Joy was in the house with Donny McCaslin

And I think the spirit of David Bowie was there too. Saturday night’s (April 1, 2017) scintillating performance at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall demonstrated that Donny McCaslin has developed into a world-class, big league band leader, composer, and sax player. I saw McCaslin perform in early 2016 at the Village Vanguard, shortly after David Bowie’s death, and the events of the past year seem to have transformed McCaslin from an angry young(ish) man into a joyful, seasoned artist who is streaming his creative gifts into the world.

Last night McCaslin opened with a discordant, in your face composition from his earlier repertoire of published music, and then the quartet took a leap into two new (as yet un-named) numbers that McCaslin wrote specifically for the performance at Zankel Hall. The band members were beaming, and so was I, as I heard the driving rhythm section (bassist Jonathan Maron and drummer Zach Danziger) provide counter-point to an astonishing fusion of McCaslin’s sax and keyboard wizard Jason Lindner’s never-before-heard arrangement of electronic noise. The sounds were so unexpected and new, a feeling of wonder filled the hall and penetrated into the minds and bodies of the audience like a magic dust, floating down, pinging off the earbones, and ringing bells of awakening in every cell of the collective body. This music was exciting! A fresh invocation of joyful wonder, and the band was fully enjoying the revelation as well, with smiles on their faces throughout the performance. They felt the rapture, and made us feel it too.

As you may know, McCaslin and Lindner played on David Bowie’s final musical gift to the world, Black Star, released two days before his death in Jan. 2016. Clearly some audience members were Bowie fans, and McCaslin did not disappoint. The band played “Lazarus,” bringing tears of remembrance and sorrow as we heard the song, perhaps for the first time, without the vocal track of Bowie’s achingly familiar, distinctive, age- and wisdom-tinged voice.

The song begins with the (now silent) vocals, “Look up here, I’m in heaven…” and expresses humor, Bowie’s love of New York, and further musings on the afterlife… “By the time I got to New York I was living like a king. Then I used up all my money, I was looking for your ass. This way or no way, you know I’ll be free. Just like that bluebird, now ain’t that just like me. Oh I’ll be free…”

This missing element struck home the loss to the world of our dear David Bowie, and perhaps by making the loss so real, helped to bring a year of deep mourning to a close. I am moved beyond words at Bowie’s generosity to write this music as his continuing creative contribution to the world, and help us prepare and come to terms with his death, and perhaps our own.

McCaslin generously shared an anecdote about accepting a Grammy award for Blackstar on Bowie’s behalf (the album garnered five in total), together with Lindner, at the ceremony in February. McCaslin outfitted himself for the awards ceremony at Agnes B. in Soho, a designer who had often created clothes for Bowie, and even designed wardrobes for Bowie tours. McCaslin had selected a black Euro-fit suit with a reverse-logo Blackstar t-shirt—very hipster and ringing that note of musical triumph of Bowie’s final work. McCaslin confided with the audience that this was the very suit he was wearing for our performance, and shared that Gail Ann Dorsey, Bowie’s long-time bass player, also gets some of her fantastic clothes at Agnes B. Check out the hard-core punk meets Buddhism dark green dress she wore during Bowie’s Oct. 2, 1999 performance on Saturday Night Live! I noticed that Lindner was also paying subtle homage to Bowie vis-à-vis tiny astronauts floating on the dark background of his socks, and silver denim high-tops.

The group played another shrieking, body-armor penetrating track from McCaslin’s 3rd and most recent CD, Beyond Now (released in Oct. 2016). And then another homage to Bowie, “Warzsawa,” a song he’d written with Brian Eno on 1977’s  Low, Bowie’s first album in his Berlin trilogy.

McCaslin has a  growing body of original music to draw on in his live performances, but his new work takes us to another level entirely. McCaslin’s generosity of spirit shines through this new creative font of joy, and he demonstrates it doubly with making space in the evening’s program for two Bowie songs. There was enough time and space for it all, and by drawing Bowie’s early and final work into the melange of his own oeuvre, McCaslin showed how these two streams are intertwined and that Bowie’s gifted soul continues to impact the world in the next generation of musicians and audiences—if the young man head-banging in the row in front of me was any indication!

It was an all-ages crowd, with older audience members sharing memories of seeing Bowie at Madison Square Garden in the 1990s, and a young child talking in the balcony, penetrating the silent spaces between Maron’s acid bass notes in his introduction to a song of further keyboard magic. McCaslin riffed on the child’s play, repeating the words “Uh-Oh” that floated down from the balcony and generating a ripple of laughter and repetition through the crowd. Then Lindner struck, with waves upon waves of overlapping repeating sequences of electronica notes, joined by tinkling ivories reminiscent of Bob Geldof’s “I don’t like Mondays.”

They received a standing ovation, and played an encore of two more pieces of splendor. Joy was in the house.

As you may have noticed, I had a lot of fun dressing in homage to Bowie.

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CP6 Productions

CP6 Productions is a premier HD video production company in Vancouver specializing in art and music videos.

My inspiration for video production was born in Manhattan. In Washington Square Park, to be exact. When I took my first video I wanted to capture the sounds of competing musicians in the park, especially the completely unexpected piano player. I took out my iPhone 5s, and CP6 Productions was born. (See Washington Square Jazz.)

VIFF

I am very excited to be submitting my work to VIFF 2016. This is a new realm of artistic direction for me. For many years I have been inspired by the films of VIFF. I’ve loved movies since I was a little girl, and used to read the accounting production credits back when I was an accountant in the late 80s. I dreamed of having my name on the big screen even then, but had no idea that one day I would be creating my own films.

CP6 Productions

CP6 is a reference to Counter-Phobic Six, one of the nine positions in the Enneagram system of understanding human psychology and spirituality. The Counter-Phobic Six leaps in where others fear to tread. I’ve been skydiving, fasted alone in the desert for four days and nights, and lived alone in the wilderness for six years. I wear my CP6 badge with pride, and I am now sharing the In Joke with you. Making movies always requires taking a leap into the unknown. And like other dangerous ventures, it’s a helluva lot of fun!

Videos

These are the initial raw materials of the work I will be submitting to VIFF.

Another New York Love Affair #25

I am excited to share Another New York Love Affair #25 with you:

I took this footage of the “Sterling Cooper” building in my final week in New York, at the end of March. At the time I was midway through watching Mad Men on Netflix, and in love with the cast of characters. Also in love with New York, and the beautiful strangeness of Madison Avenue. Enjoy!

I am aiming for 100 over the next three years. I’ve got to get back to New York to do it, though!

Springtime in New York

Financial Distric Ferry TerminalYesterday was the first day of spring, and it snowed in New York. I went for a run as glorious flakes skirled and floated through the air, stage-lit by the lights along the Hudson River walk. It’s a nice hour-long run from my place in the village along the Hudson to the Financial District Ferry Terminal and back.

Tennis players on the Hudson River courtsI passed tennis players on my way to the ferry terminal, enjoying the gentle snowfall, and caught a glimpse of One World, nestled between the legs of two other high rises.

One World TowerNew Yorkers still call this the World Trade Center.

ESBOn the way back, I could see the Empire State Building in the distance, over 70 blocks away (the lit tower in the center of the photo). I love seeing these two landmarks as I go about the city. They are orientation touchstones, helping people find their way, much like a striking tree or cliff formation would have guided our ancestors.

Christmas Eve in the West Village

My street at Christmas

on the hudson river, people take selfies and groupies against the fading bright layers of sunset

a muscled black man in combat gray t-shirt, jeans, leather boots, and earbuds sits down on a bench facing the river, singing in falsetto

I do a double-take as I run by

a french-speaking family of 7 or 8 spans the entire walkway

I pause a beat for a gap and slip through

a police boat flashes blue and red lights on the jersey shore

down river, lady liberty shines pale green across the water

I do an extra leg along the river, strong and free

I can run forever and don’t want to ever stop

but friends and dinner at EN japanese are on the menu, so I cross west street at eleventh when the white walker beckons

a young man in a black suit, white shirt, sits on a stool at the corner of perry and bleecker, playing mournful cello

he smiles when I run by

four twenty-somethings dressed holiday festive fill the sidewalk, one of the women carrying pink lilies, on their way to a dinner party

I swerve into the street to pass

I bet a lot of people live in sixth floor walk-ups

don’t you think some people own the top two floors?

no way!

on the next corner, a giant black SUV idles at the curb

a diminutive black man holds open the door for a very large black man

I wonder if he’s a famous rapper

I smile at the driver in complicity about the glory of being near this man

he doesn’t get it

at seventh ave and greenwich the light is with me but sirens are coming my way, a block uptown

I dash across flying on endorphins and more glory

jayrunning across greenwich, two guys on bikes run the light at charles and I slow and change my angle to let them pass in front of me

we rule the night

kids

coins jingling in his paper cup, the grizzled black man who sits on an over-turned bucket next to the magazine stand at sixth avenue and west ninth street sings

and heaven and nature sing

and heaven and nature sing

and hea-ven and he-e-ven and nature sing

the sirens rise

What’s in a Tiffany ruby?

Ruby necklacePart of the thrill of being in New York is visiting places I’ve seen or heard about in books and movies. One of the most famous, glamorous New York institutions, in my mind, is Tiffany’s. Perhaps I saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s at an impressionable age, but I suspect the allure of Tiffany’s was caused by the even earlier impressions of the magic of jewels from 1001 Tales of Arabian Nights, which I read as a very young girl.

Yes, we have a Tiffany’s in Vancouver (3 in fact), but I’ve never gone there. It seems like these are sham Tiffanies. The real Tiffany’s is in New York, on Fifth Ave., at the corner of 57th St.

So when I made my first trip to midtown, to enjoy the nap I had booked at YeloSpa, I was delighted to see that Tiffany’s was right across the street. I had a few minutes before my nap, so I popped into Tiffany’s to marvel at the beauty.

I stepped into the vast, high-ceilinged room and saw what seemed like dozens of display case islands, many of them populated by Tiffany tour guides. The glamorous woman guide on the closest island asked if there was anything she could help me find.

I have been on the lookout for a pair of ruby earrings to match the ruby necklace my mom Tiffany's as viewed on 57th St.brought back for me as a gift from Australia, so on a whim I said, “Can you point me in the direction of the rubies?”

Imagine my surprise when she told me they don’t have any rubies. What!!? Tiffany’s doesn’t have rubies? She went on to explain, in a friendly way, that the only “Tiffany quality” rubies in the world come from Burma. She said that there is a trade embargo in place against Burma because of their human rights violations. Who knew? Well, I didn’t until that moment. I also didn’t know that Tiffany’s was such an ethical company, and I felt very moved to be informed of this. This discovery was one of the magical moments of my trip to New York.

I spent the next few minutes wandering around the store and feasting on the beauty shining forth from every island. My attention was drawn to a fabulous, sparkling diamond bracelet, costing a mere $20,000. Yes, I could afford it if I really wanted to spend money on something like that. But as I thought of a better use I had recently put $20K to, I once again felt a warm feeling in my heart.

Tiffany NY SATCSo that’s my Tiffany’s story. I must say that the woman I spoke to was much friendlier than the sales staff at Giorgio’s on Rodeo Dive, a place I stumbled into and out of with my sister Kim in the 1990s. Well done, New York!

As a P.S., as I mentioned earlier, I have been researching New York in preparation for my next trip by re-watching Sex and the City. Tiffany’s has been an important place for purchasing Charlotte’s wedding rings on that show! Here is a picture I took of Charlotte and her first husband, Trey, on the street in front of Tiffany’s.

The Metal Era

Karen at MSG
   Waiting for the show to begin

Being here in Greenwich Village has awakened the nostalgia I have always felt for the 60s. Being born in 1965, I was influenced by the vibe of the 60s, but I never got to see the greats as it was happening. I never got to see Led Zeppelin or the Beatles. One of my first concerts was The Who’s first farewell tour, in 1982 (they recorded Who’s Last on that tour). Guess what? (Guess Who? I am overcome with my own cleverness.) The Who are currently having their 2015 farewell tour—33 years later! OK, so farewell tours are a joke, because the bands often have numerous farewell tours. But the point is, I wish I had been here in Greenwich Village to see the first Bob Dylan show, as one of my friends did. I wish I had seen the Beatles play in Vancouver at the Empire Stadium in 1964. I wish I had been part of the aliveness, joy, and hope of the summer of love. A time of social change and new freedom. A time of excitement.

Motley on stageAnd all along, I didn’t realize that I was actually a part of a new exciting movement—the metal years! Yes, the 1980s were also a time of social change, with the Punk movement and Heavy Metal movement expressing the angst of a new generation of teenagers who wanted to fight the man.

This didn’t come home to me until another Motley poster on Boweryfarewell tour—Mötley Crüe‘s farewell after delivering 33 years of kick-ass glam metal. (Gotta love the umlauts!) I saw the concert poster on a hoarding on Battery on Monday, and was lucky enough to get a ticket that night for Tuesday’s show. So there I was, Tuesday, Oct. 28, in Madison Square Garden, watching Alice Cooper and Motley Crue! I have seen both of these bands several times in Vancouver, and most notably, early tour dates in the 80s. For example, I saw them at the 1982: Crüesing Through Canada Tour! Surprisingly, the Crue is one of the bestselling bands of all time, with over 100 million records sold worldwide. I think they started the whole tattoo thing.

I sat in the stadium on Oct. 28, relishing the fact of being in New York, in this Motley on mini stagesemi-historic building. The Garden moved from its second site in Madison Square to 8th Ave in 1925, to its current location on 31st St in 1965. Construction began at the current location 50 years ago, Oct. 29, 1964! I looked around as the seats began to fill. In my row, two teenaged young men were in the row already. They were the first to stand when Alice Cooper took the stage, and were on their feet for the whole show. I was glad to be in their row, because I too wanted to stand and dance.

Metal next gen
      Metal next gen

One of the things that occurred to me as I relished the wall of noise for over 3 hours was that I really had been part of something special. To those teenagers, the 80s was the time they wish they had been at the rock concerts, at the beginning of the metal wave. And I really was there! I just didn’t realize it was a part of history. Thanks to my boyfriend Rick and friends Ray, Mark and Joe, Johnny and Dianne and Silvia, sister Kim, cousin Sherry, we were all part of our own time of rebellion and self-definition. Listening to metal was our revolution. Our way of staking our claim in time and space, and differentiating ourselves from our parents.

I want to write more about this revelation, but I’ve got to go take a nap. The big four-nine!

Later…

I guess the point is this moment is where it’s happening. This is the exciting time to change the world. After the nap…

Think Coffee

Cafe Wha?
Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan both played their first or early gigs here

At Think Coffee in NYC. Drinking a decaf soy latte (organic, fair trade, socially responsible). Eating a Johnny Boy sandwich–peanut butter, banana, and cinnamon! I found this place by Googling best New York cafes to write in. This one got the best ranking on numerous factors, including comfort level for occupying a seat for a long time! (That is, not getting the hairy eyeball if writing and not ordering much.) Also quality of coffee. I totally agree!

I just submitted my website to the STC Regional Competition – New York Metro, Philadelphia Metro, and Houston chapters. It seems extra special to submit the entry to the New York chapter from a New York cafe!

Will upload pic of the Think Coffee cafe later. For now, here is Cafe Wha?!! I will be going there tonight to listen to world-class musicians pay a tribute to the founder of bossa nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim.

New York is such an inspiring city! I wish I could just sit in a cafe and write all day. But there is also so much to see and do. It is hard to get enough sleep with the lure of the city keeping me out late every night. Luckily, I have a nap booked at 3:00 this afternoon at YeloSpa in midtown Manhattan!