April in Paris. I Remember April. April Showers. “April is the cruelest month.” Forsythia. Daffodils. Cherry blossoms. My Mom’s birthday and her death day. April Fool’s Day and today, Easter. The month has turned and here we are and when all is said and done, isn’t that a miracle? Much more interesting than any story of resurrection. Just the sheer fact of being alive is a mystery beyond explanation.
And so here I am, sitting for the third time in Fantasy Records in Berkeley, California, listening to my kids sing “Step Back Baby” accompanied by my one and only jazz band. “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” they sing and the engineer tells us the story that the soundtrack to the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was recorded right here in Studio A and the money earned from that helped build the new parts of the building. Like I said, little miracles all around us.
Recording a CD is both exhilarating and grueling and every doubt I’ve ever had about my musicianship and regret I’ve had about my less-than-ideal musical upbringing comes up with a vengeance. From my singing to my piano playing to my overall sense of time and pitch, I waver between “Are you crazy thinking you can put this out in public?” to “Well, it has a good spirit.” I keep telling people in my workshops “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood,” insisting that the plasticity of the brain and the rewards of focused effort can make their dreams come true, musical and otherwise. But no matter how flexible the brain can be, it seems to me that the deep connections forged in early childhood are the most dependable and reliable, like a solid foundation from which the house of dreams arises. As a musician, I feel like I’m teetering on an active earthquake fault. But so be it. Short of better luck in a future reincarnation, it is what it is.
Meanwhile, hasn’t music been good to me. Gave me my work, got me traveling around the world and getting paid for it and most importantly, gave me so many hours of so much pleasure, listening to it, dancing to it, playing it. And it got me here to this room in this extraordinary house of history, where so much remarkable music has been recorded. Another strike for miracles.
And in April, it will bring me to New Orleans, a place I’ve (unbelievably) never been. Mostly I go as a student and a tourist, but I will be giving one workshop on Orff and Jazz and visiting a school as well. A bit like brings coals to Newcastle, but with a new twist to how to warm the house of jazz education in new ways. And then later in the month, to Mexico City, my first workshop in Mexico and one I’ve long thought should happen. In-between, working on this CD, getting kids ready for the Spring Concert and playing at the Jewish Home.
Okay, April, here I come. May the flowers bloom, the Spring winds sweep away the winter of our discontent and the birds return to serenade us with music’s sweet song.