Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Holidays



I'm in the Baltimore airport waiting for my next flight back to Austin.
The Southwest Airlines counter is donned in plastic green garland with wrinkled red ribbon and a bad arrangement of "let it snow" is playing on the airport intercom occasionally interrupted by a Siri sort of voice telling us to report suspicious activity to officials when ever you see something creepy. 
I was up north visiting my family before the holidays.  My mom who just turned 99 still lives in the same house where I grew up in north Buffalo.  Even though her home is beautiful I felt a melancholy being there as things are of course quite different now. 
My children are adults starting traditions of their own, my father and sister Shay have passed away and my once vibrant mother who would create memories of candle lit dining room tables decorated with fragrant pine and set with grandmothers silver is now the one we take care of...now we set the tables and light the candles...and rightly so.
Her house was dark when I arrived and desperately needed the warmth of company and light.
My heart kept flipping between a sense of joy that she was still with us...this amazing smart beautiful woman, to a nostalgic sadness knowing nothing can ever be as it was in those years of holiday's past.  Happy no school feelings, baking smells, singing and dads violin, constant company, the warm crackling of vinyl playing Ella, Nat King Cole and George Shearing, sitting on the radiator watching falling fat flake sparkling silent snow around lamp post light in blue cold night evenings from out our front window. 
On my week of visiting I found myself searching for a moment...anyone of those memory moments...to grab even just a glimmer of and drink it up. 
Waiting at my gate to return to my life in Austin I got a call from my son and his wife. 
They both sounded excited and happy as they shared their news with me...I was so touched by the sound of their exuberance and I was reminded of the cycle that is this life we all live.
Things move and shift and change and I can't really recover the little jewels from my past but I can find new gems moving forward...and how lucky am I to have those memories.  Life is an interesting and wonderful journey and my life has been an incredibly fortunate one.  Not so for many.  I am filled with gratitude. 

Happy holidays and may the new year be one of good health, inspiration, happiness, creativity, and time spent with the people you love...and in the bigger picture I hope that this year will bring a greater awareness of inclusiveness, an understanding and practice of true equality, magnanimity, care for this fragile beautiful planet, less divisiveness, more compassion,  more honesty, empathy and kindness.  Wouldn't that be nice?

To my Texas fans, see you at JEN in Dallas Jan. 3,4 & 5 and The Suzi Stern Quintet will be at the Elephant Room in Austin Jan. 18th. Come by and say "hello".  I would love to see you. 

Happy New Year and much love,

Suzi

                                            Snow in my Austin hood the morning I returned.



Just this 1/4 inch dusting of the frozen white stuff got everyone in town excited and school was cancelled...somewhat amusing to a Buffalonian!


It was magical...I got out a bit too late with my camera because much of it had melted already.

I felt like the snow was a gift...one of those wonderful memories I got to grab a taste of for a few hours.


The grand Dame herself...lovely at any age.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Checking back in...

Wow...I haven't written on my blog site in weeks!
I always look forward to rambling on about our musical adventures and I've missed the consistency of weekly musings.
George and I have been flying back and forth between LA and Austin routinely. As exciting as change can be it is also somewhat exhausting; but that being said we have some really great things in the works in LA that I'll fill you in on when I know they're confirmed!
The political climate in the country is also exhausting so to save some psychic energy I've been intentionally staying away from media as much as is humanly possible...the news pops up on my phone which I can't seem to ignore but I've been staying away from constantly checking email,TV, FB,Twitter and Instagram...thus my absence as of late!
I find that I'm so much more productive and creative on days that I'm media free.  I write more music...read more...walk more...practice more...paint...interact with real live human beings!
I just read an article in Jazz Ed Magazine and it suggested that self employed artists like myself,  should be plugging into social media a lot...like all the time...to solicit their art more overtly.  That's the best way to gather an audience in todays music world. Target that specific audience that loves jazz, where ever they are in the world and hit those target spots. Really? Ughhh.  OK.
I guess I'm so spoiled that I simply want to make music...I don't want to do all that other crap to promote myself.  I can understand the virtues of social media for vast outreach, but it's just not my thing...and apparently being a musician in 2017 requires that I make it my thing.

Well this much media is fun for me so here goes my  Suzi sales woman side:  I have some lovely music to purchase on these sites if you're in the market for vocal jazz: www.Viewpointrecords.com   www.cdbaby.com  and www.amazon.com  www.aardvarkrecords.com   or you can contact me directly and I will send you recordings at www.suzistern.com which I love the best because that way I can at least meet you virtually.

On the Suzi News Front: I am in the middle of recording a new CD which I'm totally thrilled about. It should be out early in 2018, and will be a collection of some of my original material and some of my arrangements to tunes by Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, and Benny Golson. Some of Austin's best musicians will be featured on the project including Peggy Stern piano, Javier Chaparo violin, Paul Unger (Fort Worth) bass, Jimmy Shortell trumpet, Wayne Salzmann drums,  & Gabriel Santiago guitar.

I'm looking forward to singing with GATO6 the day after Thanksgiving at Austin's premier Jazz room, The Elephant Room at 315 Congress Ave. 9:30 to 1:30, so if you're in the Austin area stop by!

Coming up: January 3, 4 & 5th  I will be speaking on a panel and performing at the JEN conference in Dallas and I'll be back at the Elephant Room with my Quintet on Jan.18th

Of course I'm deep in the planning stages of our next big Lulufest in Austin for an exciting weekend of music in April! Watch my web site for more details. We have Sara Caswell, Sue Terry, Pam York and a host of other extraordinary women already lined up to showcase.

And just in case I disappear from computer world for several weeks again, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Thank you for supporting live music and for subscribing to my blog and for coming to the shows. People likeYOU make the creative process possible for artists and musicians, and we know it just cannot happen without that support, so thank you very much.





Monday, August 21, 2017

Pay Attention

I've spent 
the day in virtual reality emailing 
Facebook 
Apps
Tweet 
online calling always 
a device in my hand 
that contacts my electronic digital my life 
my world my sky my sister 
my mother my friend 
this my planet
tree grass mud dust bone blood
my wind 
not on a device
Pay attention 
how wind makes hair 
on your arms raise 
Pay attention 
to star  
fire dance 
in black velvet vast night
Pay attention 
to perfume of magnolia
on breeze 
from blocks away 
hits you in the face 
like I wash of wonderful 
Pay attention
this can only happen 
if you're alone in focus
without device 
In the distance 
I hear 
roar of highway 
I see 
red light turn green 
21st-century 
sidewalk corner
great grandmother's nature 
prevails 
pushing 
her way to cement 
stands firm 
remembering
tree on lawn with roots going deep 
ancient
Pay attention
the story is underfoot
and still there to hear. 





Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer, Canada and on being 6 again.

I never lie out in the sun anymore because I can hear my dermatologist reprimanding me if I don't stay in the shade, cover every inch of my body with sunscreen, wear a hat, and long sleeve's even if it's 110° out.  My rebellious nature has me laying out in a full blaze on a towel by our Northwest Park pool in central Austin listening to the lapping sounds of water and kids screaming in the shallow end "Marco Polo!" with layers of laughter peeling over the summer lawn and memories flooding back to summers of my childhood in Canada...swimming with my cousin Cheryl, barbies on beach towels, Herb Albert and the Tijuana brass on the loudspeakers, ancient ladies in gold bikinis who had a sheen like my mothers leather purse looking like they'd been tanning for 60 years too long...rubber swim caps with brightly colored floppy flowers all over the tops so the pool always had a rubber flower garden of bobbing heads popping up everywhere...french fries with vinegar… troll dolls with rainbow hair being tossed into the blue deep end to dive for like treasure...the smell of coppertone lotion, chlorine, grilled hamburgers and what seemed like never ending days of play.  

Q: Why do they make benches by swimming pools and bus stops in Texas out of metal?

This week I'm up in Buffalo visiting family and taking care of my feisty soon to be 99 year old mum.  The break from the Texas triple digits is welcome. It inspires outside evenings of long conversations in the breezy back yard with a glass of cold chardonnay. 
Yesterday Lolo, the 98 year young beauty and I drove over the boarder to Canada to spend the day at my sisters rented beach house on Lake Erie. Once again those memories of childhood summers filled me up as we approached customs at the Peace Bridge and saw the Canadian flags flying. Canada just across that bridge. Canada land of maple trees, and maple syrup...Canada where people say "I'm going Ooot" and "It's Aboot time"...kindly Royal Canadian Mounted Police donned in festive red...Canadian Bacon (I'm a vegetarian so why did I say that?) Molson Canadian Lager...fewer gun related homicides: In the USA so far this year over 10,000 compared to 572 in Canada...and handsome Justin Trudeau...who is about as different from our 45th president as you can get which is instantly appealing to me.

At the lake Lolo sat under a maple tree and watched her great grand daughter Lily play in the sand. I played too. We swam in the questionably safe to swim in lake, cannonballs off the dock, underwater shark chase, shell collection hike, sand castle construction, hula hoop-ing, frisbee tossing, swing set swinging, picture drawing, group song and poem writing with Lily's grandma Trudy and grandpa Micky and snacks.  I think I'm really happy becoming 6 again. 

I make a pact with myself to play like I'm 6 every summer. We should all do that more often. Become 6 again. Worry less. Hula Hoop more.

After roasted corn and grilled trout we pile Lolo into the car and head back to the USA. I very seriously consider what it might take to get dual citizenship. I also consider how I can keep the stresses of the real world out of my body yet stay involved and active. It's tricky being 6 and being an adult. I'll let you know if I figure out how to do that!

Lily drew my band: 


Detail of a double bass player 



                                    Detail of me...lookin' good! Love the star in my hair!
                                         

                                            Detail of the drummer "Budum Pu!!"

Speaking of bands!!  I'll be singing with GATO 6 at the Elephant Room on Friday August 25th and I hope to see you there!  
Probably no hula hoops but we can play!!!
9:30 to 1:30
315 Congress Ave. 
Austin Texas
Thanks for reading my blog and see you soon!

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