Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (why i chose JAZZ)

imageI couldn’t sleep, and wouldn’t sleep, when love came and told me I shouldn’t sleep…..But it is not love that’s keeping me awake at this snowy moment this part of my world. Yes it’s 2 degrees celsius outside and everything is covered with snow. I can not find my way into deep slumber because  I have been thinking. What is next after music? Music is my life and has been keeping me alive for the past 20 years. I even tell my musicians that nobody retires from singing. Until death do us part. On the bandstand, we drop dead. Us meaning me and my microphone. Times like this when I am alone, I ask myself, how  did I get in here? In this so-called music industry?

One thing I am sure of is that growing up was very musical for me. From my family, to school, to the church where my family attends every Sunday, music is always present. I took up Communication Arts and wanted to be like my mom. A professor of political science. Or like my dad, a businessman. Honestly, I really did not know what I wanted to be. All I know is to follow family tradition which is to  finish college, take up my masters or proceed to Law School. As it turned out, none of the above happened. Friends would ask me, and I quote ‘did you dream of becoming a musician?’ and I would always reply, ‘No, it dreamt of me”. There must be a reason why I ended up in this industry. The powers that be guided me all along to be able to be in this position. The position I am enjoying which means being validated and being recognized for this precious gift that God gave me. I am not like the other artists like Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn or Anita O’ Day and all the other jazz legends like Satchimo, (Louis Armstrong) , in other words I’m just being myself specially when I’m up there on stage. Moreover, I love all the songs in the American Songbook. Focusing on Jazz as a genre equates long hours of practice, vocal exercises, workshops, lessons in theory, solfeggios, listening to hundreds upon hundreds of recordings, performing the songs live with diverse musicians from all over the world, learning the language of music (musician’s language), amazing but  musicians from different parts of the world team up to have a gig and not speak to each other at all. We use our hearts, our souls, our sense of hearing, sign languages, nodding of the heads so as to know where the intro, solo, coda, finale comes in. Creativity happens on stage! But that skill in Improvising or creating your own sound, own style, own scat scales do not happen overnight. I needed to swallow my pride when my mentor tells me that he hates my sound, insulting and intimidating not to mention belittling words like, ‘I should choose a different career’. You have no idea on the amount of tears I had to shed for feeling so sad that I just couldn’t get it! The more that my mentor would throw a hurtful line, the more I study. The more I hear, the more I watch seasoned performers and will always take on a challenge to sing a highly unfathomable song that would require me to remember the -5 sound, the Mm7 sound, the diminished scale, the #11 and the many scales of the Blues. At first, learning those scales, remembering the notes, practice till I get a perfect pitch (there’s a trick on that) , was nerve wrecking. Perhaps being able to play the piano and the guitar helped a lot in remembering the sound of a particular scale. And lo and behold,  I just woke up one morning and I am creating my own sound, my own style, my own phrasing, my own scat riffs, I was IMPROVISING and I was having so much FUN! Finally I decided that i’ll just stick to this genre but not forget to listen to the new songs of this generation. This generation is blessed with so much talented and gifted musicians. I learn from them as well. Yet, there’s more to that. Here are some tricks to be a better jazz performer.

1) Get a good mentor and stay, don’t be lazy to attend your sessions.

2) Learn Basic Music Theory

3) Perform as much as you can in front of an audience. Your family can be your audience. And don’t feel bad when you’re criticized.

4) Listen to as many artists as you can, female and male vocalists alike and  instrumentalists and get to hear their solos. Then apply them to yours while creating your own sound and style.

It’s extraordinarily fun if you know what you’re doing, you LOVE what you’re doing and you get PAID for it too!

I chose Jazz because not only  I can be creative, cerebral, relaxed, but Jazz is good for the heart and soul as well…It’s my therapy. It’s my meditation, my prayer and I’m at PEACE when i’m making my music. Needless to say, I will sing until I drop dead.


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