Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sephardic Music

Last week I went to see Yosvany Terry perform with his group at La Pena Cultural Center. He was given a grant to develop music of the ArarĂ¡ tradition and it was an amazing concert. Pedro Martinez, along with Yosvany and all the other very talented musicians on stage, tore it up. Pedro is an incredibly talented percussionist as well as dynamic singer and he had the crowd going wild. The music had the crowd going wild. It was interesting to hear Yosvany talk about his research, following tradition, asking Sandy Perez for guidance and then creating jazz music over the rhythms of the ArarĂ¡ music. Needless to say it was very inspiring to hear as I am developing Sephardic music. As I research it more and more and learn more about the traditions of the many cultures that made up the Sephardic world, I am inspired to continue its development. But I am also inspired to put my own stamp on the music. For awhile I felt that I was tied to the tradition of the music and that I shouldn't stray far from what has already been established. But I now realize that is all wrong. I can almost guarantee that anyone approaching this music does so with their own flavor. And so why not me as well? :) I am a world jazz vocalist, interested in many different world rhythms and this music definitely lends itself to a world music sound. It has been influenced by many different countries all over the world and my goal is to show that in the repertoire of songs we are developing.

As of this writing there are now 3 Sephardic concerts that have been booked and confirmed. One at the De Young Museum on Oct. 5th, one at La Pena Cultural Center on the first night of Hanukah, Dec. 21, which also happens to be the Winter Solstice! and one at the Yerba Buena Gardens in May of 2009. These are all very high profile and prestigious concerts and I am thrilled to be able to bring this music to such varied audiences. I am still trying to book more concerts around the time of Hanukah and hope that we can perform this music throughout the Bay Area, but for now I am very content with what we have accomplished so far. I am also excited about the arrangements that are being developed and can't wait to add the music to my ever-growing repertoire of songs.

Next Wednesday, July 30, I perform with the Reno Jazz Orchestra along with Wayne Wallace, Orlando Torriente, Javier Navarrete and Carlos Caro. It should be a blast singing with a big orchestra like that. I've been diligently learning new songs for this gig and hope I don't forget the lyrics when I perform them!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back from Mexico

Wow! What an amazing and fun trip to San Cristobal de las Casas. The people of the city are wonderfully warm and friendly, the city itself is beautiful and the surrounding terrain and mountains are breathtaking. I had never been in the state of Chiapas before and I was very impressed with its beauty.

The festival itself was a huge success. I played in el Teatro Zebadua in the center of town and packed the theatre. It was very exciting to perform to such a fantastic audience--over 300 people present. We (Murray Low, Paul VW, David Belove and Wayne Wallace) all had a great time playing together. the music rose to a higher level and the response was of excitement and energy. I was called back for two encores. The first encore we played Quitate la Queta. I insisted everyone get up and dance--and they did!! How cool to have everyone on their feet dancing to one of my songs! :) The second encore was a duo version of Imagine. Murray has reharmonized that song and it is completely lovely how it sounds. The audience responded very positively, not only to how we performed that song, but to all of the music. They told me they like the variety of it. And it is nice to be able to explain to them what they are listening to. I feel fortunate to be able to communicate in more than one language. It opens up so many more doors for me.

Traveling with everyone was so great. I feel that we have all created a stronger bond with one another by being on the road together. Everyone brought their significant others (except for me and Wayne) and it was great hanging out with them as well. I love traveling, I love the fact that the entire band was able to be present and that we all got along so well. I hope that I will not only be invited back to San Cristobal, but that many more trips abroad, as well as in-country, will take place in the months to come.

Monday, July 7, 2008

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico

Well now that I'm finally settling into my new place, it's time to take a trip to Mexico!! I'm actually getting very excited about my pending trip to San Cristobal. I've never been to that part of Mexico and it sounds fantastically gorgeous. I spent a good part of the day yesterday organizing my gig bag, getting all the charts ready for the musicians, packing CDs to sell, creating the set list for the songs I'll perform. It's one thing performing close to home because if you forget something you can easily find it. But when I'm traveling and I've forgotten something then it becomes a bit of an issue. That's where improvisational skills come in very handy!! Also learning to be flexible and not let the little things get to you. Of course there will be some bumps along the road, it's how they're dealt with that makes the trip either a nightmare or a pleasant experience. I strive for the pleasant experience and try to leave the nightmares at home!

It will be fun traveling with the entire band to Mexico. Most everyone is bringing their significant others with them, so the parties will be even wilder each night! I'm looking forward to the Jazz Festival and hearing all the great music that will be going on this week. I'm also very excited to be able to perform as a part of this festival. I think the music will be well-received and a good time will be had by all.

Tonight is Wayne Wallace's CD release concert/party. I am of course going to go and support the crew. It will be held at the new Yoshi's in San Francisco and I'm sure it's going to be an amazing evening of music. At some points of the evening he'll have up to 19 people on stage performing. Pretty wild. His new CD is fabulous--The Nature of the Beat--and has been getting a lot of really nice and positive attention. I'm excited for him--and for the label. I feel very honored to be a part of Patois Records and all the successes we as a group have achieved since its inception.