Friday, May 18, 2007

Performing w/ RY COODER, TAJ MAHAL @ UCLA's Royce Hall for The Ash Grove's 50th Anniversary!

By chance at Howard Larman's memorial, I sat in my church pew next to Ed Pearl, owner of LA's "The Ash Grove." The Ash Grove was one of the most influential folk clubs in the 60's and 70's, featuring the absolute Royalty of folk / rock / blues artists until it burned down in 1973. After I sang, Ed insisted that I sounded like Joan Baez, for whom he had produced concerts for four years, and asked for my card.

The next day, Ed emailed requesting my CDs. Yesterday, he called to book me for a huge 50th Anniversary concert for The Ash Grove at UCLA's Royce Hall called "Legend and Legacy" next April. I'll be singing alongside artists like Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Kris Kristopherson, Linda Rondstadt, Ben Harper, and Jackson Browne!!!!!! He said I would represent the next generation of artists carrying on their tradition. I'm blown away!!!!!

Just the thought of Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne (who both love Malian blues) and Ry Cooder (who produced those brilliant Ali Farka Toure CDs) hearing what I can do onstage gives me goosepimples!

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Singing @ Howard Larman's Memorial

Roz and Howard Larman, (the venerable KPFK radio DJs who's show, Folkscene, has run for 37 years) recently invited me to record an hour's session for them. Along with my band, I pre-recorded 8 songs + an interview, live at Wendy Waldman's house. Howard was in hospital at the time, suffering from complications from their car accident in late 2006, so Roz interviewed me. We all had a wonderful time.

None of us imagined that Howard would pass away shortly thereafter. And when he did, Roz and their son, Allen, invited me to sing at Howard's funeral.

The memorial service was held in an enormous and very beautiful old church near Vermont and Wilshire and, to my great surprise, there was a dazzling array of Who's Who luminaries from the folk world: Louden Wainright III, Jackson Browne, Richard Thompson, Wendy Waldman, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jennifer Warnes, and many other legendary folk singers and musicians. I was one of the opening singers and, looking out over the crowd of 600, I realized that it was a HUGE honor.

Funerals remind me of losing my own parents, so I was pretty emotional. I sang You Are the One for Me a capella, to honor Roz and Howard's love for one another. Digging deep into the lyrics, I could feel my Voice filling the church and sinking into the pores of every person. It felt haunting and amazing all at once.

Afterwards, when I told Jackson Browne that his song, "All Good Things" had provided the evening's emotional centerpoint for me, he replied that hearing ME had inspired his song choice. God, there were SO many amazing performances. Jennifer Warnes sounded wonderful singing Amazing Grace a capella and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had the whole room singing, "The Circle Shall Not Be Broken."

A moving, sad-yet-celebratory, inspiring fitting memorial for a wonderful man.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Northern California Shows!

Performed acoustically, with Andre Manga accompanying me, at The Cozmic Cafe (Placerville) and Freight & Salvage (Berkeley) last weekend and OH, what a wonderful weekend it was!! I flew up with Koyan on Friday afternoon and appeared alongside Irina Rivkin for a cable TV station at a local community college. The room they filmed us in resembled a broom closet ... filled with mics and cables and anti-authoritarian posters. I sang 20 minutes worth of songs, complete with cheery intros, to the micro-mini camera perched on top of the bookcase. Very low-key and surreal, yet great!

Saturday morning, drove at 5 am from Berkeley to Nevada City in my sister's pickup truck. What a glorious morning!!! The sun rose over beautiful rolling hills covered in springtime green that turned to pine forests as I rose up towards the mountains. I was so high and happy, I kept shouting "Woooohooooo!!!!" at the top of my lungs. Just to be out of town, on the road, performing, alone, with the family all taken care of. SO GREAT!

KVMR is a very well-respected radio station, set in Nevada City (a gorgeous mining town) and Larry Hillberg, the host, was very welcoming and kind. He played Joni Mitchell and Ali Farka Toure (how perfect is that?) before interviewing me. I sang two songs a capella with my shekere. Larry's big dog Sadie, who mainly slept under the control board, kept getting up and coming over whenever I snapped my fingers, so I found myself scratching the dog behind the ears while snapping with my other hand and singing ... all at the same time! One guy at the station told me earnestly that I had an even better voice than Joni Mitchell, which made me smile. No one compares to The Goddess!

From there, I drove to Sacramento airport, had a short nap in the parking garage, and picked up Andre, who arrived wearing Versace sunglasses. He looked like a rock star arriving in a small town. We drove through more beautiful countryside to Placerville, met our hosts, Rich and Diana, and set up at the Cozmic Cafe for our wonderful show that night. They had really worked hard on publicity and with the KVMR show in the morning, we did pretty well for a town where NO ONE had known us previously ... about 18 people. The sound was excellent and Andre did an incredible job accompanying me on pizzicato bass. Sometimes he sounded like a guitar, sometimes like a bassist, with arpeggios suggesting the chords and wonderful solos. Heaven!

Really lovely people, great organic food, magic little night ... and I got really positive feedback from everyone, "You MUST come back!" "You'd be SO great in the Bay Area." "We'd love to see you with your dancers." "Next time you come, we'll bring out friends." "Wow, you have such a natural confident stage presence." "I loved that song about your mom." "Your voice is amazing."

The next day we drove back to Berkeley, more naps, and the Freight & Salvage show was a revelation. Having had the night before as a warm-up gig, Andre blew my mind at the Freight. Everything he played was perfectly tuned, sensitive, creative, fresh, glorious. Meanwhile, my VOICE was supple and strong and expressive and sounded incredible. The lovely sound woman, Heidi, had everything sounding ideal within seconds of sound checking. I had taught some intricate backing vocal parts to Moira Smiley and one of her backing vocalists, so they joined us on Honeycomb Grey and Step by Step. The crowd loved Frank & Loretta, which my sister and her girlfriend had never heard, too.

Loads of old friends from my high school and Berkeley days came along to see me, with my sister and her girlfriend, Koyan and three other 7 year olds in the front row. My set was super well-received, I sold CDs, and DVDs, and gabbed with everyone afterwards. Irina's set was the best I have ever seen her do and Moira Smiley and VOCO did a fantastic set after her. The whole evening was triumphant!

So there we go! I flew home yesterday with Koyan, who promptly threw up all over the floor and me in a packed shuttle bus at the airport. (She gets car sick really easily if the driver rides the brakes to much). We took a second bus home down Lincoln, me propped up with our bags across two seats, Koyan asleep in my arms, both of us merrily stinking of vomit, while the bus picked up people in wheelchairs and people jostled for space. I wanted to burst out laughing, thinking of my situation's contrast with Andre's, who had flown into Burbank to go straight to his first rehearsal with Josh Grobin, preparing for a five star, all-first-class tour of Europe next week! Koyan and I got home from the bus stop and spent the rest of the day recuperating, unpacking, napping, eating, bathing, catching up with my son and husband, and HANGING OUT!

Life is good!

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