November: Looking back, looking ahead

Ugh. From the toxicity and anger of election season to 2016’s seemingly endless succession of great musicians’ deaths (Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Mose Allison, and Sharon Jones, all in one week?!), November was kind of a rough month.

By the morning of November 9th, the 24-hour news cycle and the echo chamber of social media had become overwhelming and more than a little depressing. And so, desirous of less “noise” and tired of wasting my mental and spiritual energies (to say nothing of my time) on fruitless discourse, I decided to take down my Facebook account.

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5 miles! Bring on the sweet potatoes.

Oh, I’m still on Twitter and Instagram, but I find that neither platform is the rabbit hole for me that Facebook was. And, full disclosure, I do still have my music page up on Facebook, but since I administer that page with a pseudonymous account (i.e., no “friends”), there are no news feeds, flame wars, fake news, or—somewhat tragically—cat memes to contend with. The bottom line is, I’m happier, more focused and productive, and less inundated with news I can’t use. Huzzah!

November brought some good things, of course: DUCHESS turned 3, I enjoyed some lovely gigs, and of course, there was Thanksgiving to celebrate. This year, I ran my first-ever Turkey Trot with my dear friend Rebecca, and later that day, we feasted with a special kind of abandon that comes from kicking off one’s morning with a 5-mile run.

The month closed with two amazing variety hour performances at Jazz Standard with DUCHESS. We were joined by Christian McBride and Kat Edmonson as our special guests. We played ukuleles and kazoos, we told lots of jokes, a specialty cocktail was created in our honor…oh, yes, and we sang quite a bit, too. It was a blast. Our sophomore release, Laughing at Life, is coming out in February, and we’re in heavy-duty business mode right now, planning tours and preparing for the launch of a special new project, the details of which I can’t divulge just yet.

Lucky gals. Christian McBride and Kat Edmonson!

Lucky gals. Christian McBride and Kat Edmonson!

Looking ahead, I’ve got two recording projects in the works: one is a jazz tribute to the bird and the bee (in collaboration with drummer Charles Ruggiero) and the other is a recording of intimate piano/vocal duets (in collaboration with pianist Ehud Asherie). The former is in post-production, while the latter will be recorded this weekend; both will see release sometime in 2017.

I love everything about the holidays: Christmas music, parties, food, and the sentimentality that overtakes even the most stoic among us. As this year draws to a close, my wish is simple: may we be thankful, may we be hopeful, may we be kind.

In November, I…
Blogged about: DUCHESS turning 3. October. Singer-friend Kat Edmonson.

Read: La Venessiana, a blog about Venice that bestows a few minutes of beauty and escapism upon the reader. Never Eat Your Heart Out, by Judith Moore, an unflinching and gorgeously written memoir that juxtaposes discomfort and beauty on every page.

Watched: In the Room, by Lawrence Dial. A funny and poignant play that got some much-deserved good ink in the Gray Lady. The Crown. Chaplin.

Listened to: Music of great comfort and humanity, especially Carmen McRae and Stevie Wonder. Leo Sidran’s insightful podcast, The Third Story.

 

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October: Looking back, looking ahead

We are exactly three weeks away from Thanksgiving, and this year, my plans look a little different than in Novembers past: on Thanksgiving morning, I will be lacing up my running shoes and joining my friend R. in Prospect Park for a 5-mile Turkey Trot.

In early October, I began using a running app that, despite its horrible name, has been a really effective tool for gradually building speed and endurance. As an added bonus, the app comes with DJ-curated running playlists, including a whole lot of 90s hip-hop, which means I may occasionally be spotted lip-syncing to FELLOW BROOKLYNITE Biggie Smalls as I jog through Brooklyn Bridge Park.

New shoes, autumn leaves...Turkey Trot T-minus 3 weeks & counting!

New shoes, autumn leaves…Turkey Trot T-minus 3 weeks & counting!

Last month, I also had the delight and honor of performing with the great saxophonist, Harry Allen, for two sold-out nights at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (Jazz at Lincoln Center).  Talk about a dream gig: singing to a packed house with a swinging, supportive band against the panoramic backdrop of Columbus Circle and Central Park. I’m grateful for every gig I have, but those evenings with Harry at Dizzy’s were truly special.

Singing and swinging with Harry Allen & friends. Photo by Ivana Falconi Allen.

Singing and swinging with Harry Allen & friends. Photo by Ivana Falconi Allen.

Looking ahead, the DUCHESS gals and I have a couple of really exciting shows on the horizon. We’ll be at the Jazz Standard here in NYC on 11/29 and 11/30, joined by special guests Christian McBride and Kat Edmonson. We’re reviving the “variety hour” concept, inspired by Rat Pack-era shows from years ago, and we cannot wait to sing, laugh, and make merry with our friends and fans.

Finally, Tuesday, November 8 is just a handful of days away. Come on, America. Let’s appeal to what Lincoln himself called the “better angels of our nature” and not elect a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, KKK-endorsed (!) narcissistic liar to the highest office in the land.

In October, I…
Blogged about: Traveling through Italy with my mom. Singer-friend Nicky Schrire. DUCHESS turning 3.

Read: Old journals. I’ve been doing a little excavating of my past for a writing project I’ve got in mind. Good heavens, if there is anything more humbling than reading one’s own terrible poetry, penned in one’s lovelorn early 20s, I don’t know what it is. Hilarious and mortifying.

Watched: The Search for General Tso. An informative, fun, and unexpectedly moving film about searching for the origins of a quintessential Chinese-American dish. Trumbo. Bryan Cranston is fantastic as blacklisted Hollywood writer Dalton Trumbo, although I wish they’d given the always-excellent Diane Lane, who plays Trumbo’s wife, a little more to do. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Because it’s a Halloween classic (can you believe it’s 50 years old!?).

Listened to: The Land of Desire. This well-researched, conversational podcast exploring the history of France is fun and educational. Worth a listen.

#ImWithHer

Patriotic pumpkins, seen in Brooklyn Heights. Friends, please VOTE!!! #ImWithHer

Life is in the details.

Oooh, Troy Dyer. As a teenager, I was madly in love with Ethan Hawke’s character in the film Reality Bites. Brooding, anti-establishment, literary, and elusive, Troy was the quintessential 1990s heartthrob. In college, I dated my own version of Troy Dyer: a smart-as-a-whip skateboarder novelist with a tough but tender demeanor who dressed in Seattle’s trademark flannels and Carhartts. My Troy Dyer harbored a deep-seated distrust of “the man” and swore he’d never become a corporate drone like his father.

Well, my Troy Dyer and I broke up years ago and have long since lost touch. Last I heard, he got married and became a corporate attorney. I suppose that’s what happens to many of the world’s 20-something renegade dime-store philosopher-poets: they grow up and replace their flannels with staid business attire. They trade in their Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer for an austere Chassagne-Montrachet. They replace their skateboards with BMWs. Sometimes I wonder how he’s doing. I hope he’s happy.

Anyway, when I want a good dose of 1990s nostalgia, I pop in my Reality Bites DVD and am transported to an era in which Winona Ryder was the high priestess of Gen-X angst and Ethan Hawke’s greasy slacker was the epitome of cool. I remember being in my early 20s and feeling awestruck but undaunted by life’s big decisions and impenetrable mysteries.

My 30s, on the other hand, seem to be ushering in an era of increased self-acceptance and peace. Sure, there’s work to be done, choices to be made, and obstacles to be overcome, but these days it’s life’s wondrous unfolding that proves compelling. I am no longer governed by the quixotic impulse of my 20s to arm-wrestle life into making sense. Much to my surprise (and occasional horror), I seem to have grown up a bit.

In 1994, when Reality Bites was released, I felt a kinship with the film’s angst-ridden 20-something protagonists. Watching the movie now, though, I don’t relate to the characters so much as I feel for them. I want to tell them that life won’t feel this chaotic forever, and that the soul-searching they’re doing is just as valuable as the answers they’ll eventually find.

Then again, I think they’d probably tell me to lighten up, for Chrissake. Go easy on the heavy-handed philosophy. After all, according to the preternaturally wise Troy Dyer,

There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a…a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know…a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter becomes a cackle…

Troy had a good point. This Thanksgiving, why not raise a glass and give thanks for the little things, the mundane details that shape our lives? Personally, I’m thankful to be out of my 20s. But I hope I never get too old to tie one on with my friends and dance for no reason at all.