Monday, December 22, 2008

The Sacred Stomp: Nailah Live

You know if you were there December 7, Nailah's Jazz Bakery, Jazz on the Sacred Side debut was such a glorious explosion of light and sound, even in this cold weather we're having you probably still feel a glow two weeks out. I truly stayed lit up for days, and literally I just sat in the back of the club that afternoon, tickled, selfishly tickled that I just get to curate a series that personally brings me such joy and fills my soul so completely. Annie Lee captures my hallelujah time in one of my favorite paintings of hers below...

Thank you Nailah, for your voice, your lyrical vision, your choice of such a powerful band, featuring Deron Johnson on piano, Justin DiCenzo on bass, Paul Legapsi on drums, and Matt DeMerrit and Tracy Wannomae as a two man horn orchestra. These are the program notes from that magical afternoon....
There’s a ritual taught by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, called “The Five Touchings of the Earth,” where gratitude is offered to all generations of blood family, to spiritual teachers and spiritual ancestors, to the land. The ritual then calls for a transmission of energy to all those you love as well as an offering of compassion and reconciliation for all who make you suffer. I mention this because you start talking sacred jazz with Nailah, you better be ready for something that feels like a five part Earth Touching ritual right before your eyes. Right away when I ask her what comes to mind when she hears the words “Sacred Jazz” she says it makes her think of all that the elders who started this art form had to endure “to play and sing and be musicians.” She says it must have been a sacred calling for them to be able to entertain in venues where they could not walk in the front door, perform in hotels where they were refused a night’s rest. She wonders out loud about the decision to claim the greater dignity of allowing God to speak through them, enabling them to perform for people who may not have recognized them as full human beings, “to me, that just makes it so sacred.”

Touching the earth...stomping the earth...that church foot stomp was one of the most memorable sounds for Nailah, as a girl in North Carolina, attending St. John’s CME. Though she was drawn to the music of the Southern Baptist and Pentecostal choirs, Nailah says there was an elder’s choir in her more reserved Methodist church that had a huge impact on her. It was informal. Somebody would stomp a foot, somebody would moan, someone cross the church would match the moan with a “heyyyyy’ then “all of a sudden you’d hear these crazy harmonies. Years later, I’m listening to African music and choirs and I heard those same dawned on me that the harmonies I grew up listening to in my church, that the elders would sing were passed down from the slaves.”

You hear that stomp, that rootedness to the south, the need to compassionately explore all the suffering and sweetness of her Carolina soil in Nailah’s lyrics. You will hear about her blood relations. Please listen for Uncle Cool Jack. When Nailah first moved to Los Angeles from D.C, to pursue her music full time, leaving behind a meaningful and lucrative career as a Capitol Hill lawyer, she had a moment of doubt so great she went back to the safety of her Uncle Cool Jack and Aunt Katie’s Winston Salem home. After telling them how hard it was out west in the industry, Uncle Cool Jack got quiet. And serious. Then says to his niece: “You know I was 45 before I could look a white man in the eye? You don’t know nothin’ about no pain. You better get back out there and finish what you started. Stand up and finish.” Have mercy. And thank god she listened. Nailah came back to Los Angeles, was emboldened by the proud and profound energy of Leimert Park’s Jazz community, fortified by the spiritual wisdom of her Agape community led by Reverend Michael Beckwith, and is here today with us transmitting the energy of all she’s experienced from North Carolina to Capitol Hill, to Culver City with love, with compassion, with gratitude.

"I do not fit into form, I create form"

This line from the poem “Papa, The Lean Griot” written by our Leimert park genius elder poet, Kamau Daaood, written in dedication to his Leimert Park genius elder jazz master, Horace Tapscott, resonates so sweet for me this week as I consider Nailah in the legacy of her genius elder vocalists who recently became spiritual ancestors, Odetta and Miriam Makeba. Nailah’s musical influences have given her permission to create her form rather than fitting into any one form. She gives praise to Sarah Vaughn for the fierceness as well as elegance of her instrument. She then swings from Sarah to Nona Hendryx, sharing how much she loved Labelle, but in that group she was always listening for the bottom, listening for Nona’s harmonies. And again the “fierceness of them stepping out in space suits!” I do not fit into form, I create form. Curtis Mayfield and Gil Scott Heron are teachers for their songwriting, their political insight and courage as well. Regarding Cassandra Wilson (who, I swear if my father were alive and heard Nailah sing...he’d say “Cassandra needs to step aside”...he’d say it with the greatest love for his Mississippi homegirl Cassandra and as the finest compliment to Nailah) Nailah gives thanks to Cassandra for making her “feel like it was okay to bring my southern roots into it....the space, the openness and richness of her voice...and somebody who says, you know, I don’t have to holler to be heard.” And, look, if there’s ever a drought, just play James Taylor singing “Carolina” for Nailah, and she will weep monsoon like tears for his soulful crooning about the home state they share and celebrate. Finally, Nailah lifts up Bill Withers, “He’s a black man with a guitar, singing simple songs about Grandma’s hands when everybody was doing funk?!” I do not fit into form, I create form. Nailah eases into the stomp and moan that begin Bill Wither’s “Grandma’s Hands” and the circle is complete. Touching the earth to remember and give thanks and transmit love and healing through song, that’s Nailah. Now, listen close....
For more on this extraordinary singer and to purchase her latest musical offering: “Life in Session”, please visit Nailah’s site:
Two books to check out referenced above are 1. Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Creating True Peace: Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World” and 2. Kamau Daaood’s “The Language of Saxophones.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"We Who Believe in Freedom"

I feel more gratitude than grief right now as I consider that both Odetta and Miriam Makeba have joined the ancestors since Dia de Los Muertos, since the first Jazz on the Sacred Side. Searching for images of Odetta just now this one of her suited, seated, surrounded by heavyweights jumped out at me...because it makes me pause and remember that when these great figures die, it feels so critical to celebrate them in the context of beloved community builders who would not rest until real love and real community were truly free for EVERYONE to experience.

I always write so long and I want to remember Mama Africa too....breathtaking Miriam...

As I wrote once in an essay on South Africa that I think they should remove the statue of Queen Elizabeth outside of St. Georges Cathedral (Desmond Tutu's old church in CapeTown) and replace it with one of Miriam in this dress from Come Back Africa. But before I go on and on I'd like to remind everyone that we will continue the "Come Sunday: Jazz on the Sacred Side" series this Sunday, Dec 7 with a woman so perfectly in line with the legacies of Odetta and Makeba, my beautiful sister Nailah. Regarding all three of these women I think of a line from my beautiful brother, Kamau Daaood's poem about Horace Tapscott:

"I do not fit into form, I create form"

I feel so grateful to be part of the beloved community we are building with this series, in this city, in these trouble/hallelujah times.

The Jazz Bakery is located at 3233 Helms Ave. LA, CA 90034
(310) 271-9039 or for tickets ($25, $15 students)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Offer Honey to Musicians"

Please God, offer honey to musicians
who bring us such joy!

Give them strong and untiring hands
to keep playing their music.

Give them vision so, like birds in love,
they can bring Your message to our ears.

Let them drink plenty from Your river and
grace them with Your strength
so their music becomes the pillar of Your glory.


On November 2 at the first "Come Sunday: Jazz on the Sacred Side" concert, as both an invocation and to express my gratitude for Dwight Trible and his magnificent band, I read this piece by the Sufi mystic poet Rumi, from a collection I have of his called "Rumi: Hidden Music: Paintings and Poems translated by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin (ISBN 000712032 X) Below you can read the program notes from a conversation I had with Dwight the week before. And in the "We're a Winner" post below you can hear more about the success of the series launch. Enjoy!

About our very special Sacred Side debut artist: Mr. Dwight Trible

Dwight Trible grew up in the Laurel Homes Projects in downtown Cincinnati during the time when Greater Bethlehem Temple, today one of the largest Apostolic churches in the city, got its start in his building’s basement. His mother, who played lots of Mahalia Jackson, would get all seven of her children up Sunday morning and get them down to Sunday school just so she could get a break. There was music everywhere in his home--Mama’s Mahalia in one room while his guitarist brother had Kenny Burrell LPs on repeat in the next--and in his neighborhood, from gospel, blues and jazz to the soulful sounds of early singing influences like Aretha Franklin and Linda Jones. “Most of my influence singing-wise for the majority of my life has been female.” Dwight tried to sing in both gospel bands and various R&B oriented groups, “cause I wanted to be popular too...but after a while I got sick of it. I started wanting to do something else. By that time I had started buying jazz records.” He bought Miles, “cause everybody says that’s what you’re supposed to listen to,” then he got really into Carmen McRae...then one day he saw a two record set in the cut out bin for 50 cents. He says he saw this lady singing, had no idea who she was “at all! But she looks like she’s really singing...I took the record home, played it...she was doing something I had never heard anybody doing.” The singer was Betty Carter and Dwight sights that moment as being one of the most significant in his adult life in terms of shaping what he wanted to do musically. “She was doing something creative as she was, she was also technically peerless...on her game all the time.”

These qualities of technical brilliance, creativity, and rigorous consistency were the elements that would most inspire Dwight about the wise and generous men who were to claim the young singer from Cincinnati once he moved way out west. With love, awe and humility Dwight lifts up Horace Tapscott, Billy Higgins, Harold Land and Oscar Brown Jr. : “It didn’t matter where they were playing, the World Stage, some other hole in the wall or some magnificent place...they did it with all they had, all the time. No matter how old they were, they still gave it all. They didn’t think about, ‘Oh I better watch myself, I might have a stroke up here, I might die.’ No, it wasn’t like that. And that takes a certain amount of faith and courage to do that, and when you see them doing that, you know that’s what it’s all about...And that they somehow saw the potential in me for that, it gives me chills now just to think about that.” He poignantly shared, “Like I said, even though I never made any money to speak of, as of yet, hopefully (smiles)...somehow throughout my tenure, the thing that keeps me from getting discouraged is meeting these great spirits...we had a lot of time together...somehow I’ve been blessed that way and that’s more than money, that’s more than money.” The gifts from these men ranged from original songs to sage advice. Dwight hums the melody of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and tells me Oscar Brown Jr., before he died was working on a lyric for that and told Dwight, “You know, I can’t sing this but I think you can.” When we talk about the importance of making original, authentic spiritual and political statements because musicians who don’t are quickly forgotten he says, “Billy brought that up to me...’they will forget you’.” Then Dwight reflects that jazz has to be one of the most spiritual forms of music there is, “but most jazz musicians don’t openly give it recognition...most of the standards are about male and female relationships, stuff like that. Of course that’s what made Duke Ellington stand out so much because he chose to actually do sacred concerts. And John Coltrane...when they actually said, ‘I’m gonna put it out there, this is what I believe’...and I think that’s why that sticks out so much. Of course after John, Pharaoh kinda came in and took it up, Leon Thomas and those people...Still today you don’t have a lot of musicians that are openly spiritual or openly political. So I find that to be something strange. I figure, what you got to lose? I feel like, what the heck, I’m too old to be doing anything outside of what I really wanna do....Personally I do the best I can everyday...and I think it’s a great privilege that people will actually leave their homes to come and see me sing. If people are willing to do that, then you owe them the best you have.”

We're a Winner

"At last that blessed day has come and I don't care where you come from, we're all moving on up...lord have mercy." Curtis Mayfield

What's your November 4 top five? Curtis' "We're a Winner" is still in my car CD player on repeat. I fantasize a resurrected Nina Simone singing "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me, and I'm feeling good" at Obama's inauguration. I keep feeling Stevie's "Overjoyed." I also keep thinking about this song I heard Hugh Masekela sing at Royce Hall last year, don't know the name but the English lyrics went something like: "This brown color is a winner, it will be my shining armor..." and I thought about my goddaughter, Lotus, whose mother was telling me earlier this year that in pre-school she's already internalizing messages that her combination African American, West Indian, and Filipina brown is not beautiful. Radiant Lotus is and has always been a winner. She's a winner "and everybody knows" she will now have winning role models Malia and Sasha Obama rolling just as beautiful as they wanna be in and out their new house on Pennsylvania Ave. I also loved reading Larry Blumenfeld's Village Voice piece on NYC election night music and politics...apparently Charlie Haden broke into "Amazing Grace" the moment he heard the results in the middle of his Blue Note gig. Blumenfeld reported from New Orleans a couple days later that when John Boutte (if you don't know John Boutte, google and order his music immediately!) was asked to sing "Change is Gonna Come" he said he's not going to sing that song any more because change is here. We're a winner and everybody knows.

What I'm so happy to report locally is that two days before that glory we experienced the most glorious, yes the most victorious launch of "Come Sunday: Jazz on the Sacred Side" with the most transformative performance of Dwight Trible with his tremendous band of John Beasley on piano, Trevor Ware on bass and Clayton Cameron on drums. I had a woman write to me after the show that she was completely healed that afternoon, she specifically said she was "transported to a place where there is no dis-ease"! Come on and heal Mr. Trible! Can't you just feel his power in the photo of Dwight from the "Offer Honey..." post above? I just felt again so overjoyed, overwhelmed, lifted, naturally high (which is why the "smoking out" in this photo of me next to my jazz dia de los muertos altar cracks me up) knowing that this series and this sacred jazz journey is now literally in flight...and rising. I thank Dwight so deeply and I can't thank the crowd of loved ones enough for the support and the reflection of the joy I was feeling. We just had so much need to need to do whatever you can to experience this gathering in a few weeks when we get to feast together with Nailah on December 7. She's claiming December 7 as her first step to Carnegie Hall...who doesn't want to be there for that historic moment? Please "Come Sunday" December 7 at 3pm at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jazz on the Sacred Side: The New Series at the Jazz Bakery

3233 HELMS AVE, LA, CA 90034
310 271-9039,

It's time to take the next step in this sacred jazz journey...I'm so delighted to announce that starting on November 2, 2008 I will curate my first "Come Sunday: Jazz on the Sacred Side" concert at the Jazz Bakery. I'm thrilled to launch this series with one of Los Angeles' greatest vocal treasures, the incomparable Dwight Trible. I often think of the night several years ago when Dwight's group warmed, wait--let me tell the truth--set the stage on fire for our now dearly departed Alice Coltrane at Royce was one of those nights I was overcome with gratitude, so steeped in the joy of now. I hear people who miss the great singers of times gone by...shoot, don't I wish I'd been alive and hip enough in 1957 to be hanging in Newport, RI with photographer Lee Friedlander when he took that exquisite shot of Mahalia Jackson above--no question...but what I'm getting at, and why I'm so excited to invite you to this "sacred side" series, is that we are so fortunate to live in the time of Dwight Trible*. I am so grateful to have live access to the voice of my sister and December sacred side artist, Nailah**...right now, right now. So with "Come Sunday: Jazz on the Sacred Side" we respectfully offer these afternoons in the spirit of Duke Ellington, in the spirit of Mahalia Jackson, of John and Alice Coltrane, and so many more jazz artists across a wide range of faith traditions who gathered us together in the past to lift our voices, horns, hearts and hallelujahs...AND the wonderful news is, we have so many musicians right now, today, in this very city, from Baptists, Buddhists, Baha'is and beyond who are going to be swinging on the first Sunday of the month in Culver City, long as we can keep the seats filled up at the Bakery. I want to thank Ruth Price for opening her space for what I do hope will be a long running monthly Sunday series with your support. Spread the word folks! Come Sunday, November 2...what better way to fire us up for election day than to gather with the sounds and rhythms of love, peace, courage, strength and soul of Dwight Trible...sounds that echo the qualities of the man we about to put into office!!!!

Finally, while the interfaith, multi-faith, low faith, high faith, those who have no spiritual practice but are drawn to the force of this music---while the ensemble of ALL of us is crucial in this journey...I want to throw out that the idea of meeting on the first Sunday of the month in many Christian traditions is related to communion, to gathering together to break bread. That excites me for many reasons...many are articulated beautifully in this introductory passage from bell hooks and Cornel West's book of dialogues called "Breaking Bread." In it bell writes about how much she loves to sing the spiritual, "Let Us Break Bread Together on our knees," especially the line, "When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, oh Lord have mercy on me." She writes: "I liked the combination of the notion of community which is about sharing and breaking bread together, of dialogue as well as mercy because mercy speaks to the need we have for compassion, acceptance, understanding, and empathy." Come Sunday, November 2 at 3pm...break bread at the Bakery!!! How fantastic is that?

*Please visit Dwight Trible's website:
**Please visit our December 7th guest Nailah's Myspace page:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Equalize This

I'm just back from a writing workshop in San Antonio, Texas...the Macondo Writers Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros and named after Gabriel Garcia Marquez's fictional landia of "One Hundred Years of Solitude"...Macondo. For some years now, back and forth at this workshop, other writing retreats and right here in my own "rhythm green" (the delicious name of the paint I chose for this room) home office, I've been working on memoir pieces about my father and his guns, his debt, his danger, his joy, rage, depression, and his fierce love of the culture, especially jazz. I cracked up so hard a few days ago free writing about the irony of how my often penniless pops always made sure my brother and I had serious stereo systems. It was especially critical to him that we have great equalizers. He'd come over and set his chair in the optimal listening position in our homes and analyze whether or not we'd set it up properly. It crushes/fascinates me to consider that this man who had no sense of emotional or financial balance was this obsessed with balanced sound. He'd usually play some Brubeck or Miles, music he knew like the back of his hand so he could compare the sound of Paul Desmond or Cannonball Adderley's solo to the way he heard those pieces on his perfectly finessed Bose back home. I wish I had a Youtube clip to share with you of my father straddling a backturned kitchen chair pointing his index finger in time with Paul Chamber's walking bassline.

Last week I was asked, "What is the question of your memoir?" While I'm not completely certain, it did lead me to consider the question I'm often asked at jazz clubs by the older black men, my father's generation and beyond, who love this music and frequent the clubs as much as me: "What brings you here?" The answer is always, "My pops." And that means two things. I'm in love with this music because it was my father's first, best and purest gift of sound to me and my brother...English is really my second language after bossa nova, Nancy Wilson, Miles and Gil Evans, Bill Evans, Nina Simone.... On the other hand, I need this music as a healing force to counter the less than pure, not so joyful offerings from Pops. I'm particularly drawn to and grateful for the images and sounds of black men collaborating in such a profound space of generosity, epic imagination, and the sense of swing that is only possible from sincere listening. I keep writing--and listening--to reconcile, to balance these sounds, to makes sense of my father's trouble and the hallelujah he made sure we heard as clear, as evenly as "Blue in Green."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"We require something that we can hold on to..."

John Coltrane writes "thank you God" at least 14 times in his poem/praise letter to God inside "A Love Supreme". I'm finally reading Ashley Kahn's book, "A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album" and I'm amazed how not only focused and inspired but efficient the recording was. Kahn collects so many moving testimonies here about the date itself as well as the impact of the sound and the words, both written and spoken. I love hearing about the moment Rudy Van Gelder adjusted the microphone to pick up those spoken words in "Acknowledgement", cause if you notice you almost miss that first "a love"...but you hear "supreme"...Kahn calls it "an unrehearsed move that has never been corrected or erased." And then I love how Alice interprets her husband's choice to speak/chant:

"It's as if he's saying, 'It doesn't matter what we think we play that's man-made. God, you gave all of us an instrument. We can also offer you praise with the use of the voice that you created in us.'"

Then our chanting Buddhist brother, Wayne Shorter breaks it down like this:

"When he started singing the words 'a love supreme' he didn't solicit the vocal expertise of some well-known record-selling singer. I think he was saying you must rely on yourself for communication. I think he was going back to square one where the voice is the first announcement of your humanity--your humanity is your instrument."

Alice thinks of (can't write "thought of" when Alice Coltrane feels so present-tense-alive in the wisdom of these lines) the album like a mantra initiation from a great spiritual guide...she explains that there will be higher tests and higher trials we have to face, so: "We require something that we can hold on to, that serves to build strength up for the next step in our journey. That is A Love Supreme." Thank you God.

I scooped up this book on Love Supreme because of the supremely moving, strength building sacred concert I saw at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival a few weeks back. This event, called, yes, "Come Sunday: Spirituals and Sacred Jazz Compositions" was put together by James Newton, George Cables and the out of this world vocalist, Ruth Naomi Floyd (please visit both her website and James Newton's to hear Ms. Floyd, particularly her collaborations with Mr. Newton). If Harriet Tubman sang like Mahalia, if Sojourner Truth wailed like Sarah, really I can't even begin to describe the force of this singer...I have to call on icons of that magnitude to give you a sense of her power, the way her voice announces her humanity and liberates our own and the souls of our enslaved ancestors. When she sang "Sometimes I feel Like a Motherless Child" she took us somewhere I've never traveled inside that piece:

"I'm a long, long way from home....
From Africa, From Heaven, my home..."

Altoist, Bobby Watson listened hard to those lyrics then soloed straight to Africa, or Heaven, or...some place where we sure didn't feel motherless, we felt strengthened, found, free. James Newton as musical director gathered kindred, deep reaching musicians to support this sacred journey home (folk like Bennie Maupin, Craig Handy, Billy Hart, Darek Oleszkiewicz) and the performances he and Ms. Floyd inspired them to offer, my goodness! This is what I'm talking about...a willingness, an intentional focus to lift these notes, these lyrics from the most holy place inside of them to balm the most broken place in us. We do require something we can hold onto in these times and when music is offered up like that, it truly is a love supreme.

Near the close of the Sunday morning concert, James Newton and Ruth Naomi Floyd brought us back to that "first announcement of our humanity" by reading Coltrane's liner note love letter...Mr. Newton and most of the audience were moved to tears to speak/hear those words out loud. Go grab your copy of Love Supreme right now and try it, out loud. Thank you John Coltrane, thank you for inspiring all of those musicians and also moving Ashley Kahn to so soulfully gather this luminous material documenting the production and response to this most genius and generous gift from you with God.

"I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee O Lord
It all has to do with it.
Thank you God.
There is none other.
God is. It is so beautiful...."

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Now, Dance! Sing! But as you do--Remember" Malcolm's Birthday, New Orleans Blues

Malcolm X would have been 83 years old today. In July, Nelson Mandela will be 90. It moves me to re-read the "El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz" chapter toward the end of Malcolm's autobiography and hear him talk about his post Mecca trip to Ghana--the one on one visit with Nkrumah, the state dinner held by the Chinese ambassador who screens a film featuring footage of Robert "Negroes with Guns" Williams, and later that night the soiree at the press club: "It was my first sight of Ghanaians dancing the highlife," he writes/tells Alex Haley. He says he was pressed to give a short speech, and he stressed the need for unity between Africans and Afro-Americans.

"I cried out of my heart, 'Now, dance! Sing! But as you do--remember Mandela, remember Sobokwe! Remember Lumumba in his grave! Remember South Africans now in jail! You wonder why I don't dance? Because I want you to remember twenty-two million Afro-Americans in the U.S.!'"

Then later he admits..."But I sure felt like dancing!...One pretty African girl sang 'Blue Moon' like Sarah Vaughan. Sometimes the band sounded like Milt Jackson, sometimes like Charlie Parker."

I like imagining Alex Haley hearing this report...I like to imagine him imagining the Ghanaian Sarah Vaughan...I wonder in 1964/65 how much Haley knew about Mandela and Sobukwe.

There's so much to say...I'm thinking how heartbroken Malcolm would be...ah, by so many things--wait, this must be my own heartbreak, I can't assume to know his. The first I'm feeling in relation to the quotes above is heartbreak about the violence in South Africa this past few days against Zimbabwean immigrants fleeing their own collapsing nation. And now--don't laugh--the New Orleans Hornets game 7 loss tonight in the NBA playoffs hits me hard...boy was I hoping for more victory for that city...I've been wanting to write something about my recent quick trip down there for Jazz fest, but something that went down was so painful I haven't really known what/how to speak on it...

I'm leaving Sweet Lorraine's one night after seeing an old friend of mine perform there...we walk out and witness a straight Rodney King style beat down by New Orleans PD on one random young black man running across St. Claude. Three cops already have this guy's face in the concrete but then a fourth cop, looking like some crazed major PTSD Iraq war vet bolts across the street to hammer this unarmed, already pinned down man with his billy club. We scream for the cops to stop...eventually they jam the kid inside a squad car...away from nosy jazz musicians/jazz club patrons...I can't go right to bed, I need some different image/sound before any chance at sleep...I pop into a Rebirth Brass Band show and the song they're blaring as I squeeze into the mass of swaying bodies is called, no lie, "We Got Trouble." I dance because you can't not dance at a Rebirth show, but there's no way to shake loose the memory of the brutality.

The next afternoon I hear Terence Blanchard's group with the Louisiana Philharmonic play "In Time of Need" and exactly at the moment Terence begins to sing, the sky breaks open. While directly covered by a tent I'm suddenly surrounded by a storm while I listen to the requiem for THE storm. They also play "Ashé." I'm moved because I was so wrecked/so enraged by the white cop's dehumanization of the black New Orleanean...and now I'm surrounded by water and the sound of two breath-giving compositions penned by long time collaborators, musician/composer/comrades of Blanchard's, Brice Winston and Aaron Parks who both happen to be white. I gotta say it keeps me from staying fixed in one narrative...I can't stay fixed in trouble...deep south black/white(and blue) trouble nor deep Southern African/African trouble. In times of need I need the clarity and wide reach of Malcolm, I need the staggering musical wisdom and healing of this "Tale of God's Will." I don't need to be against anyone, I need to be fortified/cleansed to rebuild, to unify, to heal...Malcolm said in one of his final speeches: "We have to fight against the evils of a society that has failed to produce brotherhood for every member of that society. This in no way means that we're antiwhite, antiblue, antigreen, or antiyellow. We're antiwrong."

Back to that night in Ghana, Malcolm was giving a speech for the press and must have had this need in the moment to stay "Honorable Minister" stoic, though I'm certain he flashed that "brother Malcolm" smile taking in all that "highlife" today, on his birthday, I want to dance the dance he did not dance that night. Dance and remember. I will always remember brother Malcolm connecting the Congo to Congo Square, to Mississippi, to Milt Jackson and the Blue Moon that sees us all, not alone, with dreams in our hearts, with love.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dangerously Unselfish Saxophone

It just hit me that this years 40 year remembrance of MLK's assassination was for me surrounded by saxophone. Come Sunday, March 30, I was blessed with Charles Lloyd, then Saturday, April 5, I was lifted to new sacred space with Sonny Rollins. I really don't have the words yet to describe how meaningful both gatherings were to me, to everyone present for either/both shows...but just now I read this transcript of Cornel West's talk on Tavis Friday, April 4 and something about how West connects Martin and Mahalia resonates with what I experienced from both saxophone giants.

Cornel tells his brother Tavis: "...Martin is inseparable from Mahalia. You're not going to fully understand Martin unless you hear Mahalia sing 'Calvary,' unless you hear Mahalia sing 'Move On Up a Little Higher' because there's no way that that kind of human being, that kind of Christian, that kind of free Black man, that kind of Negro, can sustain himself without spirituality and especially music. 'Precious, Lord, Take My Hand.' Martin needs that music. Why? Because he got to preserve his sanity and his dignity."

So Sonny asks, "Why Was I Born?" and we are invited in to seventy years of his colossal sonic grappling. And Charles pleads, "Please look down and see my people through," as he (with Jason Moran's profound and pounding support) breathes new urgency into Duke's "Come Sunday" prayer. These free black men, these two thriving survivors, Charles Lloyd and Sonny Rollins, did the work to liberate themselves from crippling addictions, and consequently they are still on the planet (hallelujah), aiding in the preservation of our sanity and dignity. I'm so grateful and so humbled by their generosity. And they in turn are so humbled by the generosity that made their way possible...everyone who stayed for the second set at Catalina's Sunday night got to behold Charles Lloyd recite an original sacred poem to honor the presence of his supremely generous mentor, Mr. Buddy Collette.

Dr. King said that night before he died, "Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness." Wow. Forty years ago April 3 he said that and here go Sonny and Charles swinging up and down the coast last week, filling music halls with dangerously unselfish saxophone. Sound to me like these two tenor titans listened hard when somebody preached about a Drum Major Instinct then turned around and transcribed it for horn. Sound to me like Sonny and Charles still believe in freedom and will not rest until it comes. Now, somebody say, "amen."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Eleggua and Dash

I'm listening to Cachao's "Africa Suite" right now...from "Cachao: Master Sessions Volume 2." It begins and ends with a Yoruba chant to "Eleggua" the orisha who guards, opens and closes all paths. Cristobal Diaz Ayala writes in the liner notes to the disk: "all ceremonies should start and finish with a hymn to 'Eleggua'." I want to learn more about Eleggua and Yoruba and why these traditions were so important to Maestro Cachao. I'm so grateful whoever is guarding my path led me to the music and bass playing of Israel Cachao Lopez. Somewhere in the mid 90's I went mad for him and went to see him perform as often as I could. His joy, the ease and delight in his face while his fingers plucked out those fat/funky grooves, I'm not sure if I'd ever seen anything like that before, the compositional and improvisational command mixed with this breezy Sunday promenade'd he do it? Through documentaries both by Andy Garcia and Fernando Trueba I got to hear and understand more about Cachao's deep connection to, respect and reverence for Africa...I'm trying to think of the most positive way to say this...Cachao's specific knowledge about the various regions, rhythms and traditions of West Africa always impressed upon me the need to...notice that my Latino brother Cachao knew much more about Africa than me or many of my black American family and friends did. These moments are such a blessed invitation to revisit and expand and claim kinship vs division with the global human familia. Amen and Ashe dear Cachao...I like to imagine Mingus, who loved you so, welcoming you with a freshly resined bow as the newest member of the ancestral descarga.

All last week...holy week, huh, I couldn't stop listening to pianist, Robert Glasper's cd "In My Element". The energy, grief, and praise coming out of this young goodness! The New School educated, Kangol hat wearing, Houston born and bread (what is going on in Houston??? Eric Harland??? Jason Moran??? okay, I'll get to them next week when they're here to back Charles Lloyd at Catalina's Sunday March you can't say you didn't know...) Blue Note artist appearing on more hip hop head's Itunes then...well, I don't know...all I'm wondering is how he manages to sample both a voice mail message from QTip and a few bars of "Blessed Assurance" and not sound corny...AT ALL. What freedom and joy. He closes the album blending lines from his mother's eulogy with his original composition "Tribute." His preacher talks about the "dash" between his mother's birth and death dates. The dash is what's important he says, not that she was born not that she died but that she lived. "She LIVED." The dash. I love that.

I lift up with the deepest gratitude the "dash" of Cachao's life and the force of his majestic musical journey. From Cuba to Miami to Calle 54 some serious chants to Eleggua no doubt going down...

"Cuba Linda de mi vida...Maestro Cachao siempre te recordare..."

(a couple obits:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Keep Growing Strong...Keep Growing Strong

Black folks been covering Beatles songs since about 2 minutes after the black music loving lads from Liverpool crossed the pond. But let me ask you this: how many jazz musicians you know swing Lennon/McCartney and the Stylistics in the same set? Thank you Ramsey Lewis. A few tunes after an exquisite rendering of "In My Life", Ramsey went "Betcha By Golly Wow" on us last Saturday night at The Cerritos Center for the Arts (I know, I know, it takes a few freeways to get there if you're a SouthWestSide LA woman like me...but don't sleep on this gorgeous venue...Sonny Rollins will be there April 5). The ladies room was filled with nostalgic chatter at intermission, "They just don't write songs like that anymore." Mr. Lewis, looking just as young and elegant as ever then came back and took us even further back with what he called his "Spiritual Medley". He gave us Amazing Grace, he gave us this blog's namesake, Duke's Come Sunday, and then somewhere in there he played a grief soaked "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child". What delighted me most was that he shot right out of that and went "In Crowd" on us. I kept thinking there was something holy, kinda Easter-ish about the shift from Motherless Child to "I'm in with the In Crowd"...definitely trouble to hallelujah. Again, thank you Mr. Lewis.

My jazz gratitude cup ranneth over last couple weeks, no question. A few days before Ramsey Lewis, I had such a meaningful meeting with Professor, Composer, (dear family friend) and Duke Ellington's favorite guitarist, Kenny Burrell. That it took me this long to get over and speak with Kenny-UCLA Director of Jazz Studies and Ellington aficionado about my idea for the Duke Ellington Center for the Study of Sacred Jazz makes no sense...but I got there at last and thank goodness.

First thing he wanted to do was direct me to his wall of quotes...his office door at UCLA is covered with his favorite Duke-isms, including the one he wants to make absolutely sure I know...

"Every man speaks to God in his own language and there is no language that God does not understand." Duke Ellington

He then scanned his bookshelf and loaned me a copy of the score/lyrics for all three Sacred Concerts. And then like he was my thesis advisor and I was arguing my dissertation on the center for the study of sacred jazz he took me to task on a couple items. First, he doesn't like the word "trouble" in my blog title (for why I'm sticking with it...see my inaugural post for this blog). "Are you saying 'hallelujah' to trouble?" And then he said, "And let me ask you this," long pause, "Aretha Franklin. Mahalia Jackson. Stevie Wonder. Bernice Reagon and Sweet see I'm having trouble with the word 'jazz'." I know, I know, I know...and so did Duke who went from insisting he wrote Negro folk music to eventually claiming for his music the compliment most lauded on him: "Beyond Category."

What Kenny seemed to be pushing with me was...wasn't I talking about African American music with a spiritual focus? Yes...and...I still appreciate the word Jazz. I'm clearly not as hip as Kenny or Duke I guess. Ever heard the great Mingus story where he says to Duke, "Why don't you, me and Dizzy and Clark Terry and Thad Jones get together and make an avant garde record?" Duke comes back with "Let's not take music back that far, Mingus." !!!! Yes I'm talking about African American music and please know I'm lighting candles right now that Aretha, Stevie and Sweet Honey will perform at the center of sacred jazz...but I'm sticking to jazz right now because I still feel like it hasn't been loved enough...especially in this country.

While we're rapping, Maestro Gerald Wilson knocks on Kenny's door...okay...just so you know, I don't take all this lightly...I peep that I'm in the presence of royalty. Kenny so warmly introduces me and they check in about the tribute UCLA is giving Mr. Wilson the following week. So I don't go on for ever and ever in this post I now want to segue and just give more love to Maestro Wilson. Dr. Bobby Rodriguez put together one of the most thorough and touching presentations I've ever seen one musician honor another musician with. I was particularly touched when he mentioned how "courteous" Mr. Wilson is and always was from the first time they met over 30 years ago. Dr. Rodriguez put together a tremendous slide show and what I noticed was Gerald Wilson always had the most light in all the photos...he truly showered his fellow musicians, across 7 decades (yeah!) with light, love, listening. Then the nearly 90 year old Maestro took the stage to conduct the UCLA Jazz Orchestra...with more energy than any of the 20 year old college kids in the band. "Keep growing strong, keep growing strong...."

This work is just beginning for stick with this blog, to discuss and gather the right elements to grow this center I'm envisioning...but you see how brilliantly illuminated the path already is with all this energy and light from the masters. Wow... well really a Ramsey Lewis tinged, "by golly wow!"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Return to Snug Harbor: New Orleans Pt. II

I still have these pictures of me at Snug Harbor summer 1987, my first trip to New Orleans. I'm wearing this floral 1940's dress I probably got at a vintage joint in Long Beach and holding a drink called "Sex on the Beach". Thrift shopping on the beach, yes, sex on the beach? Are you kidding? I was a black teenage girl from lily white Irvine, California, with a dad from Jackson, Mississippi who owned MANY guns...of course I'd never had sex on the beach, the cocktail or any related activity. But all of a sudden I was far from home, in a place where my friend David Gautreaux told me if you're tall enough to reach the bar you can order a drink. I was tall. There are many details to that first trip to New Orleans that are not altogether appropriate to share here, but I will say we left this set of Charmaine Neville with a certain local sax player who offered my friends very strong weed and for me, since I refused the pot and giggled at his heavy handed mack, he gave me a signed copy of book written by a Catholic priest ("Tragedy is my Parish" by the chaplain of the New Orleans fire department!)...I hope that sounds as funny/absurd to you as it does/was to me...see I knew this story would swing back to the sacred...(smile).

There used to be a blues joint called "Benny's" I think it was uptown and we saw J'Monque'D there (if you can get a hold of it, please enjoy his CD "Chitlin' Eatin' Music", he does a version of "My Home is a Prison" by Lonesome Sundown that gets me everytime ) and I would always remember the line he said to me--again I was 18, all wide eyed and straight out of Irvine-- "If I was pretty as you, I'd wake up everymorning and kiss the mirror 100 times"!!! I'm particularly nostalgic about all this because I went on this first trip to New Orleans and later Jackson and Vicksburg with my childhood friend Sheila who happens to be in town this weekend from Oakland. Sheila ended up falling in love with our friend David Gautreaux and moving to New Orleans for a few years immediately following that summer trip. Last night over dreamy pozole, I tell her both about my recent trip and about the documentary, "Return to Goree" that I had just seen at the Pan African Film Fest a few hours before seeing her. I tell her I saw Sunpie! She remembers so well the night we first met him. "He was always such a gentleman" she remembers, "and didn't he also work as a park ranger?" Yes. Please google the fabulous Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes if you're not hip to his harmonica revelry. When we saw him 20+years ago he was playing harp with a blues guitarist, but since then he's become quite a famous, internationally known Zydeco bandleader. Like Sheila, my strong memory of Sunpie was what a gentle soul he was. He didn't try to rap hard to me or offer booze and herb, but instead his sweetness and the way I sensed that he kept a protective, yet unassuming eye on me was completely intoxicating. 20 years later I was a little gaga to lay eyes on him at the uptown New Orleans/Cuban cigar bar, Dos Jefes. I tell Sheila last night, "I think I startled him. You walk up to a musician in a club and say you haven't seen him in 20 years and have something to tell him...who knows what was racing through his mind!" All I wanted to tell him was that that impression he made on me 20 years ago really had an impact...especially because at 18, I had basically only had consistent contact with 2 black men dad and my brother. I'd struggled so much with my dad's grandiosity and rage and felt such heartbreak as a kid around my brother's lack of interest in 18, Sunpie was suddenly this brand new image of black masculinity, so gentle and so strong, so...yum....

So forgive me again if I've slipped into territory that might seem like oversharing for this blog, but I really felt like it was an important and specific memory...particularly as it relates to that first wave of media coverage after Katrina, when the news seemed religious in its determination to demonize the black men of New Orleans as looters, rapists and thugs--and I'm thinking where's the footage of the harmonica playing forest rangers? Where's the footage of the most gentle and kind black men I've ever met...why aren't those New Orleans brothers showing up on Fox and CNN? I'm so grateful for the multiple Sunpie-like sweeties who happily affirm for me every delicious and righteous southern gentleman sentiment and have me involuntarily humming "Do You know What it Means To Miss New Orleans?" at the most interesting moments...

Youssou N'dour was taken to a session of the Mardi Gras Indians (similar to the practice of the Wild Magnolias I blogged about in part 1) by New Orleans born, drumming maestro Idris Muhammed. In the documentary, "Return to Goree" (please check out the website and see the divine trailer: Youssou defines what he's hearing as Ashiko rhythms...he wonders how he's hearing the exact same West African rhythm in New Orleans as he grew up with in Dakar. He even fathoms, "Were these farewell rhythms?" That was one of the most jarring/devastating/supremely moving moments of the documentary...listening to Youssou wonder if those rhythms were the last sounds my enslaved ancestors heard before being forced through the door of no return. Farewell rhythms. Do you know what it means, to miss....home. So there's something extra chilling/thrilling about the cut away in the documentary to Youssou and Idris jamming at Snug Harbor one minute and then back to the harbor of so much trauma in Goree. And then on Goree Island, Idris happens upon a drum circle that he joins in on--and because he's Muslim and knows Arabic, he's able to tell the young Senegalese drummers, "All of what I play I play because of you" and then they share a prayer of gratitude.

You see I'm all over the place with my New Orleans recollections, but they are all so interconnected and profound for me right now...there's definitely a call happening...and I will soon return.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Once Were Warriors, New Orleans Part 1

"Were you at Jacque-imo's Saturday night?" a man I didn't think I'd ever seen before asks me. Between acoustic Brazilian music from Riccardo Crespo at a stuffy French joint on Octavia and on my way to see Sunpie at a smoky cigar bar off Tchoupitoulas I suffered the hour long wait for the best meal of my trip. So I say, "Yeah, I was there, what'd you eat?" We drool a bit sharing tales of fried chicken, stuffed catfish, garlic butter cornbread and mashed sweet potatoes. Everything about Monday was magic, I mean Saturday, I mean Sunday...the days and all the souls who filled them kept literally overlapping. There was a Santiago de Cuba photo exhibit at the newly re-opened McKenna Museum of African American Art ( but see, I found out about it 30 minutes after they closed on Saturday and weren't going to be open to the public again til after I was due to fly back home to Los Angeles. But luckily the dynamic new director, Shantrelle Lewis catches my pleading email and calls me on my cell saying she'll be at the museum Monday and call her and let her know when I want to come by. I come by right as New Orleans ABC news anchor Michael Hill is filming a live interview with her. He's the one saw me at Jacque-imo's. Our conversation with Shantrelle as well as her childhood classmate and close friend who now does PR for the museum, moves from cornbread to Catholic school to the most expansive and complex conversation about the city...but this is so normal now. Sunday night I'm at Fair Grinds, a cafe by the old Whole Foods (that tiny one used to be on Esplanade up near New Orleans Museum of Art, not that mega one on Magazine uptown), and I see three "hip and contemporary" (as Peter J Harris would likely describe them) brothers talking race and theology and I keep noticeably scooting my tea pot and IBook closer so I can eavesdrop. Too interested in the conversation, I just ask if I can join them, and find out I'm suddenly sitting with a priest (in fact, the chaplain of Xavier University), a Dominican Friar, and a young Pentacostal minister from Baton Rogue studying at the Baptist seminary in town. Out way too late Saturday night listening to Kermit Ruffins, I missed church Sunday morning, but that was remedied when Father Ott invited me to noon mass Monday on the Xavier campus. Father Ott is already interested in being the chaplain at the Duke Ellington Center for the study of Sacred Jazz (!), and his music minister at Xavier, jazz pianist Dwight Fitch just lit up when I shared my idea and he immediately wanted to start talking to me about jazz chordal this and gospel phrasing that...Glory be! I know this is a breathless list and I want to break it down and analyze some of the pieces next time, but this is just to let you know in case you don't that New Orleans is tooooo alive, and none of what I mentioned above even has anything really to do with any Mardi Gras Mambo, though I'll get to that...there is so much hallelujah and of course so much trouble, palpable melancholy, sometimes contempt...all of it alive and moving and shifting with such profound potential..."if we can be patient" Brother Herman Johnson stares past me meditating hard on his birthplace, the city he keeps returning to--that he can't stay away from--to minister and inspire, preach and listen.

Next time, I gotta try to describe the practice session I slipped into for the Wild Magnolia's in prep for the parade. If I had a video you wouldn't be sure where you were...Santiago de Cuba? Bahia? Mpumalanga? I remember when I saw the movie "Once Were Warriors" and I watched these Maori detention center boys in New Zealand initially forced to learn their ancestral dances to channel/refocus their passion, to create and inspire discipline and self love, love of culture, family, elders...I remember it came out not too long after April '92 in L.A., the riots, the attempts at gang truces--all that was fresh on my mind--back then I thought, our boys don't really have what those Maori boys have...not exactly...but what I saw a couple nights ago in New Orleans made me say, oh, okay, yep, here it it's been...

More soon after a little re-entry rest...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Divine Dissatisfaction

"Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds." Swing Martin. "Let us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security....Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity." King did indeed swing these words during his last presidential address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1967. I love a little bit earlier in the speech when after saying he's sticking with non-violence, he says:

"I have also decided to stick to love....And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go." Love is the one, right? So much saxophone in those wailing metaphors and then he walks just like Jimmy Garrison right back to, "I have decided to love....And the beautiful thing is that we are moving against wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love." (I'm hearing the other John's "Spiritual" right now.)

Then I have to segue to Riverside Church Apr 4, 1967, where he winds down the epic "Time To Break Silence" sermon with: "These are revolutionary times....A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all embracing and unconditional love for all men....When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life...."

And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go. I seriously do have a dream that those words can some day hover over the stage at the center for the study of sacred jazz while women, men and children jam, swing, sweat and stomp divine and dissatisfied. Love moving against wrong, trouble into glory hallelujah. I have decided to stick to love.

"Happy Birthday to ya..."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Consuelo's Kiss...and a Nun on Beauty

Jackie Ryan can sing. It's such a joy to come across a REAL jazz singer you've never heard of who feels like she must listen to the same records you've listened to all your life...I kept thinking, okay, I know she digs the Shirley Horn version of this and she's got to be in love with the Betty Carter version of that...but then she even pulled out some Oscar Brown Jr., and I was like, what is happening? Two things especially moved me...performance-wise she was inside of every lyric, in the spirit of the genius story telling singers mentioned above...and then on top of that she had great wisdom to share about the composers and lyricists of the tunes she sang.

I'm a little embarrassed to say that after a life time of hearing "Besame Mucho" I never paid attention to who wrote it. Consuelo Velazquez. In 1940. She was about 25 and says she'd "never been kissed" but was inspired by a passionate farewell kiss she witnessed, and then wrote the song that would become the yearning lovers' anthem of WWII. Velazquez (below...I'm cracking myself up finally figuring out how to add an image!) was born in Ciudad Guzman, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico...probably in 1916...I love learning via a few obits and her Wikipedia listing that she was a classically trained pianist, with a rep for playing Debussy particularly well. And because it was considered too risqué for a young girl from a good family to work in radio...for years she performed on the air with a male pseudonym.

What does all this have to do with "sacred jazz"? Joy. Beauty. Right? I was moved several times during Jackie Ryan's set both because of her performance and all the places my imagination leapt wondering about these composers, wondering about Consuelo. I just love being in this right filled with curiosity and celebration.

I appreciate how this blogging journey has lit such a fire of curiosity, contemplation and dynamic jazz conversations inside and around you see not too many folks are formally posting comments (so many thanks to those who have!), yet I'm high beyond belief about the private conversations going on...A new jazz aficionado comrade emailed over the holidays thanking me for the blog and letting me know he read the posts while listening to Leon Thomas' "The Creator Has a Master Plan"...ahh...

Then today, no joke, I was telling a guy I just met about how I was starting to write about jazz...I didn't even mention the sacred aspect and he spontaneously shared that the moment his daughter was born, he ran out of the hospital room and then back in with a boombox playing Leon and Pharoah, "The Creator has a Master Plan." He was so passionate about wanting that to be the first music she heard! Delicious echoes.

Finally, I can't believe I've gotten this far into the process without a shout to one of my fav theologians and radical Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister. Recently I got an email from her Benetvision site, a mediation on Beauty where she writes:

"Without beauty we miss the glory of the face of God in the here and now....Beauty is the most provocative promise we have of the Beautiful. It lures us and calls us and leads us on. Souls thirst for beauty and thrive on it and by it nourish hope. It is Beauty that magnetizes the contemplative, and it is the duty of the contemplative to give beauty away so that the rest of the world may, in the midst of squalor, ugliness, and pain, remember that beauty is possible."

Thank you Consuelo, Jackie, Sister Joan, and my two Leon Thomas loving comrades...thank you for the beautiful music and exchanges you've given me to contemplate, remember and celebrate.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

"Orange Juice for the Ear"

Before I hit the sack on this first day of 2008 I want to give you a little Oliver Sacks as well as some Duke. I think between the blogging and the Thich Nhat Hanh I'm reading and the little ity bit of meditation/silence practice I'm trying out lately, I'm noticing more and experiencing dazzling synchronicities...wonderful to notice the peace and gratitude with which I'm beginning this new year.

That's my turbo intro to kinda, slightly skip past, but at the same time celebrate that I paid attention to the quote on my Starbucks coffee cup today (smile). It was from neurologist/writer Oliver Sacks, whose book, "Musicophilia: Tales of Music and The Brain" I gotta get (who's read it? what's the word?) I felt excited by his quote:

"Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears--it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more--it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them music is not a luxury, but a necessity." Access to life...I love that.

In "Music is My Mistress" Duke Ellington writes a sort of poem called "What is Music?" that the Sacks quote seems to are a few lines:

"Music can dictate moods/It can ennerve or subdue/Subjugate, exhaust, astound the heart...Music is like honor and pride/Free from defect, damage, or decay/Without music I may feel blind, atrophied, incomplete, inexistent."

And just to go out and wish you every joy, jazz and hallelujah possible this year, I share a more often quoted line from Duke's autobiography, from the chapter on the sacred concerts.

"...every time God's children have thrown away fear in pursuit of honesty--trying to communicate themselves, understood or not--miracles have happened."

Thank you Duke! Starting out here with this honestly communicated desire to see a center built in your name to gather folks around music that astounds our hearts, I wonder what miracles might pop up in 08...