A friend asked recently, “what’s up with the pearls in your shop? I never thought you a pearl person.” True, I used to only make pearl jewelry for my working friends, simple and classic. But singing retro jazz has changed some of that: I now make jewelry, similar to what I wear on stage, for a new “Onstage and After Hours collection”. Actually there are specific musical influences that make these more retro than modern…
When I write new music for a project, whether for my own CDs or someone elses, or for a video- there are usually two seemingly opposite creative things going on. First, once a song or idea ‘takes’, I become obsessively focused with it; the concept, the genre, the instruments, the writer, the frontmen- exploring everything about “it”. Second, I always keep a lazy ear open to hear what others on a similar track, are doing/ or might have done, with a similar Muse; it could be 2012 or 1912; a rapper or a legendary composer. These sparks all go into the mix of writing a song several ways, until one ‘catches’. The final version is usually something that self selects; usually by the next morning, when I wake up mindlessly humming one version. Ha! That is my litmus test, if even I can’t get a hook out of my head.
For my latest CD, Torch and Sass, when I was exploring “retro” jazz, my vinyl collection scattered across the floor was only the first springboard of discovery. Then came visits to my favorite music and record stores to talk to experts. I would say “I’m listening to X, and I want to discover more.” I love to see my friends go into overdrive to inspire others, pulling music from bins, spinning turntables, talking story on their favorite artists, songs, labels, with those very cool little known tidbits of info in between. Ah… this fading art! I mean, Wikipedia is good and all, but nothing beats a listening tour back through time, with pictures, and luxuriously long liner notes from album covers. (*Sigh*.) JC at Downhome records is my favorite contact for this, and Dave at Dave’s record shop, Emeryville.
So, this kind of musical sleuthing led me to vocalist Mildred Bailey; somewhere between looking for ukulele jazz, blues driven jazz, and 1930′s composers for Louis Armstrong- Mildred Bailey’s name popped up.
Mildred Bailey from the Pacific Coast, called “First Lady of Swing”, was said to be one of the very first woman singers in jazz, the first to sing with emerging big bands (Paul Whiteman, Eddie Lang, Benny Goodman), AND is said to have been a primary influence for the young Sarah Vaughan. Here is an early tune of Mildred’s, 1931.
Mildred was also the first female musician to get a guaranteed pay in the business, less than half the male musicians of the day, but significant considering. Being one of the first- the road was tough as her biographical notes hint at- Mildred called the “Queen of Swing”, had a versatile voice, and was established quickly with the big-band orchestras of the day. But as the sound of big band grew, so did the preference for women singers who fit a certain look and profile. Though radio made her popular, and her voice was gorgeous, big-band leaders favored more petite female singers. Sadly, this, and health issues, affected her career. A song from the peak of her career in swing- Darn that Dream:
Mildred’s lilt, range, fine, bright tones, and her emotive delivery- that morphs with every song- inspired my singing for Torch and Sass. My voice is a low alto, and many in the lower registers have to work harder to get clear tones in the higher registers; so these women are definitely role models for me.
Mildred’s alleged taste in furs and jewelry, inspired this pearl jewelry collection in my Etsy store. (And grandma’s Majorca pearls.) I was never into pearls before, but these “vintage” pearls of the past seemed a great way to celebrate Mildred’s beautiful voice and contribution toward establishing women in jazz.
Use code pearls20 to get 20% off anything with pearls-until May 31st.
to talk about it, or where to start. It’s as if I am in a fixed state of hyperventilation.
Or one giant slow motion hold-your-breath as the world spins crazy by.
In short- we are playing lots of gigs, morphing new sounds in between, jamming out
the wine country on weekends (yay!), all while my creative urges are morphing (exploding)
in new directions as I experiment with new things- media, materials, techniques all
hours of the night. It feels good! Studio is aMess. (that should be a word).
I could spend time writing…or making…
and northern California’s Spring is looking very orange right now~
Creative updates Next…
She said yes for one reason, One
to study disappointment in D- minor.
And to see the view from shore- the one
well painted, with the face of each fate
laying down another card, one for each life
transecting this point by location
temperament, desire, or demon,
manipulation and choice of poison
-with a pinch of folly passed off as
karma. High stakes, each calling the play, as
stoic bluff or confident intimidant as fates
do so violently well. And she said
yes to see them writhe. Those dated fates, gods
bygone, almost forgotten, because everyone knows
even gods relinquish, but more important, she knew
that now, nothing would disappoint, no matter the stupid words to
pour from your mouth; the hype, self-indulgent drivel, the same
stories you tell city after city, smile after smile,
ear after ear…
yes, she said, spitting out sand grains
blown in by an eastern wind, enabling
a lyric, ending a very old song-
“She may not have had an ocean view
But she could hear the beach when she kissed you-
And when the world is your Oyster-
Just a little will do.”
Prompt: I wrote this thinking of all of the fake people in the music business. How you have to “take it with a grain of salt” and decide not to be affected by any of it. It can take work- but no one else is in charge. Falseness and egos are everywhere to some degree, and we can take the grain of sand for what it is, tuck it away, and make a pearl out of it. (Don’t burn any bridges!!) I didn’t realize how much it all bothers me until I started writing: I intended for this poem to be very short.
It all reminds me of the Zora Neale Hurston quote:
“I do not weep at the world; I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”
It wasn’t beauty
that took his breath
away, but the wake
of its absence, how
so much perfection could
well up, fill space (always ready
to hold even
Or could it be the way
entirely His mind
erasing imperfections as it went
leaving the real beauty-
Transience beauty of absence
sheer imprint, pure, incomplete
burned deep into
A study in Transience: poem 1
We just had our biggest show of the year, (so far ), last week at world premier Yoshi’s jazz club. And a great turn out (Thank you friends for celebrating Spring with us. And dancing…!!).
I always welcome a mental break after these; all the extra energy leading up; getting music ready, planning a live act, promoting, stressing (what if no one shows?!)- and then, going with whatever happens on stage that day.
This is the scary cool fun of it all. There really is that slow motion point in the very beginning of a show, that terrifying second when you walk out, look out at an audience, and know that you have absolutely no control over the next 90 minutes. Despite all the prep work or a full house. HA!
organism of six
apex display onstage-
your mood, your skills, chemistry
of today, could be alchemy Who knows
how your heart will settle behind drums, your
fingers on strings, wind moving over reeds, tapping
or muting sweet a trumpet All inspiring a voice to follow
or Lead Who knows?
¨¨¨°º©©º°¨¨¨¨¨¨°º©©º°¨¨¨¨¨¨¨°º©©º°¨¨¨¨¨¨ Tara Linda
This is what makes each show so different from the last. We feel it as both as musicians and performers. Last week’s show felt more raw, and all the more special for it. We tried new things. And though we may attempt to prepare for everything, the uncertainty plus the freshness of each second = spontaneity. Thankfully, I haven’t had to sing my songs 1000′s of times. Yet But even if they weren’t fresh, I think I would have to make up new words each show. Or change up the rhythms, something! I couldn’t go through motions, not with something I love so much.
Next up: writing/recording new music for clients. Mentally, even that wants a break. Must fight the inertia…studio calls! Poetry and Music Muses…hover closer…!
This is actually a cool ad: how we never see ourselves as others see us. Just Beautiful.
You called it.
Leaving a high bog to skirt
a canyon, sea urchin spines
tracing our path down a wall, and
over, oyster ridge to the Paleocenes.
Winded, we climb upriver
gather discs and arcs past
Miocene mists, to the boulderfield
gateway of glass cuttlefish and
Finally, sun fixed high, where all seas retreat
this treasured lagoon at our feet, a crusted floor
of barnacles, bone shards, trilobite
stepping-stones, scorched iridescent,
abundant. You look at the horizon to tell time-
Here, we weren’t yet predators, you and I
I eye you carefully.
Smart enough to flee.
Fast. Soft. Bony enough to fit, trap
snugly in my shark tooth grasp.
They told me walk. Just pretend
not to hear, Juice Joint Jake
playing aces, slamming rummies
pinching smarties dancing through.
In this parlour, this petting zoo of
prohibitions, I could get lost, or move in
Creole belles, moonshine and mambo
swaying pearls and the wiggle patrol…
But nothing phases Absinthe Tina. Not
a full house of feathers, lust and money, not
parlour games or unmarked bills, not
another bullet proof vest- just hummingbird
express, out one backdoor and east into another.
“Ish kabibble” was all he said. The place fell silent.
You fell to the floor. Staccatoed cacophony, a shower of glass.
My sidecar sweat its memories in dewdrops.
Darn that dream.
Prompt: a list of phrases and words in the running for a new band name. The pick? Absinthe Tina.
Today is reveal day for the artists participating in the first annual Art of Science Creative Challenge first pitched here. The challenge: to create something, anything- inspired by this NASA image of the birthplace of stars… Orion’s Nebula!
I finished one piece and have others in the works- a bracelet, and pendants inspired by Marina Rios’ designs (resin dryng…), so stop back by in a day or so to see more.
For the pendant on this necklace, I used a Mayan raku lentil focal (Wonderous Strange) with subdued but shimmering gold/pink/blue hues. From a gold hand-hammered link, dangles of large raw appetite, chalcedony, and smoky quartz teardrops. (My first headpins inspired by Fanciful Devices- headpins tutorial.. Yippee!
The color palate of this photo was hard to cover completely! At first I started with saturated colors and lots of crystals for stars. But I was drawn to the Mayan lentil (as a pod for birthing…), and wanted to keep it more organic. For the oranges and pinks, I used some coveted enameled rounds from Andrew Thornton, along with fire agate, and light citrine. Two more colors of blue Chalcedony for the aquas. All finished off with grey, peach, and tanzanite colored silk sari ribbons. I’ll post the other pieces as I finish them. (the picture keeps inspiring more!)
There is a delay in blog postings (my west-coast bent and a late reminder) BUT keep checking back: the artists participating are a diverse (cool!!) group of poets, designers, jewelers, photographers. Some are posting after work today, from various time zones, or need more time Check back over the next coupla’ days.
Happy Blog hopping!
Tara Linda (You are here)