Making music on the wild Sonoma coast

Sonoma coastGemini Soul just returned from three days at Sea Ranch, where we recorded a new CD to be titled “The Nefertiti Xperience.” Instead of going to a recording studio, we decided to rent a house in the quietude of Northern California’s wild and scenic Sonoma coast. Rain greeted us, the first in a parade of winter storms sweeping in from the north. We set up our instruments in the second-floor living room, where two large windows looked out over the Pacific. Deer cavorted in the meadow beside the house. Continue reading →

What is really jazz?

Some traditionalists have appointed themselves guardians of jazz purity. Like plantation owners fearful of an assault on the virgin chastity of their daughters, they draw a narrow perimeter around the term jazz and lock the door. Few are allowed to pass the threshold. But such an exclusionary attitude is the antithesis of the African heritage out of which jazz was born, a heritage in which music-making was a communal experience, without a great degree of distinction between performer and audience.

So if it’s misguided to restrict what qualifies as jazz to music with a triplet swing rhythm (as some would have it), what, then, is really jazz? Continue reading →

The lyrics of Tori Amos

Tori uses highly personal and idiosyncratic language in her lyrics that makes the songs often difficult to decipher and open to multiple interpretations. We don’t always know exactly what she’s talking about, but her choice of words and imagery convey an underlying emotional state that we understand. The ambiguity of meaning helps keep the songs interesting and engaging. A good example of the challenge of interpretation is “Caught A Lite Sneeze” from her third solo album, “Boys for Pele.” Continue reading →

Hancock’s Letters to Joni

River - The Joni LettersBefore recording the Joni Mitchell songs that comprise 10 of the 12 tracks* on “River – The Joni Letters,” Herbie Hancock first gathered his fellow musicians — Wayne Shorter on sax, Dave Holland on bass, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Lionel Loueke on guitar — and discussed the meaning of the lyrics, the environment of the lyrics in relation to the music. The music they crafted together is a hauntingly beautiful tribute to Joni’s artistry. Herbie’s harmonic sensibilities are bold and imaginative. Jazz artists have never shied away from dissonance, but the way in which Herbie moves fluidly from moments of lucid tonality to restless, dissonant harmony shows his artistic greatness. Continue reading →