CJazz and the creative impulse

Written by Anne Ierardi

CjazzExperiencing the joy of ensemble playing

“I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life.
– Miles Davis

For many years I led groups on the Artist’s Way, based on the book by Julia Cameron. Participants brought with them a desire or dream to become more creative in their lives. Many had gifts as writers, musicians, artists – some had newly retired with time to explore, some worked too much and needed a break – all sought to discover or recover something about their own lives.

Together we wrote in journals, took artist’s dates (a date you make just with yourself to open up your creative spirit), and shared deeply from our hearts. There was one group in particular that was so full of enthusiasm, my little cottage-office rocked when they arrived. After the group ended, they each went off, shedding some old ways to pursue their new gutsy dream.

Life can either be a series of tasks or a process. The jobs we have in our lives, the day-to-day responsibilities, are usually dictated by external factors that we have little control of. We can easily get caught up in the chaos of the clock, others’ needs, or our own old tapes telling us we are not good enough or haven’t done enough. Anatole France said, “If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.”

Art is liberation of body and soul. It is my play, my vision, and my joy. I keep a big tool box – sometimes I take out a pen (or my desktop) and write, or take out my paint brushes and express myself in oils. Other times I feel like singing and playing guitar.

There are times I have goals like writing my monthly music column or preparing for an art exhibit ,but there are many others time that I just play and stay with the process.

Remember the old saying “practice makes perfect?” That messed up a lot of young budding artists. Miles Davis got it right when he said: Do not fear mistakes. There are none.

I am at a time in my life when I am looking back yet also looking forward. Appreciating how I absorbed music through my brother’s passion for standards and musicals, my coming of age during the British invasion when I was lifted up high to see the Beatles at Suffolk Downs by a big girl who already decided to occupy my seat before I arrived, and going backstage to meet the Rolling Stones in Worcester. Johnny also funded my guitar lessons through junior high and high school with Bob Mulcahy, the only teacher who pronounced my last name correctly with a sparkle in his eye each week as he invited me into his studio. When I was lonely on weekends in college, in the dry hills of California and homesick for Boston, I went down to the coffee house to hear folk and rock bands from Hollywood or classical and religious music in the gymnasium. The first time I ever heard “Amazing Grace” was in that gym in Thousand Oaks.  Bluegrass singer and guitarist Doc Watson, who though physically blind in essence was full of light. I will never forget that moment.

To teach the arts one must not only have passion but a sense of mission. Music, especially, is a gift that begs to be offered to others and like dance it involves the body and the breath. In a sense music was my roots, my beginning, but years later it has returned in its new forms, and I am more able and willing to birth possibilities that weren’t there in my younger days.

This spring I joined a class, C-Jazz, at the Cape Cod Conservatory led by Bart Weisman. I wanted to discover what is it would be like to be part of a Jazz Ensemble. My first day was a feast of the eye as well as the ear as people gathered with their instruments: bass, drums, piano, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, and guitar. Ages ranged from youth to elders and even an assistant Chihuahua on drums, but it made no difference as everyone supported and respected each other.

Bart introduced several styles of jazz. There was a new piece of music every week including the swing tune “In a Mellow Tone” by Duke Ellington, Jobim’s bossa nova “Corcovado,” Miles Davis’ modal jazz, “So What,” and jazz/rock fusion “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock. Bart’s love of jazz comes through his energetic bearing and confidence while creating a space where we can express our selves while participating in the real thing of live jazz.

In an e-mail, Bart explained how C-Jazz came to be last fall:

“Dr. Stephanie Weaver, managing director of the Cape Cod Conservatory, hired me to teach percussion students and be the program director for CJazz at The Conservatory. Dr. Weaver had run a very successful Jazz Combos Program in Michigan and I had wanted to do the same on Cape Cod. Since the Fall of 2013, CJazz has been running in The Barnstable Campus and we started sessions in Falmouth in 2014. Students of all ages learn jazz standards, how to improvise, and have performed at recitals. All of the instructors and guest musicians are working jazz musicians on the Cape. I know that not all of the students will go on to perform professionally, but I love sharing my passion and experience performing Jazz, an original American Art Form, and hopefully sparking a life-time love of jazz in them too.”

I had the great fortune to have two mentors through this process: Alan Clinger for guitar and Bob Hayes for voice. Alan provided instruction during the group to the guitarists and met with me a couple of times to practice Hoagy Carmichael’s ballad “Nearness of You.” His beautiful accompaniment felt natural to follow and special to sing with a guitar.

Bob Hayes changed the key from F to a comfortable C for my voice on “The Nearness of You” and met with me the morning of our recital to get the breath and the soul into the song.

You may be wondering what my next adventure is. Since you asked, in mid-June I will be attending Django Camp in Northampton with a few hundred guitarists, violinists, and accordion players gathering from all over the world. On the weekend of June 21 and 22, there will be a Django festival open to the public. Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz has always fascinated me. If he dared to play with just a few fingers after his tragic accident, I should not shrink from giving it a go. After all, there are no mistakes.

For more information on the concert and music camp: www.djangoinjune.com

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P.D.Q. Bach comes to Cape Cod

Written by Anne Ierardi

Peter Schaaf photoPeter Schickele brings is own brand of Bach to the Cape Symphony on New Year’s Day

I have a long history of fooling around with other people’s music.”

– Peter Schickele

Jung-Ho Pak is celebrating New Year’s Day with a program that promises to be attractive, elegant and great fun. His guest star is none other than P.D.Q. Bach, aka Peter Schickele. Schickele graciously spoke with me by phone this week about his trip to Cape Cod, in the midst of a busy season of engagements. “I will be in two of my personas: Professor Schickele (P.D.Q. Bach) and Peter Schickele.” P.D.Q. Bach was born in the fruitful imagination of Peter Schickele during some musical research, and in 1965 he and his friends brought P.D.Q. Bach to the public at Town Hall in New York City. Eventually his popularity brought him to the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. The “infamous” comedian of classical music was born.

His love of music and training in composition at Juilliard School of Music forged a partnership with his playful comic nature that has reached out to a wide variety of audiences for the past 50 years. He has written well over 100 compositions for symphony orchestras, choral groups, chamber ensembles, voice, movies, television and even Joan Baez.

While Schickele’s main goal is to “make people laugh,” he also is happy to find that he has helped young people appreciate classical music, often in classroom settings like his “New Horizons in Music Appreciation,” where a humorous take on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, in the form of a play-by-play Sportscast, is nevertheless “historically true.” Still, he laments the fact that our music programs have had their funding cut back so that many budding artists will not have an opportunity to learn music first-hand through a school band.

Like many comedians, Schickele is unassuming and honest: “My family said I was born entertaining at 18 months old. I don’t hold any high-blown ideas about my work. I am happy to make people laugh.

“During the sixties in my pre-teen years, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my older brothers and male cousins. We listened to the humorous music with its sound effects of Spike Jones on the phonograph and laughed watching Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. My cousin Phil took me in his Model-T Ford to parades. Phil donned a straw hat and Groucho glasses, squeezing one of those horns with the rubber ball.”

By age 10 in Washington, D.C., Schickele was a theatrical kid acting out movie serials and westerns in his basement. He still remembers every syllable of the music that he passed on to his own children.

P.D.Q. Bach will present to Cape audiences the “1712 Overture,” a giant orchestra piece “with organ and every instrument including the kitchen sink.” He also will be singing a round with the soloists on a P.D.Q. Bach poem called “The Mule.”

The Symphony will perform several Strauss pieces, including “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” led by Jae Cosmos Lee, the symphony concertmaster, and “Chacun à son goût” (Each to his own taste) from Die Fledermaus. Musical theatre pieces include “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “The Sound of Music.”

Guest vocalists include Kara Cornell and Margot Rood. Kara is a mezzo soprano who performs in many genres, from classical to opera to jazz and musical theatre. Soprano Margot Rood has a wide repertoire and often performs with the Handel and Haydn Society.

Jung-Ho Pak’s reflections also bring him back to his own days in the school band when they were playing a P.D.Q. Bach piece. He recalled, “it really surprised me,” as “classical music is usually so serious. It was such a relief to know someone out there made what you did cool and hip and put a smile on your face.”

Start the New Year on an upbeat with the Cape Symphony. Meet P.D.Q. Bach. Arrive early to enjoy the Vienna Café with Viennese pastries by Gourmet Caterers of Boston.

Limited seats are available: www.capesymphony.org or call 508-362-1111.

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The Great American Songbook still sails Cape’s airwaves

Written by Anne Ierardi

Shirley Horn, a portrait by Anne Ierardi

On WOMR, Julian Jackson and Richard Rubino keep the music playing

“When they say nothing is forever, it’s not true. Music is forever.” – Annie Ross 

Community radio is alive and well on Cape Cod. WOMR in Provincetown, through its dedicated volunteers, offers a wealth of opportunities to hear music of every genre. I had the pleasure this week to meet with two men who bring the music of the Great American Songbook alive every week: Julian Jackson of PM Jazz on the first and last Friday afternoons of the month (1 to 4 p.m.) and Richard Rubino of Sounds of America on Thursdays 5 to 8 pm. In love with music all his life, Julian Jackson began his avocation of playing jazz on the air through WICN in Worcester. When he retired to Cape Cod he was able to make a full life of music: listening, playing guitar, singing and hosting his show.

“It’s a journey,” reflected Julian. “The music I play is heavily rooted in the Great American Songbook. I seek a balance between vocals and instrumentals, between male and female musicians, even music featuring piano or horn. If you tune in at 1 you will probably hear more upbeat music; as the afternoon goes on the music becomes softer, and more mellow.”

Over the years that I have listened to Julian’s show, I always learn something new about an artist, discover a new vocalist or instrumentalist, and find myself bewitched (not bothered and bewildered) by his choice renditions of the Great American Songbook.

Another enjoyable aspect of Julian Jackson’s show is his birthday features. He confided to me that he loves to bring artists to mind on their birthdays. “I like to honor their memory,” he said. Sort of like the “saints” of music, I thought. The month of May includes many greats: Shirley Horn, Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, Rosemary Clooney, and Artie Shaw.

Fortunately there are three ways to access the station: 92.1, 91.3 or the Internet. “I was surprised,” said Julian, “to find that one day three listeners identified themselves from Jamaica; Glasgow, Scotland; and California!” While Jackson’s listeners are usually middle to older adults, his openness to new and local talent attracts some younger listeners.

Richard Rubino, born in Pittsburgh and a graduate of Berklee School of Music, has dedicated his life to playing and teaching music. His last teaching job was at Harwich High, where he taught all the symphonic and band instruments. He has also played sax, clarinet, and flute at the Melody Tent with many local musicians. He began his Sounds of America show at WFCC, programming and workin with Lou Dumont and Jack Bradley. They featured jazz and the Great American Songbook. When the new owner changed the format to all-classical, Richard found a new home with WOMR. As a good friend of Dick Golden whose show Nightlights captured our hearts, Richard was inspired by Dick to keep this music alive. Living on Cape Cod is richer because WOMR has a commitment to this gem of American music that needs to be shared and passed on to a new generation of listeners.

I spoke with Richard about the amazing performance I witnessed last week in New York. Richard remembers fondly the legendary Annie Ross; he was amazed she is still performing, with horn player Warren Vache. While having suffered from ill health, she is doing a weekly gig at the Metropolitan Room in NYC. She had me and the audience mesmerized. Her last number was her composition “Music is Forever.”

Richard’s Sounds of America features a Sinatra segment at 7 p.m. and one spotlighting pianist Dave McKenna at 6 p.m., in addition to classics by Great American Songbook composers with some contemporary jazz performers including Diana Krall, Steve Tyrell, and John Pizzarelli. Richard draws from his extensive personal collection of 6,000 albums and CDs.

I thought it would be fun to listen to a few of the artists/songs on YouTube that Julian turned me on to… Mary Cleere Haran “But Beautiful,” arresting and beautiful, and my favorite Jobim piece, “Waters of March.” Vince Jones, an Australian jazz singer and trumpet/flugelhorn player, “You Go to My Head.” Cal Collins, jazz guitarist – a live performance from Louisville of “Autumn Leaves.” There’s an upbeat video of Cal playing with Benny Goodman in Warsaw in 1976. Dr. John from the CD Duke Elegant playing sax and singing “Satin Doll.” Peter Cincotti on piano, singing outdoors in NYC “I Love Paris.”

Boy this is fun… one more for the road: Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life,” by Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary.

Here’s to life and every joy it brings. Here’s to life for dreamers and their dreams.

May all your storms be weathered. May all that’s good get better.

Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.

Reprinted with permission from The Barnstable Patriot.

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Music Notes: You don’t need to miss New Orleans

 Written by Anne Ierardi PDF E-mail


Clarinetist Evan Christopher will bring it to Cape Cod

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?   Louis Armstrong

 Nauset Regional Middle School hosts the first New Orleans to Orleans Festival (NO2O) April 10 to 12 with music, food, film, and art. A highlight will be the appearance of world-renowned jazz clarinetist Evan Christopher. Once I realized New Orleans was not on Eastern Standard Time, I caught up with Evan on the phone.

Not only is place an important aspect of literature but it is also has significance for music. There are the places where we find ourselves and the places where we are drawn to be. For Evan Christopher that place is New Orleans.

“After university (in his native California) where I learned the fundamentals of the classical clarinet, I moved to New Orleans,” he said. “I was touring there by bus and I knew I had to return. The energy level of the city is amazing. Two factors drew me: everything there is crooked like the streets, and the humidity in the air. That heaviness I discovered is great for the clarinet. Sound travels differently and I believe this distinctness contributes to the uniqueness of the New Orleans sound. I see it as a ‘sound’ or an ethnic style not so much a genre of jazz.”

I asked Evan to explain what makes New Orleans music special. “The two important things to communicate are: how the music is connected to one’s sense of life, as nothing significant happens without the connection to live music,” he said. “Secondly, a very distinctive vocabulary in how these musicians approach their individual sounds and how they relate to each other. Finding your own voice is central.”

Evan found his voice through other musicians in New Orleans including his mentor, bass player Marshall Hawkins. Evan tours throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan and appears at the Newport Jazz Festival. He has been a featured soloist with groups including the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and has recorded with pianist Dick Hyman and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. His group Django à la Créole fuses Gypsy Swing with New Orleans rhythms. Their second CD, Finesse, was voted best jazz recording of 2010 in London’s Sunday Times. A recently released CD, Django a la Creole: Live!, highlights the best of their 2012 concerts.

Evan’s passion for the New Orleans sound is evident in his thoughtful, informative remarks. In his Cape concert, he will play original compositions as well as the classic music of New Orleans. The past is as central to appreciating New Orleans music as is the present. Sidney Bechett, Omer Simeon, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton are New Orleans bred and born masters of the sound. Duke Ellington approached his music in a similar way, though he hailed from Washington, D.C. Evan will treat us to his narration for the music.

Evan Christopher will be joined on Saturday, April 12th by Fred Boyle (piano), Alan Clinger (guitar), Ron Ormsby (bass), and Bart Weisman (drums) with a special appearance by vocalist Cerise. Opening the concert will be the George Gritzbach Blues Band; George Gritzbach (vocals & guitar), Rich Hill (bass) and Bart Weisman (drums). The Nauset Regional Middle School Jazz Band, directed by Megan Anthony, will perform a selection.

Another wonderful opportunity is the offering of a Clarinet Master Class by Evan Christopher for all ages and levels of musicians on Saturday afternoon, April 12th.

“I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans,” I told Evan as the close of our conversation. “Put it on your bucket list, Anne,” he said. “You may want to go in early April for the French Quarter Festival, best time to hear local musicians.” While our Orleans Festival is happening, New Orleans will be blowing out their sound, too.

Saturday, April 12, 7 p.m.,concert at Nauset Regional Middle School in Orleans featuring Evan Christopher on clarinet. Tickets $25 at http://www.orleanscommunitypartnership.org/; proceeds this year will benefit the NRMS Greenhouse project. NO2O is a collaboration among the Nauset Regional Middle School, the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, the Orleans Cultural Council & the Orleans Community Partnership (OCP) with generous support from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod and the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

Reprinted with permission from The Barnstable Patriot.

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