Back-Story to: Noisy Joy to the Bonehouse Blues

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BACK STORY ON THE CD TRACKS

FROM

NOISY JOY TO THE BONEHOUSE BLUES

 

Track 1

PRISCILLA PIZZICATO THEME -

  • A few years back, a TV producer, Susan Meredith Markowitz, of Stone Circle Productions, approached me asking if she could attend one of my live shows. After, we discussed creating a children’s television series together. I didn’t want it to be about Princess Pricilla, The Lady Music Clown (the character I had been performing for over 20 years), as much as I loved “her”. At this time, I had already developed my Music & Movement & More with Sari Max workshops. After thinking about it, I created a new character: “PRISCILLA PIZZICATO” who was a combination of my persona when leading the workshops and Princess Pricilla, The Lady Music Clown (after all, having performed thousands of times as the Princess, I was her, too!). The outcome was a proposal for a show called, PRISCILLA PIZZICATO and HER MUSIC ROOM…an “edutainment” for young children (and all those who love music, exploring sound, comedy, and whimsy). A wonderful graphic artist interpreted my drawings for Priscilla Pizzicato and the other characters that peopled her world. When the package was complete, we were very happy with the scope of the project and the unique, colorful world in which she “lived”. I wrote the PRISCILLA PIZZICATO THEME at that time but we never recorded it. It does express my feelings about how essential music is in my life…and the lives of the characters I become!

I am happy to have a great band here with me now, to play the song exactly as I hear it and feel it! Lew Soloff has the “Latin thing” down, that’s for certain! I remember going to hear Lew play with the greats in Latin music when I was in my teens! Bruce Bonvissuto does a great job on trombone, as well…they sound like a full horn section! We really captured the spirit of the character and the show with Jeff Harris’ upbeat arrangement. In addition, if you go to the tab on my website menu: FOR CHILDREN and scroll down to PRISCILLA PIZZICATO, you will be able to hear the one-minute version of this theme with LOTS of sound effects (thanks to the great drummer/synth master: Rick Cutler and his fabulous ability to translate what I heard into actual sounds!). I challenge you NOT to move to this song! It’s impossible!

If you listen to track 18, my recitation of a poem by Ben Max called, Princess Vesuvius? you hear the music of this Priscilla Pizzicato Theme underscoring it, playfully improvised on piano by Jeff Harris. The poem and music compliment one another perfectly!

 

Track 2

THE FIRST SONG EVER SUNG

I wrote this song almost in its entirety in the car – while driving! Don’t try this, please! It was a glorious, sunshine-filled day in May. I had just left the Omega Institute after a long weekend of participation in the workshops of Music for People. This gathering of music-making, openhearted people (lead by David Darling, visionary artistic director and extraordinary cellist-composer-improviser-educator-performer- Grammy-winning recording artist) created the soil for my song to bud and flower. It was a thrilling and inspiring weekend – as it is always while being in the world of Music for People! Someone gathered everyone together at the closing and read a children’s book – I believe it was by Laura Krauss Melmed - in which a little boy asks, in turn, his grandparents and parents, what was the first song ever sung…they answer according to how their daily labors are carried out, i.e. a fishing song, a gathering song, a lullaby etc.

The profound nature of the Music for People group spirit and love for self-expression, lead my thoughts to explore the essence or beginning of all sound, movement, and prayer. I thought about what David Darling has shared on numerous occasions about his early experiences with sound. He was fascinated early on by “where did the sound go?” After we can’t hear it any longer, where is it?  

This song practically wrote itself.  I am thrilled with how Lew Soloff’s lyrical trumpet playing and my scatting work together. Also, the cello part that Jeff Harris added during the “prayer” verse, allows a lovely three part woven effect to evolve at the end.

 

You will note that Track 17, entitled “Evolution”, has the same theme. This is not an accident…Ben Max heard the song and said he had an idea for a poem and asked if he could use some of the lyrics. Of course I said “yes”. The result is the recitation you hear with the tasty accompaniment on piano by Jeff Harris – to come full circle, the song he is improvising upon is this very one! (Track 2) Song and Poem have now merged and diverged. Resonance at its best…

 

Track 3

GONE MISSING

This song originally was written to be sung and recorded not by me but by my former student. For more than two years we had been writing and recording a rock album featuring him on vocals. The songs mostly had driving beats and up tempos…he had a bluesy song in the collection, but no traditional slow ballad. He came to me with the line, “how could forever be so temporary” and a couple of chords for the chorus. I thought it could be fashioned into a nice ballad. That line inspired me and I wrote the rest of the song – particularly to give him a new kind of vocal challenge – and, unfortunately, when he completed his album I discovered he hadn’t chosen to record it. I always felt close to the song as when writing it I experienced nuances in my emotions having to do with my divorce, after 25 years of marriage (and my parents’ divorce) that I never before examined. Of course the topic gave me pause for thought about all relationships and how they come to be and how they sometimes unravel. The jazziness of the second verse is something I like a lot particularly juxtaposed to the poetry of the lyric. To write this “back story” I went back to my original songwriting notes and must say that the second verse of this song almost came out whole cloth…that doesn’t often occur but when it does, it’s sweet!! Jeff Harris’ piano solo and Lew Soloff’s trumpet solo are plaintive and bring forth the introspective nature of the song. Lew’s one sustained note in his solo is so rich with color…simplicity at its finest and most robust! - Zen- like in its ability to say so much while (seemingly) effortless.

 

 Track 4

THAT’S WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT

This is the most traditional musical theater song on the album. It is one of two songs I have recorded here from the musical, “Changing Faces”, which I wrote with the talented musician/songwriter/composer Joan Berliner Spear. It is a “dramedy” in the sense that it is written for teens and their significant adult “others”, has funny moments but is quite serious and issue oriented (i.e. songs about bulimia, suicide, power struggles between the generations, etc.). In the theatrical production I sang it as the character, “Grandma”, who was the only one in the show with excellent listening skills and unconditional love for all…and the wisdom of many years of life experience to share. On the recording, I love the introduction with the light and playful trumpet and trombone parts. Also, the idea for changing the time signature at the end was an inspired moment during a rehearsal with Jeff Harris.

I’m so pleased with how this song – rather short and simple – builds and grows and bursts forth with the affirmation of life and being true to oneself…something I strive for and encourage in my students.

 One of my greatest wishes is to see this show being performed by young people*, to have it recorded, have a workbook designed to reflect on the various issues it covers (also to create a place for new issues to be brought to light), and have it distributed to all who work with this age group.

 * As you can see in the video clips from our live performance of this show at the Warner Theater I have included on the website, Joan Spear and I each played several characters. It would be great if teens could play all the parts. 

  

Track 5

THE BONEHOUSE BLUES

Sometimes it is a slow and tedious process in the recording studio and sometimes you get lucky. This song is a first take…I tweaked a little bit of the vocal but most of what you hear is what we did live, first time up at bat that day. I still can’t believe it.  The Bonehouse Blues came from my kishkes – (Yiddish for ‘guts’). It is straight out of my grieving process (for my husband who died May 2, 2009). I tried to write this song several times, from several different angles…I saw the name of a rock group, “Bonehouse”, from Germany, the same day as seeing a write-up of Paula Josa-Jones’ (the great dancer – choreographer – director - activist) body work. It mentioned the book she was in the process of writing called, Cookbook for the Bonehouse…this was too much of a coincidence! Something clicked! The word “Bonehouse”  - as a term to indicate our bodies, inspired me so, I finished the song in record time (no pun intended). As the intro, I incorporated part of a different, earlier attempt at the lyric, which sets up the traditional blues in a unique and touching way. The lyrics are my true experience of what it’s like to be married to a man – right now, as you read this – who is here in every way but in his physical being. Rather than underscore this thought by repeating the lyric here, I will refer you to Lew Soloff’s gut-wrenching solo. During the session, he asked for an additional chorus so as to be able to “tell the story”…I’m so glad that Jeff Harris and I gave him that space. He certainly put forth the frustration, urgency, desperation, longing, and huge, boundless love story that is this song. One could swear that the horn is singing the lyrics – only in a different language! The rest of the band is so tasty in their choices and ability to keep the groove going – it’s no wonder Lew let out a spontaneous shout (audible towards the end)…they were cookin’ and then some!

 

Track 6

UNDREAMABLE

Many years ago, my husband at the time, Harry Max, asked what I wished for my birthday. I responded that I wanted him to write a song for me that would be a vocal challenge and which I could perform and record. It was a sneaky way to get him to write – he’s so brilliant at composing and arranging and many, not just I, wished him to more of it! In response, he wrote “Sari’s Song” – a beautiful, and indeed challenging, bossa nova – for which I will remain eternally grateful. For lyrics, he turned to a musician friend who was skilled at writing and, shortly thereafter, the song was ready. I recorded it with a terrific band, featuring Eddie Monteiro on vocal scat and accordion. Eddie is a unique and versatile singer, musician, and arranger. He has a spectacular sense of humor. Over the years I thought about wanting to rewrite the lyrics to this song. As I approached this recent recording, I saw fit to try my hand at the lyric. I was inspired by my second (now deceased) husband’s interest in dreaming and sleep – the work for which he was known (as a psychologist). Also, as there was no word for the feelings we had to express the love developed for one another over a forty plus year friendship that had blossomed into the most unlikely but exquisite romance. I coined the term, “undreamable” to describe this romance in all its splendid iterations. I changed the title, as it seemed to be a good fit. The rest of the lyrics speak for themselves. Although I miss Eddie’s contribution to the original version, I do love the driving, rhythmic force of the band and the great alto flute solo by Norbert Statchel. And, yes, “the dream lives on and on”! Thank you, again, Harry, for such a wonderful bossa nova! And, for playing your wonderful bass parts on Tracks 1,2,3, and 13.

  

Track 7

NOISY JOY

This song was born from a conversation Harry (Fiss) and I had after he had come out of his open- heart surgery (in July of 2002). He told me “I am so happy I couldn’t die if I wanted to!” This elicited laughter and continued to do so as it became part of our family lore. He then asked what I thought the opposite of “quiet desperation” would be. He was thinking of the Henry David Thoreau quote, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation”. A moment later I exclaimed, “Noisy Joy!” as it was logical (and poetic). In response, those rosy apple-cheeks of Harry’s were evident along with the twinkle he exhibited when delighted. I sat down at the piano and started to write this song. I picked it up and put it down a number of times over the course of a couple of years as the chord structure was getting away from me. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it. In fact, Joan Spear kindly gave a listen at one point, suggesting I “lighten it up”…she approached it with a bossa feel. Ultimately, I didn’t hear it that way. However, I was too sophisticated for my own good! Or, for my own limited technical compositional skills. I am so fortunate to have Harry Max and Jeff Harris to help me to flesh out some of the more complex harmonic ideas I have had – not just with this song but also with others. Noisy Joy became a very intimate tribute to the love Harry (my “Liebling” – which is German for “darling”) and I had. The first set of repeated “noisy joy” lyrics are the hopeful and joyous ones…by the next set there is the sadness of “oh boy, what has Life brought to us now?!” As you may surmise, I completed the song after Harry died…it is bittersweet and one of my personal favorites.

 

Noisy Joy is the only song on the CD where Lew Soloff, Jeff Harris, and I are working as a trio. It was a special time for me in the studio. I just love the interweaving of the three parts…and their spot on ability to interpret the lyrics. One of my favorite moments was when Jeff and I were introducing Lew to this song. We were next to the piano in Peter Millrose’s studio, Lew standing with his horn centered in front of his body, leaning to his side, listening intently…he tried quite a few sounds on for size after that: with and without mute, changing horns…always listening in that way that reasserts how music perpetually runs throughout his body and soul. His love for improvisational jazz is as fresh as ever. I feel so fortunate to have Lew play throughout this very personal recording…the integrity and vitality he adds to the gestalt are invaluable to the overall quality of the project. AND, his humor (with trademark mischievous laugh) is priceless! I am honored to call him my friend. I was all of fifteen years old when we met…yesterday?

 

Track 8

WILL ANYBODY LISTEN?

This is a song that marries the chorus of a song I wrote (with this same title) when working on a show I called, “Camel’s Nose Under the Tent”, with new lyrics for its verses and a completely new “C” section**. Originally, as with the show itself, the song was about small town politics and interpersonal politics. When I revisited it to consider it for this recording project, I liked it well enough but wanted it to express more of my thoughts and feelings about the way our country’s problems were and weren’t being addressed by our leaders. Also, I wanted to inspire people to take steps for change*** in several vital areas (the environment, hunger, protecting our children, wildlife, education, etc.). My observation is that there isn’t a lot of deep listening going on – particularly in our government’s inner sanctums. There is a lot of rhetoric, greed, self-aggrandizing, and a frightening level of bullying – in speech and action.  I hope this song will be an anthem for sane, safe, and swift positive personal and global action.

The legendary guitarist Jay Berliner is featured with the band on this track. I am very fortunate to have Jay join us on several selections. His zesty playing inspires all the musicians. It was a thrill to sing with him. This is the closest to a rock song I have on the album. It’s more of a “rockabilly” sound and I like its rousing spirit! Peter Millrose, the engineer (at whose studio, Millrose Music, NYC I recorded and mixed a lot of this work) contributed a lot to the final vocal performance. Not only was Peter’s great sense of humor in full swing throughout the recording and mixing sessions but his superb musicianship and great ears were invaluable. We even ended up writing a song together! (Track 12 – A Path to Love)

 

* A reference to someone who is too nosy. Also, see track 13 for a medley of two other songs from this show, Six Degrees of Separation and Camel’s Nose Under the Tent.

 

** This is the section that is repeated three times throughout the song: ”Please hold on…Please work on…Please sing out…” For the complete lyrics to this and all the songs refer to the website.

 

*** Refer to the website for links to important organizations which you can support in various ways.

 

TRACK 9

LIFE IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS

 

This is one of two songs Joan Spear and I wrote for the musical, “Changing Faces” (along with a write-up on the work, there are video clips of two additional songs on the website under the tab: “musical theater”). In the performance piece, among several other characters, I play a young woman named “YoYo” from the inner city. She and her buddy, a girl named “Tino”, are sent to a Fresh Air Fund kind of summer program (and to live with a family in the ‘burbs) called, “Open Air, Open Doors). They may have left the inner city but they take problems like drugs and guns with them. This heart-wrenching song tells the story of how the girls’ lives take very different paths. Joan wrote the exquisite chorus and together we wrote the verses. Jeff Harris’ arrangement is haunting and intimate. Lew Soloff’’s trumpet is once again a plaintive and lyrical voice. The spare percussion adds so much to the mood of the piece. It is a tragic yet hopeful little one-act play unto itself…I love this song for its strong message about “finding that something” each and every one of us needs to feel whole…”breath by breath”. I hope that “Changing Faces” once again can reach audiences of teens and their ”significant adult others”…and help to be a catalyst for change.

 

Track10

I SING TO ME

I Sing To Me is one of two songs on the album written for “Tales of Togethermaude”, a script for an animated film starring my alter ego, the character “Princess Pricilla, The Lady Music Clown”. When Ruth Pleva and I wrote it, the environment wasn’t a popular issue and not much urgency was connected to it. Our agent, at the time, took the script and our animator’s renderings of several of the characters (go to the tab on the website marked, “for children” and scroll to Tales of Togethermaude to see the fabulous full color drawings) to Hollywood where he was met with enthusiasm for the story, music, and character development, but was turned down by all because, “No one wants the downer of hearing about problems with the environment!” We were discouraged and each had pressing responsibilities to which we needed to attend. Sadly, we filed it away. Years later (Ruth having moved to Europe – indeed, we lost touch for a decade! – and, I to Connecticut), her grandson, Michael, suggested that we try again to find a backer for this worthy project. He remarked that we had put too much time, effort, and talent into it and it deserved an audience. At the very same time, unbeknownst to Ruth, I had been working on this recording project. Feeling the same way, I wished to do justice to the music (our first attempt to document the songs were quick living room recordings with the great Lee Musiker on keyboard and my vocals with Ruth singing back-up). Synchronicity at work! We contacted one another and decided to give it another shot. We are hoping that this time around we will elicit a different response and support will arrive. The animated weather patterns and systems, combined with the earth’s own phenomena (i.e. volcanoes and earthquakes) which are featured in the film as actual characters, will certainly intrigue the producers of the Weather Channel among others?!

The song I Sing To Me is sung by the Princess when she feels pressure mounting from her responsibilities in The Kingdom of Nethermaude.  It can be the theme for so many of us who try and keep up with myriad self-imposed and other stresses throughout our busy lives. That inner voice – whether soft-spoken or boisterous – can guide us through these challenges. Singing is a blessed way to relieve tension and set us back on course. The lyrics here are quite simple and there is tremendous repetition just as there is when one rocks or chants or does a repetitive action to soothe and calm oneself.

 Andy Farber’s soaring soprano saxophone swoops and swirls around my vocal as it modulates higher and higher, spinning us into a world far away from turmoil and strife.

 

Now, as I rehearse the theatrical performance piece based on the original songs of this collection, this song has taken on such richness and depth. The excellent Paula Josa-Jones (director, dancer, choreographer, healer, equestrian, activist) is coaxing a nuanced performance out of me that I didn’t know was there (having been so wrapped up in the version of this song that puts forth the agenda of the animated film’s script). Jeff Harris has taken some of these less than regular forms of composition I have handed him, and worked them into stellar arrangements. He is a gifted musician, arranger, composer, singer, and conductor. I am blessed to have him overseeing this album with me.  I had fun soaring into my head voice in this one!

 

Track 11

BLOW WIND, BLOW

In Tales of Togethermaude, the animated weather elements and systems conspire to bring their human heroine from her home in the Kingdom of Nethermaude to the Kingdom of Feathermaude*. They do this so as to bring about balance, help to merge the two kingdoms, thereby creating balance and harmony for all the Kingdoms (Leathermaude and Heathermaude, too).  When the heroine, who wanted very much to escape her drab home, filled with rules upon rules, begins to experience homesickness, she sings this song. Irregular in form and time signature, this song reflects the inner yearnings the character (and we all) experience when we think, “the grass is greener…” The heroine pleads with the Wind to blow her back home as she comes to realize, with this lyric: “It’s not always better wherever you’re not, so look deep inside and work with what you’ve got”.  Peter Prosser’s urgent cello and Norbert Statchel’s sinuous alto flute are used to great effect in Jeff Harris’ touching arrangement. I feel that the round, rich vocal and spare percussion bring forth the mood and message with great delicateness.

  

* Togethermaude is the combined and balanced mega-kingdom comprised of Nethermaude (too strict, somber, and sober – where the drab, affect-fearing peopled population underuses environmental resources), Feathermaude (too wild, crazy, and where the out-of-control peopled population overuses environmental resources), Leathermaude (where the animated animal kingdom resides), Heathermaude (where the animated plant-life lives), and Weathermaude (where the weather elements and systems, with the earth’s natural phenomena plot the (possible) future demise of the  peopled kingdoms…don’t you want to know what happens?! Check out the menu tab on my website under “For Children” and then, Tales of Togethermaude, to see an animator’s renderings of some of the characters. Track 10 is the other song from this project on this recording.

  

Track 12

A Path To Love

Over the years, I have delighted in writing songs for special events, occasions, and people – personally and professionally. I grew up in New York City in the winters and on Bantam Lake in Connecticut during the summers. My mother and Stepfather were part of a group of friends who loved to write funny and telling lyrics to existing (mostly popular folk or Broadway songs) music for each and every birthday, anniversary, or special moments. I watched, listened, and absorbed these writing sessions and soon participated in them as well. I love word play and words (I especially enjoy playing Scrabble – MOST especially with my son). I get great pleasure from reading – especially autobiography and biography. I love poetry. I LOVE reading song lyrics. My favorite books at this time are: Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo, Finishing The Hat, by Stephen Sondheim, Soul Picnic, The music and passion of Laura Nyro by Michele Kort, and, Paul Simon Lyrics 1964 – 2008 by Paul Simon. I am infatuated with and adore the unique work of Maira Kalman, too – but that’s a discussion going in a whole other direction that is more appropriate on the website menu selection (Other Media) for my Five Dimensional Painted Word Things.

I have written many songs for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, bar/bat mitzvah’s, and births, but in the summer and fall of 2010 I produced two of my favorites*. A Path To Love began as A Path To Peace** – a song I was writing when informed of an imminent wedding. Upon deliberation, I realized that a wedding song must be a peace song, too; Building a marriage on principles of peace is the strongest way to assure a harmonious union.  At the time, I was working in the recording studio with Peter Millrose. We started discussing the song and soon were collaborating on it. I thought it fair to give him songwriting credit as he helped shape the form in a critical way.  He was a terrific vocal coach on this song – especially with the harmony parts I sang.

Peter Prosser’s cello brings an essential dimension to the song: another “human voice”. To me, his cello speaks the way Lew Soloff gets his trumpet to speak as well – truly an extension of our voices channeled through our souls.

Peter Millrose’s synthesized pop orchestral (and our vocal parts) build gloriously upon one another. Jeff Harris’ pianistic skills strongly infuse the arrangement. I am so glad that the bride and groom love it so much they chose to give copies on CD of it to each of the guests at the wedding.

Of course, any wedding song makes me refer to my own wedding(s) and the music that made them special. For my first, Emil Greenberg (Harry Max’ and my former teacher, mentor, and colleague) surprised us and played a lovely ballad Harry wrote as we walked down the aisle. At my very small and private wedding to Harry Kranner Fiss, the only music was my unaccompanied sung rendition of “I’m Glad There Is You” (by Paul Madeira and Jimmy Dorsey). My Liebling was so surprised and happy. I am grateful we videoed the vows we wrote to one another – indeed, our entire wedding ceremony, with my serenade. I will treasure that forever!

 

* The other, Magic and Miracles, is not featured on the album but you may hear an excerpt on the website (go to Other Media and then to “Personalized Material”). I am singing it with the great guitarist Jay Berliner on acoustic guitar and Jeff Harris on piano.

 

** A Path To Peace is available upon request but is neither on the website nor the recording.

 

Track 13

Six Degrees of Separation/Camel’s Nose Under The Tent (a medley)

 

As did Track 8, Will Anybody Listen? this medley focused on interpersonal and small town politics. Six Degrees of Separation is both very intimate and pulls the focus way back to examine how we can put “the spin” on issues affecting all aspects of our lives. There is so much dishonesty and lack of authenticity being perpetuated out in the world that is based on fear and lack of listening skills. Many find it difficult or impossible to own their own behavior…that is often where “spin” comes into play. The lyric, “Six degrees of separation can be a chasm when it comes to matters of the heart” is one of my personal (original) favorites – ever. I love how it feels in my mouth when I sing it. I love the sadness and wistfulness it evokes. It is all about sincerity and trust. It is about holding sacred the bond we each have with one another and all living creatures and our environment. I feel this song to contain one of my more poetic sets of lyrics. The interwoven sections of Camel’s Nose Under The Tent and Six Degrees of Separation make for an unblinking and sometimes cynical look at those for whom discovering and celebrating Truth is anathema. I think of these two songs as a challenge to those in power and to those who feel un-empowered. If we can recognize the danger in living this way, and how rewarding it is to be able to reveal, demonstrate, and transform vulnerability, we will certainly make happier individuals and a happier, more cooperative society. We’re in this together.

This track was recorded live in the studio. There was a happy accident in the transition between two sections that we liked so much we changed the score to reflect the change. I love it when the music seems to have a life of its own. Despite the serious nature of the material, there was a lot of laughter in the studio during this song – in between takes.  Lew Soloff was playing pedal tones (very low notes) on the horn and going lower and lower – it tickled us all. You had to be there!

 

The saying, “camel’s nose under the tent” is a reference to nosiness. I originally heard it from my friend, Barbara, and subsequently heard it used and read it in the media.

 

Track 14

Children Gather ‘Round

 

For several years I was artist-in-residence at a Congregational Church. It was an interesting barter situation. I was given a space to teach my Music & Movement & More with Sari Max workshops and private music lessons (I donated my baby grand piano to the church for use in the gathering space of the parish house). In exchange, I played piano for early Sunday services each week in the summers, sang with the choir and, for special programs such as the Sunday close to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, worked with the Christian Education staff on music for the Christmas Pageant and Children’s Day, developed and produced an Intergenerational Talent Festival, and developed and worked on several other joyous musical events. Children Gather ‘Round was a song written with the intention of engaging the entire congregation during a service (I added to it the ending from another original song, Jesus Lights the Way, which is not available here). I played piano and sang the introduction myself, and then the young children walked from the back of the meetinghouse to the front, singing and playing percussion instruments. When they arrived, they were joined by the teens that were situated with djembes (large African hand drums), the choir, and finally the congregation, who joyfully joined in by singing along. It was thrilling to hear my original song exuberantly sung and shared like that! I loved the audience participation so much. I recorded it here with Jeff Harris’ rousing arrangement that capitalizes on the rich tenor saxophone of the wonderful Mark Fineberg. Jay Berliner’s guitar on the introduction is very sweet. Jeff referred to the instrumental break as his “tribute to Jimmy Webb”. It’s got great power to move the song along – I love it!

Most important, I find that the lyric puts forth a sense of urgency about connecting to Jesus’ spirit of LOVE. Finding that LOVE in one’s own heart is the crux of it. I may be a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn but I sure do love Jesus and all the humility, grace, and good works he exemplifies. As he said: “Above all else, Love!”

 

Track 15

LET’S TELL A STORY (Medley)

 

This medley is comprised of sections from three different songs. Each one was written for a different event. I wrote the song, Let’s Tell A Story, while working as artist-in-residence at a synagogue for a program called “Explorations”. The congregation was exploring Jewish Stories and my job was to mount them in various ways for performance (i.e. mime, chant, song, etc.). I was asked to perform with them and created a character, “The Bubbe” who brought everyone together for Havdalah after which we were to “tell” each other stories. Then, the performances began. The entire experience with the kids and adults was a blast. I cherish the book they made for me after the final performances took place. We learned a lot from one another!

The second part of the medley was a song originally entitled “Building Bridges”. After the first Federation and synagogue (in the country) to be under one roof was conceived, there was a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off its construction (what turned out to be a 24,000 square foot facility). For this ceremony I wrote the song that I sang and played on keyboard. I had a terrific young man on guitar, Jason Zwang, for accompaniment, along with Leah Cooper featured on background vocals and the children from the Hebrew School singing too.

As the song “Building Bridges” was site and event specific in its chorus, my dear friend and Hebrew Educator (among many of her skills, talents and credentials), Jeanette Brod Lazer, sat with me before I recorded the medley and helped me with continuity in the process of rewrite. She made an invaluable contribution.

Last, there is a coalition in Washington, Connecticut that hired me to perform at a Chanukah celebration. For this occasion, I wrote the “Latkes” song.  Combining the three songs and ending with a reprise of “Let’s Tell A Story” was a joyful process made even more so by our energetic and soulful recording session. The great clarinetist (and tenor saxophonist from Tracks 8 and 14), Mark Fineberg, put some serious Klesmer moves on the largely improvised part he played on this Medley. It was the only time I danced in the studio! It was impossible NOT to move while he infused the band with his expert muscular playing. His spontaneity and sense of humor were displayed when, immediately after I sang the lyric: “now, for latkes here in America…” he played the first six notes of the Star Spangled Banner! Jeff Harris wasn’t as versed in the Jewish repertoire as the rest of the group however, he rose to the occasion and conducted and played a great performance.

 I had a ball performing this material. I felt like I once again became  “Bubbe” for a little while.

 

Track 16

SWEET DREAMS, SWEET WORLD

 

This lullaby is one of my favorite songs on the album. It is at once tender and peaceful yet exciting. The arrangement here has Lew Soloff playing tasty licks on trumpet and Jay Berliner playing both electric and acoustic guitar (not at the same time – as great as Jay is!). Jay’s swinging time propels the piece forward…once again, a meaningful and sweet arrangement by Jeff Harris. I loved singing all the background parts…coached by Peter Millrose, once again. Peter helped to capture the mood I was aiming for. When I wrote this song, I wanted to speak and sing directly to the audience in that universal language of nighttime hugs, kisses, rocking, and tenderness while weaving in a sense of adventure. Sending the lyric around the world to various continents, countries, islands, and cities, underscored my desire to make it the world’s bedtime song. On Track 20, I recite the story upon which this song is based, while Jeff Harris improvises this song on piano as accompaniment.

The outro is in such a great groove I never want it to end!

 

Track 17

EVOLUTION

 

This poem, by Ben Max, was inspired by track 2, The First Song Ever Sung.  Ben took the core idea to new places and it is one of my very favorites of his considerable body of work as a poet. I loved reciting it (its introspective nature is quite powerful and awe-inspiring) and having Jeff Harris’ improvised accompaniment of The First Song Ever Sung played underneath.

  

Track 18

PRINCESS VESUVIUS?

 

This poem is a wry and hysterical commentary about my character as a person juxtaposed to my character as a “Lady Music Clown”. Whether being Princess Pricilla, The Lady Music Clown, Priscilla Pizzicato, Bubbe, the seven characters I play in “Changing Faces”, or someone else, Ben Max gets the thread of continuity – the essence of “me” that runs throughout better than anyone. Jeff Harris improvises with colorful bounce and flounce on Track 1, the Priscilla Pizzicato Theme, under my recitation.

 

Track 19

REMEMBER HIS SPIRIT

 

Ben Max wrote this magnificent tribute to Harry Kranner Fiss, while sitting at Harry’s side, on the last day of his life. It was read at his funeral (May 2nd, 2009), at the unveiling of his headstone (May 2nd, 2010), and graveside, at the second anniversary of Harry’s passing (May 2nd, 2011).

I had a difficult time recording the recitation as I cried or held back tears throughout. Jeff Harris’ accompaniment is his superb improvisation of Track 7, NOISY JOY, which I wrote for Harry.

In time for the second anniversary of his passing, I took this track and with the expert assistance of Jeff Schlichter, (the multitalented videographer, photographer, actor, singer, director, editor, lighting and sound manager), added many photos to create a video tribute to Harry Kranner Fiss. It is called, Remember His Spirit. It is available on the menu bar under “Filmmaking” and on YouTube and Facebook.

 

Although I have twenty-four videotaped interviews with people from Harry’s personal and professional life, I am not nearly done with the documentary project based on his life and work. This three minute and forty second tribute is heartfelt and meaningful but in no way does it serve as a trailer or “short version” of what will one day be the finished project.

 

Ben Max’s poem was the inspiration for the documentary.

 

Track 20

SWEET DREAMS, SWEET WORLD – Story

This recitation is what the song SWEET DREAMS, SWEET WORLD is based upon. Jeff Harris improvises on the song under the recitation. It is an “adventure lullaby”. My wish is for this story and the song it inspired to become an illustrated book with a recording of the story and song included. Then, we can all have sweet dreams for a sweet world!

 

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