Thursday, April 15, 2021

Loves Benediction

 Hello blog readers!

It's been a long time since I've posted something so I wanted to touch base quickly to share my latest track.  The initial recording was done in Austin Texas over a year ago with Peggy Stern on piano, Javier Chaparro violin, Paul Unger bass, me on vocals and engineered by George Oldziey. Then the world scored a pandemic so the rough tracks stayed in our computer until last month when George and I decided to add a few production details from our studio here in Pasadena.  

George recently purchased and amazing sound library and I fell in love with the children's choir so he added some soaring lines in places where I wanted lift. We recorded George playing accordion which of course was needed on a tango and we added percussion.

 I sent the mixed track to Sarita Apel and Andres Bravo in NYC who choreographed this dance to my track then George edited the final footage.  It was trial by fire because video editing is much different than audio editing which he's a master at.  I'd suggest a cut on a certain turn or lunge or request the entire thing might be cool if it were in black and white except for Sarita's fire engine red skirt, so he would open up tutorials on You Tube explaining how to do that given effect, and we'd creep along this way learning as we went.  It was Suzi and George's pandemic project # 32! 

I hope the link below works but if not you can find it on my channel at You Tube Suzi Stern jazz "Loves Benediction"

There are several almost completed tracks waiting for their finishing touches so I'll keep you posted. 

If you're reading this it's because you 're on my list and support the performing arts, and for this I thank you.

With deep gratitude and musically yours,










Sunday, February 14, 2021

Stop Action Obsession!

 This pandemic has been life changing and very hard in so many ways, but I feel truly fortunate that I can continue to teach online and that George's work is also manageable online. We are among the lucky ones. 

Our families are OK, we have a house to live in, we have food to eat, access to the internet which keeps our lines open to the world and our music. I know I have nothing to complain about, but the sameness from day to day and the isolation was getting me down which is why I think I got so excited about jumping into something very different...something that woke up a different part of my brain. 

Stop action animation!

 I'm on an obsessive jag and it's totally fun!  It takes freakin' forever to get 30 seconds of moving image but that's the Zen factor that I'm loving.  I space out, think of where the story is going and micro-cosmically move objects between clicks on my iphone!  

I have a nice "real" camera but it seemed like a grand challenge to take on...seeing if I can create a decent stop action animation using only my iphone. 

It's a learning curve for sure and I'm a beginner, but here are my first two short (like REALLY short) videos to share with by my wonderful collaborator, the amazing George Oldziey!

This video at the top of this blog is called "String Love" and we'll dedicate it to Valentines Day. It was my first attempt at stop action.

And below the link will take you to my second attempt. It's called "Active Yeast"  about my experience trying to bake bread:

I'm loving the process and I hope you'll enjoy the videos!

More to come as I figure it out!


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Ella Swings Gently With Nelson

Ella not only informed the direction my music would take from childhood onward, but she continues to evoke memories that run deep and spin around inside of my gut and make my heart happy. 

George and I decided to put on some old vinyl while we played a hot game of Scrabble last night and I chose "Ella swings gently with Nelson". 

The cover of this well loved Verve recording has peeling edges and a yellowing paper insert protecting the precious black disc. The feel of the glossy cardboard square was already intoxicating, with a beautiful close up of Ella in a pink sequined trimmed chiffon dress, eyes closed caught in a blissful moment of expression, singing into that classic sliver RCA vocal mic that I know George would kill for. 

I placed the disc onto the black felt turntable, closed the dust cover and pressed "play".

The soft crackle of the needle making contact on vinyl just before the anticipated notes came ringing through the speakers is a sound that almost makes me want to cry with joy. That pre music announcement...pre 'what ever album' we were about to listen to, soft crackling sound brought back years of changing moments that the soft hushing of the needle on vinyl would become the back drop to. 

Then her voice issues forth...Ella in her prime...the same "Sweet and Slow" that would be playing on my parents old Hi-Fi  during a special dinner party, or on Christmas Eve while silent snow fell heavy flakes flying around the Buffalo street light in the front yard, fancy hors d'oeuvres and wine glasses set out and ready...or when I was supposed to be asleep but I could hear the music from my bedroom while mom and dad danced in the living room, or on a Sunday afternoon while I'd help mom clean the house.  All of these sensations rushed in and filled me up before the first 16 measures played.

"Georgia" "I Can't Get Started" "Street of Dreams" "The Very Thought Of You" my eyes are closed and I'm swaying and George declares "Bingo"  on some insane word like "zouaves"!! 

Having stumped me while I was lost in an Ella ecstatic coma I object "What does zouaves even mean?"

I continue my Scrabble outrage "If you can't use zouaves in a sentence I don't think you should be able to use it on the board!!"

He says "I have no idea but I know it's in the Scrabble dictionary!"

Once again I lose miserably but I don't care at all because I was sent reeling back to my original love of singing and jazz and warm wonderful sensations for two whole sides of "Ella Swings Gently With Nelson".

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Jazz on the lawn!

Pasadena is expecting rain this Sunday, Nov. 8th....but weather permitting we plan to have a musical event from 2:00 to 4:00 on our front lawn! (socially distanced playing of course!) 

There will be folding chairs scattered about so you can relax, and enjoy the music! 

George Oldziey on keys, Blake White on acoustic bass, David Sierra on drums, Suzi Stern vocals with special guests! 

We will re-schedule the neighborhood musical offering until December if we have wet weather on Sunday! If the day remains dry come join us! 

Playing for a real live audience is something all performing artists miss terribly during this year of COVID. Playing together and responding in the moment along with the energy that an audience supplies is so much a part of any live performance and we love and appreciate you for that! 

685 S. Oak Knoll Ave. Pasadena CA

If there's a question about the weather cancelling the music feel free to drop me a text at (512) 924-5821 and hope to see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Steel dust on lilac leaves

 When I was a child I would pick leaves from the lilac bush in the back yard and examine the shimmery silver dust that frosted each one. 

Bethlehem Steel was still going strong in 1960. The wind would carry billows of gray smoke from those looming industrial smokestacks up into the Lackawanna air, sending fine particulates of steel along a breeze to my Buffalo back yard, blocking out blue and challenging the summer clouds to a duel.

No one ever talked about how bad the air was in Buffalo. I thought silver dusted leaves were the norm. I was just a child. I guess the adults tolerated it because the steel plant which had been vital during both world wars had kept Western N.Y. employed for 80 years. 

I did hear grownup murmurs about how Lake Erie was dying though. 

“We could go fishing today, but don’t eat any thing you catch…throw it back. It’s poison!”

“Don’t go swimming in the lake!” 

“if you get any lake water in your mouth…spit it out!”

Those comments left an impression.

Bethlehem Steel ran a 2 mile stretch along the Lake Erie shoreline, continually dumping into the once pristine waters, toxins that went unchecked by the government until people couldn’t help but notice and start talking about it. The green crust along the lake’s surface had a stink that said toxic and it was impossible not to be concerned. 

The lake was indeed dying and people were dying from breathing the air.

In 1982 the plant closed its doors. Steel plant families panicked, foreclosed, moved away if they were able. For many in the area Bethlehem Steel had been their bread and butter for generations. 

Buffalo and the surrounding areas went into a financial depression that took years to turn around.  

The earth coming back to life actually had a faster turn around than the financial strain on Western N.Y. which is a hopeful thing. With a relatively small amount of effort lakes can come back to life and the air can become cleaner once again. These manmade problems can be resolved with manmade resourcefulness and diligence. We just have to listen to the science and be vigilant. 

The earth cannot be constantly abused without dire consequences.

On the subject of constant abuse having dire consequences, now we have fires. 

Lots of fires. 

Global warming and drought have assisted in forests blowing up like perfect tinder boxes causing the unstoppable spread of thousands of acres of forest land, taking homes and lives with it. 

The western seaboard of the United States is literally burning down. Well over 1 million acres of land in Oregon alone has now burned to ash...and all of this in only one month. 

I live in Los Angeles county now. The sun is a distant fuzzy glowing ball in the sky obscured by a peach colored almost opaque canopy above us where blue is just a memory.

We haven’t seen the sharp angle of a sun shadow across the front porch or even the vague outline of the mountains on the horizon in 10 days and it is ill advised to go outside. 

In the morning when I first wake and open my eyes, I wonder what time is it? I get no clue from the morning light, which is flat, unfamiliar and ominous through the bedroom curtains. 

As bad as the air is in Southern California, it’s worse in Oregon right now. My son and his family live in Portland which was said to have the most hazardous air on the entire planet this week.

Yet we have a man in the White House who dismisses scientific research completely. 

How did this man get to be president? That’s another essay...or a book. I am I'm not flummoxed. I know how he got there. That's another discussion entirely.

Where was I? 

Trump has successfully lifted or reversed over 100 environmental protections laws that were in place when he took office. This is a frightening fact.

Last week he met with California Governor Gavin Newsom about the apocalyptic fires running up and down the west coast of the United States.  

Trump still denies that climate change is a problem and denies that there is any connection with global warming and this national disaster. He believes that the forests need to be cleaned up (which is true) and that growing heat on the planet and dryness are inconsequential to this issue. 

And he adds smiling smugly at Governor Newsom as though God has let him in on a little secret that only he is privy to,  “It’ll start getting cooler…you just watch.” 

Bethlehem Steel 1965

This weeks fire in Napa Valley

Monday, August 24, 2020

SLRadio Austin Interview on You Tube

 I hope you can take a moment to grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea and watch the replay of Scott Lanningham's interview with us from last month!  It was a blast!  We had so much fun, and I was reminded of how grateful I am to Austin and the opportunities it sent my way for so many years. I played with extraordinary musicians made many wonderful recordings, and Scott and I waxed poetic about the "Old Austin"!  

George played some of his remarkable symphonic scores and discussed his collaborations in film and his transition to L.A.

Here's the replay on You Tube: Enjoy!!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

SLRadio Live interview Monday August 3rd!

Hey everyone! 

 Tomorrow night, Monday Aug. 3rd, George and I will be interviewed by the talented Scott Lanningham on his wonderful SLRadio show via Facebook Live. 

We'll be chatting and we'll be playing tracks from many of my past recordings featuring so many amazing artists that I've been blessed to work with over the years.  Paul Ostermayer, Doug Hall, Denny Zeitlin, David Friesen, Alan Jones, Bill Ginn, Chris Maresh, Randy Porter, A.D. Manion, Dennis Dotson, Mitch Watkins, Bob Mayer, John Mills...too many to list here actually. 

George will be talking about and sharing some of his compositions for film as well as his arrangements for last years amazing Grammy Award winning Mon Laferte Album.

 Please tune in and join in the conversation! 

 live on Scott Lanningham Facebook SLRadio  5:30 PDT /  7:30 CDT / 8:30 EDT