Am I A Shameless Marketer?

A friend sent me a link to a web site called and that rekindled my ongoing ever-simmering debate about how and why I do what I do. Usually this is an internal trialogue amongst me, myself, and I, but occasionally it gets aired and argued with friends, family, and/or colleagues. In global terms the opposing forces are art and commerce, or altruism and commerce.

I followed the link my friend sent and found for sale the secrets of successful blogging and simple steps that will lead you to profitability. I imagine that plenty of people will buy this, but I’m not one of them. I don’t respond well to hard sell, and gimmicks turn me off. One of the gimmicks I detest most is the “$99 value, yours for only $24.99,” but I think what bothered me most in this case relates more to the content than the sales hype.

First of all, there is lots of free information about blogging and how to do it. Second, it offends my sensibilities as a blogger because there is a blogging community and we help one another, advise one another, and promote one another…for free. (I’d even bet that soliciting cross promotion is one of the “secrets” being sold.) On the other hand, I admire this person’s salesmanship and marketing savvy. But as I told my friend, “I can’t go that route. I guess this is why I will always be a starving artist.”

My friend wrote back:

The interesting thing about blogging is how it can be seen by some as a marketing opportunity, while the concept itself is about as far from commercial as you can get. [A mutual friend of ours] put together a blog on investing a couple of month ago, which he abandoned shortly thereafter because “nobody was reading it on a regular basis.” For him, it apparently was blog=audience. For [the blogging secrets guru], it is more blatantly blog=list (revenue).

I replied:

Don’t get me wrong, I do see blogging as a marketing opportunity, but for me it is one of pr, exposure, building “a fan base” … (eee gad, I’m speaking marketese) For my sensibilities, blogs-as-sales-tools should be more subtle, with an eye toward potential cash in the future for products that my “fans” will buy because they are interested in that product/subject/book, not cash from the blog itself — I hope never to sell ad space on my blog and always to give content that is interesting to my readers (which by my definition means only occasionally may I post a hard sell of my own — i.e. “click here to buy my book“)

My friend says, “You shameless marketeer, you.” What do you say?

Speak Up For Jazz On TV

Legends of Jazz may be seen in the greater Los Angeles area, but not on The Main PBS station. Apparently it will be aired on KOCE (Channel 50 out of Huntington Beach) Sundays at 11 PM and maybe on KVCR (San Bernardino), Tuesdays at 8 PM, although I cannot find confirmation on KVCR’s web site.

My friend Valerie sent me this email:

“How utterly maddening and embarrassing that KCET has opted not to carry this! And I just received my renewal notice from them. I may have to include a note as well as write a letter and call them! On the other hand, I loved the profile they did the other night on Eugene O’Neill…”

Bottom line is that we have to support public television AND let them know what it is that we want to see. If your station is not carrying this series, you might want to write to them. Here’s Valerie’s letter to KCET:

I want to see LEGENDS OF JAZZ on TV!

I am delighted to hear that jazz is returning to television in the new series, “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis” (see cover story in April issue of Down Beat magazine). And PBS is the perfect station for it. I’m eager to watch the program and to encourage many friends who are jazz fans to tune in to this weekly program.

But, I am very disappointed to learn that you are not carrying this important series.

As a jazz fan and educator, I’m eager to see more jazz on television. Jazz is an art form that deserves to be better represented on television, and this program perfectly addresses this need for more jazz programming. The popularity of the Ken Burn’s Jazz series proves that there is great interest in this music and the artists who make it. “Legends of Jazz” is the perfect follow-up to that documentary series since it profiles living artists, both legendary and up-and-coming. I ask that you present this important series in a prime slot so it can reach the same audience that tuned in to the Burns series.

Your station is important to me and I tune in to see programming I can’t see anywhere else – a series like this one, for example. “Legends of Jazz” is the first major television series devoted to jazz in 40 years, and I expect my public television station to present this important American music. I cannot imagine why you would not carry this important series, and present it on a day and time when the majority of your viewers can watch it.

Thank you.

Thanks, Valerie.

Jazz On Network Television!

LEGENDS OF JAZZ with Ramsey Lewis will start airing this weekend in markets across the country! The show actually debuted last summer with a one-hour special titled Legends of Jazz: The Jazz Masters, spotlighting five NEA Jazz Masters, namely vocalist Nancy Wilson, saxophonist James Moody, vocalist Jon Hendricks, Latin jazz artist Paquito D’Rivera, and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein. It must have been successful, because now thirteen half-hour episodes are ready to run on a PBS station near you.

The first episode is slated to be The Golden Horns featuring “three of the finest trumpet players in jazz – the romantic, intimate sound of Chris Botti, the hard bopping Roy Hargrove, and the legendary Clark Terry.” I saw a clip from this at IAJE — CT was doing mumbles, as great as ever. Great Guitars featuring dad and Pat Metheny is slated to be episoide #3, but you never know about these schedules so check your local listings for the day/time in your area and then watch all of the episodes:

    The Golden Horns with Clark Terry, Chris Botti, and Roy Hargrove
    The Jazz Singers with Al Jarreau and Kurt Elling
    The Great Guitars with Pat Metheny and Jim Hall
    Contemporary Jazz with George Duke, Lee Ritenour, and Marcus Miller
    The Altos with David Sanborn and Phil Woods
    The Piano Masters with Dave Brubeck and Billy Taylor
    Roots: The Blues with Robert Cray and Keb’ Mo’
    American Songbook with Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli
    Latin Jazz with Eddie Palmieri and Dave Valentin
    The Tenors with Benny Golson, Chris Potter and Marcus Strickland
    Brazilian Jazz with Ivan Lins and Oscar Castro-Neves
    The Killer Bs with Joey DeFrancesco and Dr. Lonnie Smith
    NEA Jazz Masters 2006 with Tony Bennett, Chick Corea, and Ray Barretto

Okay, maybe not each and every episode will interest you, but it’s jazz on network television and we need to support it. By the way, the show has a very nice looking web site with some video snippets and still photos from each episode.

Happy Birthday Thaddeus

On my CD player today I have three discs in rotation; they are The Complete Solid State Recordings of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (Mosaic 1994). Thad, middle brother to Hank and Elvin, would have been 83 years old today. He was a brilliant arranger and band leader, better known for his dynamic conducting, harmonic constructions, section writing, and on-the-spot head arrangements than for his horn playing. But he playing was beautiful too. I mention Thad from time to time on this blog — A Week of Monday Nights last May, Once Upon A Monday Night last October, and just last week I mentioned seeing Ralph Gleason’s “Jazz Casual” tv episode featuring the band in the late 1960s. I guess I’d better order the Jazz Casual DVDs while supplies last.

I am so glad that my husband gifted me this boxed CD set when it came out a dozen years ago; being a “limited edition” it is no longer available. The brightness and bounce of Little Pixie seems particularly uplifting on this chilly, rainy day in usually sunny California. Happy birthday Thaddeus.

At The Vic

I’ve only been to The Vic twice, first time to hear Roger Kellaway’s trio and and last Thursday night to hear Bill Henderson and celebrate his 80th birthday. Many of you would recognize Bill from his acting roles (ranging from big screen roles in movies such as City Slickers to small screen appearances on shows such as Cosby, ER, and lots of commercials), but if you are not familiar with Bill’s singing, you should check him out. Some may find him to be an acquired taste, his sound is recognizable and his style, phrasing, and interpretations of a song are always unique. He’s a hipster more than a suave crooner, yet it’s his ballads that I love most. Bill has recorded a bit, some out of print releases on the Discovery label and Bill Henderson/Oscar Peterson Trio (Polygram 1989), but my favorites are his four tracks accompanied by a chamber orchestra on a Charlie Haden CD titled The Art of The Song (Polygram 1999).

The Vic is an intimate room reminiscent of an old speakeasy, complete with password-required rear-door entry. A living-room setting with good food, a full bar, and excellent music — who could ask for anything more? This coming Thursday we’ll be there again to cheer on Clairdee, who is making a rare Los Angeles appearance. If you are a DevraDoWrite regular, then you’ve heard a bit about her before, and hopefully checked out her web site and perhaps purchased a CD or two. Accompanying her will be her musical director and pianist Ken French, along with Los Angeles’ own dynamic duo that is The Cross Hart Jazz Experience (Ryan Cross on bass and Lorca Hart on drums.) If you watch Friends, ER, The West Wing, Girlfriends or Eve, chances are you have heard music by The Cross Hart Jazz Experience.

Here’s are some press quotes about Clairdee

    Downbeat – “Clairdee invests the songs with generous spirit and unpretentious sincerity.”
    USA Today – “Clairdee offers swinging renditions of traditional tunes.”
    San Francisco Examiner – “She is among the most skilled and appealing singers around – fine songs, beautiful voice, great moves.”
    WBGO Radio, New York – “A force to be reckoned with!”
    Urban Network – “A heartfelt connection that swings, grooves and soothes.”
    Jazz Now Magazine – “Clairdee’s clear contralto is laid back and mellow, her phrasing impeccable, her lyrical interpretations warm and unpretentious. She produces a compelling argument for a prominent niche among the best of today’s young female vocalists.”

and a link back to what I wrote about her appearance at IAJE in New York.

The Vic is located at 2640 Main Street, Santa Monica CA 90405. Two shows — 8 PM and 10 PM. Call for reservations: 888-367-5299. I’ll be present for both of Clairdee’s shows, so if you’re there, please be sure to say hello. That’s this Thursday, March 30th.

Awe and Admiration

Friends and even some acquaintances often comment that they are amazed by my schedule and stamina, the number of projects I juggle and so forth. I know people who work far harder than I do, so I assume that this “awe” is inspired by my cancer encounter and living with multiple sclerosis. It’s nice to get compliments, a good ego boost and all of that, but I’m not really so impressed with myself, especially when there are others whose struggles are much greater. Today I read a story on NPR’s website about a woman, Ms. Morant, who knows far better than I what it means to keep going. She lives in a brick row house in Washington, D.C. where she cares for her 89 year old sister and her 95 year old brother. After 20 years her sister is in the end stages of Alzheimer’s and over the last six years her brother has had several strokes. Ms. Morant, who has been caring for them the whole time, is 101 years old. Now she is truly worthy of awe and admiration. Here’s the link to the NPR page with the story, photos, and audio.

I’ve Got Mail: Music and/on Film

You never know when posting an off-hand reaction will lead to a really interesting discovery or recommendation. A friend writes:

Interesting, DevraDoWrite, about “driving your own music.” I feel old, too. But let those folks do their thing — push the envelope — and let’s see what comes of it. In the meantime, there are people like the guy who did Music from the Inside Out. In the meantime, there are people like us. Let us not discount us.

Music from the Inside Out? If I still lived in Greenwich Village (where it ran exclusively at New York’s Cinema Village), or if I still read The Hollywood Reporter (wherein I would have seen the September 29, 2005 review) I might have known about this documentary. But today, on this subject, I was not in-the-know. Thank goodness for Google, which led me here, to the Education section of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s web site where I learned that it is a documentary film, apparently a very good one having been recently nominated for the International Documentary Association’s Distinguished Feature Award. This sounds like a must-see:

Filmed over a period of five years on three continents, MUSIC FROM THE INSIDE OUT is groundbreaking in style and approach: the main character of this film is “Music” itself. Incorporating a blend of well-loved musical works—including classical, jazz, bluegrass, salsa, and world music – the film features one of the most eclectic soundtracks of any recent documentary.

It played for one week at one theatre in Seattle (got a good review), albeit brief, and it has now made it to Los Angeles where it will be playing in one theatre: Laemmle’s Music Hall on Wilshire. For how long I know not. I guess it will depend on how many of “us” go to see it.

For more info, including cities/dates and lovely streaming audio, visit the film’s web site.

I Just Don’t Get It

I just read a scary article online: Without a Song: Just how much music can a nonmusician make? Here’s a snippet:

Their goal is more ambitious than helping novices become better listeners: they want to catapult people with little or no training into the ranks of composers and performers.

“It’s a shame that people have to sit in an audience and be passive,” says Elaine Chew, an accomplished pianist and assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Southern California. Chew has performed in venues ranging from Singapore to Slovenia, and has accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma. More recently, she’s been focusing her energies on enabling nonmusicians to experience the thrill of performance.

Why? And is listening to music a passive experience? (Is any activity really passive?). Does she really mean to imply that listeners feel no thrill?

Maybe I’m just too old and stodgy to appreciate this, but I cannot imagine that I would find it thrilling to drive music.

Chew has yoked a steering-wheel console to a computer system that lets a user “drive” a piece of music, manipulating the tempo with an accelerator and brake pad. The visual display is like a race track whose curves prompt the driver to slow down or speed up, shifting the musical pace along with the car’s movement through space.

I just don’t get it. Do you?

Jackie Sings Again

I just left New York, but were I to be on the East Coast on April 8th you’d find me across the river in South Orange, New Jersey listening to Jackie Cain in the intimate club-like setting of The Baird Center.

You may have heard about Jackie’s appearance at Trumpets a few months ago — Mr. Rifftides wrote of it here, or you might have read Zan Stewart’s review in The Star Ledger — it was a sold-out, standing-room-only performance. At The Baird Jackie will be backed for the first time ever by her own trio with Allen Farnham on piano, Dean Johnson on bass, and Rich DeRosa on drums. I really do wish I could be there.

I’m not much of a commuter type, and there is no chance that I’ll be flying in from the Left Coast, but for you New Yorkers, I’m told that The Baird is only a half-hour away and easily accessible by car or train (just 8 blocks from the South Orange train station). And even better, the tickets are truly affordable at $17.

If perchance you are not familiar with the name of Jackie Cain, maybe “Jackie and Roy” will ring your bell. Jackie Cain and her husband Roy Kral were a popular duo attraction for more than fifty years. Gene Lees wrote in the liner notes for a recording titled Full Circle:

“One of the things that keeps Jackie and Roy so young is that they never lost their enthusiasm for the songs they sing. They are always coming up with fresh insights into familiar material or – as in the case of the present album – bringing unfamiliar or overlooked material to our attention. Their repertoire is constantly expanding.”

Sadly, Roy died in 2002, but, happily for us, Jackie is still singing and swinging.

FYI: Tickets may be purchased online here or in person or by phone from The Baird Center, 5 Mead Street in South Orange, (973) 378-7754.

Taking Time

I don’t often make or take time to read fiction. Not because I don’t like it, quite the contrary. I do like it, but it’s not work, and being something of a workaholic, time allocations for “reading for pleasure” are sparse. Most often I indulge when travelling. Last week I mentioned The Time Traveler’s Wife. I read about a third of it and enjoyed the writing, but was bored. I never felt compelled to ask “and then what happened?” If you are a long-time DevraDoWrite reader you may be shocked, as I have written that once started, I found it hard to not force myself to finish a book — that was then, I seem to have surmounted that difficulty now.

For my plane ride home I started reading The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. Here’s the opening:

The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-give thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. Just like our marriage, I could have said, but why ruin everything now? Here we were in first-class splendor, tentatively separated from anxiety; there was no turbulence and the sky was bright, and somewhere among us, possibly, sat an air marshal in dull traveler’s disguise, perhaps picking at a little dish of oily nuts or captivated by the zombie prose of the in-flight magazine. Drinks had already been served before takeoff, and we were both frankly bombed, our mouths half open, our heads tipped back. Women in uniform carried baskets up and down the aisles like a sexualized fleet of Red Riding Hoods.

“Will you have some cookies, Mr. Castleman? a brunette asked him, leaning over with a pair of tongs, and as her breasts slid forward and then withdrew, I could see the ancient mechanism of arousal start to whir like a knife sharpener inside him, a sight I’ve witnessed thousands of times over all these decades. “Mrs Castleman?” the woman asked me then, in afterthought, but I declined. I didn’t want her cookies, or anything else.

We were on our way to the end of the marriage…

Publishers Weekly said “A tale of witty disillusionment…a devestating message about the price of love and fame.” And a blurb from Katha Pollitt says “…witty, deft, hilarious sentences that add up to so much tragic understanding of life…”

According the the back cover copy, Mr. Castleman “is one of America’s preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award” and Mrs. Castleman “who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, has finally decided to stop.” I’m likely to finish reading this one. It’s a slender volume, won’t take up too much time…