Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Back to the future!

It has been an incredibly long time since I last wrote and much has happened since last November! 

I have returned to my original north eastern home turf in a way. Having been raised in Buffalo N.Y. I'm back to where it all started...feeling familiar but new. 

Our move from L.A. to the Berkshires was a leap of faith and it seems that we made a good call.

We purchased a 125 year old Victorian house that has tons of character and great vibes...and it's a good thing we love her as much as we do because she needs a ton of work!  We are slowly chipping away at what needs to be taken care of with a dream of intimate house concerts at the center of our visualizations.

The Berkshires hosts a lot more jazz than we realized.  The summers open up here and become an active bustling hub for the performing and visual arts.  We chose this area because of that fact but we didn't realize to what extent the arts come alive here once the snow goes away!

Not only do we have John Williams, James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, The BSO at Tanglewood (which is just a walk away from our house), but there's Jacobs Pillow Dance,  Shakespeare and Co., Berkshire Film Fest.,  MOCA and the Clark Art Museums, music at The Mount, Music Mountain Summer Festival with artists like Helen Sung and Sara Caswell;  But the great news for two jazz musicians moving to the mountains is that there are a plethora of venues in Lenox and surrounding towns that have top notch weekly jazz ensembles featured and many outdoor summer jazz festivals supported by The Berkshire Jazz society who have graciously invited me to perform.  

So one of my L.A. buddies asked me last night on a zoom call...

 "On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being moving east was a bad idea and 10 being the best idea greatest move ever...how would you rate your move?"

I think I'd give this move a solid 81/2 and that's only because my children live on different coasts so I miss them terribly and the winters are seriously cold and a bit too long....but no place on earth is perfect right? 

Life has a nice balance here and we're finding a new rhythm.  George loves being professor Oldziey at Berklee driving into Boston two days a week, I love performing with a band again...Covid and a two year shutdown had me forgetting that this is what I love doing with every fiber of my being. We love taking the train to NYC now and then and we adore having people come visit from all reaches of the world...making music with us, eating good food, drinking wine and chillin' on the front porch. 

So on that note, please come share some music with us! Come chill on the front porch!

We will be hosting our first house concert in our old Victorian on Thursday August 25th and if you're in the area or know someone who is, circle the date!  

We will be featuring...

Jazz pianist  Peggy Stern (all the way from Austin) 

and

Bassist  MaryAnn McSweeney (from N.Y.C. and the Berkshires)

Thursday August 25th

7:00 P.M.

Seating is limited

Call for details: reservations, address and parking info. (512) 924-5821

$25 suggested donation

B.Y.O.B  we will provide some snacks!

AND...

 


 

some more Jazz in the Berkshires

The Suzi Stern Group 

at 

Gateways on August 18th 

with

George Oldziey   piano

&

MaryAnn McSweeney   Bass

6:00 to 9:00

51 Walker Street , Lenox MA for reservations and more info:  (413) 637-2532

AND...

Friday, August 19th 

The Suzi Stern Quartet

with 

Paul Ostermayer   sax

Will Carroll   drums

George Oldziey   piano

MaryAnn McSweeney   bass

AT

The Red Lion

Stockbridge MA

30 Main Street

(413) 298-5545  for more info.

 

Stay healthy, happy and thank you for keeping music in your lives! 






Monday, June 27, 2022

                                     


Suzi Stern July Gigs in The Berkshires

Sat. July 16th 

The Suzi Stern Trio 

                                                             

with

George Oldziey * piano

Mary Ann McSweeney * bass

at 
The Gateways Inn 

               

6:00 to 9:00 PM
51 Walker Street / Lenox MA
(413) 637-2532 for more info.

Sat. July 23rd
The Suzi Stern Quintet
At
The Pittsfield Commons
Jazz on the green!  
S.S.Q. 2:00 PM
(Rain date Sunday the 24th)

Suzi is joined by George Oldziey keys / NYC based Saxophonist Paul Ostermayer / Bassist Mary Ann McSweeney / Conor Meehan on Drums.



Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Bravo to my students!!

 This has been a month of being extremely proud of my talented and hard working students!

Let me boast about three of them in particular!

Kalie Jennings (KJ) blew me away with her commitment to jumping through a million hoops (including taking time off from her studies at Berklee School of Music) to participate and place on this seasons T.V. show "The Voice"  So proud of her on so many levels! She is the real deal! 

Here's a sample of KJ:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xRtwXf2iP0

And then there is the amazing Austin Texas based singer / songwriter pop sensation Susannah Joffee who will be showcasing this evening and several times more this week at SXSW. Catch her sets if you're in Austin this week. She is fantastic!

Susannah: http://www.susannahjoffe.com/


And most recently my improvising rising star Chelsea Chiu who won the Downbeat student best jazz vocals competition! This is huge and well deserved. She worked incredibly hard on tunes by Miles, Monk and Parker impressing my rhythm section and evidently impressing the Downbeat judges as well!

Congratulations to Susannah, KJ and Chelsea and to all of my beloved students who keep applying themselves and reminding me why I love doing what I do!!

Keep singing!  It's good for the heart and soul!










Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Beautiful Youth!

It's an incredibly clear, sunny day here in Boston today.  

Warm for Feb. anyways. I think I'm acclimating to this northern climate because at 40 degrees it feels balmy.

I took a walk while on a break from teaching some online voice students and I sat down in an inviting courtyard filled with trees and good energy, then I noticed it was one of Berklee's dorm buildings.

I watched young musicians making their way to rehearsals and classes pushing double basses on wheels, cellos and violins strapped to backs...two young men guiding a dolly filled with drums trying to avoid snow mounds on the sides of the street. 

I could feel the focus and excitement of their inspired musical journeys. It was almost visceral. I remember that energy well. It made me smile. The winter light-warm sun and sounds of sparrows anticipating spring...eavesdropping on bits and pieces of conversations passing by me about Bartok and Chick Corea wafting on the air. 

In spite of the insanity of the world right now I felt so full of hope and contentment.


This was outside the dorm. A lovely dedication to Wayne Wadham in the courtyard.
He said "Drench yourself in the torrent of life. Devour and conquer the best and most current technology available to you. Know how great artists achieved miracles with virtually no tools at hand. Then when life confronts you point-blank, shakes you like a leaf in a hurricane-and you survive to relate the experience-you will be equipped to do so in the most empathetic and powerful form possible."

The path at the Charles river this morning.
Along the frozen shore...



Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Embracing the snow!

 Hello World!

Life has been in such an incredibly interesting flux for George and me. 

We moved from L.A. across the continent 3,000 miles to Massachusetts so he could take a great gig as associate professor of film scoring at Berklee School of Music.  He adores working with so many motivated talented young composers. He comes back from classes inspired and that makes me happy and inspired as well!

Boston got slammed with snow last week but we thankfully missed the storm by one day driving home to Lenox on clear roads. 

I'm super stoked about meeting in person some the amazing people we've hooked up with online involved with Berkshire Jazz and also the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative.  For now we're just sitting tight and looking into the future when Omicron doesn't make it quite so hard to meet with big groups.  

I'm so grateful for the beautiful mention in Jazz Wax about my collaboration with Denny on Quiet Now as it's brought some interesting new collaborations my way. 

As far as the big move to New England, George and I are both loving the changes in the light and the weather...literally minute by minute here, but we're excited about spring coming!!  It will make the walks in Boston a little more enjoyable for sure! 

That being said, I must admit sitting by a fire in our 110 year old cozy house listening to jazz on vinyl has been lovely. We are feeling extremely fortunate.

Stay warm, healthy and inspired! 

All the best!

Suzi

Here's a few lines from Jazz Wax if you missed it last month:

 

Denny Zeitlin: Back then, singer-lyricist Suzi Stern sent me a cassette after she completed an album on which she wrote lyrics to jazz compositions and recorded them, including Quiet Now. I'm not sure if the album was ever formally released, but I was very impressed, and accepted her lyric for copyright.

JazzWax: What made her Quiet Now lyrics different? 
DZ: I was knocked out by both the lyrics and her voice. She is one of my favorite singers. She combines a deep, sophisticated musicality with a haunting, pure sound and a rich amalgam of strength and vulnerability. She’s a brilliant lyricist, navigating the complex terrain of jazz compositions. Suzi showed me that Quiet Now can be a beautiful love song celebrating the moment of connection, not just the fragility of love.

JW: What did you think?

DZ: I thought the chemistry was very special. The album had limited distribution, but Suzi recently uploaded Quiet Now on YouTube, and I’m very happy to hear it brought back to life.  





Monday, December 6, 2021

Quiet Now...

 I am so honored to have my lyrics married to Denny Zeitlin's incredible composition "Quiet Now"

Here is a lovely interview with Denny from JazzWax about the story behind the writing of this remarkable song and I am deeply touched by Denny's support of my work. 

I'm unbelievably fortunate to a part of his world of music!

 Enjoy!

The Story Behind 'Quiet Now'

000Denny Zeitlin --Bamboo background. Photo by Josephine Zeitlin
I have known and admired pianist-composer Denny Zeitlin for many years. My admiration dates back to the early 2000s, after I heard for the first time his four albums for Columbia recorded in the mid-1960s. I was blown away. Our friendship dates back to 2009, when I did a multipart JazzWax interview with him. We've been email penpals ever since.

Last week, Denny sent along an email urging me to give a listen to vocalist Suzi Stern sing his composition Quiet Nowon her now-out-of-print album recorded in 1995. Suzi had uploaded the song to YouTube. You know Denny's song because it was part of Bill Evans's recording and gig repertoire for much of his career. I gave a listen to Suzi's track and had an idea. Would Denny be willing to share with me the story behind the song's birth and evolution? Denny eagerly answered my questions.

Here is my interview with Denny on the writing and recording of Quiet Now:

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JazzWax: You were in college when you wrote Quiet Now. Where were you studying and what was your major?

Denny Zeitlin: When I graduated high school in 1956, I left Highland Park, Ill., a relatively cloistered upper middle-class suburb of Chicago, and headed down to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. My primary goal was to get into medical school. While the University of Illinois's undergrad, pre-med curriculum was fixed, I also wanted to make the most of a liberal arts opportunity. Philosophy, with its history and adventures of ideas and grappling with major questions was an attractive focus.

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JW: Was there a jazz scene on campus?

DZ: Yes, an informal one. In and around town, I had a chance to play with some great players, like Joe Farrell, Wes Montgomery, Punchy Atkinson, and Jack McDuff. Being near Chicago, I’d frequently go in on the weekends to be part of the jam-session scene. I got to play with artists such as Ira Sullivan, Johnny Griffin, Wilbur Ware, Wilbur Campbell and Bob Cranshaw. All this constituted my continuing education as a jazz musician. There were no formal courses in jazz offered back then in the music department. Instead, I studied composition with Thomas Fredrickson, a faculty member who was fluent in jazz and modern classical composition and orchestration. He also was a hell of a bass player.

JW: What about the social scene on campus?
DZ: The fraternity-sorority system there was very strong and considered a major social stepping-stone. On arriving at the University of Illinois in 1956, I was immersed in fraternity “rush.” My high school experience in jazz performance and writing of stunt shows made me a highly desirable “pledge.” Stunt shows were musical-theater pieces that ran about 20 or 30 minutes each.

ZetaBetaTau-2
JW: Which fraternity did you join?

DZ: I ended up at Zeta Beta Tau, which seemed the best all-around fit, and began the challenge of living with 60 or so guys in a big old house. Though I was not religious, my ethnic background was Jewish, and ZBT appealed to me since they were known to cross religion boundaries freely in events and dating. I also was drawn to the overall vibe of the members. [Photo above of the fraternity house where Quiet Now was composed]

JW: So your ability to play jazz piano at a professional level was an asset?
DZ: For sure. Very soon, there was pressure on me to write music for the yearly competitive stunt shows where a fraternity and sorority pairs up and collaborates on writing and performing a 20-to-30-minute piece of musical theater. There was a lot of support from the music school. They provided a high-quality band and help with orchestration when needed. Competition was keen, and many of the entries were original and professional.

JW: What was the theme of the stunt show the year you wrote “Quiet Now”?
DZ: The fragility of love—how fleeting love is, how delicate it is and how easily love came be broken. The final piece for this stunt show called for a ballad. So I wrote Quiet Now. The title, for me, focused on the awesome silence of aloneness.

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JW: Where on campus did you write Quiet Now?

DZ: I composed the music in the fraternity-house living room, at a medium-size grand piano. When I finished, someone in the fraternity wrote lyrics. All I can remember is the opening phrase: “Love has come and gone away.” Subsequently, the song, for me, had a requiem feel.

JW: Why did you choose the "awesome silence of aloneness” as a theme?
DZ: The overall theme of loss came from the libretto, which I did not write. I attempted with Quiet Now to evoke a nuance, to capture that "awesome silence of aloneness."

JW: What personal experience governed your writing?
DZ: It wasn’t romantic love, since I hadn’t experienced that yet. I was quite shy dating in high school and had never suffered a bad breakup. My resonance with that feeling came from my immersion in the ballads of the American songbook, which so often explore the heartbreak of lost love. Frank Sinatra's 1955 collaboration with Nelson Riddle on The Wee Small Hours had a profound effect on me.

JW: What was the writing process like on Quiet Now? 
DZ: Most of my writing for four different shows was done late at night, under time pressure, when the day-time racket from 60-plus fraternity brothers simmered down. Pieces emerged at different rates of time. Quiet Now was the last piece I wrote for that show sophomore year, and it crystallized quite quickly in just a few hours.

JW: Was it secretly written for a girl you liked on campus or wanted to impress?
JW: No.

JW: When you played it for your fraternity days before the show, what was their initial reaction?
DZ: They were really touched. I made no changes.

JW: What was the problem with the initial lyrics? 
DZ: I can't remember anything beyond the opening phrase. My sense is that the lyrics were appropriate for the production but not particularly inventive or special.

JW: Of the songs composed for that stunt show, Quiet Now stayed with you.
DZ: It did. The song became part of my jazz repertoire on gigs off-campus at the University of Illinois. I also played it often while attending medical school at Johns Hopkins Medical School.

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JW: And when you moved to San Francisco?

DZ: I recorded it in March 1965 for Shining Hour: Denny Zeitlin Live at the Trident, my third album released by Columbia, with Charlie Haden on bass and Jerry Granelli on drums. I was in the city then for my medical internship and psychiatric residency.

JW: How different was the recording from your original version?
DZ: There was no difference. The version I recorded was the same as how it was performed at the frat house.

JW: When did Bill Evans hear the song?
DZ: Bill must have heard the piece on my album. He found so much in it that he kept the tune in his nightly repertoire for over a dozen years and recorded it about eight times.

JW: Did Bill ever tell you why he liked the song or did he say anything about it? 
DZ: He never mentioned particulars, but several times over the years he talked about how compelling he found the piece, and wondered about its creation. This exposure prompted a number of lyricists to send me lyrics for the song, but none of them worked.

JW: Something changed in the 1980s?
DZ: Back then, singer-lyricist Suzi Stern sent me a cassette after she completed an album on which she wrote lyrics to jazz compositions and recorded them, including Quiet Now. I'm not sure if the album was ever formally released, but I was very impressed, and accepted her lyric for copyright.

JW: What made her Quiet Now lyrics different? 
DZ: I was knocked out by both the lyrics and her voice. She is one of my favorite singers. She combines a deep, sophisticated musicality with a haunting, pure sound and a rich amalgam of strength and vulnerability. She’s a brilliant lyricist, navigating the complex terrain of jazz compositions. Suzi showed me that Quiet Now can be a beautiful love song celebrating the moment of connection, not just the fragility of love.

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JW: How did she discover the song?

DZ: I believe her initial contact was listening to Bill Evans’s 1969 live recording released on a 1981 album entitled Quiet Now, which then took her back to my original recording in 1965. In 1995, Suzi's album Seven Stars was released by Mad Moon Records. It's out of print now and hard to find. On the album, she sang Quiet Now with me on piano, David Friesen on bass and Alan Jones on drums.

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JW: What did you think?

DZ: I thought the chemistry was very special. The album had limited distribution, but Suzi (above) recently uploaded Quiet Now on YouTube, and I’m very happy to hear it brought back to life.  

ZetaBetaTau-1
JW: Ever been back to the campus piano where you wrote Quiet Now?
DZ: I've never been back to Champaign-Urbana. I just checked Google Maps on the web. I see that our ZBT house is still active at the same address. I wonder if that old grand piano survived.

JazzWax notes: For more on Denny Zeitlin, go here. For more on Suzi Stern, go here.

Denny's latest album, Telepathy (Sunnyside), can be found here.

My four-part JazzWax interview with Denny starts here(links to subsequent installments can be found if you scroll up above each post's red date at the top).

JazzWax clips: Here's Suzi Stern singing Denny's Quiet Now, with Denny on piano, David Friesen on bass and Alan Jones on drums...

Here's Denny's recording of Quiet Now in 1965...

And here's Bill Evans in January 1979 at the Maintenance Shop in Ames, Iowa, playing one of his most exquisite renditions of Quiet Now, with Marc Johnson on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums..

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Heading East!

 Dear Friends,

I have been MIA for way too long and wanted to update you on what's been going on in our musical and personal lives! 

The biggest news is that we'll be leaving L.A. and re-locating to the Boston area so that George can take a gig as associate professor of film scoring at Berklee Music School. I am so proud of him. He's an amazing composer and orchestrator and a passionate educator so this will be a brilliant fit.

 I have several online vocal students attending Berklee so hopefully I can meet with them in person now, and my busy online teaching schedule will continue as usual but from my new studio in Massachusetts. 

Our new home is in the heart of Tanglewood so we are thrilled to be surrounded by music, fine art and dance and I'm excited about immersing myself in a new music community there.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanglewood

And on that note, no pun intended, our beautiful K.Kawai concert grand piano has shipped and is scheduled to arrive at our new house mid December (if a blizzard doesn't close the roads) so we plan to continue the Casa Karen concert series that we began in Austin 16 years ago.  We have several performing artists already in the queue!  We'll need to rename it though...help me out with that one!

We've been psyching ourselves for a plunge into serious winter! Even though we're originally New Yorker's it's been many years for both of us and we realized we don't own any warm clothes!  

Since I don't do FB too often I would be so beholdin' to you if you'll consider subscribing to this blog: http://suzistern.blogspot.com  (click link then "subscribe" in right hand column next to blog text)

Or better still subscribe to my you tube channel (suzi stern jazz) to keep track of the music and the new events that we're planning:     https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu7QOQqi0iGLZ-h4K8FNlKQ

 Feel free to drop me a line and let me know if you plan to be up in the north east, and email me your concert series name ideas! suzistern@gmail.com

I wish you all a happy holiday season! 

I am visualizing a new year filled with music, art, forward momentum, positive change, more kindness, of course good health...and sincerely, all the best to each and every one of you. I am forever the optimist!

Love from the road,

Suzi

Ahhh farewell to the beautiful Pacific sunsets for now!  But we can watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and welcome new adventures!

 

If you haven't seen this yet, here's a little music and dance for you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYJVWWfxWOU