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 now...so 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 me...as 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.

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