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Jazz: A Language Beyond Time

Jazz transcends mere musical style; a rich, complex language born over a century ago. Invented by African American musicians, jazz fused the emotional depth of The Blues with the sophistication of western classical music. This melding created a unique sound characterized by soulful stories, intricate harmonies, and the vibrant rhythms of New Orleans. These rhythms, rooted in African and West Indian traditions, were blended by the combined cultures of formerly enslaved people into the complex beats that pulse at the heart of jazz.


As jazz's presence and popularity grew, spreading across the country and then the world, musicians began to apply this new language to contemporary hits of their times. Along with the dedicated jazz songwriters like Duke Ellington, there were reinterpretations and transformations of popular songs from stage and screen into what are known as jazz standards, the foundational pillars of the Great American Songbook. This legacy is more than a collection of tunes; it's a platform for ongoing innovation and a tribute to the ingenuity of our musical forebears.


As a teenager, new to jazz, having discovered Ella Fitzgerald leading me down the path to the pantheon of jazz vocal giants, I developed an insatiable passion for these standards and the language of jazz. I delved deep into this musical treasury, learning, cataloging, practicing, and ultimately performing these classics first in my hometown of New York City, and over time worldwide. I was immersed and enamored in jazz and jazz standards, listening to and performing music that even predated my grandparents. I had an impressive collection of vintage clothing to complete the presentation. I knew and used much of the slang from the time, and appreciated the movies and pop culture from the same era. I was "in it."


Yet, while I cherished these historical gems, I began to feel a pull from the past to the present. I was a person living in this time, not at that time. What started as an internal whisper grew into a longing to blend this traditional language that I loved, spoke, shared, and celebrated with my modern voice. Living in the past felt increasingly like an act of preservation rather than a genuine and relevant authentic expression. The creators of these songs communicated in a way that was inherently different from the way that I and people in my own time communicate.


A lot changes in 100+ years. These songs were written some of them before the roaring '20's, long before we had the internet or home computers. Before the civil rights movement, and the women's rights movement. Some of the songs were written before women had the right to vote. The way we work is different. Our concerns, the ways in which we identify as a people, and our ideas of what fun looks like and feels like are all different. The way we flirt, date, fall in love, and break up, is all different. They moved on and developed with time. We raise families differently, and the cultural norms have shifted. There is a different language and different customs around all of it. While timeless in their sentiments, and universal experiences at the core, the old feels like a vignette or a snapshot of a different time, like a costume party. It doesn't feel like real life today, not to me. The best jazz is approached with authenticity. Authenticity is at the core of all great art, but especially so of jazz. I felt, at least for me, there was something inauthentic about singing only the songs from a bygone era.


Over time, gradually, I began to build my catalog of original jazz songs. My first recording "Love" released in 2000, when I was 25 years old, was all original material. Between then and now I have recorded some songs by other songwriters, but the vast majority of my discography features new songs written by me in a voice of today.


One approach is to record the old songs in a new way, to arrange the songs so that they feel hip or updated. For me I was still stuck with the lyrics of an older vernacular and I couldn't get away from the feeling that I was presenting history, not creating in the present.


Achieving mastery in any art requires time and dedication. I am, as I should be, a better songwriter 24 years later than I was when I wrote and released my first album. There was a period when I questioned my path, wondering if another genre might better suit me in my time. Considering that maybe Jazz, like classical was largely cast in past writing. This exploration was brief; jazz is fundamentally who I am. It is my native musical language and it is where I belong. It's the prism through which I interpret all music, translating from jazz even when working with other styles.


I make art through my authentic lens which arrived with me on the planet in 1975, grew up in the 1980s and 1990s in an artist loft in New York City, around the corner from the famed CBGBs nightclub. It was not glamorous, but it was very creative and both grungy and vibrant. I am an educated professional, a mother, and a wife in a healthy 25+ year relationship of equals, and that is my unique lens. I am not "a little lost lamb" looking for "my prince to come,' nor am I "a simpering whimpering child" and you get my point. None of that language is romantic in this time. Those lovesongs are from a different era. They don't speak to us in a language that the average man or woman speaks.


From time to time I am hired to sing at a gala or special event where I get to sing the old jazz standards that I love, and when that happens it is a real treat because just like the special event I am there to help facilitate with music, it is a special event for me too. It is not my whole life every day. My life exists in the present.


This is why and how I arrived as a writer of new jazz music, which I actively write and record today. My work is an ongoing contribution to the genre, the musicians, and the listeners written and recorded for today's audience, bridging past and present with every note.


Here's my first album "Love" from 2000. I have improved as a writer, and a singer over these past 24 years, but these were my beginnings. In them, you can hear hints of where I was headed, just as in my newest works hints of where I am going exist.



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