Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Lulufest 2019!

Hey Everyone!

I’ve been busy here in L.A. doing some long distance assisting with the plans for Lulufest Austin!  

This year, being our third Lulufest we are extending the event to two days of concerts. May 17th at Parker Jazz downtown Austin Texas & May 18th on the Jones Theatre stage at Saint Eds U. 
We will be presenting an amazing group of extraordinary artists so be sure to save the dates on your calendar and I’ll see you in the heart of Texas this coming May.

Our fearless leader, Peggy Stern (no relation!) has very creatively chosen women to feature who present a wide array of varied musical styles. 

All the info. you need is on the Lulufest site at www.lulu-fest.com

Looking forward to being back in Austin and being a part of this beautiful and important festival!

Musically Yours,

Suzi


From Cuba to Austin: 
Jane Bunnett and Maqueqe 



Carrie Rodriguez


Claire Daily


Dawn Clement

Estrella Salsa 

Jay Clayton

Pamela York



Friday, February 8, 2019

Train Ride



Train Ride

He was in his late 30’s…maybe early 40’s and the black ink art on his forearms added to his interesting image when he asked me with a strong cockney accent “How fah issit to Raw-chestah?”

“Rochester? Well I’m not exac…”
Before I could finish my sentence a pretty young woman in the seat in front of the tattooed interesting cockney accented dude cut into my air space with :
“6 hours…it’s a 6 hour train ride…I’m from Rochester.”

“Well thanks! Ummm, that fah huh? I just got offa playn from Lowndon and I missed the connection to Raw-chestah, and so I booked a train…some cabby mate offered to drive me there for $1500.00…” 

She speaks over him,“Rochester is so boring.”

He finishes his sentence, “$1500.00, ha! Can you bah-lieve it it? Very funny bloke. So Raw-chestah is boring is it?” He takes a vacant seat next to the Barbie doll girl.

“Yah…nothing to do there. Why are you going there?”

“Oh…I ‘av employment there puttin’ up high tension wire towers. I’ll be there with blokes I dun really know, who like ta drink and hunt ha! I’m not into drinkin’ and combine that with firearms and…”

She interrupts “There’s a lot of great bars in Rochester…there’s a music school…I was doing a lot of modeling with my best friend…”

“Oh Yah? You look that sort you do…I can see that…”

“Oh…(giggle) thank you!”

“So yah…I’m afraid these blokes will jus wanna go out drinking and I’m over that. I need to find a gym to work out in or something so when these blokes go out to get drunk after work I’ll have a good excuse…”

She interrupts “There’s a great restaurant called LaScala on Park Street that has amazing mixed drinks and a fabulous wine list…”

Pause

“Oh good…I do love food. Not that I’m against drinking…I’ll ‘ave a glass a wine wid dinner now and then, but these days I’m tryin’ not to get wrapped up in…”

She talks at the same time, words overlapping until he stops mid sentence to hear her say “I was in the army. They discharged me because I have allergies. Asthma actually.”

“What are you doin’ now? Modeling again? Did you like the army?”

“Well yah…I’m just living back home for now…nannying near my parents house for some neighbors who have a toddler.”

“Ahh, the nanny thing…well good.”

I stop eavesdropping and go to the dinning car to get some tea.

10 minutes later I return to my seat and cannot help myself…In fact I lean in to hear better . I can audibly recognize the flirt in her voice “here’s an offering of friendship”
Trying to act like I’m looking at something else I peek through the space in the seats in front of me to see her handing him a travel sized screw top bottle of red wine.

She clearly wasn’t getting his message about the drinking thing.

“Well thank you so much! Let’s make a toast to friendship!”
I hear the soft crack of the screw top seals being broken, and get back to my book. I notice a figure standing beside me in the aisle so I look up and see a man standing there holding out a $20 bill. It was the guy who works in the dining car.
“I believe you dropped this miss on your way out of the café with your tea.”
“Yes!! Thank you so much! Let me give you $5 for your honesty!”
“Would you come back and tell my boss?”
“Certainly!”
I got up and followed him to the dining car hearing the cockney getting louder and more pronounced as I passed the couple who were obviously getting more relaxed by the minute.

“In England we don’t ‘av the death sentence as we know that violence begets violence…” She talks over him…they are speaking at the same time now like a constant cacophonous duet…words tumbling over each other’s statements, but now he doesn’t pause to let her make her points…he just happily and vigorously continues talking until he needs to take a breath.

I come back about 10 minutes later to take my seat again.
As I pass them I see several empty travel size screw top wine bottles on their trays…I figure they must be working on bottle number 5 each. …from the jolly volume possibly more!

The train stops in Rochester and the two new friends get off.  
A young officer in army fatigues comes up to me. “Mam please state your citizenship.”
As weird as this seemed to me I muster a smile and say “U.S.A.” 
He smiled back and quickly moved on to some other random passengers asking the same question.

I’m on a train going across New York State…not crossing any boarders, so I get an unsettled feeling about his having approached me at all.  A scenario flashes across my brain of being a fortunate Christian German woman being asked this question on a train in 1942 by a Nazi soldier looking for Jews. 
In this case I was no threat. I somehow belonged there and was safe. He smiled and moved on. But then I heard “Sir…state your citizenship. “ 
The man’s reply was very quiet. The soldier barked at him “I cannot hear you sir. Do you have your immigration papers?”
The man replied quietly once again.
“Sir you are required by law to have papers with you at all times. It is against the law under U.S. immigration codes to travel with out these papers and documents.”
A quiet but terrified utterance…
The soldier has a louder tone now “Sir…have you ever been arrested?”
Same quiet utterance…
The scene is unfolding behind me and I don’t want to turn around  to see the result of this encounter but I hear rustling and a commotion and I’m certain the man was escorted forcibly from the train. I feel like a traitor somehow, for simply sitting there…I feel uncomfortable and privileged within what feels like a new fascistic frightening America… we sat there as though this was all OK and normal? It is quiet now.  Non of the other passengers look at each other…eyes downward pretending to focus on their papers and magazines.

The train lurches forward and I am headed home.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A little bit of heaven...



In our family the rule is, you cannot visit the Sea, be it the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico...where ever, without putting your feet in or tasting a little bit of the salt on your tongue and enjoying the sandy grit crunching between your teeth. It can be 32° outside – no matter – get in touch with that salt water and be part of a watery connection that has touched the other side of the earth. 

What an awe inspiring vastness – so much water – so much horizon that you can see the curve of the planet...the smell of sea life and catch the hypnotic pulse of waves tumbling in and receding back out, curling in again and mixing with the next roll of serf creating a glorious rhythmic sound – scent – texture; And the edges of sea foam over my feet making my toes sink into the moving liquid sand underneath. 

The perfection of it makes my eyes tear up, and I have a familiar feeling of extraordinary well-being that I haven’t felt in a while.


My dear, long time Austin friend Ann had to fly into LA for a conference in Redondo Beach so we drove down to meet her. She greeted us at her hotel room door jumping up and down like a small child full of glee “ Hi!! Great to see you! Come on in and come over here because you won’t believe it! You can see Sea Lions right from my balcony! They sound like barking dogs, and you can watch them swimming it’s just so adorable!”


There they were…probably 100 sea lions jumping off of a rock wall, gliding through the water playing with each other and looking quite adorable, it was true! The sounds they made were amazing...different dynamics and different pitches in their calls to each other like a complicated and energetic conversation. 

These sounds were not the most graceful sounds in nature but sounds that made you laugh every time they barked and grunted at each other. 

However we later discovered that at three in the morning while trying to find sleep the sound coming through the balcony door sounded more like deranged beagles en masse or possibly a gaggle of old men with Laryngeal problems trying to cough something up.

Don’t Sea Lions sleep at night? Evidently not! I think that’s when they start to party on the rocks!

Anyway the sun is up now and Redondo beach is beautiful.  

I am amazed that I can be in such a lovely relaxed open place along the Pacific Ocean as this, and still be so close to an enormous city like Los Angeles.

Pretty cool.

The sea on the rocks



A California Brown Pelican...stunning.


Sea plant...also stunning.


A pier...storm worn.

Detail of pier.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A warm years end and onward towards 2019!



It's December...my favorite month of colder evenings, candle light, roasting in the oven, bundling up evening walks and warm inside creative expressions which thankfully make me look inward a bit finding a sense of calm.

My 2019 calendar is already filling up with bookings, music, festivals and travel...but before the new year rolls in with energy and excitement I'm relishing just laying back, feeling out being a Californian, and reflecting on the past few weeks which have been truly beautiful.

I have friends that print out the years events and tuck the photocopied text with pics into a holiday card. I never have done that. These days it's a Chanukah miracle if I get a few cards out in the mail...but I'm going to try and do a version of that via my blog.
Not the entire year, (thank you I hear you say!!) but the past 6 weeks since my last post.

Before I get into the photo posting though I want to wish everyone of you a happy holiday...what ever you celebrate...may it be filled with laughter, reflection, peace and time spent with friends and family and may this new year which is just around the corner be a year of good health, happiness, clarity, creativity, music, love and productivity. I somehow do remain hopeful about this world. Every little bit we each of us do to make it a better place does matter. Doing something...no matter how small makes a difference and can inform positive change...the butterfly effect!

A few weeks ago my two wonderful friends, Ann and Martha flew in from Austin to meet my new life in LA and check out my digs in Pasadena. Here are two women who really make a huge difference in the world every single day. Spending time with them is inspiring beyond words.

.


We toured the Gamble house which is an exquisite Green & Green built Arts and Craft home in my neighborhood. Thank you to Delores Bing (famed cellist and fabulous docent!) for the tour!



We are all foodies so we cooked amazing meals...that was a killer frittata!



Went to the Huntington Gardens which is a short walk from my new home. It was fantastic having my comrades here for a few days to stop and smell the roses with me!

On Dia De Los Muertos George and I celebrated the passing of our loved ones and shared this beautiful tradition with our new LA family! Tamales, marigolds, candles, music and laughter. Our ofrenda was really beautiful and it honored my sister Sharon, father Harry, grand parents Stern and Oldziey and inspired amazing conversations about their brilliant and colorful lives. My Seattle friend Peggie (yet another remarkable woman in my life!) joined us for the weekend and we decided to make this a yearly tradition. My daughter Ariana's family on her fathers side is Mexican and this is especially important to us this year as she recently lost grandmother Luna who joined her husband Senator Gregory Luna in the land beyond.



My family all came into town for Thanksgiving at our house which was absolutely great!
Both of my children, my daughter in law, my nieces and grand nephew and several LA friends.

But wait!  Drum roll pleeeeze!!

Meet my grandson...Remi Justice!  He was the star of the show all weekend!



Above is Remi and his 8 year old cousin Gavi who fell in love with the new baby in the family.



Everyone wanted to gobble this guy up! This is his beautiful aunty Ariana! (who is also my beautiful daughter Ariana!)



Some of the crew who flew in: Next to me is Ari, Michelle, Selena and Remi and little Gavi lovin' on his baby cousin.




Gourds etc. These persimmons came from a friends tree in his yard and they were delicious!



It has been years since both of my children were together with me at the same time! Ari & René thank you so much for making the trip!



Friends and family really making this a home...a table filled with healers, artists, musicians and children! The best!!

And a perfect post dinner afternoon spent at the Huntington Art Museum:









I get inspired when I hang out in art museums and came home and painted these:


Don't ask me why :-)

OK onward:

Recently George and I drove into Ojai to mix a sound design project (with famed recording engineer Bruce Botnick) that George was commissioned to do for the Bob Bullock Museum.

It was a stunning drive on a day that California finally had some much needed heavy rain.



Truly beautiful rain and mist on the mountains...



Bruce and George mixing for surround sound.
These two are amazing. George was in heaven working with this legendary man.



Being members of the Society of Composers and Lyricists we have been invited to some fantastic early screenings with Q & A from the directors and composers. My favorite so far was the Coen Brothers film "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs". Carter Burwell composed the score and it was inspiring to hear him talk about his process.



We found a sweet tree and decorated it with only found objects in nature (except for the string of lights and the origami!)




And being who we are...we have a very eclectic home. This was the last night of Chanukah.

I just got back yesterday from a trip to the Pacific Northwest. I'm on the left coast now so it's a breeze to zip up to see my dear Peggie Bates in Seattle and then head to PDX to be with the new family of three.



Pikes Market in Seattle...



Peggie & Cary of Seattle xo



With René in Portland...damn Suzi, put down that phone!! (Talking to George!)



The new dad up in Washugal Washington.


The most photographed child in the world? Could be!

Happy holidays friends! I promise you more new music in 2019 with the release of my newest compositions!  If you are in Austin I'll see you at Lulufest in May!

Love, peace, joy, creative inspiration...all good things sent your way.

Suzi

Monday, October 15, 2018

100 years of music and art

It feels great to be back in L.A. planning some vocal workshops and working on my music again.
I was away for a week up in Buffalo N.Y. celebrating my mothers 100th birthday. 
It was somewhat surreal re-meeting relatives that I hadn't seen in 30 years...cousins, second cousins, second cousins once removed. How does all that work anyways? I never quite grasped it...anyways...there were a lot of fabulous people gathered in western N.Y. to celebrate this remarkable woman's life, and I loved getting to know my extended family again.  

There were so many beautiful tributes to Lorraine....dedications spontaneous from the heart, songs and poems written for the occasion, and performed for the grand dame.



This was my dedication to Lorraine aka Lolo. Thought I'd share it with you!


I recently had lunch with a retired trumpet player named Bill, my own ex-trumpet player and hubby George and a millionaire businessman named Lee who asked a plethora of questions to the three musicians sitting at the table about why we make music.   He couldn’t grasp why we continue to create if there’s no way in hell someone in their 60’s could suddenly make it big….or more importantly how we can make ends meet in the first place.

I gave him head-y reasonable answers about writing, licensing, residuals, royalties, performance opportunities, recording and teaching gigs…but what I wish I had told him is that there really isn’t a choice in this matter…it’s just what we do…who we are. I wasn’t brought up wondering “why” musicians or artists create. 

Thanks to my mother and father creative expression was a part of every single day, and warmly supported and encouraged.

As soon as I came back to my studio after that lunch I decided to look though old photographs and articles about my amazing mother to inspire a short dedication at her 100th birthday celebration.

The first thing I saw was a small square of yellowed fragile newsprint…the heading reads:
WOWS ‘EM IN BROOKLYN 
Lorraine Grant, 520 E. 84th St. was featured vocalist Friday night at the St. George Hotel, in Brooklyn. Her father, Thomas, has been a vaudeville and nightclub entertainer for 25 years.



I put down the piece of paper and thought; this is the cloth I was cut from.

Thank you very much Mom.

I wished I had described the legacy of the amazingly talented people that informed the direction of my life to Lee when he asked “why” and how fortunate I feel to have been raised around that constant creative energy. 

The line to artistic colorful characters goes far back. I remember mother telling me so many stories about her wild, and seemingly fearless father Thomas. When Harry was newly married to Lorraine, he hoped to make a good impression on his new father in law so he graciously offered to help Thomas install an antenna on the roof of the old house in Sutton.  My father was a brilliant musician, but keep in mind that he was no acrobat and had a fear of heights…he made it half way up the ladder holding a shaking antenna in one hand and froze…Thomas suggested he come down and let him do the task after all.  The story goes that Tom accidently slipped from the roof of the old 3 story house and saving himself, executed a double flip onto the first landing then just for show did a triple onto the ground, immediately scrambling back up the ladder as though nothing unusual just occurred.

I smile imagining Harry’s reaction to that.

(Uncle Tom and Grandpa Thomas in costume for the Vaudeville act "Bouncing Fools")

I loved moms stories about the tours she would accompany her parents on as a child, traveling on over night sleeper trains listening to the comforting rhythm of the tracks while reading her books bundled up in her berth.  Monroe and Grant on the Orpheum circuit with the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Gerry Colonna, Abbot and Costello, George Burns, Willie West and Mcginty, a young Frank Sinatra…these were just some of the influences in our family’s story and I thought every family had a similar cast of characters.  

Our house was the house everyone wanted to play at after school. Mother would come up with great ideas for plays and performances complete with costumes, sets and music.  I swear it was like a Judy Garland / Mickey Rooney movie at times:
“Hey Andy!  I have a swell idea! We can use the old costumes out in uncle Jim’s barn and put on that show!!”
We didn’t have an uncle Jim or a barn, but we had the back of moms closet and it was like a treasure trove to me.

Using many variations on mothers old performance gowns she’d help dress us for an impromptu neighborhood circus or carnival. For one of those grand events she helped Sharon and me make a space ship out of a refrigerator box. We cut out a door, painted a lovely control panel with blinking lights, and put a pilot’s seat inside. The neighborhood kids paid a penny to sit inside the rocket ship while we blared at top volume a recording of a launch we made on our reel-to-reel tape machine.  With 9-year-old astronaut in place, Sharon and I shook the box violently from side to side while Lorraine…who never smoked a cigarette in her life, took a drag on a fag and blew a puff of smoke into the box during “take off” for extra special effect. 
She was a nut. 
We had parades with mobo the tin horse, decorated wagons, floats, puppets and banners down Sterling Ave.  We have a photo somewhere of Mom featured as the bearded lady in one such parade that she helped Trudy produce.  Trudy was dressed as a beautiful crowned princess, ballerina, baton twirling queen of some sort, but definitely a lacy lovely sparkly satiny starlet.

Trudy is another story of the apple not falling far from the tree. 

Another time.

Back to my beautiful mother.  She would sing while doing the dishes and vacuuming the living room.

Wait!  Rewind. Actually I don’t honestly remember her breaking into song around the house. But she did scales while washing the dishes and vacuuming.
Warm up vocal exercises…but rarely songs unless relatives provoked her to sing at the holidays.  Aunt Calli always requested “September Song” and loved the way mom sang it.  She did sing it exquisitely. After mom finished the last note Cali would be in tears…then start to laugh heartily at herself because she was crying.

The famed quote that “Ginger did everything Fred did but backwards and in high heels” applies to Lorraine. 
She always managed to do all of the necessary day to day things like cooking, cleaning, shopping for groceries and school supplies, homework, changing diapers, making birthday parties for 25 kids etc. looking like a million dollars and yes…in heels.

I believed my mom must be the most elegant and beautiful of all mothers.
I remember thinking  “my mom is so glamorous…she looks like Donna Reed…definitely not a June Cleaver…but Donna Reed…dresses, heels and hose…every day! 

1918: On my desktop I’m looking at a baby Lorraine propped up on a chair dressed in white ruffles and a 5 year old version of this beautiful child circa 1923. She’s wearing a sailor collar and looks directly into the camera with a sleepy half smile. She has dreamy eyes and an adorable over bite. She looks the same to me today.

I see how much Sharon resembled mom at this age.



Another favorite black and white shot of Lolo sitting on a bench in 1925.  The caption in Grace’s handwriting says “The first Day with Skates” Little brother Tommy is sitting next to 7 year old Lorraine, his feet dangling with heavy iron wheels attached to his leather shoes….mom looking confident with a huge white bow on the side of her head.



Early 40’s sultry black and white press shots of mom as Diana Durbin’s double.  In first grade my teacher at school 66 gave us an assignment to bring in pictures of our family members. I chose the one of mom looking like a sexy Hollywood starlet.  It was my favorite. I thought she looked beautiful. Head thrown back, bare shoulders and a ruffle of taffeta along the bodice.  I proudly presented the 8 X 10 glossy to my teacher Mrs. McMurrey…she handed it right back to me stating in an angry if not bewildered tone “This is NOT your mother!! Now bring in real family photos tomorrow!!”


And Harry’s favorite photo of mother. Probably around 1944.  Sitting on a couch, her beautiful legs crossed with strappy high heels, fingertip on the bridge of her nose looking coy.


1945 Mom and dad with baby Trudy in a pram…both looking happy and amazed. Two brand new parents.

1952 Trudy, Alan and baby Sharon around the dining room table that mom had set for one of many brilliant birthday parties that happened in that dining room.

1954 baby number four.  I hear stories that I was the “surprise” baby.
Mom sitting by the window on the edge of the steam heat radiator donning an apron…very pregnant with me, and still smiling.



Photos of trips to Florida…kodachrome fading on a beach scene of Harry and Lorraine with four children watching the boats head to Havana…New Hampshire every year…often twice a year…piling a family of 6 into the station wagon with pillows, pajamas (no seat belts!!) stuffed animals, books, flashlights and snacks. Mom was always the vacation planner. She was like Rick Steves and dad happily followed orders and did the driving while she navigated with maps and AAA tour books opened up on her lap in the passenger seat surprising every one with what she came up with. Trips complete with Lorraine’s historical well informed guided tours of Boston, Atlantic City, Maine, Montreal, Quebec City, Gaspe...these were my favorite trips.

Thank you for that mom.  You gave us all a passion for travel, seeing new places, discovering different cultures, and a love of learning. You and dad filled our lives with music and art and I am endlessly grateful for that.
The spirit of adventure that you got from Grace and Tom is what I hope I’ve passed along to my children and they in turn to their children.  Look at what you’ve started!

 It’s quite a legacy and I’m so proud to be in this family and part of that story.