
I have heard over and over, and I do believe that we as aging women should embrace every single wrinkle because with those lines comes life's information embedded into a face and a body full of experience.  So is it a social thing that I often feel invisible? Do other cultures respect and honor age more than we do?

Just food for thought!  When I stopped pursuing my career as a ballet dancer at 19 and changed directions to focus on becoming a jazz singer I felt that music could be forever...unlike dance where my body would have real physical limitations at a certain point.  Music was an ageless artistic expression that an aging body couldn't prevent me from continuing with full force.
Now that I'm older I see that this is sort of true and sort of not true.
Of course the music and the expression and the passions are there..more than ever but sometimes it feels like it's more difficult to be seen.

The old wise one at the beautiful Huntington Gardens!

Green toe nail polish...







"


Friday, April 21, 2017

Music, Money and Mara Lago.

I've been thinking about how fortunate I've been to have music be such an integral part of my life... forever...for as long as I can remember.  Music wasn't something outside of the realm of my day to day world...it was a part of my day to day world.


This is me circa 1958.

Music was probably buzzing around somewhere in that little head. I distinctly remember the day that photo was taken. My Grandmother Grace was making spaghetti in a huge pot over a camp fire. Who does that!? She was amazing. Anyways, it was a glorious day on Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire.  There was clean water, pine scented air, my big family and of course music.

When I think about Trump's plan to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities ENTIRELY ( this is the first time any president has ever proposed such a measure) I am beyond angry.  I think of the lucky little girl I was and how rich my life has been because of Art and Music. It makes me ill to think about today's young and budding artists having a much harder time than I did getting that part of their spirits fed.  It is unthinkable. It's unfair. Art and music should not be extraneous luxuries.  They are essential.

I never met my grandfathers. They were both gone before I was born but they were both artists. My paternal grandfather was a shoe maker but he played violin with a passion. He passed that love of the instrument on down to my father who made his life playing jazz violin.

My maternal grandfather was an actor, acrobat and comedian in Vaudeville.

This is my uncle Don with Grandpa Thomas dressed for the act "Bouncing Fools"
"Monroe and Grant" were on the bill with a young Frank Sinatra, The Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Abbott and Costello...very cool stories live on about his life on the road!

Mom followed in her fathers foot steps and became a fine singer and doubled for Diana Durbin in Miss Durbin's films out in Hollywood.

That's mom on the far left...she was adorable!

For a while she toured all over the U.S. in acts with the Hollywood doubles and sang her heart out!  That's her on the far left of photo.

So I never thought that art and music were a peripheral aspect of life...it was a necessary and constant part of life.  
Today I find so much joy in teaching music to young interested talent. I see how it excites and enriches each student I work with...young and old alike. I'm still wrapped in music every single day. 


This is mum today...listening to a recording of my husband George's music being played by the Bratislava Radio Orchestra in Slovakia.  As I said young and old alike are enriched by music. She turns 99 this year! Take a look at music joy on that face.  George's music is beautiful and lifts the heart and spirit!

And this is my mothers Great Grandson....he too loves the violin.  My father would be so happy...


See the similarity? 
This was my father in 1989. He had fabulous white hair that flew wildly when he played.

So...back to our current president? 
Here's my message to you D.J.T.
"Donald..cutting funding for the arts is unthinkable. I think we need to cut funding your trips to Mara Lago, no? 
One trip to Mara Lago costs taxpayers $3.6 million, and I see that you go there quite a bit sir." 


OK I will stop preaching. But on the subject of Art and Money, the music festival that I am the associate director of "Lulufest Austin" (which will take place on June 3rd)  needs more funding. No surprise there, right?  
I will be having a fund raising concert this Sunday April 23rd at Casa Karen 3:00 PM and I hope you can make it!  If you'd like to attend please email suzistern@gmail.com for details like directions and time and suggested donations. 
 I will be joyfully singing with the amazing Peggy Stern (no relation)  on my 9 foot concert grand, Sam Pankey on Bass, Michael Longoria on drums and Joey Colarusso on sax.  It will be a great afternoon of Salsa, jazz, tango and more!

more info on the June festival coming up at: Lulu-fest.com  check out the line up which is stellar, and the workshops offered all day!