Saturday, March 29, 2008

Performing Intent

I want to sing landscapes in your mind
stark and serene as a Chinese water colour,
the grey green and white of rocks trees and clouds,
I want to give you a melody quick and deep as a Japanese Haiku
dances you through the seasons, Cherry blossoms to snow,
I want to play rhythms in your belly that move your hands and hips,
to tell stories wrapped in colours of Indian sarees and mendhi,
I want to sing the prayers that call you to Middle East temples,
to feel the cool mosaic tiles against your forehead
and the curling desert heat at your back,
I want to sing you into sweatlodge with the Ancients,
dance you to the heat in your own heart,
dance you to the stillness of the stone circles
on Turtle Island and gentle English hillsides,
I want to take you on a sentimental journey
over the white cliffs of Dover,
let you throw the colours of Holi and
prepare tea as a blessing,
take you to the Sock-hop or the Star Nation
I wanna take you higher,
tribal fires, open water, mid-air and down to earth,
lift you from your seat, adjust your heartbeat and
call you safely home to yourself,
I want to sing of manners and magic
for I know no other home than thee and me,
Creator between us, the Love
our creation.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Belated Sayonara, Songbird

With great respect and fondness, I bid a belated sayonara to a most beloved songbird from my youth. Miyoshi Umeki, a wonderful talent, slipped quietly away in August of 2007. I found out quite by accident, a short while ago.
Perhaps you will remember her from the old film, "Sayonara," for which she earned a Best-Supporting Actress Oscar. She played the wife of Red Buttons. Marlon Brando was the film's star.
Others may know her from the musical film, "Flower Drum Song," and still more may know her from the old television show, "The Courtship of Eddie's Father."
Miyoshi Umeki is lovingly counted on my list of mentors. She was well-known in Japan and Southeast Asia as a singer when I was growing-up in Malaysia and Singapore. In voice, she made herself known to me and beckoned me down a musical road.
When she spoke, her voice was air...light, respectfully if she sighed and hid behind the fan of modesty, of expectation. Ah, but when she sang...she was water...fluid, deep, changeable and full of something that could not be described, something that made your chest ache and soothe all at the same time. She sounded like both the pressure and the pleasure of the deep end of the pool.
I went searching through yooztoobies and found this perfect gem of a video. I've provided the link below, to ease the load for those on dial-up computers.
Miyoshi Umeki was a guest with Gisele MacKenzie, just after her Oscar-win. Listen to her voice as she enters the scripted banter with her hostess. Hear the breathiness of her speaking voice and then allow yourself the pleasure of diving deep with her into the song, "How Deep Is The Ocean." Listen to her open her delightful instrument, deep and soulful one minute, high and shimmering with vibrato in the song's break.
So I bid you sayonara, little songbird. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Fling...from the music side...

Spring Fling was Jazz Musette's first gig of the year, after spending the winter doing the work of arrangements, rehearsals and recording. It may look easy when we're up on stage but many hours' (not to mention the years of training) hard work are behind it. I'm not complaining, indeed it's the kind of work that feeds me and I reach for the creative process hungrily. In a world where so much is out of our control, the music is where we go for sanity...and making worlds of our own.

After setting up the equipment, Bebop said, "Wow, I dreamt I found some musicians to play with...and we made a band...and ended-up onstage we are!!" The day any of us loses this kind of enthusiasm, we better hang it up. But, in nearly forty years this spark still ignites.

Bebop, Ed and Mark have played together much longer...but this year marks my tenth anniversary with the band...and T3's fifth. Reason enough to celebrate, I'd say. What a difference a decade makes. Meeting the fellas and having old jazz standards come back from muscle-memory was to begin a whole new chapter of my career...a career I thought was in semi-retirement from, upon leaving the New York scene. After all those years of belting out rock, R&B, and blues...jazz welcomed me softly and with a joy of being able to adjust my style for longevity. You have no idea the strength required to have your voice dominate over a wall o' amps. Even Janis Joplin wouldn't be screaming like Janis Joplin, had she lived to this age in her music. The first Thursday I ever joined the Musetteers still stands out clearly for the thrill of being able to play with tone, timbre and levels in my voice. Not since the early days of Folk music had my abdominal muscles been allowed to get out of crunch mode.

I didn't know that night would begin to mold all my melodies and stories into a whole new catalogue of songs...and into what seems like the most creative period of my life.

It's always a thrill when Anna feels well enough to join us onstage and supply her wonderful harmonies, her beautiful energy. She was three years old the first time she marched up onto a stage with me...and brought down the house, singing a perfect harmony. I had put the microphone down as far as it would go and went on my knees beside her. Up on the stage and with whatever band, she was at home...never going through that awful period of stagefright. We had always planned to sing together, until Lyme disease took away her strength to join me. Thankfully, under proper treatment, Anna is now able to be a part of Jazz Musette on her "good" days.

The Ides of March may not have been so good for Julius Caeser...but it was a great night and gig for us! We debuted a few new numbers, which the audience seemed to enjoy...Dance Me To The End Of Love by Leonard Cohen was given a little French flavour, with Mark playing accordion and Ed on clarinet. Leonard Cohen (The Canadian Velvet Growl, as I like to call him) is one of the best lyricists of our age. We did another of his songs to end the night, "The Tower Of Song," which speaks so much to us aging musicians.

"Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey...I ache in the places where I used to play...and I'm crazy for love...but I'm not comin' -on...I'm just payin' my rent every the tower of song..."

The third surprise for our regular and faithful audience, I dedicated to the current administration...and we launched into good ol Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons," to laughter...and a lot of people singing along! The solo for this song, we gave to T3 on drums...what better way to illustrate the hammering rhythm of owing one's soul to the Company Store than with drums? T3 was both tasty and expressive in his solo.

I had a pain patch on my lower back (oh...dem bones, dem bones...) and the music made the magic it always does in bringing me to bliss. I didn't feel a twinge as a Latin rhythm version of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy," made my hips have a mind of their own. Mind you, OWWAM (the Old Woman Who Ate Me) grounded me the next day! But it was worth it.

How can I explain what performing does for me? If you thought of the best meal of your entire life...the best sex of your entire life...the best connection to Creation of your entire life...the best meditation in your entire life...the best intoxication...mixed all that still would fall short of the 'fix' performing is for me. Here's how I try to explain it...of course, in a song....

Recipe For Tonight copyright 2003 Lorraine Hart

I came a junkie for my fix
Of the starlight in the mix
Between the band...and your ears
Like to drive me to tears

Outside of time...there's a moment we can share
Mix up some moonglow for us there
Inside the Rhyme...and the reason
Add libido to season

Stir up a cosmic thought...over the fire
Raise the bar...let's get a little higher
Don't ya know, before we're through
We're swimmin' in a Witchy Brew
The recipe for tonight
You know...we ain't cookin' light
Let's make somethin' of the night!

It is the audience that completes the performer. I am ever mindful of that fact and grateful, always, for the magic we make together. See you at the Liveable Community Fair in May!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March is just around the corner and we count the precious minutes of light coming back into our daily lives. I thought I'd take this opportunity to give you a heads-up on one of my favourite Key Peninsula annual events, the Two Waters Arts Alliance's Spring Fling.

Here is just one beautiful example of the artwork that will be shown and available for purchase. These vibrant tulips, chosen for the show's advertising poster, are handpainted silk by Bev Pederson. Bev's personality is as warm and lively as her brushstrokes and her wearable art takes my breath away. This is your chance to meet and talk with the various artists from TWAA, to view their work and perhaps find that special piece that must go home with you.
The 6th. annual Spring Fling will be held at the Key Civic Center, 17010 South Vaughn Road, Key Peninsula, Saturday March 15th. Doors open at 7pm. Admission is $15 for non-members and $10 for members and patrons of Two Waters. There will be a no-host bar and hors d'oeuvres, comfortable seats and good company...and...did I mention music?

Entertainment for the evening will be provided by Jazz Musette! We're ready to kick it into gear for a new year...and it's a special one. This month marks my tenth anniversary with the band and I intend to celebrate for the entire year! We have been thrilled to be a part of so many Two Waters' shows and it just seems right to begin our season with this wonderful community of South Sound artists. Speaking of artists, I'd like to thank my daughter, Anna Hart, for the creation of the very cool "Jazz Musette Collage" shown here.
So, good Grit City folk, get your visas stamped and make up your car-pools with designated drivers. Take the jaunt over Bing Crosby's bridge and cross the historic causeway through Wauna (means 'shining waters') and down the peninsula to the flashing amber light in Key Center. Take a right turn, follow the road to a stop sign and you will see the Key Civic Center on your left. Join us for an evening of art, music, and a joyful celebration of the emerging spring.
For more information, write to

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Here's Looking at You

Lorraine Hart
photo taken by Anna Hart, 2006