Friday, March 30, 2007

I am a Digital Goddess!!!

Yes!! I figured it out. And my apologies to my Scrabble friends at the Internet Scrabble Club for not being as attentive as usual. I've been lurking there, watching games and chatting while testing out various programs and finding my old songs to convert to readable formats. So instead of adorable pictures of my cute kids from their younger years, my desktop is now cluttered with shareware that can turn my mpeg4s and wavs into mp3s. Do you have any idea how this has tranposed me from a lowly nerd to a haughty geek? I thought I was totally analogue. Phew!

It has been brought to my attention that while I'm so busy heralding the accomplishments about others or the world around me, very little is actually known about my art or music. I am not the most forthcoming and am a very private person, believe it or not. So I will try to describe the music. Pardon moi if I do not divulge about the "why" of my songs and instead focus on the "how." Just easier for your humble blogger.

Before I go on, let me add that I decided to post the above picture of multi-instrumentalist Al Watsky (left), me and SoCalled (right, with corned beef sandwich) so that you would not be bored with what I'm about to talk about, namely, me. It was taken on Yona's phone last summer in Riverside Park, NYC. I also want to mention that SoCalled is an amazing guy. If you do not believe me, then check out his "These Are the Good Old Days" vid on YouTube. Ouph/e! See? There I go again. Distracting you.

Okay. About me. Um, my "myspace" is very much under construction and needs tons of work, but you can check out three of my songs at Pictures? Another time, amigo. First thing's first.

There you will find:

1. Tonight
2. Birds Can Swim (Fish Can Fly)
3. Lord of the Universe

They come from various places in time and space. "Tonight" was originally an uptown Bronxy doo-wop until Denis Keldie gave it a Barry White mojo feel and slowed it down dramatically. The instrumentation is low- to no-tech and includes a huge chromatic harmonica, acoustic guitar bass, and a Moog synth. See what else you can recognize in the layers there. It's a Protools recording, made in Denis's basement.

"Birds Can Swim (Fish Can Fly)" is inspired by Shalom Aleichem who asked, "A bird may love a fish, but where will they build a house together?" This song attempts to explore that. Because I think a lot of birds out there ended up with fish and face a lifelong balancing act. This was recorded at Wellesley Sound in downtown Toronto with great people like Denis, Dennis Pendrith on bass and Bucky Berger on drums. I set it to a Cajun beat, which is pretty normal for a Canadian girl with a guitar, I think!

"Lord of the Universe" is modeled after a liturgical poem that most people of the Big Three organized faiths can instantly recognize. I wanted to write a rip-snorting soca for Jouvert Morning, and voila. I did a rough mix on my Fostex X-15 and mailed it to my friend and producer, Ronnie Payne. I had sung a bit around St. Martin (French side) in the past with Ronnie at the keyboard and we had the good chemistry, so we kept in touch. We recorded the track in his home studio in Phillipsburg, Sint Maarten (Dutch side). My arrangement. The singer was a local guy whom the producer thought would add a little island flavour to the piece.

You should know that I had intended to upload a fourth tune, which is a ska I wrote about my old house in Kensington Market, affectionately known as the Hotel Kensington, but the file was too big for MySpace. So if any of you know how I make the file fit, get in touch. Anyhow, it is a great, pumpin' ska with a horn section, recorded in London's funky Camden Town, with drums by Jah Bunny who is Mr. Riddum on the international reggae scene. Paul McCartney signed him with his band, the Cimerons, back in the 1980s. Bunny put together a kick-ass bunch of studio guys, some of whom I knew from the reggae scene in Toronto. We had a ball with the track. Later I took it to Toronto and Denis Keldie sweetened it a bit. So I hope to get that one up somewhere -- maybe as a download. Getting there slowly but surely.

I hope you enjoy the tracks. I have a bunch of analogue stuff I am furiously digitizing from my club dates and hope to compile them. I know it won't happen in time for Mamapalooza, but somewhere down the road we will celebrate!!!

Upcoming posts to watch for - my appearance dates. Hope to see you again real soon.


PS -- I'm on the road again. Have a love-filled, meaningful and peaceful holiday.

Monday, March 26, 2007

At Last!

Spring has sprung. No more waiting, no more procrastinating. It's here. Time to get 'er done, whatever "She" is!

Methinks that enough of a segue to Mamapalooza Toronto. It's happening and it's huge. We're taking over the new Healey's on Blue Jays Way on Mother's Day (Sunday, May 13), so come all you saints and sinners, and make a day of it! We have a slew of new mom bands and acts, plus two special Daddy acts that we are adding this year. We also have a few of last year's veteran mom rockers who made our first-ever Mamapalooza Toronto a smashing success last Mother's Day at the Lula Lounge.

Be patient -- we are trying to get some last year's festivities up on YouTube. Tickets will go on sale very soon -- for a nice price, plus (bonus points) kids under 12 are free. Healey's will be offering a sumptuous Mother's Day brunch in addition to the great entertainment. Join us for a fabulous time! Can't stress that enough! Healey's is centrally located, easy to access via public transportation and there is plenty of parking in the neighbourhood.

No matter where in the world you are, IF YOU WANT TO PERFORM...go to the Mamapalooza website and register. Find your local festival and rock on, Mama!

If you're in or near New York City, we're having a very unique and exciting conference in May. Details available at the website under "Events." I hope to see you there. Definitely come by and say hi if you make it to the Toronto or New York City events.

New and noteworthy GuitarGirl tidbits

It's been a pretty productive and wonderfully woodsheddin' winter. I have two poems coming out in the new Mom Egg poetry book.

I have a couple of new songs that were tough to write because they are rather personal. I'm much more of a Laissez Les Bontemps Rouler kind of writer, so this is uncharted territory for me. More on that when the time comes to divulge.

I have a very exciting and important gig coming up June 10 at the Hebrew Union College with the Jewish People's Philharmonic Chorus. I am really honoured and thrilled to be part of this incredible group of talented singers. Choir director Binyumen Schaechter has been an incredible teacher and mentor, and I am forever indebted to him for the privilege of being his student and part of the alto section.

There is more news but I am going to hold off until I can get a few dates settled. Big news. But you will have to wait until next time.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

In case you missed it on NPR today.....
you can still hear it

My choir director, Binyumen Schaechter, writes:

If you missed the segment on WNYC radio today on "Weekend Edition Sunday" about
Mordkhe Schaechter, z"l, the father of Gitl and Binyumen, you can still hear it on the internet:
Remembering Yiddishist Mordkhe Schaechter (March 11, 2007).

You will also hear a bit about the Jewish People's Philharmonic Chorus. We have some upcoming dates that you should know about.
A Time to Teach;
A Time to Learn

Last week I came back from St. Martin to a kitchen table on which was sprawled the Village Voice, opened to an ad for Antony and the Johnsons at the BAM, and Time Out New York, which featured a notice about Michael Feinstein's Carnegie Hall program of romantic songs from the American Classic Songbook. Miriam wanted us to go on a date, and these were my choices.

That was a tough decision. I'd spent an entire week in St. Martin recovering from the cold and flu which cut my trip to Toronto short -- Marty had to "airlift" me back to New Jersey after I became too ill to drive home from Toronto. I infected four families who were with me at a little dinner soiree. Once I got back to my hosts's home I blacked out and crashed to the bathroom floor before trying to drag myself into bed, and blacking out a second time. Marty gave me only one choice -- to come home immediately -- and even that was postponed for one day while I slept it off.

Marty asked me to consider putting off the holiday by a week. I refused, wanting to stick to our schedule. And after such a tough year, I felt he did not deserve to have his holiday delayed by me. My body said "don't go" but I did not listen. Two days later we boarded a plane and headed to the tropics where the delightful, humid air brought on a relapse, and I spent most of my time reading, sleeping and listening to my iPod. And faithfully taking my meds, prescribed to me by the doctor at the Grand Case infirmary. I listened to Antony almost every day (and incidentally, Yes, I will have to go back to Toronto this week to pick up the car and drive it home). This is what happens when you do not have the word "no" in your vocabulary. I could/should have postponed the holiday by a week and might have gone hiking, windsurfing and snorkeling. Note to self: JUST SAY NO.

Anyway, now that I was back home, I enquired about Antony, but the show was totally sold out.

"Come on down to the show and wait until showtime for rush seats," came the suggestion by a well-intentioned salesperson. But I said "NO." Yes, I really did. I did not want to jeopardize my returning good health by waiting around in the cold night air for something that may not materialize.

I listened to the little voice in me which said, "Carnegie Hall." Success. We got a pair of cheap tickets, and on the day I placed my order, Michael Feinstein was on WNYC, talking about his PBS special on the Soundies.

Spending a few hours with Michael Feinstein is like taking a master class with a superb musicologist and visiting a favourite cousin. Not only does he know the stories behind the songs, but he made a life's work of befriending the composers and documenting their lives. Seeing him onstage in his suit and hearing his traditional singing style evokes an image of a lone Rat Packer. He was born in the wrong era. On the other hand, he is the son of the Rat Pack. He is a steward of all that great music who knows his job is to keep the music alive. As long as people keep coming to see him, he says, the music will live. I am still singing those songs in my head and mulling over some of the anecdotes that Michael told.

When we got home, there was an email from Lisa Roma -- one of our Mamapalooza performers from Arlene's Grocery.

She was singing as part of the Poetic Notion Chorus, which was to be an interpretive show of Laura Nyro's music.

From her email:

Poetic Notion Chorus is an inspired group of performers, soloists and musicians, directed by the gifted vocalist/composer and choral director, Rob Darnell. Chorus: Sandy Cleary, Corinne Goodman, Lisa Roma, Nikkie Schmeigelow, Meryl Zimmerman; band: Mike Czekaj (drums), Rob Darnell (vocals/piano), Jesse Martin (guitar). Poetic Notion is receiving a Soul Patrol award for one of the Best Performances of 2006. For more information, visit, or .

It took me almost two hours to make the trip to Park Slope, but it sure was worth it. The room was crammed with a hometown crowd of Laura enthusiasts and fans and friends of the performers. The show was an inspiring, soulful and loving display of great music and vocal talent. While I was in St. Martin I had read Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro by Michele Kort (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002) and felt that I had a deeper insight into Laura's music and the How's of her music if not the Why's.
Musical director/pianist/vocalist Rob Darnell was very true to Laura's improvisation and mid-song tempo changes. He offered up a very sweet and soulful harmony to anchor the female harmonies. I agree with the assessment that Laura would have been satisfied with these artistic interpretations of her work.
By all means visit Poetic Notions' website and be sure to read the review of their Dec. 2006 show.
In the spirit of Michael Feinstein's Carnegie Hall show, on this modest little corner in Brooklyn here was another excellent example of how important it is to keep the music about which we are passionate alive. In this way, we musicians can all be leaders.
It was pouring rain as I made it down the slope to the Manhattan subway. I stood on the platform with a guy who had also just come from the show. We gushed together until his train came. I smiled all the way back to the Village, despite the rain. I didn't even notice that the weather was probably 30 degrees warmer than it had been the night before. Maybe I am feeling a little bit healed.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Good luck at the DO, Brian!!
With love from "abinr, eilnst ot em" and the gang
PS -- no bacteria, viruses or doggy bags were hurt in the editing of this picture.