Spotlight On…Katy Bourne

For all its downsides (vitriolic political flame-wars, pseudoscience masquerading as fact, and getting tagged in embarrassing photos from high school, to name a few), Facebook can be a pretty cool place.  I’d never have funded my album without social media, and Facebook makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with people, whether they live right here in New York City or halfway across the world.

katy-background-2Katy Bourne, a Seattle-based vocalist and writer, is one such cyber-friend.  We have a number of mutual friends in Seattle’s jazz scene, but we got to know each other in the virtual realm of Facebook.  After corresponding online, Katy and I finally met in person last summer when I did a mini-tour in the Pacific NW.

There really is no substitute for actual face time (not FaceTime), but since Katy’s in Seattle and we’re all scattered hither and yon, we’ll convene here on this blog for a little conversation.  Thank you, Katy!

Who or what inspired you to pursue a life in music?
I grew up playing alto saxophone, but beyond the school marching band, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for a fledgling young sax player in my hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma.  And nobody was spinning jazz for me, at least not when I was a kid.  As a teenager, I spent a fair amount of time with older kids—friends of my big sister’s.  They turned me on to many artists from a wide range of genres.  We listened to everything and went to a ton of shows (Some of my fondest memories are of sneaking into Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, OK with a fake I.D.).  It was during this time that I got hip to Pat Metheny, Tom Scott, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and other contemporary jazzers.  I didn’t discover many of the early greats, such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald, until college.

Vocationally-speaking, my focus has predominately been on writing over the years.  Although music was always a big part of my life, I had no inkling that I would end up singing jazz.  I got into singing a little by accident when I was asked to join a blues band here in Seattle.  I ended up singing with that group and a few others around town.  After one of those bands died a particularly nasty death, I decided to lick my musical wounds by studying jazz with the great vocalist Greta Matassa.  I was hooked instantly. It’s been a long road and, God knows, Greta deserves some kind of sainthood status for her patience with me.  I like to say that going from blues to jazz, for me, was like going from playing hockey to figure skating.  Finesse and refinement do not come naturally for a goober like me.  I’ve had to work hard.  I will always have to work hard.

In the course of your musical development, what has come most naturally to you? What has been the most challenging?
I think I assimilate rhythm pretty well and enjoy horsing around with different grooves and odd meters.  Being a writer helps my rhythmic sensibility.  Writing is rhythm.

The most challenging thing for me…and the thing I love the most…is scat singing.  Improvisation is a big, crazy adventure.  So many layers to navigate.  You not only have to have intelligent ideas but also the chops to execute.  I am a lifelong student.

If you were to choose another profession, what would it be, and why?
Dance and choreography.  I love to dance, both within the structure of a class or out on the dance floor.  For me, nothing is more blissful or liberating than the almighty get down.  I am happiest when I’m moving.  It’s visceral for me.  And it’s the ultimate tool for assimilating rhythm.  When I’m in my car, I listen to music and make up choreography in my head. (And frequently try out the choreography later, often in the kitchen.)  I’m completely infatuated with Les Twins.  To move like those guys….well, that would be the ultimate.

Another very desirable profession for me would be sports journalism.  I’m insane for football and I love to write.  Seems like a damn perfect marriage to me.  I actually haven’t ruled this out as potential pursuit in the future.  Stay tuned.

Imagine that you can hire any musicians (from the past or present) for the gig of a lifetime. Who is in your “dream band?”
OK, that’s an impossible question, and the answer would be different on any given day.  I can tell you this much: I’d love to sing tricked-out standards in a duo gig with Hiromi in a cocktail lounge in outer space; I’d love to mainline the wild spirit of Gene Krupa and unleash across the cosmos on the two and four; I’d love to float in the Zen-like elegance of Eddie Gomez, perhaps channeling Bill Evans along the way.  Closer to home, if I ever had the chance to work with Randy Porter, I would die a happy woman.

bourne_fates_cdWhat’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, on or off the bandstand?
To always turn back to the music.  No matter what is going on during a gig—weirdness with the room or the crowd, sound problems, conflict with someone on the bandstand, whatever—ALWAYS turn back to the music.  In essence, get yourself (and your ears) back to the present moment.  That’s where everything is happening.  Listen.

What are your current musical obsessions? Who/what is in steady rotation when you listen to music lately?
Industrial Revelation has been dominating the iPod this summer.  Those guys are on another level.  I’ve also been revisiting many of the artists that I grew up with such as The Who (as well as Pete Townshend’s solo recordings), Hall & Oates, and Todd Rundgren.  I just saw Todd at the Crocodile in June, and the cat still completely has it.

Fun Fact…
I have a tattoo of a guy shoving a fork into a toaster.

You can read some of Katy’s writing on her blog, and if you’re in the Pacific NW, she’ll be appearing at North City Bistro on August 6 with pianist Darin Clendenin.  Her album, As the Fates Decide, is available on PonyBoy Records.

Nature Girl?

10629871_10204093763597978_2991751765022806651_n

Clearly having a blast camping.

I read once that green was Duke Ellington’s least favorite color, because green, being the color of grass, reminded him of bucolic landscapes.  As an inveterate city-lover, the Duke preferred pavement.  I have no idea if that anecdote is true or not (and I happen to like the color green), but, like Duke, I’ve never really been one for country life.  I mean, just look at this picture from my teen years, taken during a salmon-fishing camping trip in Alaska.  The aquamarine waters of the Kenai River flowed just outside our camper door, and there wasn’t a glimmer of modern civilization for miles.  Don’t I look thrilled?

This summer, however, my happiest moments have been spent communing with nature…in distinctly urban surroundings, mind you.  There’s a unique beauty to green spaces that are cultivated with the express purpose of providing a respite from the din of the city.  Here, then, are a few places and experiences that promise even the most citified among us a moment of peace amid New York’s clatter and thrum.

Central Park IMG_2902
Okay, yes, I’ve started with the most obvious.  But sometimes it’s good to remember that we can be tourists in our own city.  Thanks to the largesse (and connections) of a good friend, I had the indescribable pleasure of attending Shakespeare in the Park (The Tempest) at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park last month WITHOUT LINING UP FOR TICKETS AT 6 A.M., and I was literally speechless when the play ended.  The brilliance and power of Shakespeare’s poetry, combined with the changing colors of the night sky over Manhattan, fireflies twinkling overhead, and summer breezes wafting through the trees made for an unforgettable evening.

On another occasion, E. and I made an impromptu decision to spend an entire day wandering through our favorite parts of Central Park.  For me, that meant a trip to the reservoir and the northeast corner of the park, especially the Conservatory Gardens.  E., a native New Yorker, led us to Sheep’s Meadow for a sweet hour of people-watching and nostalgia. IMG_2905

Brooklyn Botanic Garden IMG_2930
Each spring, I make it a point to visit the BBG when the lilacs bloom.  Ranging from the whitest white to the deepest purple, the BBG boasts a vast array of lilacs.  I always look forward to joining my fellow winter-weary Brooklynites, as we bury our faces in the blossoms, breathing deeply the lilacs’ heady fragrance and the promise of summer.  This year, though, I (finally!) discovered that the BBG is free to the public every Tuesday, and I’ve taken to strolling through the gardens whenever weather and schedule permit.  A recent highlight was the moody, overcast afternoon I spent wandering through the riotously-in-bloom rose garden.

Tuesday Moon Bath Yoga and Pranayam: Evening Outdoor Yoga in Fort Greene Park
Okay, you guys, this is HANDS DOWN the most Brooklyn/Portlandia thing I’ve ever done, and you know what?  IT’S AWESOME.  While CrossFit die-hards grunt and pant nearby, we serenely stretch, chant, and breathe deeply as the sun sets over Brooklyn.  Kathryn is my favorite yoga teacher: smart and spiritual, without ever veering into the realm of preachiness or “woo.”  She teaches this by-donation class every Tuesday throughout the summer, and if you’re in the neighborhood, you should come.  You’ll leave feeling calm and rejuvenated. Yoga Collage Now that we’re in the middle of a heat wave, of course, I’ve got (air-conditioned) museums on my mind—the Jacob Lawrence Migration Series at MoMA, the Sargent exhibit at the Met, and the Sinatra retrospective at the Performing Arts Library—but that’ll be another post. What are your favorite verdant urban retreats?

June: Looking back, looking ahead

A riot of June roses at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

A riot of June roses at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

There’s been a rather conspicuous lack of blogging activity from yours truly as of late. The first few weeks of June were quite sedate, and I definitely had time to do some writing.  But I was busy being…well, not busy.  It was divine.

In early June, E. and I spent a languid Sunday strolling throughout the entirety of Central Park after brunch with friends on the Upper West Side.  An ordinary Tuesday was transformed into a memorable one when I paid a solo visit to the exuberantly blooming rose garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  We also celebrated E.’s birthday (twice!) with pizza at Lucali one evening and steaks at Peter Luger a couple of nights later.  Happily, I also recommenced running and made it a point to get to yoga class more often, too.  The combination of sunny days, great food, and exercise made for a fabulous start to my summer.

Sunset yoga in Ft. Greene Park

Sunset yoga in Ft. Greene Park

It’s a good thing I had some time off to rest and rejuvenate, because the last week of June kicked off the first installment of the DUCHESS summer tour.  From Ottawa to Boston to Toronto to Rochester to Saratoga, we logged hundreds of miles, laughed hundreds of laughs, did lots of interviews and a national television appearance on Canada AM, saw a couple of amazing shows (the Roots and John Pizzarelli), and lip-synched for a good cause. You can read about our adventures in more detail and see some fun photos on the DUCHESS blog.

Looking ahead, I’m gearing up for more travel. I’m heading to Cooperstown with Harry Allen this weekend for a concert celebrating the Great American Songbook.  Then, DUCHESS is traveling to the west coast mid-month for a few shows in Washington.  My Song Travels with Michael Feinstein interview will be airing on NPR this month, too, as will my appearance on Judy Carmichael’s Sirius XM show, Jazz Inspired.  I’m looking forward to more road trips, more laughs, and lots more music.

In June, I…
Blogged about: May.  DUCHESS: On the road again!

Watched: The Tempest.  I had never attended a Shakespeare in the Park performance, and I was utterly unprepared for the emotional impact of Shakespeare’s meditation on forgiveness and redemption.  The beauty and rhythm of the poetry was made all the more magical by the lushness of Central Park, the changing colors of the night sky, and the lazy fireflies floating in the air above us.  It was, quite simply, one of the most thrilling artistic experiences of my life.

Read: The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg.  A meticulously researched fictional portrait of the life of George Sand.  Full disclosure?  I found this book pretty slow going, but it made me curious to read some writing by Sand herself.

Listened to: Slow New York and Sunday Morning In Saturday’s Shoes, Richard Julian.  Time for Two, Michael Franks.  Spending long hours in the car last month provided the perfect opportunity to savor the wry irony and tenderness of these two masterful songwriters.

A sunny Sunday in Central Park

A sunny Sunday in Central Park

Scenes from Shakespeare in the Park on a balmy June night

Scenes from Shakespeare in the Park on a balmy June night.

May: Looking back, looking ahead

My heart is full and my head is still spinning from a magical few days spent in the Crescent City. I visited New Orleans for the first time back in October, when DUCHESS performed at Snug Harbor and the Boswell Sisters Revue.  To put it mildly, the city got under my skin in a big way, so when E. and I were deciding where we’d like to go for our first real vacation in several years, we immediately chose New Orleans.  The trip was pure pleasure, with every day spent eating and drinking (oh, how we ate and drank), walking through various neighborhoods, and delighting in incredible music literally around every corner.

Jackson Square under moody skies.

Jackson Square under moody skies.

I fell completely under the spell of JoAnn Clevenger, the septuagenarian proprietress of Upperline, a restaurant that will forever be New Orleans to me, both in spirit and cuisine.  E. kibitzed with Debbie Lindsay, who co-owns Kitchen Witch, a vintage cookbook store (!) in the French Quarter.  Debbie told E. stories about Cosimo Matassa and Allen Toussaint while ringing E. up for a mint-condition Ray Charles box set—because of course Kitchen Witch also sells CDs and vinyl. And late one night at the Spotted Cat, I caught up with an old friend and native New Orleanian, Kevin Louis, swinging out on trumpet and vocals with the New Orleans Jazz Vipers.

One day, we joined a throng of over a thousand people in a second line for a young NOLA musician who had passed away recently; we walked through Tremé surrounded by music that grooved so profoundly that I can only describe it as the sound of life itself.  We visited a little antique shop in the Faubourg-Marigny where E. bought me some costume jewelry from the 1950s and the shop owner told us that next time we visited, he’d have us over to his home, where he keeps the really good stuff.  We drank Sazeracs in a leafy garden at twilight, gaped at the splendor of the Garden District, and got goosebumps at a drum circle in Congo Square, the birthplace of virtually all American music.  There’s so much I want to tell you, and I suspect a more in-depth, focused blog post will be forthcoming.  For now, though, this little photo travelogue will have to suffice.

Looking ahead, I’m getting ready to hit the road with DUCHESS.  We’ve got quite a busy touring schedule this summer, and we’re heading out of town in just a couple of weeks.  DUCHESS’ June calendar contains performances at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, Regattabar in Boston, the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Rochester Jazz Festival, and the Saratoga Jazz Festival; you can check out our complete gig schedule on our website.

In May I…
Blogged about: April.  Singer-Friend Wendy Gilles.  Foodie Tuesday: Spring Green.

Watched: The Mad Men series finale.  I’ll miss the fashion, the martinis, and (most of all) Roger Sterling’s classic quips.

Read: Mostly NOLA guidebooks, to prep for our trip.

Listened to: The Peaceful Side, Billy Strayhorn.  A rare recording of Strayhorn at the piano, playing his own compositions.  Some tracks feature the addition of a string quartet and vocals by the Paris Blue Notes.  Strayhorn’s arrangements—especially the vocals—are beautiful and strikingly modern.  WWOZ, 90.7 FM.  The marvel of modern technology allows me to wake up to the sound of New Orleans right here in Brooklyn.

NOLA B&B

Clockwise from bottom left: our NOLA B&B served sweet potato-bacon-bourbon bread pudding for breakfast; the garden at our B&B; deciding the day’s itinerary.

NOLA CongoSquare

Scenes from Congo Square, right across the street from our B&B.

NOLA Food

Creole tacos, beignets, muffalettas, and lots of cocktails…NOLA is, without question, my kind of town!

Foodie Tuesday: Spring Green

IMG_2447After a long, dark winter, the lush unfurling of springtime is a benediction.  The regeneration of the natural world is energizing and inspiring, and despite (or perhaps thanks to) the intense “circle-of-life” reflection that the season can bring, spring finds me wanting to lighten up. Culinarily speaking, I crave brightness and simplicity, which can be easily found in spring produce: baby asparagus, fava beans, and new peas, to be precise, all of which have made appearances on our dinner table in recent weeks.

A couple of months ago, I was browsing the culinary section of a used bookstore in DUMBO when I chanced upon Amarcord, a memoir by Marcella Hazan, the grande dame of Italian cooking.  Hazan’s forthright description of springtime vignarola is proof positive that Italians are unparalleled when it comes to showcasing the intrinsic glories of seasonal produce.

You must be there at just the one moment in the spring when baby fava beans, small rosebud artichokes, and very small peas, all at the same early stage of development, appear in the market at the identical time.  If it should last more than two weeks, it is a lucky year; a month, a prodigy.  You also need some cipollotti, young onions, and a small head of romaine lettuce.  The onion is sliced and cooked in olive oil until it is very soft.  You add the lettuce, the trimmed artichokes, the shelled beans and peas, and cook.  The vegetables are so young that it doesn’t take very long.  When done, it doesn’t look very presentable.  It is a dark, mushy mass that you might think a careless cook had produced.  But when you take a mouthful, it is as though spring itself in all its tenderness has been delivered in edible form.

Fava beans team up with asparagus in another quintessentially springtime preparation, which is so simple that it can scarcely be called a “recipe.”  I’ve prepared this salad as a side dish, but tossed with pieces of gently poached chicken breast or topped with a broiled salmon fillet (in which case I’d omit the cheese), it can easily serve as the main event.

Spring Salad (adapted from Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights, by Sophie Dahl)

  • 1 bunch of young asparagus
  • 1 cup of cooked fresh fava beans (blanch and remove outer skins) 
  • generous handful of chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup of shaved pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • squeeze of lemon (optional)

Steam or boil the asparagus until the spears are just tender—they should retain a bit of firmness.  Shock the asparagus in an ice bath and chop into 2″ pieces.  Toss the asparagus and the fava beans in a couple of tablespoons of grassy extra virgin olive oil, along with the mint and cheese, then add salt and pepper to taste.  For extra brightness, finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Here in New York City, outdoor space can be tough to come by, and few of us are able to eat what we’ve grown ourselves.  Happily, farmer’s markets abound, bringing the verdant freshness of spring vegetables within reach.  This time of year, it is easy bein’ green.

Veg Collage

Spotlight On…Wendy Gilles

Wendy Gilles and I went to the same college, a lush woodsy campus in the Pacific Northwest. We have many mutual friends.  We even studied under the same voice teacher.  We both are deeply rooted in classical technique and training, but also keep a foot firmly planted in the world of jazz.  We didn’t discover any of these coincidences, however, until we (also coincidentally) became neighbors, living just one block away from one another in New York City.  We formally “met” one another on MySpace (remember MySpace?!) and marveled at the many ways our lives could have intersected, but didn’t, until we both moved to Harlem.

385432_533215656047_573873859_nWendy is a rare bird: she’s an active choral singer and cantor, bringing her precise musicality and a bell-like vocal clarity to some of New York City’s most prestigious professional choirs.  She is also a lyricist and a thoughtful, swinging jazz singer.  For the past few years, Wendy has been singing with the Grammy-winning (!!!) Gil Evans Project, helmed by Ryan Truesdell.  The Gil Evans Project has garnered Wendy some terrific press, as well as a debut at Carnegie Hall and a busy touring schedule.

Wendy is also just a swell gal.  She’s smart, she’s funny, and she’s kind.  Wendy is prepping for her yearly residency with the Gil Evans Project at the Jazz Standard, but she took the time to answer some questions for my little blog, and I’m very grateful.  Thanks, Wendy!

Who or what inspired you to pursue a life in music?
I think the driving force behind choosing to make music my living has always been the joy and gratification I feel when I sing.  It is a visceral and intellectual activity that challenges me, body and mind.  It’s also something I know I am definitely not happy without.  If I had to choose a particular artist who inspired me, it would probably be Ella Fitzgerald.  When I received my first Ella record as a gift at 14 years old, I already loved choral singing, and had an interest in joining our jazz choir, but I was fairly timid about it all.  The first time I really listened to her, something clicked.  After a few listens, I could mimic every song and solo verbatim, and I learned an entirely new musical vocabulary.  Ella unlocked something in me—to imitate her, I had to let go of a lot of preconceived notions I had about sound, timbre, and what was “pretty.”  She also basically taught me how to improvise.

In the course of your musical development, what has come most naturally to you? What has been the most challenging?
The easiest part has always been the singing.  I started singing at two years old, and harmonizing with my mom around three years.  Developing my instrument and building my skills as a musician has always been rewarding and intuitive for me.  Academically speaking, I was always really great with ear training, and not-so-great with theory.  The biggest challenges for me in pursuing a career in music have been the more business-related skills: networking, self-promotion, PR, and having confidence in myself as a leader and creative voice.  I also have struggled to find my footing as someone who works in both the classical and jazz worlds. Trying to figure out my identity in both worlds, and to find a balance between them, is an ongoing pursuit.

If you were to choose another profession, what would it be, and why?
I would love to be a voiceover artist.  I probably have way too much fun doing several accents and dialects in my everyday life, and I could definitely see myself making a living from it.  I also moonlight as an editor and ghostwriter for a couple of projects already, and could be pretty happy doing that on a larger scale.  I’m a bit of a word nerd, and making sentences more concise, effective, and evocative, satisfies my inner grammarian.

11115692_578835753007_7991289144007838251_nImagine that you can hire any musicians (from the past or present) for the gig of a lifetime. Who is in your “dream band?”
Hmm. I would love to sit next to Nat King Cole at the piano and sing duets.  I think one of the most fun concert ideas I could imagine would be recreating the Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley collaboration.  I love all of those arrangements, and the band is just so in the pocket.  I’m lucky enough to get to sing with a serious dream band in real life, when I sing with the Gil Evans Project.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I sing with those guys.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, on or off the bandstand?
The best advice I’ve received is the same advice I give to aspiring singers who ask for guidance: be as diverse and flexible a musician as possible—don’t pigeonhole yourself.  Certainly, develop and hone your craft, but know that each kind of musical style has the potential to inform and improve upon another.  I would also say that it is important to value collaboration over personal achievement.  The best artists I know are humble, collaborative people who derive so much from making music with others.  If you’re intently focused mostly on just yourself and your sound, you’ll miss the best stuff that’s going on around you, and may even inhibit your ability to truly excel.

What are your current musical obsessions? Who/what is in steady rotation when you listen to music lately?
I listen to a lot of the Wailin’ Jennys (voices in close harmony are like balm for my soul), Love This Giant by St. Vincent and David Byrne, anything from Audra McDonald, Joni Mitchell, Kate McGarry, Patty Griffin.  I haven’t actually been listening to a ton of jazz, lately.  I’ve been beefing up on some Renaissance polyphony, especially Carlo Gesualdo.

Fun Fact…
I grew up spending a lot more time in a dance studio than in a practice room.  I took tap, jazz, and ballet lessons from the time I was three, until I left for college.

Wendy will be appearing with The Gil Evans Project at the Jazz Standard this week, May 14-17. Get your tickets and treat yourself to some beautiful music!

 

April: Looking back, looking ahead

“Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.” -Ellis Peters

11204887_10205714760681892_444853869013410021_nTo begin a post with a quote feels very “college-admissions-essay” to me, but Ellis Peters’ words seem especially fitting in these first days of May. Seemingly overnight, New York City has burst into exuberant, riotous bud and flower.  E. and I took a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Sunday and the beauty was overwhelming.  The scent of lilacs wafted on the breeze, the rainbow-hued tulips were dazzling, and we were so happy to stroll in the springtime sunshine that our first sunburns of the season went unnoticed until the following morning.

But, as the song goes, “spring can really hang you up the most,” and that feels pretty goddamn true, lately, too.  Last week, I was devastated to learn that my first singing teacher and musical mentor died of breast cancer. During my wretchedly awkward early teenage years, Janet Stotts gave me a sense of self and of belonging in the world.  She was an extraordinary woman who touched thousands of lives, and I am deeply grateful to have been her student.

11205157_10205714768602090_7286000846154644776_nAnd, this being May, we are nearing the two-year anniversary of Joshua Wolff‘s passing.  Josh was a wonderful pianist and a dear friend, and he’s never far from my thoughts. I remember wandering in a daze through my lushly blooming neighborhood two springs ago, when Josh was ill, bewildered that the world could contain such heartbreaking suffering and loveliness at the same time.

I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to be a downer.  But there is something about the tender newness of spring that invites reflection on life’s opposites: yes, we are fragile and vulnerable, and our time here is short.  But there will always be a spring, audacious and resilient.  Isn’t that amazing?  No matter how bruised and battered we are by the harshness of winters both literal and metaphorical, the life force “that through the green fuse drives the flower” (Dylan Thomas) always reasserts itself.  And I am, indeed, perpetually astonished.

In April I…
Blogged about: March.  Lady Day at 100.* The “Charlie” to our “Angels,” Oded Lev-Ari (for DUCHESS).
*My Billie Holiday post was chosen by WordPress for the “Freshly Pressed” homepage, and was shared hundreds of times on social media.  I’m honored that the post resonated with so many people.

Watched: A Star Has Burnt My Eye, a mixed-media theatrical production that told the strange, sad story of the mysterious songwriter Connie Converse.  This show haunted me for days afterward.

Read: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel.  A poetic novel about a troupe of wandering Shakespearean actors and classical musicians, post-apocalypse (a flu has killed 99% of the world’s population).  This book explores questions about why we make art, and whether creative expression matters in the face of unspeakable horrors.  The way that the author interweaves her characters’ lives in this sprawling, yet cohesive story is masterful.

Listened to: Stevie Wonder, Songs In The Key Of Life.  LIVE!!!  Songs In The Key Of Life has been a part of my musical consciousness as long as I can remember.  Getting to see and hear Stevie Wonder perform this album live and in person was the thrill of a lifetime.  I pretty much wept for three hours.