Archive for July, 2008
I went to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in NYC last Thursday night to listen to a group from Paris called, “Les Primitifs Du Futur”. They play music from the 1920’s and 1930’s. The musicians are set up on a little makeshift stage and play outside in the Sculpture Garden of the MoMA. This concert I later found out was part of a series theme entitled “Dali: Imagined Musical Landscapes.” It draws upon varied musical influences that might have inspired Dali’s paintings leaving lots of room for the imagination and a wide spectrum of musical colors to explore.
I have to say, the setting of the concert was almost as fun for me as the band. Sitting outside knowing you are surrounded by some of the greatest artwork in the world definitely adds to the ambiance. MoMA Thursday Nights takes place, you guessed it, every Thursday night now through August 28th. The concerts are broken down into two sets, the first taking place at 5:30pm with the second one following at 7pm.
In between the two sets I took some time to explore the museum, checking out some photography, then visiting some of my other favorites, De Kooning, Gauguin, Matisse, Chagall, and at last Jackson Pollack. I’ll talk about the band again at some future date, but it included an excellent saxophone playing scat singer, a good rhythm acoustic guitarist, a vibraphonist who also played xylophone and drums; some beautiful French vocals from a wonderful female vocalist; and a ukele, musical saw, theremin playing female virtuoso. Definitely entertaining!!
So this weeks hype of the week; if you’re visiting NYC, have friends coming to NYC this summer, you happen to live in NYC, or you happen to live in NYC and are looking for a great date suggestion, this is an evening well worth planning. Admission to the MoMA on Thursday nights is $20 and that includes the musical concert.
For a list of upcoming MoMAthursdayNight concerts go to www.MoMA.org
The Museum of Modern Art
11 W.53rd St. (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
You will find directions on their website. For more information you can also call the MoMA.
Having just caught up with the 3rd season of “Weeds” and having watched the premiere of the 4th season on June 16th, and several subsequent episodes since, I found myself wanting to write about Elizabeth Perkins as she has been someone we all knew, but also someone up until “Weeds” we had mostly forgotten. We weren’t quite sure where she was, what she’d been up to, or what she had worked on last. Still a familiar name and face, she had become lost to me, and I’m certain to many others.
But I love her character on “Weeds” playing a supporting role as Celia Hodes, the self-righteous, tight-lipped, uptight, self-absorbed, often slutty, browbeating mother. Nothing seems to turn out as Celia had planned, and no one can really live up to her ideals, not even herself. She is the woman who wants to be loved most of all, yet the woman everyone finds so easy to hate.
For her part in this series, Elizabeth Perkins has been nominated for a number of awards, and rightfully so. The “dramedy” of her life continues to play out each episode amid the backdrop of her soon to be ex-husband if only he hadn’t had an accident and she didn’t have to care for him; her overweight possible lesbian pubescent daughter; her scumball con artist cross toting lover who has started sexual relations with her neighbor Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker, the shows star), whom she both envies and despises; and of course the town council of her beloved Agrestic/Majestic, of which she has been a member, but is constantly being voted against usually leaving her the sole supporter of her own side or cause.
Yet somehow Celia faces all this with determination, spite, humor, a sense of her own justice, and of course revenge with twists and turns keeping viewers tuned in each season and week to see what will come next.
“Weeds” with Elizabeth Perkins as its supporting actress has just started its 4th season on Showtime, airing Monday nights at 10 pm.
Something you might not have known about Elizabeth Perkins? Of Greek heritage, her grandparents immigrated to this country anglicizing their name upon their arrival from “Pisperikos” to “Perkins”.
Boswell Sisters “Crazy People”
I can’t believe I found this video of the Boswell Sisters singing “Crazy People”. For those of you unfamiliar with the Boswell Sisters, they were a 3 sister singing act that recorded in the late 20’s through the mid thirties. Their harmonies and syncopation became infamous. The Andrew Sisters were actually a take off on the Boswell Sisters.
The Boswell Sisters did many of their recordings with the Dorsey Brothers, most of which would start around 2 in the morning after they all completed their nightly gigs. Getting a take back then was laborious and each take the musicians were given was considered to be rather permanent, so it had to be good with few to no mistakes.
One funny story I read about these sessions, talked about the Dorsey Brothers bass player. As time was short, takes were precious and few, and most of the guys had already been drinking earlier in the evening during their previous gigs, they decided a no alcohol rule would be enforced during their recording sessions. So no one could quite figure out how it was that the bass player continued to get drunk. Then one night while recording they caught him opening up the back of his upright bass. It appeared he had built a trap door in his bass and was storing his booze there.
Anyway at one point in my life as a singer, I spent day and night listening to the Boswell Sisters, trying to learn from their harmonies and music. Their songs and arrangements were something to aspire to and not easy to sing.
This particular song and arrangement holds special meaning to me. I did a jazz program in University and sang an arrangement of this song with some friends of mine for my senior recital. It was my favorite part of the program and a recording that I think I may need to go through my drawers and find.
Get a small taste of what I’m talking about. See the sisters by clicking on the link below or cutting and pasting the link into your browser, and have some fun! There will be more Boswell Sisters down the line.
In My Circle Interview, July/August
Subject: Dana Calitri
Profession: NYC Studio Session Singer/Songwriter/Recording Artist
CIS: First of all congratulations on your recent nuptials to British Recording Artist/ Songwriter Martin Briley. Also thank you for taking the time for this interview.
CIS: Let me start by asking how old were you when you first started singing?
Dana: “Hmmmm. I was 5 or 6, I guess.”
CIS: When did you discover you had a voice and how?
Dana: “My Mom is very musical and we were always singing around the piano. By 10
I knew it was my thing and I was starting to get noticed.”
CIS: In what ways as a child was your love of music cultivated?
Dana: “My parents were incredibly supportive. I had voice, piano, guitar and violin lessons; and public schools in those days stressed music so I sang in chorus and played in the school orchestra. I attended Manhattan School of music in the preparatory division, and when I was in my teens my Mom used to drive me into the city every Wednesday and sit in the car while I took my voice lesson with Lydia Summers who was an amazing teacher.”
CIS: As a young artist how did you develop your talent, and when did you start to take your music and singing seriously?
Dana: “I honed my skills singing all kinds of material. Doing covers can be a really great tool for helping you to expand your musical vocabulary. I sang every single day after school. I’d just sit in the middle of the living room playing piano and singing at the top of my lungs. I’d spend hours each day. I’m sure I drove everyone crazy.”
CIS: At what point did you realize music was your career choice and was it really a choice?
Dana: “I think by the time I was in my teens I knew I wanted to sing but it wasn’t until I finished college that I really made the leap. I majored in Comparative Literature at college although I sang professionally all through school. Yes – it was a choice. I’ve always been pretty flexible and have a lot of interests. I probably could’ve been happy doing something else but I was fortunate to be able to make a living doing music.”
CIS: When did you move to NYC and why did you choose NYC over LA? What did you hope to gain?
Dana: “I moved to NY as soon as I graduated from Brown. I knew I would live in NY ever since I was a little girl. I was never attracted to LA. Besides, my family was all on the east coast. In those days you had to be in NY, LA or Nashville if you wanted to do anything serious with your music.”
CIS: How did you support yourself in the early stages of your career?
Dana: “I was a waitress for about a year and then I started singing with a band doing club dates and weddings. After a year or two I got into doing jingles and that really got me going.”
CIS: How different is it from what you do today?
Dana: “Well I had the luxury of being a session singer in the days when there was tons of work. For 25 years my life was about going from studio to studio singing on all kinds of projects (jingles and records) and working with the most incredible musicians. Because we were unionized we got paid well and had things like health care and pension funds. We were able to live like regular people – to buy homes and send our kids to school. Most people who work outside the mainstream really struggle. That’s unfortunately how the business has changed. It is much harder for artists and musicians to make a living.”
“Because of technology the business really started to change. I was lucky because I got a record deal when things were slowing down and I was busy developing my songwriting skills and exploring the artist thing. Today I write songs for other artists, I sing on jingles and records and I teach voice. In the course of a day I do many different things, whereas before I just sang all the time.”
CIS: In the early days of your career how did you deal with the competition? What do you believe made you stand out?
Dana: “I never really worried about “the competition”. I believe if you are good and if you work hard and you have true passion for what you are doing there will be a place for you. What made me stand out? Hmmm. Well my voice, obviously, but I enjoyed what I was doing and enjoyed the people I worked with so I was fun to be around. I had a very strong work ethic and I was very dependable.”
CIS: What are some of the steps you took to get you to where you are today?
Dana: I studied and perfected my craft. I respected and tried to learn from those who came before me. I always try to look 5 years ahead and grow accordingly.
CIS: Who have been some of your biggest influences and why?
Dana: “My father was probably the biggest influence. He was so smart and creative. He loved what he did but had a very balanced approach to his life.”
CIS: What motivates you?
Dana: “I have always felt I had a vocation. My “job” is my calling. It’s very important to me to love and be engaged in what I am doing. Whether it’s singing, producing, writing or teaching, I am never bored. I feel as though I am here to be of service and my gift is channeling music.”
CIS: How did you get into what use to be referred to as the “jingle business”?
Dana: “I had a meeting up at one of the big Advertising agencies and I just wowed the guy. He got me started.”
CIS: What was that like for you?
CIS: What were some of the biggest campaigns on which you sang?
Dana: “Coke, Pillsbury, Stouffers, Folgers …. Pretty much did it all.”
CIS: You had a recording contract with Universal. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
Dana: “Well I had two fabulous years writing and recording for the album. It was amazing to know that people were waiting to hear what I had to say. I had a lot of freedom so I was extremely creative. Once the record was done it was a nightmare. Universal and Polygram merged and nobody gave a shit. I felt like I had delivered a still-born child. I’m not being dramatic. That is just how it felt. I was silenced. It took a while to heal from that.”
CIS: I know that you wrote most or all of the songs that were on your album. Was it during that time that you really began to hone your songwriting skills and make more significant songwriting contacts that would help you grow as an artist?
Dana: “Oh absolutely!”
CIS: What do you consider to be your strengths as a songwriter?
Dana: “I am “top line”, as they say. I do lyrics and melodies. I play piano and guitar but I love collaborating. I am more arty than a lot of songwriters. I like big concepts and great lyrics.”
CIS: Knowing you have a wall full of gold and platinum records, can you tell us a few of the people who have recorded Dana Calitri songs?
Dana: “*NSYNC, Daughtry, Dream, Jessica Andrews, Donna Summer ….”
CIS: Coming full circle, what has been the transition of going from full time studio singer, to recording artist, to singer/songwriter? How have you changed as a result? Which brings to mind also how has the music business changed for you over the years?
Dana: “I answered some of this in previous questions but … hmmm how have I changed? Well I am a much more versatile and a much better musician. I am also a lot more confident since I now understand all sides of the business. I also have a more spiritual approach to my career now. I started studying sound healing about 6 years ago and it changed everything for me. The business can be so ego driven. I don’t worry so much about it anymore. I know I am meant to do music and I figure the universe will send me where I am needed.”
“As far as the business goes? It’s completely different. Nobody wants to pay for music anymore so it’s really crumbling. Most of us have to spend way too much time on the business, which is really exhausting. I am hopeful that eventually it will be figured out, but I must say I am in the minority.”
CIS: Knowing how difficult it is to be successful in the music recording business, and there is no doubt you have and have had a very enviable career, what would be your advice to others trying to make it in this business?
Dana: “Work hard to be the best you can be. Work on your craft and educate yourself as much as you can. You always need to be evolving and the more skills and talents you have the better off you will be.”
CIS: If there has been one highlight in your career, what was it and why has it stood out among all your other accomplishments and successes?
Dana: “That’s hard to say. There have been so many wonderful moments. I loved making the record … The first time I ever heard a song of mine on the radio, that was definitely a highlight…. But it’s all good.”
CIS: Given that this site is called “Cracks In Sidewalks” what would you consider to be your own personal crack?
Dana: “I am very spiritual. I believe that not everyone has the gift to create music and it’s a really special thing. But it’s a gift that is meant to be given away. Ego is the enemy … it stops the flow. I think some of my colleagues, including my husband, roll their eyeballs at my optimism and innocence. But it keeps me happily moving forward and it makes me feel like we have a purpose on this planet.”
CIS: Anything you would like to add?
Dana: “You pretty much covered everything. Good questions!”
CIS: Thank you!
For cat children of all ages:
This is the story of Zoe and Yoshi. This is “My Cats Tail.”
Once upon a time there was a beautiful blue grey cat with a white mask, white chest, little white snowshoes, and a pink nose. Her name was Zoe. Zoe was a very poor cat who grew up under the worst of circumstances. That she survived at all is a miracle unto itself. She came from the projects in Brooklyn where she lived in the basement. There she was used as bait to incite dogfights for the entertainment of those who had nothing better to do.
As a result Zoe was very guarded and afraid of all humans. Humans had mostly mistreated her with the exception of one kind older lady who lived in the building. Whenever she could, this loving woman would make her way to the basement where she knew Zoe lived, and leave her food and water. Without her kindness Zoe would have died.
With the wounds she bore from her abuse, a torn right eye that left her mostly blind in that one eye, and a short stubby tail that looked more like a rabbits than a cats tail, as the rest had been bit off; somehow Zoe remained strong. I think she was lucky too for she not only found a way to survive, but one night she gave birth to beautiful little kittens right in the basement of the projects. And I’m happy to say, one of those kittens soon became known as Yoshi.
After Zoe gave birth, the kind older woman continued to leave what food she could afford and water too for Zoe and her brood. But one day six or so weeks after their birth, the old woman came down to the basement and found Zoe and her kittens missing. This upset her very much and she became very worried. She searched and searched throughout the basement for the missing kitties calling for them everywhere, hoping to hear a meow. She soon discovered that someone from the building had thrown Yoshi and her mama Zoe, and the rest of her brothers and sisters, out into the streets to die. Realizing they had lost what little safety they had, the woman called a group who was known to help kittens and cats in need and asked them to come and pick up her wary friend and her litter, which they did.
I don’t know what happened to the other little kittens. They were gone by the time I met Zoe and Yoshi, but I’d like to believe they survived. I was only told that Zoe and Yoshi had this unusual mother daughter bond and the people from the rescue group did not want to separate the two. Given Zoe’s lack of socialization I have to think they also thought it would be easier to find a home for a traumatized abused mama cat if she came with an irresistibly cute little one, and I’m certain they were right.
Planning on adopting two kittens, I found myself one morning in the bathroom of some stranger’s apartment in Manhattan with a somewhat wild protective and fearful older mama cat and her completely innocent naïve and trusting little sidekick who was still nursing. Immediately I felt an attachment to these two little misfits, and before I knew it I could see my head bobbing up and down, voluntarily shaking yes to the woman from the cat rescue group.
When I first brought my new kitties home to my apartment, Zoe was very leery and fearful. But she was such a good mama! And Yoshi was so small she fit into the palm of my hand. She looked just like Zoe only with a black little nose instead of pink, and a long tail. She had a very mischievous curious nature and loved to play. She loved to play with water too, which I found unusual, as I had always thought cats didn’t like water.
Yoshi lived the life of a carefree kitten and spent her days either sleeping, basking in the sun, or chasing around the apartment after her toys and little aluminum foil balls. She had this truly comical fascination with the bathroom faucet, the water left in my shower, and my bathtub too, where she would jump in the second I got out, especially if the tub or shower was still wet. Unlike Zoe who did not leave the living room, Yoshi would scamper around the apartment walking in-between my feet following me from room to room as trusting a kitty as Zoe was not. She was very funny, and exceptionally cute with the most unusual markings I had ever seen, accept of course for her mother.
As little Yoshi flourished, Zoe remained a good and protective mother. Still very shy towards humans, she continued to be cautious and untrusting. Laughing and playing with Yoshi, Zoe would watch me from the sidelines, sometimes looking tempted and almost ready to join in. Slowly the two began to take over my living room. Eventually they monopolized the best chair in the house; a big old velvet down stuffed chair. They became so comfortable in that chair, that one day I realized it was no longer mine. And before I knew it there sat double-decker cats with one cat sleeping on the top cushion and the other one sleeping sweetly on the bottom.
I continued to remain very patient with Zoe, talking softly and reassuringly. “You’re a beauty and a love cat.” When finally after six months of keeping a respectful distance, she let me pet her. It was amazing! As her confidence continued to grow, each day I would go to her and gently pet her again hoping she would get use to a kind human touch. Soon you could see it in the way she held herself and pranced around the apartment, Zoe had begun to feel safe. And all the while I kept telling her over and over, “Zoe, you’re a beauty and a love cat.” “You’re a beauty and a love cat.” And that became our mantra.
Late one night after two years of living together, Zoe unexpectedly turned up in my bedroom and jumped up on my bed. Then Yoshi jumped up too. Soon everyone was on the bed and a beautiful relaxed Zoe started to lick and preen her two-year old baby Yoshi.
From that day on Zoe and Yoshi both slept on my bed every night and slowly Zoe grew into a happy confident trusting cat. Eventually she started to trust other human beings, and let them pet her too. And about four years into our friendship, she let me hold her.
I have to say Zoe became not only the beauty of which she was inherently born but also a love cat to me and everyone else who walked through my front door. She transformed herself into the official hostess and greeter, greeting everyone upon their arrival with a friendly grin and a meow. This once fearful abused cat became the sweetest cat that most people have ever come to know. And if she liked you, thought you were someone special, she would rub her head up against yours, as only she could when you sat on the couch, marking you with her head and a little tooth that stuck out, as a friend for life.
And did I tell you Zoe could fly? She was amazing. She would jump 4 feet up and 3 feet over from my couch to land on the top of my armoire, where she would perch herself for the day and reside over the room while keeping watch.
Both Zoe and Yoshi continued to thrive; theirs was a rags to riches almost fairly tale like story, but more importantly a true story about the power of love and friendship. Abused and from the projects, Zoe and Yoshi found a home and were finally safe. They opened their hearts and learned to trust, making lots of new friends along the way. They gave love and received loved, and lived happily ever after while holding court from their very own velvet down stuffed chair in Manhattan forever double decker kitties.
So that’s the story of Zoe and Yoshi. That is my own Cats Tail.
Zoe has since passed but Yoshi has found a new friend in her younger sister Suki. But of course that’s another Cat Tail.
c May 2008
This story has been copyrighted. To use any part of this work in any way, you must get written permission from the author.
I found myself taking a walk this weekend down upper 5th Avenue in NYC by Bryant Park and the library all the way down to lower 5th Avenue and 12th St. just above Washington Square Park. A friend had heard about a free art exhibit of Japanese Children Kimono’s and wanted to check it out.
When we got to the address I found that I had been to this little museum once before many years ago to see a Faberge Egg Exhibit. It’s actually The Forbes Galleries. Yes Forbes is a big name, but this museum is small and unknown to many, even New Yorkers. It houses both rotating collections and shows, and a permanent collection. It is a treasure trove of art and collectables including a large collection of toy boats, ongoing jewelry exhibits with the curator being the National Jewelry Institute, and many other surprises.
The children’s Kimono Exhibit was quite enjoyable and very well put together but The Forbes Galleries, next to the New Schools Parson School of Design, is definitely a crack to consider when walking around the village on a hot summer day.
The Forbes Galleries
62 Fifth Avenue at 12th Street
New York City
Presently the hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday – 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.
Closed Sunday, Monday, Thursday and all legal holidays
Tim Buckley’s “Buzzin Fly”. One of my all time favorite songs and definitely in this song you will hear one of my all time favorite voices! Something about Tim Buckley’s voice is ethereal or other worldly to me. He used his voice like an instrument and the timbre of the sound he let out when singing sent chills down my spine and connected me to some place deep and spiritual. He was definitely an original that due to his untimely death at the age of 28 many people missed. In recent years he has been best known as the father of singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley.
Originally released in 1969 on his album entitled “Happy Sad” for Electra. This body of work represented the beginning of Buckley’s experimentation of mixing elements of jazz into his material and songs.
To hear “Buzzin Fly” and to learn more about Tim Buckley, simply click on the address below, or if necessary cut and paste the address into your web browser. At the top of the page on the left you will see Tim Buckley / Tracks. Click on tracks and go to #17 and hit play.