Sunday, October 21, 2007

Boston and New York shows

On the plane to Boston, I "pushed the recline button down" like Joni says, and felt a wash of the purest joy come over me. Everything was in place .. left the fridge full, the kids well-cared-for, the house neat and tidy, the toilets and mirrors sparkling, and here I was, on my own and setting off for a full month of music and travel and catching up with old friends for the first time since having Sundiata 16 years ago. I've had short breaks before, to deal with our flat in London, to dash out for a weekend set of gigs or a music conference, but this is a BIG ONE!

To my great delight, I had a window seat, an empty seat beside me, and the woman next to the aisle clearly indicated from her body language that she wanted to play with her palm pilot video game and NOT talk. HEAVEN!!!!!!!! I didn't watch the movie or read the in flight magazines. I just sat there for 6 hours, blissed out of my mind in a state of silence and dreaming.

Friends in Boston picked me up, put me up, showed me 'round, made me delicious Italian coffee, and were generous with their time. Laura D took me to take a brilliant sabar drumming class with Lamine Toure (amazing musician and definitely the New Generation of mbalax musicians) before she and I shared a coffee and a hour of chatting about life and sabar sabar sabar!!

Saturday night, Jeff W took me out to Northampton to see the Neilds. Wonderful show, beautiful homegrown feel ... two singing sisters with such insightful and deep songs, bookended by hilarious stories and segues. Boston is a haven for folk music and singer-songwriters. The venue, The Iron Horse, was four times the size of any folk music club you'd find in Los Angeles and packed to the rafters.

Sunday, we picked up NYC-based guitarist Francis Jacob from the bus terminal and came home to rehearse. Gretchen Parlato had recommended him and he was PERFECT! Very bright, talented, sensitive, open, cheery, delightful mustachioed Swiss/French guy. Back at my Italian friends' house to rehearse, he nailed song after song on the first go through. Oh the joy to work with musicians who "get" the music like that. He was a gift from the gods!!!

The show at Lily Pad was wonderful. Nicely attended, intimate, and magical. Chiara had made Francis and I strong coffees just before the show, so we galloped through the first couple of songs, but then we found our groove and had a ball. Balla Tounkara came up afterwards and was really strong. Excellent voice and master kora player. At the end of his set, he called me up, so I sang about my sister-in-law driving me around Bouke, Cote d'Ivoire, to see various ceremonies with their dancing and singing while he played kora. Beautiful.

Monday, Jeff drove me down to New Haven in his bright yellow audi, DJ-ing all the way. My favorite was Lily Allen, so wry and smart. I love how she sings with a strong London accent. Her chorus from "Smile" has stayed with me ever since!!!

In New Haven, Jeff called Meredith T to say we were almost there on speaker phone. Her first response was "FUCK!!" which made me burst out laughing. She was behind and hadn't yet had a shower yet, so we got her a Starbuck's ice tea to buy her some extra time. I adore Meredith. I'd do anything to have someone like her help me out on the business front. She is so on-the-ball, organized, forward looking, funny, flexible, and smart. And you can tell she's a road soldier. When my throat started giving out from two days of chatting, rehearsing, and singing, I reclined back and napped while she turned on the radio and drove and drove. She drove me to New York and told me colorful tales of working with Rachael Sage.

The show at Googie's was sooooooooooo great! Upstairs, nice room, it was standing room only! A ton of friends came out to support the show, bringing their friends. I spotted some gay male friends in the audience, so I knew I could count on them to laugh at my more bawdy stories, bless 'em!! Francis played magnificently, the vibe in the room was electric, my voice sounded excellent, and I ended the show with some drum-less sabar moves . Afterwards, we had a merry high school reunion .... looking around at each other and thinking, "Wow, we are all looking pretty damn good!!!!!!"

I also met DJ Neva, saw booking agent/manager Judith Miller, and went out for salad and drinks with Magali Regis, her lovely husband Sylvain (from Fula Flute) and their friend, Francoise (who made the sabar doc, Guew Bi) Afterwards, Francoise walked me in the direction of my friend's Greenwich Village apt and gave me some excellent tips about Dakar. She said to try to speak as much Wolof as possible, to smile and give some money to the beggars. She told me the phrase in Wolof that means, "Are you married?" (which I have now forgotten...yikes!) so that that I can reply, WAAW WAAW!!!!

Katherine and I sat up late talking in her boyfriend's gorgeous loft before I set the alarm for 5 am. At dawn, a lovely older man from South Carolina drove me to the airport and told me his mom has the same maiden name as my dear friend, Kara Mack. I miss Kara.

The flight to London was another nice 6 hour span of silence, napping, dreaming, writing. Then onto the tube, the five minute walk dragging my bags up Ladbroke Grove in the rain up to our flat and HOME!! Well, our tenant is out of town for four days, so I have the place to myself.

On thing I LOVE about London and miss desperately is how black, white, and it's international population live so much more TOGETHER here. To see everyone chatting, walking, living, raising kids, existing side by side so much more harmoniously is a revelation. London isn't perfect, but it is light years ahead of the USA.

Better run .. have to get some flyers made for the Saturday show. Life is SO WONDERFUL!!! I'll pick up some fruit and veg on Portobello Road and get some nice brown bread from the Vegetarian shop under the flyover. Love you!!!



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