I recently signed my four-year-old up for WeBop jazz classes, an early childhood education program developed by Jazz at Lincoln Center. I wanted to share my love of jazz with my son, with the hope that someday soon he’ll want to tag along as I go to concerts and clubs. So right now, he’s learning the fundamentals of jazz—blues form, improvisation, scat singing, and time—while singing, dancing, and drumming his way through a collection of jazz standards.Read More
One of my very favorite Sarah Vaughan songs is “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets” (1955). She nails her role as the seductive temptress and performs a Lola that is hip and sexy with a dash of humor. It’s as if Vaughan is winking at the listener, saying: come here, this is serious business, but not really. And her voice is stunning: full, rich, and sensuous, yet agile as she effortlessly infuses the lyric with her trademark bends and turns.Read More
She’s a relative newcomer to Seattle, arriving in 2010, but she has quickly made her mark on the jazz and improvised music scenes. In 2011 Kate appeared in the Earshot Jazz Festival and was nominated for an Earshot Golden Ear Award in the Northwest Emerging Artist category. In 2012 Kate was chosen to perform in Earshot’s Jazz: The Second Century series, which showcases the next generation of jazz musicians. And she can be regularly heard around town performing with her own projects including the Syrinx Effect and Sugarpants and as a collaborator with the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra, Ask the Ages, Daniel Barry’s 2 Hemispheres, and Wayne Horvitz’s Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble. Read More
There has been a lot of talk online recently about jazz, gender, and sexuality. Musicologist Guthrie Ramsey, for example, gave us a historian’s take on what he calls “jazz manhood” in bebop and the career of pianist Bud Powell, and how this contributed to his own embarrassment as a boy playing the piano, which he loved, rather than the more masculine saxophone. Drummer Allison Miller wrote a moving essay on the challenges of being not only a woman, but also a lesbian, in the jazz world. Crooner Spencer Day discussed coming out, homophobia, the absence of gay voices in jazz, and how all of this has influenced his career, both creatively and commercially. And singer Michelle Shocked, long believed to be a lesbian herself, lashed out with an unfortunate, if predictable, homophobic rant during her recent appearance at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco.Read More
In my last post, I wrote about how Sarah Vaughan was an intensely private woman leading a public life, and how she kept her fans, members of the press, and even, sometimes, her own family at a distance.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about why that was and how it influences my work as her biographer. Part of my job is to tease out the details of her life, provide a glimpse into the woman behind the scenes, the private Vaughan. But what does a biographer do when her subject doesn’t cooperate? How much do I extrapolate from the information I do have? In other words, how do I read an absence? And how do I respect my subject and her desire for privacy while satisfying the desires of readers in search of an intimate portrait of a performer they admire?Read More