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November 7, 2009

Swingin'

When you pause to appreciate it, New York city hosts more amazing opportunities for fun than a person can take in in a lifetime. I had a fantastic time dancing for hours with a great guy one recent Saturday at the Edison Ballroom in midtown. The sounds of Joe Battaglia's Big Band that we danced to were smoooooooth. 

Food at the Edison Ballroom is amazing and the service solicitous. It was a stormy night when I went, traffic was horrendous and all the garages were full. The contrast of a great time, once landed, was that much better.

February 18, 2009

Colors of the Rainbow…

Eva Cassidy

 

 

The breathtaking Eva Cassidy sings Oh What a Wonderful World — let it make your day.

 

November 8, 2008

A Joint to Drop Into

Let there be Jazz. Down at 55 Christopher Street is the logically named 55 Bar, which they call “a Prohibition era dive bar with incredible live Jazz, Funk & Blues nightly in Greenwich Village.”

55 Bar

What's different about the 55 Bar from other nice places to go hear jazz is that it's cozy and not super expensive but still in a mainstream location. Also, the music is top notch. Major players play there yet the cover is $10 and drinks are reasonable. Only drawback is I went with a friend this Friday and it was so packed to capacity that we couldn't get in. (We settled for drinks at a nice casual place next door.) I have to say, this is good news for jazz fans, though. To all those who say that jazz has no followers, there were plenty out on Friday. The Dave Liebman Band was playing and I look forward to hearing them soon when I can get in; they play here frequently.

October 21, 2008

Great Live Jazz

Mentioned a while back on this blog, Puppets Jazz Bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn offers up serious live jazz in a great atmosphere with amazing music, great drinks and a small delicious menu of food.

Puppets Jazz Club

Puppets has moved down the block to swankier but still intimate digs at 481 Fifth Avenue off 11th Street. My friend and sometime keyboard player for my band plays with heavy hitters in both the jazz and pop arena and he had a recent gig at Puppets the last couple of weeks with bassist extraordinaire Alex Blake. It's been longer than I realized since I heard juicy live jazz and this night did me much good. They even played a knockout version of Night in Tunisia, the Thelonius Monk beauty, for me that was stunning, especially Ted Cruz on piano. The audience loves the jazz being played here, which is always a nice contribution that keeps the air pulsing along with the music.

October 10, 2008

Grace of My Heart

Grace of My Heart is a killer song by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach and a brilliant movie by director Allison Anders from 1996 that traces the roots of modern music from New York's 1950s Brill Building up to the 1970s.

Grace of My Heart

Illeana Douglas stars as Denise Waverly aka Edna Buxton in Grace of My Heart

Unique and masterful actress Illeana Douglas stars as a female singer/songwriter in an era that champions only guy grouups initially. She becomes a songwriter and the story follows her life through different musical eras and personal highs and lows. A music lover's dream, all the music for the movie is original and written by people who were either performing during the times and in some cases their children (Louise Goffin, daughter of Carole King and Gerry Goffin). Larry Klein, producer and ex-husband to Joni Mitchell, produced all the music and has a small part as a record producer in the film. Other stars include John Tuturro and Matt Dillon, both giving stellar performances. One of my all-time favorite movies and soundtracks. (Note stellar singing by Kristen Vigard.)

In the superior commentary by director Allison Anders, she notes that Ileana Douglas' lipstick and nail polish in the scene above were created to match the 1960s recording studio sound baffling exactly — the type of design touch that makes this movie a thrill to watch as well as to listen to.

August 1, 2008

Summer Garden Series

MOMA — the Museum of Modern Art in NYC on 53rd and 5th — is holding its summer garden series.

MOMA summer garden

Music sets go on at 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. every Thursday night in July and August. Cocktails of a summer bent are served. Musical performances are eclectic. The setting is pretty. Outdoor summer events offer a special New York view; the weather and setting combines to produce memorable experiences.

July 14, 2008

Skies Filled with Music by the Skyliners

The Skyliners are a drum and bugle corps from the NY Tri-State area who regularly perform at stadiums and outdoor events.

NJ Skyliners Drum Corps

Three horn players above include my good friend, Bob Urspruch, far right, who took the solo beautifully in “Hava Nagila” at Saturday's concert. Bob's brother, John, in center. Note matching yalmukas donned for this song.

My friend Bob has played with this group for years, along with his brother, John. Both proficient horn players with in-depth knowledge of jazz, blues and other musical genres, now that I've gone to an event, I get why they enjoy playing in this different milieu.

Audience Participation

Bob's wife, Camelia, with friend, Buzzy, lend audience support 

The power of the large group, the outdoor arena, the uniforms and synchronized marching all create a special kind of performance that is a lot of fun. Many people go to see one group but it was informative to see the Bridgemen, who played before the Skyliners. It gives you more of an idea what kinds of music and entertainment a corps like this can produce to see some variety.

July 12, 2008

Spicy Music & Hot Dinner

On the corner of Houston & Allen Streets on NYC's Lower East Side (to call this neighborhood booming is an understatement) sits the tiny restaurant called Oliva, featuring spicy music and a delicious unusual menu from the Basque region.

Oliva Restaurant

Musician and friend, Colette Michaan, flutist extraordinaire, with a specialty in Latin music, plays there with a group called Mo' Guajiro on Wednesday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and I had a great time at her gig this week. Colette forewarned me that the place can get really crowded, steamy and noisy, which it did. The music was excellent with the happy minstrels jammed into the corner producing good sound anyway. As I love to dance, I got to shake my booty plenty with some super nice Latin guys I met and it was tons o' fun. No, there is no dance floor. The bartender gave the three of us a shot of something that tasted innocent and of honey. I'm not a shot type of girl but I did one for the team and it was delish. This is nyc alive and well: a tiny little joint with sublime food, tasty music and a unique atmosphere.

June 26, 2008

More Eyeball Jazz

Jim Flora, the artist mentioned yesterday, deserves plenty of air time.

Jim Flora angry pedestrian This angry pedestrian cracks me up. The website that has been created to honor his work is exceptionally beautifully designed. Flora's mixture of action, humor, style, color, childlike fantasy and lots of music imagery is right on. He was a successful illustrator in addition to creating dozens of album covers. He also designed many children's books, which is one of the first things I wondered, as his style is perfect for it and reminds me of the children's book illustrators who have been my favorite designers since I first became entranced with graphic design and started working in the field, such as Richard McGuire.

Jim Flora illustrations

T-shirts with some of his great art on them are available. Fine art prints of some images are also available and worth owning.

June 25, 2008

Mambo Kitties Do Eyeball Jazz

What could be better than groovin' kitties in jazzy colors doing the mambo? 

Jim Flora, Mambo KittiesHad to share this fantastic art posted by Moderncat.net, as it's so up my alley(cat). How interesting that this artist, Jim Flora, was working mid-century when his art is so contemporary looking. Everything old is new again, as they say. Or more accurately, great art is timeless. And kitties doing the mambo rule forever!

Great Record Album Art

Here's one more teaser image of Jim Flora's great record album designs. One critic calls his work “eyeball jazz.” I think many current illustrators have been influenced by him, even unconsciously, in which category I would include myself, without having known it, based on the style he put out there.

May 30, 2008

The Spaces Between

There are so many instances where the empty space between things is what defines them and makes them valuable, gives them their identity:

Necessary white space

The Space Between the Lines

The Space Between the Notes

The Need for White Space in Layouts

The Pause Between Words 

The Power and Luxury of Empty Space 

It's a funny fact that "white" space is seen as "negative" space in a world filled with things, thereby creating a paradox that emptiness is fullness. White is all colors and black is the absence of color yet we see white as empty and black as fully colored in. I've always loved this type of conundrum. Mind twists aside, the positivity of negative space is a real and necessary thing, in all areas: music, graphic design, interior design and in the moments of our days. I think the last one is the most overlooked. Thinking of it this way helps me see how important it is. We need to take a breath, stop and not be doing something at all moments. The contrast helps put things in perspective and illuminates the ways we really want to fill in our scenes.

May 2, 2008

New CD Allowed in the Car

My car, nicknamed Petey (it's a metallic blue PT Cruiser convertible), has hosted only CDs by Stevie Wonder since its birth in May 2006. Now, a new CD, Joni Mitchell's latest, has been granted permission to grow roots in the song bin.

My Car Hosts Only Two CDs

Joni Mitchell's current CD, Shine, is lovely, brought to my attention by one of my brilliant musician friends. It's not that it's necessarily my first choice in a world of great music; it's just that it feels right. It's just beautiful. Stevie Wonder's musical seduction goes without saying, in my opinion. I love my car and driving in general. I do often sing in the car and will bring practice CDs in temporarily but none live there except Stevie and now Joni's Mitchell's newest effort (we are not on a first name basis). I didn't mean to so severely limit the car's choices; it just worked out this way and brings me an odd pleasure. Filtering has its place.

“Blue” by Joni Mitchell

 

I couldn't end this entry without mentioning Joni Mitchell's CD entitled Blue. The color title moves me, not only because of the allusion to musical blues and the full CD is gorgeous, possibly my favorite Joni Mitchell. A great piece of work.

April 22, 2008

The Man with the Blue Guitar

Sasha the Kitty with Blue Guitar

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."

— Wallace Stevens, from The Man with the Blue Guitar

Wallace Stevens, Pulitzer Prize winning 20th century poet, wrote an incredibly long and intriguing poem called The Man with the Blue Guitar. My father told me about it when I bought the gorgeous cobalt blue Parker Fly guitar partially pictured above. This blue guitar has much significance for me. First of all, Parker Fly guitars are amazing. They are lightweight, made of materials that weigh next to nothing and yet resonate like fine wood. Secondly, they are gorgeous designs. Thirdly, when I first found it, I had dreamed of a guitar in this color. Then I met a few musicians in a row who played cobalt blue guitars and the fact that there were more than one of them at the time meant a lot. So my father told me about this poem by the artist, Wallace Stevens. When life imitates art this way, it is reassuring, funny, touching and significant. We need to pay attention to such things and listen to what they are trying to tell us.

Above: Sasha with the Blue Guitar

April 17, 2008

Visual Jazz

Romare Bearden's art is filled with color, light, life, music and cats. He is one of my favorite artists and one whose approach fascinates me. His definition of visual jazz is:

“You put down one color, it calls for another. You have to look at it like a melody.” — Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden, Of the Blues

Above: Of the Blues: Kansas CIty 4/4

Bearden is known for collage paintings and subjects often show the relationship between music and visual art. There's a gorgeous children's book with his illustrations called "I Live in Music." Bearden also loved cats, as is evident in this great portrait. He was an avid reader and wrote his own books and articles. Turns out my father knew him, which makes sense given their great minds and artistic interests.

Artist Romare Bearden Loved Cats

Above, L: The Artist with One of His Very Comfortable Cats
Above, R: Of the Blues: At the Savoy


April 3, 2008

Going to the Dogs — and Cats

I've been going to the dogs — and cats — lately.

Going to the Dogs and Cats

Photos L to R, by talented photographer clients Jay Ward and Audrey C. Tiernan

They say you draw to you whatever you love so I guess I am drawing fantastic animal-related clients to me because I love animals and have a bond with other people who love them too. The dog photo above is one in a portfolio by a primarily music-focused recent client called dogbrain Music. Jay Ward creates music by and for dogs, as well as human music. The photo at right is also by a new client I am so pleased to be working with, a superb photographer named Audrey C. Tiernan. She happens to also love cats and has two, Slugger and Pistachio, so you will undoubtedly get to see more sublime photos of these creatures as we complete her site. Going to the dogs — and cats — has never been a better idea.

March 30, 2008

Jazzy Update

Weep is the name of my jazz band. I put the project on hold a couple of years ago because I wanted to focus on design work. However, keeping my graphic design business afloat has kept me from concentrating on much else. So now it's time to fight those barriers and get on with things. The Weep website has been updated, I am glad to say, as it was in sore need.

Jazz Band

A recent project with a musician led me to think about it more again. We all deserve the wonderful addition that great music brings to our lives, whether as listener or performer.

January 17, 2008

Art and Personality

Last evening, I attended a book reading at Patelson's Music House by Stephanie Cowell, author of the historical novel, Marrying Mozart.

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell

Book cover art for Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell, available in 7 languages

The novel is a fictionalized tale of Mozart and his relationships with the four Weber sisters, one of whom he marries but with all of whom he had in-depth and loving relationships. The personal stories had to be embellished and imagined, as there is limited historical information available, although Stephanie Cowell did much research to ensure realistic imaginings.

I first met Stephanie at a holiday party this December. She used to have the day job (yes, even while being a successful published author, she had to keep another job) that my friend now has taken over. Patelson's was an apt setting for Stephanie's reading because it is a revered mainly Classical music resource and Stephanie bought her first Mozart score for Figaro there at the age of 12.

This excellent interview with Ms. Cowell will likely make you want to read the book. From reading this probing interview and from hearing Stephanie speak last night, it fills my mind with thoughts about how the personalities of artists interact with the world and the people with whom they live and love. As an artist myself, who has known and loved many artists, both brilliant and struggling (as Mozart was both), this story captures my curiosity about what is eternal in personalities throughout history. The potentially emotional topic of what is "owed" to a family is much discussed too.

September 7, 2007

The Real Deal

Last night, I heard the Dave Liebman Band play at Birdland in Manhattan.

Dave Liebman Band

Dave Liebman and band members, L to R: Anthony Jackson on bass, Mike Stern on guitar, Dave Liebman on sax, Vic Juris on guitar, Marco Marcinko on drums and Tony Marino on bass — photo by David Sokol

Felt like poetry. Sounded like a breezy day. For any music afficionado, this is great stuff. My boyfriend studied sax with Liebman and went to college with drummer, Marco Marcinko, who is now my favorite drummer. I design the website for Euphoria Studios, owned and operated by David Sokol, where these great musicians sometimes rehearse. Dave took the excellent photo above. So there was quite a bit of small world cooperation. I don't like going into the city much these days (I'm in City Island, about 45 minutes to midtown) and the noise and hustle bustle isn't my thing any more, surprisingly to me. But this type of art at your fingertips is exactly what the city is famous for. And famous it should be.

Birdland is a very nice club too. The service is genteel and friendly. The sound balance last night was excellent. All in all, just what New York has been acclaimed for for a long time, though much else in the city has changed. A night well spent and the kind of experience that renews your faith in the creative spirit.

This great sax playing calls to mind one of my rug designs at left below, titled Sax, inspired by my sax-playing honey, shown here next to another design called Think, inspired by the Abstract Expressionist artists, both available at Katie's Modern Rugs

Katie's Modern RugsKatie's Modern Rugs

September 1, 2007

Becoming Yourself Through Creative Expression

Finding Forrester is a compelling movie released seven years ago.

Finding ForresterFinding Forrester

Sean Connery and Rob Brown star in “Finding Forrester”

A black teen played with heart by Rob Brown has big writing talent that shows up in an unexpected environment. This character befriends a wizened Pulitzer-prize winning hermit-like man played superbly by Sean Connery. They live in the same seen-better-days Bronx apartment complex. Stories about unlikely friendships are often good. The movie is well made overall, including a superior jazzy soundtrack that doesn't get in the way of the action.

William Forrester, the Connery character, hurls ideas at Jamal Wallace. He challenges him to become himself and let his talent breathe. We all have this chance every day, the chance to be who we really are through creative undertakings. Being creative frees us and opens us up to possibilities. It's more common to think of a teenager finding themselves as they grow up but everyone has the chance to live with creative freedom (at least in this country), no matter what our age or past. One of the well-written aspects of this film is that both characters help each other to grow and be free, illustrating that being creative and true to ourselves is a lifelong need.

August 25, 2007

Night and Day

If music be the food of love, play on, to quote Shakespeare.

Night and Day

Have you ever wanted to gorge yourself with music? One song that elicits that response from me is the Cole Porter gem, "Night and Day." (My favorite version is by the Temptations from the movie "What Women Want," a great movie despite critical questions.) A clever conversation between lyrics and melody ensues throughout. The hero/heroine sings about a love that torments exquisitely all day and all night long. Music follows words in their delicious pain. When doubt is felt, the notes express that and you hear uncertainty. This musical exactitude that still contains the freshness of artistry is rare.

August 15, 2007

Jazz Cats

This kitty is named Mingus, after the great jazz musician, Charlie Mingus.

Charlie Mingus Inspired Kitty

He lives with my boyfriend, David, who is also a jazzy guy, being a trained saxophone player with a vast knowledge of jazz. I'm sure Mingus is an inspiration to David in his musical purrrsuits. Mingus is the color of champagne and he does, indeed, go to your head. Another fantastic feline to soothe our days and help guide our ways.  

December 30, 2005

Winter Wonderland and Season's Greetings

This time of year makes me think of great song standards, such as Winter Wonderland, Chestnuts Roasting, and Let It Snow. My New York jazz standards band, Weep with Katie, where I serve as reigning female torch singer, even performs these tried and true classics, with moi on vocals. So catch us if you frequent the city's worst hangouts filled with useless denizens of the night. But I jest.

angelsKatie's winter wonderland

I suddenly realized that it's up to me to make this time of year a winter wonderland. It sounds sort of silly or obvious but it came as a brainstorm to me. Whatever the weather (or circumstances), we have the power to control our own outlook. I think we often forget this. And I know it can be hard. But the reward is big. Happiness really isn't expensive. It's just dear.

November 6, 2005

The Color of Salsa

Salsa is a colorful Latin dance style that came into its own in my native New York City. It's a fiery but orderly dance that lets you cut loose and shine on the dance floor.

Eddie Torres is often considered the father of modern Salsa. Much of the order is thanks to him, since he formally documented steps (known as shines) and turns. He danced with the famous Latin musician, Tito Puente, who, incidentally, has a restaurant here on City Island. Eddie‘s dancers were at one time called the Tito Puente dancers.

It is my good fortune to be taking Salsa lessons with my boyfriend, David, at Morocco‘s Dance Studio with Danny Ramirez and Cindy Osorio (contact Danny or Cindy for info), amazingly great teachers. They take you through steps at a pace that allows you to learn without confusion. You also switch partners frequently, a technique that enhances the learning process. Their method is called “On 2.” “On 2” refers to the beat on which you step in this Eddie Torres-influenced system. You emphasize the second beat and this is key to proper technique and style.


Artwork, l to r, by Constructivists Lissitzky and Malevich

What color do you think Salsa is? You'll see lots of red and black in Salsa imagery and clothing. But I see it as a fiery orange or fuchsia. Interestingly, David has instinctively worn an orange shirt to class a couple of times. He must be seeing the same colors in this art form. I feel the orange impulse because it's definitely hot and red means many other things to me. Despite much great use of red in design, for instance, with Constructivist artwork, to me, red doesn't have the passion of either orange or fuchsia. Those colors talk to me more. Whatever color this dance conjurs up for you, I recommend giving it a whirl. It'll open your spirit, is good for your body, a ton of fun and is a civilized way to meet people.

November 1, 2005

Blossoming Brooklyn

My fledgling rug design business is focused in Brooklyn. That's because Brooklyn is blossoming. Some would say it's in full bloom, with interesting stores, restaurants and events happening regularly.

brownstoneNew.jpgbridgeNew.jpg

My boyfriend, David, lives in Park Slope, a great place. The first retail store to carry my rugs, Hers & Mine, an eclectic furniture store with a colorful personality, is down the block on Garfield Street and Fifth Avenue. Before I met David, I hadn't been to Brooklyn, except to drive musician friends to gigs once or twice. Speaking of music, for those of use who care and love jazz, it is stretching out in Brooklyn. A small club called Puppets offers talent-laden original sounds. Another delicious restaurant, Night and Day, at 230 Fifth Avenue, is about to open a full back room with live jazz seven nights a week (please note that the websites for both establishments don't do the venues justice).

The life that is happening in this cousin of a borough is amazing. To me, it seems like a sophisticated relative who isn't jaded, yet anyway.