Saturday, February 23, 2008

Living it up in Chicago

Kate Smith (my radio promoter) has been an incredible host and support since I arrived in Chicago on Wednesday. She has the patience of a saint and has been driving me around to interviews, gigs and rehearsals. I can't thank her enough for how great she has been to both Murray and me.

Yesterday was a truly amazing fun-filled and packed day of performing. Murray flew in on Thursday night and Friday we did two performances; one at the Cultural Center and the other at Katerina's. Both shows were a HUGE success! The concert at the Cultural Center was packed with people who really enjoyed the 45 minutes we performed. We actually met Steve Hashimoto on bass and Luis Rosario on drums right before we were to perform our first gig with them. I had sent charts and CDs for them to go over long before we arrived in Chicago, and I knew they were both very talented musicians so I wasn't too worried about how things would go. We performed more straight-ahead latin jazz music and they were fantastic!! At the end of the concert we got a standing ovation--VERY nice!! :)

After our first concert we made our way to the neighborhood where Katerina's is located. I took everyone out to lunch before we were to go in to an intense rehearsal to prepare for the evening's gig. We ended up rehearsing for three hours and still weren't able to get to all the material. Some songs had to be cut from the set list and others we were just going to wing it. By the time we were done rehearsing I was completely exhausted. Kate came and picked Murray and I up so we could go back to her place and get in a quick nap. Our gig didn't start until 10pm last night so it gave us some down time in order to recharge our batteries. 8:45 we're back in the car heading back to Katerina's to perform. BTW: Katerina is a wonderful person and incredibly open and friendly. It was fantastic performing at her club. We had another fantastic turn out and people seemed to really respond well to the music. Both Steve and Luis rose to the occasion and played amazing. Murray, too, was fantastic in both his playing and his musical directing.

It's 2am and Kate wants to take us to the Green Mill, the hottest jazz spot in Chicago. Sure, why not!! We're all pretty wired from such a successful evening and it sounded like fun. So off we went to the Green Mill where Barry, the Baritone sax player was leading a group of fantastic musicians. When we arrived the place was packed. We found a table right at the front of the stage and planted ourselves. Pretzels and lemon drop martinis make a great combination, by the way!! :) Thanks to Kate's infinite connections in Chicago, Murray and I were invited to sit in with the band. We played Au Privave and Besame Mucho and had a blast playing with these guys. By the time they were done playing (3:30am!!) I was pretty well spent. We arrived back to Kate's place around 4:30am and we all collapsed into a comatose heap in our respective beds, happy and content that the day had gone so incredibly well.

This has been a great introduction to the Chicago scene and I hope to be able to return here often to perform in the future. Thank you to the Chicago people for being such warm and friendly people.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fun Recording Session

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day in the recording studio. Wayne is putting together a demo of the musical "Imperialism" and he wanted singers to perform the music in order to shop the musical around. The music and lyrics are fantastic and it was really fun learning the parts. This style of music, although latin based, is quite a departure from the kind of music I usually perform so it was a great challenge. Performing music that has to be sung as written is actually more of a challenge for me than "interpreting" the music as I do when I perform my own music. So for this reason I had to spend a good amount of time learning the songs before stepping into the studio. All the work paid off in the end as the recording went smoothly and it was relaxed and fun. Along with Wayne Wallace and Gary Mankin, there were three other singers present to represent the different characters of the play. (I seemed to represent the peasant woman more than anything!! Hmmmmm) Bryan Dyer, a fantastic vocal and musical talent, David Chaidez, also a fantastic singer and musician, and my label-mate Alexa Weber Morales, who has a beautiful clarion voice. Wayne was nice enough to let me record all of my music first so I could leave a little earlier than everyone else.

This was a good thing as I wanted to attend the memorial of an ex-coworker. Barbara Walters (no, not that one!) was a graphic designer with whom I worked at Cisco. She was a very kind and talented woman. She passed away just shy of her 60th birthday of lung cancer. Her family had a lovely memorial at the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco and I'm glad I was able to get there to pay my respects. This was a woman who lived her life in the way she wanted and didn't sacrifice her integrity along the way. She is a great inspiration to me to make sure that I too live my life to its fullest and not take it for granted.

I leave Wednesday for Chicago. Yesterday before the recording session I did a quick interview with Rodolfo Sanchez of WHPK radio in Chicago. When I arrive in Chicago I'll be doing two interviews that same day: one for chicago Public Radio and one at WIIT radio at 6pm. All of these interviews will hopefully help to generate the kind of buzz I want to get people to come out and hear me at both the Cultural Center at noon and Katerina's at 10pm--both on Feb. 22. I'm really getting excited about going to Chicago. I'm just hoping my vocal cords don't freeze!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Azucar de Amor is CHARTBOUND!!

Kate Smith is such a great radio promoter as well as friend. She is a hard worker and truly cares about her clients and their success. Since the CD has been sent out to all the radio stations she has been tirelessly working to get them to give Azucar de Amor a lot of airplay. Now that's not to say that those who already are familiar with my music weren't willing. The response from the DJs has been overwhelmingly positive and I'm tingling all over with excitement!! BUT, the fact that so many DJs are playing the CD has gotten it attention by the JazzWeek charting folks. This is HUGE for me!! This puts me into a whole new category and I'm crossing my fingers that the CD--and me, of course!--get on the JazzWeek Charts. There are two charts: JazzWeek World and then the JazzzWeek chart. Right now I am chartbound for the jazz chart. It will be interesting to see if the CD also is able to chart on the World chart. Either way, I'm having a FUN ride with this new CD. AND the cool thing is that Birds in Flight is also getting renewed attention.

So much is going on right now and I need to prepare for my impending trip to Chicago. I leave for the windy/freezing/COLD beautiful city next Wed. When I arrive I will be doing an interview with Chicago Public Radio, then later that same day I'll be interviewing with WIIT radio on El Caobo's show. I also have a telephone interview with WHPK--Rodolfo Sanchez's show--on Sat. Feb 16th. This interview will be taking place during a recording session I will be doing with Wayne all day. I'm just going to sneak off into my car for a half-hour and talk to Rodolfo on my cell. I hope the connection is good!!

I'm really getting excited about my trip to Chicago. I can't wait to meet the musicians Murray and I will be playing with. It's going to be a roller coaster ride since we'll meet for the first time at our first gig at the Cultural Center. We'll then get to have a REAL rehearsal and then go and play the gig at Katerina's. I'm actually feeling calm about all of this since I know that the guys I hired--Steve Hashimoto on bass and Luis Rosario on drums--are excellent musicians and come highly recommended. Life is an incredible adventure and I am loving every minute of it!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Launching Azucar de Amor

The CD has been shipped out to around 400 radio stations across the globe and already DJs are playing Azucar de Amor on their radio shows. This is VERY exciting for me as my latest musical project is "birthed" to the world. The response has been incredibly positive and enthusiastic. I am very proud of what was achieved on this CD. There are a lot of magical moments and the talent pool is so immense that even I get overwhelmed listening to it at times!!

On Monday Murray Low and I went and did an interview at KUSP in Santa Cruz. They have a new policy that if you go there for an interview you have to perform live. So Murray was kind enough to accompany me to the radio station and play the piano while I sang a few songs. It was fun!! I've never performed live on the radio before and wasn't sure how well it would go over. But I think it went very well and the audience seemed to enjoy it based on the amount of calls that came in when a pair of free tickets were being offered!

After driving to Santa Cruz to do this interview, I then made my way up to rehearse in Oakland at Paul van Wageningen's house. It was very nice of him to open his house to all of us: me, Murray, Peter Barshay, Masaru Koga and Michaelle Goerlitz. We had a great rehearsal and I feel very confident that the concert at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center tomorrow night will be really fun and exciting. I am so blessed and honored to be able to play with these amazing musicians and I think their talents and chemistry has a way of emanating out to the audience and enthralling them. At least, that is my hope for tomorrow night--and every concert I perform.