knit one, purl two

Your husband was once a man of God.

I only remember a sliver of sun, bearing down on my withered body during the furtive lessons designed to straighten my curved back, prepare me for the broken world ahead.

…I would never live to see.

He taught me how to read from the Latin version of His Bible, the one with the hand-crafted lyrical font, the one he made sing with a single swipe of his restless pianist finger, the one he would lead orchestras with subsequent lives later.

The man of God took me into his solitary world of stonings and sacrifices, a barbarian who only reveled in the blood of Christ’s fallen as I sank my fangs into live, pulsing human flesh.

I can still feel the weight of that flesh give in my dreams. My jaw aches from the bittersweet effort.

We both ran for the exit in due time. But I can still hear the heavenly choir, while he plays another gig for pennies on the dollar and cops a virtual feel from the online fallen, the savage and the holy.

Music isn’t a Pop Game

Music isn’t a game. But pop is, was, and always will be, apparently.

I’m a diehard pop fan. I grew up on the Top 40 and I make no apologies for it. My father and my mother were pop fans too, in their own time. They gave me an acquired taste for bossa nova jazz, rock, and Broadway tunes. My younger brother turned me onto metal, and my former fiancé, alternative college radio (The Caulfields’ “Rickshaw!”).

Lately, I’ve been watching “The Pop Game” on Lifetime, knowing full well this isn’t real music and these aren’t real musicians. Well, except for Ian, the Texan guitarist, songwriter, and singer who has routinely given me chills by tuning the popular masses out and tuning into his own, almost angular vibe.

So, obviously, Cravetay is my least favorite.

Amateur pitchy wannabes like her are the reason mainstream music’s suffered from a disturbing lack of talent, creativity, depth. Like “world renowned” record producer Timbaland says more than once, We can fix the vocals, but you’re born with swag.

I think what pisses me off the most about this show and this pervasive attitude that anyone can be famous is the whole cult of personality disease infecting our free world.

Talent does and should matter. Other art forms require talent, why not music?

Like all art, the best is when the artist allows the muse to flow in then out, projecting his/her true voice without any adulteration, auto-tune, social media hype, or stylist. Art is truth.

No other art form can lay such truth bare better than music. No other art form requires the artist develop his/her voice to the best of his/her ability more.

I’ve heard too many real artists go unnoticed because the big box office studios prefer to go with superficials, the almighty physical appearance, almighty youth, that stupid excuse for bullshit called swag.

Swag is personality. Personality combined with ability equals truth in art.

Watching and disparaging what others do isn’t art. Ask any closet poet who writes from the bottom of a pit of hell of his own making.

Focusing solely on yourself as “the star” isn’t music. The music is what matters. Someone like Cravetay will never improve as long as she plays to that shallow bottom line, even if she will probably win the Pop Game. Because isn’t that what the world wants? Sugar on the fiber cereal, pass the Pop Tarts.

I’m also listening to a lot of fatalistic indie music lately, which drives home the point even more that life’s too short for games of any sort, pop or otherwise.

Not sure why. Maybe because my own time is at hand (I’m in my 50s, not getting any younger, and there’s this shooting pain near my pelvic bone) and the universe likes to fuck with me like that.

Those musicians have a shit-ton to say, and they say it thoughtfully with a whirlwind of artful instruments at their disposal, distilled down to the raw, gritty nub through their flawed, heartbroken, heartrending, imperfectly open humanity.

They’re not about putting on a glamorous show where one guy wins, and the other loses. They’re about collaborating so we can feel better about ourselves, so we don’t feel as alone, so we can feel something.

The only thing I feel when I watch “Pop Game” is rage, and the urge to throw my remote at the TV as hard as I can.

Peace Now

I’m reading. He’s good, tucking maybe regret, definitely affection — as a man would — in intentional throwaway recollection, the kind with marks.

Last night, I enjoyed my first home-cooked meal, a bowl of spaghetti sauce, organic, and a ton of broccoli. Sleep came in a brain wave of this light blue-green stitch and an endless series of possibility. Just past midnight, which is abnormal for me.

But I’m up now. Sunless.

Her repetition doesn’t seem right for this half-assed, ultimately cool, belated eulogy.

Diamond Girl

“Can’t you feel the whole world’s a-turnin’
We are real and we are a-burnin’
Diamond Girl now that I’ve found you
It’s around you that I am” —Seals and Crofts

“The Big Lebowski’s” on HBO, Seals and Crofts are playing their greatest hits, and I’m on the precipice of a decision: Writer or Slouchy Hat?

This dream, I knew it would be involved, intense and erotic, a whirligig of early Beatles impressions on a post ’60s high — with influences from the pulled pork Eggs Benedict I just ate rotting and shooting up my esophagus, as well as several weeks of major insomnia from the thundering approach of menopause.

I’m back in the music world, accepted as one of them even though I don’t play a note. These musicians, a startling array of them, seem to want something from me ticket money can’t buy. They play and I respond, or maybe vice versa.

One of them’s playing now, an aging rock star with a familiar lick from my childhood. I remember jumping down up front onto a pillow to get a closer look. He only cares about his show and the fact I nudged a bassist friend’s guitar face up, because he’s too famous.

As I debate whether to right the bass up, “Diamond Girl” pipes in from stereo speakers everywhere. Maybe the Seals and Crofts song has been playing all this time, waiting for me to pay attention.

The universal language of dreams is energy, we all exude some form of it. The closest manifestation of that energy, for me anyway, is music — music I can identify with, whether it’s a scorching solo out of nowhere that burns down forests, or a 1973 pop hit that used to play constantly on the radio when I was a child running around in Louisville, Ky.

I hear music constantly, dreaming or awake. Music or lyrics, makes no difference. It’s the vibe, the soul, the spirit behind the notes.

Sometimes the music is original. Other times, it’s this… A dedication of sorts from this man I know in real life who plays flugelhorn — someone who would be one of my best friends growing up in Kentucky chasing fireflies and exchanging comic books from our rising collection — waiting patiently through some amazing sets for me to look up and hear myself in the song he plays in his head over and over.

When I stop filling up the precious seconds with borrowed chatter, I finally do, as if hearing it for the first time. I hear it through his point of view, incredulous, almost disbelieving were it not for the Greek chorus in the many people who have crossed my life, many lifetimes.

Yet, this is the kind of lovely sentiment for other women, beautiful, charming, normal, accepted women, women up there on the marquee and the center of attention at cocktail parties — not me.

“You,” he said. “Only you.”

I looked at him, too, for the first time. Words could never describe what that meant. Therapy and truth. Support and freedom.

Everything at this point opens up and I’m blinded, as if I just stepped into the early morning light on the first day of spring.

There’s no attachment here, not to the past or the future, societal rules of etiquette or who’s fucking who, just pure mushin. Dreams, real dreams, aren’t about that boring life stuff anyway. Musicians know. Why do you think so many of them are misunderstood?

Energy, remember? I do and I did, and it was — for a blissful moment — wonderfully validating.

When I woke up, I immediately went to Google for the lyrics and then YouTube to listen to my song. It really does fit, in a spectacularly offbeat way.

And hey, the song’s not bad either.

‘More to Live for’: Wife keeps Michael Brecker’s legacy alive

Susan Brecker continues jazz musician husband’s legacy of help

Repost from Jazz Examiner, March 8, 2011

A new documentary chronicling the lives of three brave men searching for bone marrow matches inspired record numbers of Sedona International Film Festival audiences to be tested last month. “More To Live For” also enjoyed a sold-out second screening and the second-highest rating in the SIFF 2011 documentary line-up.

“Right away I saw the opportunity to make something that would motivate real change in the world through what I love to do; tell people’s stories.” –Director Noah Hutton

Featuring the late multiple-Grammy-winning jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker, aspiring Winter Olympian (Skeleton) Seun Adebiyi, and Love Hope Strength Foundation co-founder/entertainment insurance executive James Chippendale, the documentary-narrative will next show at the Cleveland International Film Festival March 25, 2:20 p.m., March 26, 1:30 p.m., and March 27, 7:10 p.m., at Tower City Cinemas. After each screening, audience members will have an opportunity to sign up for the bone marrow registry, with a free, easy testing process, involving a mere cheek swab. Co-producers James Chippendale and Susan Brecker, Michael’s wife, will be on hand following the March 26th screening for an informative panel discussion.

The Couple 3 Films Inc./Love Hope Strength Foundation documentary already earned a nomination for the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition at the Cleveland International Film Festival (March 24-April 3), and was just picked up for an official screening (April 3, 7 p.m., and April 8, 7 p.m.)/Sunday panel discussion at the Dallas Film Festival.

For the first time in the film festival circuit, all of the documentary’s cast and crew – Dallas is where co-producer James Chippendale lives – will attend DFF’s Sunday premiere. Bone marrow registry drives will also, as usual, accompany the screenings.

The bone marrow registry drives are what drives Michael Brecker’s widow Susan – a psychotherapist, playwright, and mom to two children – to do what she continues to do: get the word out, and save more lives. It is what the late, revered jazz musician/composer Brecker would’ve wanted and what helped keep him going until his final days in January, 2007—along with the love and support of family, friends, and his music, which produced perhaps one of the finest recording projects in jazz history, “Pilgrimage.”

I hear the documentary More To Live For is doing quite well. What has it been like for you to see audiences respond so positively to the stories of three gifted, well-known men, including your late husband Michael? It has been an amazing experience. After each showing, the theater becomes transformed, from a roomful of theatergoers, to an intimate environment. People begin to share about their experiences with cancer. And across the board, people respond that they are grateful for the stories, and would either like to donate, or they wished that they had known about the ease of donation when they were younger/eligible. One hundred percent of the eligible audience members have gotten tested after the screenings, which is very gratifying.

This documentary was just released. How did the germ of an idea for it even begin? I met my co-producer, James Chippendale, after I had read an article about his successful transplant in the New York Times. We both wanted to find a way to spread awareness about this under-recognized cause, and to sign up new donors. Film seemed like a natural way to tell the story, and reach the largest audience.

More To Live For has been doing well since its February 23rd debut at the Sedona International Film Festival. As a co-producer, what is it about this documentary that has been moving the audiences? Because the film is both a documentary and a narrative, people become engaged with the three men in the film. They learn about these three lives, and feel the struggle of finding a donor to save their own lives. I believe learning about the ease of testing and donation is a revelation to most people, and it is exciting to realize that saving a life can be so simple and rewarding.

What’s the ultimate goal for this documentary when all is said and done, and do you think Michael Brecker would be happy with its progress so far? Our mission is to save lives, and we will do this by signing up donors after each screening of the film. In addition to the film festivals, our plan is to go to colleges, cancer centers–anywhere in the country where we can spread the awareness and sign up new donors. Michael would have been thrilled. When he went public with his illness, he did so only when convinced that he would help others. Although a world-renown artist, Michael was a very private person. [Only] when he became aware that others might find a match through his going public with his search did he then agree to a public campaign. Over 50 lives have been saved just from our searching for a match for Michael. He would have been very pleased.

It’s tough for musicians, much less people in general, to see someone of Michael Brecker’s caliber to all of a sudden have to stop making music/stop doing what he loves most, to take care of such a terrible, debilitating illness—and not even know if he would pull out of it. As his wife, what was it like for you and your family to go through the highs and lows? And, how in the world did you all pull together to be so positive and inspirational for the rest of us? You are very kind. Any terminal illness presents enormous hurdles for families to experience. We have a very strong family bond, and incredible friends and other family from whom we drew and continue to draw enormous strength. That’s not to say there weren’t hard times. Michael and I moved to Minneapolis to receive treatment from a facility there, and our friends and family pitched in with care of our two children and visits to us out there. There are so many people who loved Michael, and were willing to help us. I will be eternally grateful to my friends, family and the thousands of people who got tested in hopes of finding a match for Mike. I am very blessed to be surrounded by such constant support and love.

In Corey Kilgannon’s August 18, 2005, NY Times feature, “His Saxophone Is Silent, His Life Is in the Balance,” both you and your husband stressed that donors register not just specifically to save Michael Brecker. That must’ve been tough to do. Most of us couldn’t have been so selfless. If it’s possible, can you explain how you both managed this terrible condition, its effects on his ongoing music, and yet remained positive, hopeful, and so generous of others? Mike was a humble and empathetic person. Knowing that his public search for a match might help others motivated him to go public with his illness. He was not always positive about his illness! But somehow the synergy between us kept us going; when he was low, I was able to pull him up, and often felt like I was giving him hope when he had none. And similarly, when I was frightened or down, Michael found a way to give me the boost I needed. Giving to others was never an issue for either one of us; we tried to remain hopeful that he, too, would find a match.

Tell me a little about what it was like for him to be able to finish “Pilgrimage” in 2007 before he passed away from myelogenous leukemia. First, he passed way from MDS, which is myelodysplastic syndrome. It is an incurable condition, which turns into leukemia.

Before Mike got sick, he was studying Bulgarian folk music. He became skilled at playing in that style, and had written many tunes in that genre. His dear friend Pat Metheny came to our house one day, and they decided that Mike’s next recording would be a jazz record, and he would record the Bulgarian one afterwards. Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to make that record; the music is amazing. But he started writing the music for “Pilgrimage.” He worked on the demos in every hospital room he was in, and in May, 2006, he felt like he would be strong enough to record this album. I truly believe that this project kept him alive, as he had a goal of recording this music. It was a remarkable achievement, not only because he was so sick when he was recording, but because it is truly a masterpiece.

What about Michael Brecker, as a jazz artist, made him so outstanding with his colleagues and with the public at large in your opinion? It is difficult for me to answer this, as I am not a musician myself. I know Mike the person, and I have never heard a bad word spoken about him. He was a gentle, giving soul. When you spoke with him, whether you were a famous artist, a student, or a sanitation worker, Michael made you feel like you were the most important person on earth. He had a very special way of relating to people, which stemmed from huge respect that he felt for everyone.

“Pilgrimage,” which would go on to win two Grammys, is filled with references to Brecker’s struggle with the disease. What was he going for with this last recording and how was it different from his previous work? You might have to ask Pat or John Patitucci about this! But from my perspective, this was just another recording for Mike. It was, however, the first recording that he wrote every tune, and I think he felt the significance of this.

Great musicians like Herbie Hancock did everything for Brecker in the bone marrow drives and in encouraging him to continue on as a composing musician. What did their outpouring mean for him and for you? I think Michael was aware of the efforts of his fellow musicians during his illness, but he was uncomfortable with getting any special treatment. When he learned that the drives could help others, he was able to support our efforts. He was focused on feeling better, working on his music when he could, and being with our children. Their support of him as a musician was constant throughout his life; he had a world full of loving and supportive colleagues.

These friends supported us both during his illness and continue to stay connected with me now, with my children and with this film. I am so grateful for the love and support of the music community, and find that everyone who knew and loved Michael is willing to help me. I couldn’t begin to express my gratitude for the outpouring of love from musicians, friends and family. I will forever be humbled by the beauty of Michael’s life, and the community which surrounded him and us with love.

Nearly Dan rocks Jazz Alley Feb. 12

nearlydan2015_2
Photo by Dave Bristol

You know you’ve arrived when Jazz Alley uses your review in its press release.

For those of you clamoring to see my husband Ed Weber live, here’s your chance. He’s the musical director of Seattle’s hottest band, Nearly Dan. Nearly Dan also happens to be the reigning king of Steely Dan tribute bands. The 12-piece tribute band returns to Jazz Alley for one night only next month.

Press Release

NEARLY DAN

February 12, 2017

FROM:  The Pacific Jazz Institute at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley

2033 6th Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98121

RE:  Performance at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley

COST: $29.50 (includes $5.00 service fee) 

The Pacific Jazz Institute at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley presents Nearly Dan for one night playing the Aja album! Band members are Jack Klitzman (saxes, flute, clarinet), Ed Weber (keyboards), Brad Boal (drums), Jamie Dieveney (lead vocals), Darelle Holden, Kelly Ash and Tina Hart (vocals), Rick Houle (bass), Michael McGee (guitar), Frank Seeberger (guitar), Andy Omdahl (trumpet), and Rich Cole (saxes & clarinet). Set time Wednesday at 7:30pm. Doors will open at 5:30pm.

“The hard rockin’ Steely Dan tribute band [gives] the…crowd what it want[s] to hear and dance to. And then some. At times, they sound just like the original Donald Fagen/Walter Becker ‘70s legends. At others…they surpass the originals.” – Carol Banks Weber, Jazz Music Examiner

Based in Seattle, Nearly Dan is made up of 12 national musicians who share a passion for the distinctive music of Steely Dan – revered for inventive music-making, jazz-infected lush harmonies and their own lyrical color. The individual Nearly Dan members come from across genres – from rock, R&B and country to fusion, swing and jazz – and have received training at institutions from Berklee College of Music in Boston, to University of Washington and Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. 

Endorsed by the company they keep, this group’s musicians have performed with greats such as Ray Charles, George Benson, Diane Schuur, Lou Rawls, Basia, Huey Lewis, Tower of Power, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Tito Puente, Natalie Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Gladys Knight, Julio Iglesias and Roberta Flack.  Perhaps the best part of this band is that is doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  Anyone who knows the music of Steely Dan, also knows that only fabulous musicians can pull it off!  A challenge this group is energized by…and rises to! 

www.nearlydan.com              Video: http://www.nearlydan.com/video.htm                 

Murmuration

murmurationcdcoversmall
Mary Petrich

Synchronicity is a strange and wonderful thing, isn’t it? It’s everywhere, yet we’re often too busy, too tired, too weak, too self-involved to notice.

The other day, I was busy figuring out my schedule, coordinating plans with my son in his bedroom when — out of the corner of my eye at his window —  I happened to see these little birds swoop in formation out from our roof down to the front lawn.

The sight was small, almost insignificant by today’s larger-than-life standards, yet for me, it was magnificent, almost magical in context. I almost felt like I was a witness to the birth of elves and fairies.  It’s certainly not something you see everyday.

I also saw what appeared to be a red-headed cardinal pecking at one of the largest trees in our front lawn. It was really our resident woodpecker. I could hear my son tell me he tried to shout it away then later remembered as my husband remarked importantly, “Woodpeckers are territorial.”

Two days later, I’m here writing a review for AXS. I expected to do more work on the musicians’ union newsletter but hadn’t heard back from Robert about the WordPress. So I turned to the pile of CDs ready for review, the first one by saxophonist Mary Petrich, a musician I met during a break at a post-Thanksgiving gig at the Biltmore Fashion Plaza — another place I’d heard of long ago but forgot in what context.

I was there visiting friends in Phoenix for a week. The drummer friend went to sit in with a jazz quartet led by pianist Beth Lederman. Petrich was a part of this quartet. We all went to watch. It seemed insignificant, just a place to be until we got to have dinner together at this cool Italian restaurant we heard about.

I found myself approaching the saxophonist during a break. I have no idea why. Drawn to her, I guess.

Petrich was easy to talk to, as it were, and when she found out I reviewed music for a living (and for fun), she handed me her latest CD, Murmuration, which just so happened to be about the phenomenon I witnessed a few days ago from my son’s bedroom window.

Her Murmuration musically tried to capture the essence of, “The sudden massing of wild starlings in patterns of closely synchronized flight.”

What does it all mean?

I have no idea if there’s a big picture at play, or if this is a telepathic conversation that happens everyday and we’re too into our humanness to pay attention.

Pay attention.

Mary Petrich is a spiritually in-touch musician, and a nice lady. There aren’t many like her flying around here.