There were a couple of people at CWA who I gleefully told instantly, during our very first encounter, the story of my reunion with my birth mother. It had just taken place the previous day and I was electric with it. I was drawn to detail the story with Pixar's Director of Photography for Lighting & lovely human - Danielle Feinberg and trombonist/vocalist/band leader BadAss - Ron Wilkins because they were both so warm, so open, so genuinely interested in our conversation- that it just naturally bubbled out. I fell in love with, like, twenty people at CWA. The speakers I met were, without exception, engaged, committed, interested, knowledgeable, empathetic... but with these two I felt I could show my heart within seconds.
As detailed in the previous two blogs I enjoyed all of the panels, but when it came down to those that touched upon what I spend all my days doing, now those had even more of an effect on me.
The very title Rhythm and words: Part 1 is ambrosia for my brain. Wonderfully open to interpretation - we could cover a lot of ground with a title like that! My fellow panelists were Ernie Watts ( Let me just freak out into a delirious state of fandom for a sec. Ernie, two time Grammy winner, comfortable playing the spectrum from The Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, Carole King, Charlie Haden, Dizzy Gillespie et al, jazz royalty, prolific, charismatic, wonderful Watts- I mean c'mon big-hearted, generous, virtuoso ERNIE WATTS ya'll! Phew, there! I'm done- just sayin'! ) Okay, so on the panel were also: the aforementioned delectable Mr. Wilkins, Lebanese superstar percussionist & composer- the magical Rony Barrak, Clare Muireann Murphy an utterly enchanting, riveting storyteller- and last but by no means least aerialist, dancer, contortionist - the hypnotizing Lena Gutschank.
One of the most beautiful things about this panel was the different direction from which these singular artists approached that title and the spontaneity and generosity with which they all shared their ideas. Clare tumbled into the green room after a previous panel with Ernie, you know Ernie WATTS?!, all aglow.
I confided to her as we waited for the other panelists to arrive, "I'm a teensy bit daunted by the idea of improvising with him."
Clare told me, "It's all good- Listen he is a Zen Master, everything that comes out of his mouth carries insight, carries wisdom."
She nailed that observation- Ernie started off with,
"Let's go to the beginning, we're all a part of the same energy, we all come from the same energy flow. The primal rhythm is the heartbeat."
Well, just go see the full panel yourselves, it is so worth hearing him (and everyone else!). It's divided into two parts which you can see here:
At any rate, it was a thrilling, magical, mystical, musical moment and everyone in the room was along for the ride. A video is never the same thing as living anything in the moment but here ya go anyways...
After that happy experience, Rony Barrak and I dove into another panel immediately following with pianist extraordinaire Adrean Farrugia. What a joy to listen to Adrean - his virtuosity, fluidity and light touch very moving. Balm for my ears as I was missing Maestro Cremaschini ( who sweetly sent me one of my favorite covers of his- Ruby my Dear which he recorded after live streaming the Rhythm and Words panel ) At any rate this panel Immigration: Moving Stories was intriguing and I found myself fascinated by how different each of our stories was, yet how much we all had in common. That's kinda true of traveling as well, isn't it? The more I bop around- the more I see the commonalities rather than differences.
Anyhoodles - Friday morning I had the Jazz Jam...at 10:30 a.m. directly after another 9:00 - 10:20 panel ( LGBTQ is Not Easy: Acceptance - So good, but I digress...) . Er uhhhhhmmmmm isn't that an oxymoron? Jazz Jam 10.30 A.M. ???? Whatever, it was truly so much fun, seeing those consummate professionals tearing it up- in the, er early morning. Now those of you who know me know also that I chafe a bit at being labeled a jazz singer as I don't feel worthy of the term. I am much more comfortable with singer/songwriter, that's how I see myself, so you can imagine I had some trembly knees as I waited for musical director & Associate Professor of ( AHEM!) Jazz Studies- the brilliant trumpeter (bassist, drummer, composer) Brad Goode to call me up to jam with these gifted cats. There's nothing for it though but to do what you do and I was reminded of a conversation I had had with a friend of a friend who upon meeting me for the first time queried,
"So, after having lived in so many different countries and now having been in Italy so long, where do you consider home?"
I was honestly stumped for a moment. I've been in Italy for twenty years and for the foreseeable future I don't really see myself leaving it... I love it and think of it as home in some aspects, and every time I return to France it FEELS like home, like where I grew up, but the American in me, I love that too and when I return I feel such a connection... I hemmed and hawed and couldn't really give him a definitive answer. Later that evening he came to a show. As soon as it ended he came up to me and said,
"If anyone else ever asks you where your home is, just tell them the stage!"