Kimbra’s Ring of Gold

This 21-year-old singer has “it.”

Plain Gold Ring

Explosively controlled jazz. Volcanic scat and soul. She bobs and weaves and falls victim to the depths of her emotional possession, as all great artists do. But she rises from those depths and expresses the journey upward and outward, without losing her courage or her conviction.

Aside from her wonderful voice, running parallel with it, she moves in interesting, idiosyncratic ways to her own song. A refreshing change from all too many pop singers who dance in cookie cutter ways, pushed into narrow corporate forms to look like every other pop singer.  Joy Williams of The Civil Wars is similar in her physical originality.…

The Physiology of Jazz

She’s a dervish on the piano. She dances with it, tweaks and cajoles the notes, the rhythm, the beat. There are few performers with such a developed and idiosyncratic relationship with their musical instrument, and few who exhibit so much joy in performance. She makes music, the act of making music, physical, kinetic, electric.

NPR has a story and a good video up on its website showing her extraordinary technique.

Born in Japan in 1979, Hiromi later studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. She has played with several legends of the Jazz world, including Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea.…

Witness to Genesis

 First to see. Like Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman. 1933. Debut to beat the band. To be there. To be not square there. Ella singing scat with Dizzy in the 40s. Using her voice like a horn, playing with it, like a mad cat running up and down a tree. Running up and down and all over town.

Billie wrote a lot of songs. A lot of people don’t know that. Or care. They just want to hear her sing. And, maybe feel like they’re cool for liking her, knowing about her. Yeah, it’s cool if you’re hip without pushing it.…

Being in Time

Yves Tanguy’s Indefinite Divisibilty. 1943

For those of you north of the border, for those of you planning to take a trip to Canada soon, Desi Di Nardo has a poetic treat in store. On Wednesday, May 13th, she will be holding a workshop/reading at 7:00pm.

The location is:

The McNally Robinson Bookstore

Don Mills Road at Lawrence Avenue East
12 Marie Labatte Road
Toronto, Ontario
M3C 3R6

(416) 384-0084

From the bookstore’s announcement:

Desi Di Nardo is an author and poet living in Toronto whose work has been published in numerous North American and international journals and anthologies. Her poetry has been performed at the National Arts Centre, featured in Poetry on the Way on the TTC, and displayed in the Official Residences of Canada.

Freedom to Swing

Django Reinhardt and company. Photo by Dietrich Schulz-Koehn

While doing some research for a new novel, I stumbled on a fascinating story. WWII, Occupied France, and Django Reinhardt, one of the great Jazz guitarists of his era. Many elements make the story fascinating, but perhaps the most unusual aspect of the whole thing is that Reinhardt was a gypsy. The Nazis included the Roma in with other minority groups it sought to destroy, killing hundreds of thousands of them before their reign of terror ended. According to Michael Zwerin, who wrote Swing Under the Nazis, Reinhardt rose to prominence in occupied Paris despite being a gypsy.…

Vienna Teng

One of my favorite recent discoveries is the music of Vienna Teng. I love the name. She chose it. It fits. A Taiwanese-American singer/songwriter from California, Vienna has a gorgeous, angelic voice that exudes intelligent sweetness, but is never saccharine.

She has called her music “Chamber Folk”, which rings true. Influenced by Classical, Jazz, Folk and Pop, Vienna Teng sings on the edge of discovery. She flies higher, but doesn’t overreach. When she is not singing, just talking, she sounds more than down to earth. She seems relaxed about her place on the surface of this planet. But music lifts her off that surface again and again and again.…

Kandinsky’s Synesthesia

Kandinsky’s Yellow, Red, Blue. 1925: Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Kandinsky heard colors. They sang to him. His notes were colors, his colors notes. I see Jazz in the air, Bebop tickling the cerebral cortex, trailing after the watcher and the painter and the singer in all of us. I see blue notes, sharps and flats, choruses and improvs. The sun kisses that music and carries it through space and time. And there’s something not quite right, or unfinished, and waiting. There’s something ready to come into view on the right, like an unfinished symphony, an old Jazz or Blues number found in the papers of a known or unknown master.

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