Monday, February 13, 2017

RJ Spangler Trio and Tbone Paxton at SSLDL

RJ Spangler Trio with John "Tbone" Paxton played Mardis Gras jazz music Sunday, February 12 at the Salem-South Lyon District Library. New Orleans complete with Mardi Gras beads!

Tbone Paxton (voice/trombone), Jacob Schwandt (guitar), Jeff Cuny (string bass), Jake Matthews (drums), RJ (percussion), and sitting in on drums/percussion for the last tunes, Bob.

RJ knows his music history, so we learned as well as danced in our seats. Opening with Basin Street (Jack Teagarden video) written by Spencer Williams in 1928, recorded by Louis Armstrong same year. Armstrong's band performs in 1964 here. Next the musicians swung into Some of These Days, a Tin Pan Alley writer Shelton Brooke tune, published in 1910, made famous by Sophie Tucker. Hoagy Carmichael's New Orleans was next up. You can hear Art Pepper on alto in this recording.
Chocko Mo Feendo Hay or Joc-a-mo-fee-no-ah-nah-nay or Chaque amoor fi nou wa na né. Is it Creole + West African Yorumba? Johnny Crawford wrote phonetic interpretations of beautifully costumed paraders he heard musically jousting in the 1950s. Danny Barker performed this song with the same chant, without the Iko Iko. Barker spent years in NY before going south, training musicians in the old brass band tradition. Wynton Marsalis came out of this sound school.

Hey Pocky Way (Neville Bros. here), followed by Li'l Liza Jane, also with West African roots. This video is Ms. Nina Simone and her tambourine. You got up and danced, did'in cha?

Eh La Bas (Preservation Jazz Hall band). One of my trips to New Orleans, I went first to the Jazz Hall. On the door was a sign "gone to Detroit, back in 2 wks." !
On that trip I bought a Leo Meiersdorff print (a jazz musician himself.) I put it away and forgot it for a few decades. Last week, on the hunt for another piece of art, I found it, unframed. I dismantled one of my own framed watercolors, and stuck the piano player in it. Love this!

One more song! Going Down to New Orleans, written by New Orleans native Earl King. RJ said you hear this song coming out of car radios, bars, and apartments with windows open. A great article on King's life and legacy is here. Another Detroit connection: King came to Detroit to find a place at Motown, and 3 tracks with King playing can be heard on Motown's Blue Revolution, recorded in 1996.

For those who want more music - Rhythm Rockers (with RJ and Tbone) will be at the Rochester Mills Beer Company on February 28, Fat Tuesday, even if it's not on the pub calendar yet.

For those who can't wait, stream WWOZ - home of New Orleans jazz music.

The concert was made possible with The Metro Detroit Book & Author Society 2016 James Dance Performance Grant. Patrons can enjoy 2 more concerts this year at SSLDL!



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dollhouse Beginning 1992

My sister was cutting my hair in her kitchen in Detroit, while my other sister talked about what needed to happen in that house before the arrival of the baby, due in 2 months. Crib assembled, supplies laid on, daycare acquired. Susan quoted some prices, having 2 children of her own in daycare. So much money! I peeked around my hair - for an infant? What do babies do? Sleep, eat, eliminate, sleep some more. I told my pregnant sister - if I don't have a good job by then, I'll watch the baby. A week later, my niece was born prematurely. We started running. Paint the room, assemble crib, lay on supplies, get to library to learn how babies really do work. That tiny girl changed my life. She didn't sleep in a crib for a year. I had to watch her breathe. In out in out. I called her mother to report every new skill - working mothers miss all that great stuff. And when my other sister figured out I wasn't going to abandon this lovely role, she brought her 2 out of daycare. My day started at 5 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. when I dropped the baby off at home. Three years of love and learning and joy. And I banked every nickel I could, because a divorce was in my near future.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dollhouse

The dollhouse began as all stories do. Once upon a time. One time a long time ago a little girl like me...is the first line I write on a blank paper. In 1992 divorce was in my near future. I was blessed to have my sisters' little children in my care then, and having never put away my childlike awe, we played and learned from each other as hearty loving equals. I started the build of this dollhouse and finished the construction in 1994: the year the divorce was final, and I had a new home in my mind if not in real estate. In 1996 I was diagnosed with cancer. I needed a haven, respite and safe harbor from the world of disease. The outfitting of my alternate reality commenced in earnest. Most of the accoutrement in the house is art from life. The wreath in the bedroom stairway is a scaled reproduction of one I still own. The bedroom furniture is modeled on my set which is 120 years old in 2017. The Black Mariah stove is constructed to resemble my great-grandmother's, and there is a coffee grinder with real coffee in it. On the fireplace mantel is a miniature of the hand-tooled clock I bought for myself in 1980 which still keeps time and good company on my desk. As the years went by, I gifted the house. Last year was a plate of artisan-made springerle cookies.This year is the 20th anniversary of being cancer free, and I think this is the year to donate the dollhouse. My lovely friend Carol suggested C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. With that goal, I will chronicle the tale of the dollhouse here. Life is stories. Parents and ill children need good stories. And a place, path and passion to imagine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cancer In A Jar

January 1997.  I no longer remember the exact day. We had to be at Harper Hospital at 5:00 a.m. Another woman was checking in as well, and we "no, please, you first" responded to the call for next. An O.R. was scheduled for 12 hours to get the cancer in my head out. In the room would be my surgeon, a maxillofacial prosthedontist (and his spare parts, including a nose, maxillary bone, eye socket) a back-up plastic surgeon, many other professional medical people. My sister said she couldn't imagine what I was about to live through. I told her it would be her who lives through those hours. I'd be awakened in post-op after it was all over. I awoke in recovery to a guy in surgical gear calling my name. First thing I said was there are duckies on your cap. He said it's in a jar. Do you understand me? It's in a jar.

That January day was preceded by a year of trying to get a surgical referral, of learning at high speed through a traumatic situation how to get what I needed. How to hurdle the gatekeepers, trample the stoppers. That was the year of Flat Alice: anyone who tried to get in my way. The year of Beckie being at my side for each encounter, of her agreement to hold my consciousness until I was ready to take it back, of her getting me to a chair before I passed out when I saw the room of face parts in the MP's office as I hung up my coat. Of sitting in her car in the freezing cold after the MP told me he could replace my eye, but he couldn't make it blink, and Beckie slamming both hands onto the steering wheel, shouting "Damn it! Why can't he make it blink?" Of her being my ears, my guide, as well as continuing to be my Best Friend in the Whole Wide World.

Of children who became my spiritual advisors. Of my mother, unaware she was going to die of cancer soon, trying to find a way to bond with me that did not include disease.

A year of fools and misogynists and incompetent famous doctors and ridiculous healthcare network rules and paperwork. A year of miracle workers, angels on earth, and family, friends, laughter and terrible pain.

There would be another six years of surgeries to repair and replace. Six years of deepening and new friendship and acute self-discovery. Six years descending into personal financial crisis, and ascending to gratitude and awareness. Six years of losing my mother and friends to that awful disease.

Through it all there would always be that day in January when Dr. John Jacobs said it's in a jar.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Welcome to Medicare in the Three Story Life

First doctor visit with Medicare for me. My brother and I went together. He's been on Medicare for years. Our Medicare reports came same day. There is a $47 charge for both of us for 15 minutes worth of depression screening. My brother has Alzheimer's disease, is nonresponsive, so screening did not happen. I am completely responsive, and I didn't get 15 mins. screening either. Neither one of us is on depression medication, so screening shouldn't be a proforma billing opportunity anyway.

Except - yeah - who reads a Medicare billing report?

Medical now bills like legal, in 15 min. increments? $188/hour for depression? Please don't tell my therapist this.

I went into the office, copies were made. Explanations were given. We didn't do this here. It's the system. You'll have to discuss this with Medicare. The biller is out to lunch. The biller will call you. When I hadn't gotten a call by Friday, I went in again.

Copies made right away. Notes taken. Date of birth(s), phone number. Explanations commenced. The biller is out to lunch. This invoice comes from headquarters. We can't do anything about this here. You'll have to take it up with Medicare, with HQ. Different person, same script.

It's the system.

"So your system is AI, is it?

"Sorry?"

"No human entered this code from here."

"Well, not really."

"The system did it."

Nod. "We can't fix it here."

"Because the system."

Nod. "Can only be fixed after the fact. And not here."

Blank stare.

Face transforms to sympathetic aspect. Shrug. "It happens."

"Yes, to millions of us."

"Well. Not here."

Monday, October 10, 2016

RJ Spangler Trio with Larry Smith

The RJ Spangler Trio featuring Larry Smith performed the first of four concerts in a 2nd Sunday jazz series yesterday at our Salem-South Lyon District Library. The sessions are sponsored by the Jazz Foundation of America, and the Metro Detroit Book & Author Society 2016 James Dance Performance Grant. You'll have a chance to see them perform again in Dec., Feb., and April.

L to R: Oliver Nevels, guitar; Larry Smith, alto sax; Greg Cook on bass; RJ Spangler, drums. Listeners were treated to standards from the jazz book, beginning with Body and Soul, 1930 music by Johnny Green, lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton.

The audience asked for Take Five composed by Paul Desmond, debuted with the Dave Brubeck Quartet on their 1959 album, Time Out. Take Five had a piano lead for Brubeck - we heard a George Benson arrangement featuring Oliver Nevels on guitar.

Take the A Train, composed by Duke Ellington. RJ shared the backstory on this classic: Billy Strayhorn had been sending compositions, arrangements to Ellington. The Duke finally told him he probably needed to join the Ellington organization. How to get there? The rest is superb jazz music history.

We heard Larry Smith's long rich music background, told by RJ, and - just so we didn't think it was myth - confirmed by Downbeat magazine. Larry went to high school with Henry Mancini! In Pittsburgh, he played with a George Benson R&B group. Benson noticed Smith wasn't playing the R&B grooves. What do you call what you're playing? Smith took him to a place with a jukebox, put a dime in the slot and Benson asked "who we listening to?" Smith responded, "Bird." "What's a bird?" And once more, the rest is jazz music history. 

After the concert I asked Larry Smith what maker built his horn. Bundy Selmer. He told us how saxophones used to be made of a combination of silver, brass and gold; offering a rich tonal resonance he doesn't hear in the new brass horns. My Dad's tenor saxophone is a Herb Couf instrument, and it still breathes music in the hands of Tony Lustig in NYC. Larry also talked about always having that special reed on hand, along with backup.

The concert closed with Watch What Happens, composed by Michel leGrand; a song that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Known for his movie scores (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Thomas Crown Affair) leGrand wrote just as eloquently in jazz. Still composing, still musically strong, his 85 Concerts for My 85th Birthday World Tour is getting underway. Concert dates will be released by the end of this month 2016.

I'm missing one of the tunes because I got lost in hearing my Dad play his tenor in my mind, the background music to my whole life. When I was little, I went with him to rehearsals, usually in somebody's basement. I knew the words to Deep Purple, Little White Lie, and Darn That Dream before I was six. My father is second from the left, saxes. At the piano is Joe Fredal, our family's future dentist.

One of the days I was remembering yesterday afternoon. Dad on that gorgeous Herb Couf tenor, me on my Great Aunt Suoma's little organ. He's using a jazz mouthpiece! I didn't remember he even owned one of those. For my medicine bag when I was fighting cancer, I asked loved ones to contribute a powerful talisman to kick that mess. My father gave me a saxophone reed. One more beautiful example of the healing power of music, and the importance of always having that special reed on hand. And a backup.

 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dollhouse Art Studio Installed

Set the art studio components in the 3rd floor office of my dollhouse today. The ladders are handpainted. I used a piece of 2x3 luan plywood I saved from when I made miniature diaramas; sawed it to fit the ladders. The art framed in the stack of frames is a copy of a big oil painting I did years ago.

A small bag of mini-tiles I've never used finally got use as the top of the work table. Craft sticks stained with furniture repair markers finished it.
 
Tinted glue made a jar of used water. Nice that it matches the corner tiles! The actual watercolor color was French Ultramarine, but the glue whitened that. I made the rolls of tape and paper towels. The ceramic art jars are made by Shari at Miniature Maker Supply. The brushes are made by Taylor Jade.


 
The paint tubes I made from Sculpey clay with labels signed by me. Would have used white clay if I had some. The shoulder of the tubes are half a crimp, the caps are clay painted black.

Next time - if there is a next time - I'll use the metal from the neck of a bottle of wine. The metal would look good for oil paint tubes. Saw that idea on the internet. Bonus: I'll have a bottle of wine in the house!

Holiday time is coming up! I'll be decorating the front of the dollhouse for Thanksgiving. For Christmas dollhouse tree decorations, a Christmas cactus and a poinsettia I made, have a peek at my etsy shop