Among the many wonderful quotes by Oscar Wilde, the one that says “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it” remains a firm favorite of mine. Perhaps because it works so well in so many different situations in life. Take, for example, myself.
After a very short and quite well-deserved period of celebration (meaning two beers) for getting two projects approved in the municipal culture incentive law, I had to sink my feet into the harsh reality that it is necessary to seek supporters. Could this situation be any wilde-a-nesque?
It should not be difficult to convince people to redirect part of their taxes to pre-approved cultural projects, and yet it is. Very difficult. There is a certain generalized climate of distrust and my desire after leaving the meetings is one of deep fatigue. I am already happy, when I can actually talk to the person in charge. Why? Because I have already faced, on the same day, two “the person in charge is traveling”.
Yes, I know that this is part of the craft, it comes with the teritory etc. I also know that even professionals with a long road behind them need to wear, at times, the hat of entrepreneurs and speak the language of business. I was aware of all this when I sent my projects for approval, but even so, the feeling is that I am carrying out the task of several people and the worst thing about this situation is that I cannot even complain about the other team members!
Being a project leader means taking responsbility for things. Yes, I would also like to have someone else making the boring decisions, so that I could focus solely on things strictly related to music, but the truth is that if I do not play the role of a business woman now, I will not be able to make music possible in the future.
You have to play the full game, despite the fatigue. Not forever, but at least for today. Or, as we say in Brazil: if you do not know how to play, do not go to the playground.
Perhaps the half-mocking, half-tragic words by Wilde remain timeless because human beings are permanently dissatisfied beings, who keep seeking what they do not have and then want something else, even more complicated to achieve than the one they previously wanted.
Yes, my friend, in many ways, we are very irritating little creatures and we do not have the vaguest notion of our limits. Flying without wings, swimming without gills: we have always done things we were not meant to do. Or were we?
I once heard from a producer that every singer worth his salt has had a Russian ballet teacher in her/his life. No, he did not think singers had first to wear a tutu and get to know the world of pliés and staccatos. What he meant is that great singers always have a story to tell about some strict teacher who turned their life into a real hell, but who was somehow also responsable for their blossom.
The definition of tough love (“promotion of a person’s welfare, especially that of an addict, child, or criminal, by enforcing certain constraints on them, or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions”) explains it very well. Sounds familiar? That means you also had a Rusian ballet teacher in your life (you know: a small lady, exemplary erect and keeping her feet slightly apart, while holding a staff that energetically timed each movement).
One of my favorite representations of the master-apprentice relationship is the movie Whiplash (2014, dir. Damien Chazelle). The soundtrack is superb and the story takes a very interesting approach to the master-apprentice relationship.
On the other hand, an abusive relationship can often be glamorized when observed through the rearview mirror of memory. I had my share of Russian ballet teachers and I can tell you clear and loud: I do not miss those days, not even a tiny bit. To be very honest with you: I am aware of the skills developed through tough love, but its side effects can be devastating and the risk is simply too high to be taken.
Discipline and determination can also be exercised in an environment where it is possible to make mistakes without fear. Encouraging, listening and, most importantly, empathizing are also key elements. In short: before blossowing comes nurturing.
Yellow September, a month dedicated to talking about mental disorders, is coming to an end, but it is always time to remember that our mental health should be a priority in any relationship.
Why we do stuff? I am sure your answer involves some kind of rewarding definition. From losing weight to making money; from prestige to the smile of a beloved one. We do stuff because we want something in return, do not trust me, trust Sociology on that.
One of my favourite reasons to do things is just… to feel good. Sounds silly to you? Maybe, but think about the number of times we have to do things that don’t make any sense to us and you will understand what I mean. This is why I am always very grateful for the moments when I can do things that make me happy and singing is what makes me the happiest in this life.
I have participated in four different editions of International Jazz Day producing local events (and counting!), but every time I receive the certificate of participation, the six-year-old girl in me jumps for joy and delight. And I do not even care if every participant gets the same letter. In my heart, I feel as if Mr. Herbie Hancock had written those lines only for me. Check it out.
The feeling of reward is sky high, especially because the performance on Jazz & Comics represents a fusion between my academic background and the experience of being a singer and songwriter. This edition was actualy a double treat, as it was also my first in person peformance since the world turned upside down in 2020.
Starting over is always difficult and I remember that on that day (April 30th, when International Jazz Day is celebrated) not even the weather helped, but in the end it was all worth it. Although I do not need a certificate to know that, it has an enormous value to me, because even the things we know for sure can be forgotten im moments of trouble.
On these occasions, the letter signed by Mr. Hancock will be my reminder that, once again, despite the difficulties, I managed to do what was important, what really made sense to me.
“The sun on the newsstands fills me with joy and laziness Who reads so much news?” – Alegria, Alegria (Joy, Joy) Caetano Veloso, 1967
What´s New?is one of the many incredible interpretations of Billie Holiday. The 1939 song by Johnny Burke and Bob Haggart was included in the album Velvet Mood: Songs by Billie Holiday, released on Clef Records in 1956. I wonder about the first verses: “What’s new? How is the world treating you?” and how they relate to the last verse of Notícia de Jornal (Luis Reis and Haroldo Barbosa), sang by Chico Buarque : “Our pain doesn’t come out in the newspaper“
I don’t know where you live, but I can bet that the vast majority of the incredible amount of news flashing across your screen daily rarely treats you well, let alone mirrors your pain. And yet we waste precious scrolling down an infinite screen of events that might fill our hours, but are fairly unable to appease the feeling of not being informed enough.
At the end of the day, which always seems shorter than the previous one (what do you mean it’s already that late?), how much information do we retain afterall? Very little. The bitter truth is that nobody needs so much news, and this is not an easy thing for me to admit for I am a confessed news junkie. Fear of Missing Out hadn’t even been invented yet and I already suffered from it.
Frankly, before digital media everything seemed to be under control, because the volume of news that a newspaper or printed magazine could contain was limited, not only in terms of the physical space occupied, but also in terms of time. Even in publications with two runs a day, once the edition was over, there was not much to do, even in the event of the biggest scoop ever.
The patience factor was even more important when it came to weekly or monthly magazines. Now think about the number of times the same content can be updated, rewritten and re-edited in the interval of, say, half a day. Pretty insane, isn’t it?
I remember an interview with the late Portuguese writer José Saramago, in which he said that if he subscribed to forty-three printed newspapers and magazines daily, his neighbors would certainly call him crazy when they saw the volume of information dumped at his door every morning. On the other hand, no one would question a cable TV subscription which included the same number of channels.
As we say in Brazil, Saramago shot at what he saw and hit (also) what he didn’t see. Not only we got used to a connstant hyper-supply of news, we have also expanded the concept of what can be considered relevant enough to gain the status of news. The faits divers, for instance, have been fully upgraded and are now sometimes considered more important than, well, basically anything else.
We discussed previously the importance of sorting out relevant songs in order to build up a consistent set list. Maybe exercizing fine curation also in other departments of life is not a bad idea at all. Sometimes it is good to take a break and take it slow.
Be seeing you!
p.s.: in case you want to take five minutes relaxing from the news, I would like to suggest this lyric video of a song from 1893, which got new lyrics due to the 150th birth anniversary of the composer, Ernesto Nazareth.
The Goalie´s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a 1972 movie directed by Werner Herzog, adapted from the novel with the same title, by Peter Handke and music was written by Jürgen Knieper. It is also known as The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty, but I personally don’t like either of the two translations.
The original “Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter” does not imply that the player is afraid of the kick, but afraid at the moment of the kick, which is completely different (and fits much better to the plot). When it comes to anxiety or fear, the choice is more complicated. “Angst” usually means fear, but “anxiety”, in general, is a term less used in German than in English (or Portuguese)
The genius title came to my mind as I take a look at the calendar, and realize that the date it shows does not correspond to where I was supposed to be in my schedule. As usual, I am a few steps behind my weekly plan. I am starting to think I have to change the way I calculate how long I need to complete my chores. Am I maybe overrating myself? Are my projections realistic or do I just overfill my plate with tasks?
One thing is for sure: if I want to understand the butterflies in my stomach (is it fear or anxiety?), I have to accept that I am doing something wrong in my planning. In fact, admitting this should not be a problem for anyone. After all, when it comes to time management, everyone struggles.
Everyone? Yes, everyone. And do you know why I can say this with such certainty? Because everybody’s life has its ups and downs. Every day, we are all subject to unforeseen events, mishaps and all kinds of unplanned events. Some dramatic, some funny, some just boring. We all have to accept the fact that we do not have everything under control (thankfully!).
Have you ever imagined how petrified life would be and how we would be subject to our old desires and dreams if everything went exactly as planned? If you’ve ever changed your mind about people and places or maybe changed courses, ended or started a relationship, tried a new job, all of this was only possible because you recalculated the path along the way and allowed yourself to change.
And, of course, there are also cases where some plans need to be revised because unforeseen opportunities arise, say, a meeting that can open several doors in your career. Don’t you think this is a good reason to get out of planning? Wish me luck!
In her new book The Wonder of Jazz author Sammy Stein invites the reader to take a walk on the jazz road, making sure that we will have the opportunity to stop and smell the flowers along the way. Her honest and extremely respectful approach both to readers and to the object of her analysis makes it impossible to resist.
When Carlos Lyra released Influence of Jazz in 1962, the message was clear, but not new. Similar complaints of an alleged degradation of Brazilian popular music by foreign genres date way back.
1922, Pixinguinha (Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Filho), a musician who is considered the very soul of what would be later called Brazilian popular music returned from a successful season in Paris bringing in his luggage something new: a saxophone. He got in contact with the new instrument through North American big band musicians performing at the French capital.
Immediately incorporated into his own arrangements and compositions, the sax became the trademark of Pixinguinha, until then a flute virtuoso. In the same year, the first radio broadcast took place in Brazil. In other words, when Brazilian popular music starts to be broadcasted and heard by the masses, it already had a jazz component in its DNA. In the words of Brazilian samba diva Alcione: “Samba is a cousin of jazz”.
I had the same cosy feeling of being among friends, in the company of a good cup of coffee (glass of wine, or whatever comforts you) while reading The Wonder of Jazz by author, writer, journalist, and curator Sammy Stein. Make no mistake, though: there is nothing shallow in this book. On the contrary, it is full of documentation, sources, evidences and counter-evidences, as recommended for a good journalistic investigation.
Then again, The Wonder of Jazz is so much more than that! It is also a book that builds its narrative directly from the knowledge of musicians. Interviewed by the author, these voices give a very special color to the work. Another element that makes The Wonder of Jazz a delightfully enjoyable reading is that Stein makes no secret of the fact that she is passionate and intimately connected to her subject.
Her letter of intentions could not be clearer. Stein knows to whom she writes (”I am writing for readers who want to understand more about jazz and be part of the energy . . . curious people with inquiring minds.”); why she is writing (“This book is an immersive exploration of jazz’s history, impact, and future”), and the limitations imposed by the topic (“No matter how many papers, books, reviews, and interviews one reads, unanswered questions remain.”).
This is a book about a passion, written with passion by an insider. Passion and care. In each paragraph of each chapter, a lot of care is taken to provide content that the reader can trust and use. Therefore, an aspect of this work I would like to highlight is its educational character. The Wonder of Jazz already has already a place among the reference books on the genre and it will certainly be cited in future academic and journalistic works.
The “game changers” list in chapter 3 and the “cabaret card” in chapter 5 are examples of the precious information brought by Stein. The informal yet didactic approach to the names that marked the genre in different sectors goes far beyond the simple biographical character and makes this chapter an important reference tool for students, researchers and fans of the genre.
Establishing links between jazz and the arts, Stein manages to compose a rich portrait of aesthetic influences, including boxing. The diverse range of examples makes this work recommended both for the public in general and for the specialist. Her walk in the fields of jazz also include political, cultural and social aspects of the genre. However, there would be room for more information about South-America in general (for instance, information about stablished jazz festivals on the region) and particularly about the impact of Bossa Nova on jazz.
Despite such minor issues, the bouquet offered by Stein presents a vast palette of colors. They come from the stories, outbursts, criticisms and hopes narrated by more than one hundred jazz musicians requested to open their hearts about all sorts of career related issues. Once more, I would like to praise the frank way in which Stein deals with the sensitive question of the livelihood of jazz musicians. While it is clear to many that the glamour of the stage is not reflected in multi-million payouts (at least not for the vast majority of musicians), very few people are actually aware of how fragmented and unstable the income of an average performer can be, especially during the pandemic years.
Finally, I would like to point out that the generous amount of information provided by the author on all aspects of the correspondence between jazz and society proves how the latter benefits from the development of the genre. In order words, in response to one of the many questions raised by the author (“Is jazz still relevant?”), one can only say: more than ever.
I love Tina Turner and I remember singing Private Dancer (1984) before I was old enough to fully understanding its meaning. Perhaps because of this memory, apparently ingrained in the deepest corner of my mind, I remembered this song while redoing, for the third time this week, the calculations of the texts I need to deliver by the end of the month. An article here, a review there and let’s not even talk about the podcast I need to record. Phew!
If you imagine a day in the life of a jazz musician as a creative adventure plenty of improvisation and magical moments, I must say you are half right. The other half, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to do with it. Well, ok, the improvisation part is true. Actually, each musician has a personal list of things not related to being on stage, nor to rehearsing to deal with daily and a lot of improvising is required in order to get it done.
Now don´t you get wrong here: I love all those activities: writing, reviewing, researching, recording, promoting my music… Ok, the marketing part is not so exciting. I am not an enthusiast of social networks, and probably would delete my accounts in half of them, if it was not for the music promotion sake.
Technical chores (audio and video recording and editing) can also be very challenging for me. No wonder it is where I am usually way behind schedule, but all in all, I like to know how things related to my career are done and, as we know, learning new things is good exercising for the brain. But, come on! It is really a lot of stuff and I am not an enthusiast of multitasking either.
So, at least up to the end of the month (and, according to my last calculation, most probably for the first half of the next month, as well), I am more a writer than a singer, whether I like it or not.
In such moments, when it is easy to lose motivation, my trick is to remind myself that: 1. if I get tasks it’s because my opinion matters to someone and I should be proud of my professional reputation, and 2. I may not see the whole point now, but at some moment all the pieces will come together and voilà! That seemingly less interesting task can be the connecting point to other (more interesting) projects.
Victime de la modeis one of the most famous songs from the album Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo, by the French rapper of Senegalese and Chadian origin MC Solaar, but surely the title also fits someone you know.
I never had neither the money, nor the inclination to be a fashion victim. My motto has always been: “do the most with the least”, meaning: handling well a limited wardrobe, and this applies to what I wear on stage, as well. Since the pandemic made us un-learn how to dress (don´t know what I am talking about? Lucky you!), I had to to exercise my special skills as never before.
In fact, I owe my little super power to my dear late aunt, who was a seamstress. She taught us from an early age to pay attention to the fit of the fabrics, the cut of the clothes and the details of making, even when buying fast fashion pieces. And once you´ve learned how to buy well, it is much easier to create several looks wearing the same dress.
It is amazing what you can do with the help of a few accessories! The choice of colors is also very important and it can make a lot of difference in the final result. I talked about my many reasons for wearing only black on stage in this podcast episode, but among the most important ones is the fact that this color allows you to recycle dresses better than any other.
As I get things done for my Jazzday 2022 event, I think that every return is like a premiere. You know what you´ve got do, but the butterflies in the stomach seem more intense than ever, the production details to handle seem more numerous than usual, and even the choice of a combination of accessories for my little black dress seems particularly difficult. Despite all that, it feels great to be back!
Talking about elegant women, Sammy Stein is an awesome writer and jazz lover and I´m sure you are going to love her website and her blog: The Jazz Report. I had the pleasure of collaborating with an article on the birth places of Bossa Nova. Enjoy your reading.
My friend J.P. likes to know what I think about things. From a slap on the Oscars Award to international politics, he cares to hear my point of view and I certainly appreciate it. For this reason, even perfectly aware of the risks implied, I allow myself to be very sincere with him.
When he asked me about elements to consider when choosing a career, the first thing I mentioned to him was the importance of passion. People usually say that you have to like what you do, in order to become good on it, but I would go even further and say that “liking” it, is just the beginning.
If you plan on doing something for the long term, you need to be passionate about what you do. How passionate? To the point of dedicating an incredible amount of hours of your day, of your life, to it and still have a twinkle in your eye when you talk about it with someone else.
Don’t be a fool: there will always be disappointment, disillusionment and a lot of tears along the way. Will that stop you? No, because you will still know it is part of a game worth playing. How will you know that? You will simply know, trust me, or better, don´t trust me, trust yourself.
Be passionate about what you do, but don´t forget that the word passion carries both sides: the drama and the thrill, high and low, yin and yang. Be passionate about what you do and you will be in tune with the continuous flow of life.
Que será, Será is a 1956 song by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. It was part of the movie The Man Who Knew Too Much[, and a immediate success. Among its many versions, the one, by singer and actress Doris Day is considered a classic.
The song talks about fate and uncertainties of life and the answer to the question “how it will be”, repeated all through the song is only one:
Que sera, sera Whatever will be, will be The future’s not ours to see Que sera, sera What will be, will be
As I opened my fortune cookie, these verses popped up on my mind. It said: “It is never too late to start it all over again”. Fortune cookie hits the bull’s-eye again! It is amazing how they never fail! This is exactly how I feel now: starting it all over again.
Remember the set list odyssey? Well, my friend, it was only the beginning. Ready for the new challenge? Looking for the right musicians. And how many failed along the way… And before you think I am being picky, let me remind you that I am not even talking about musical skills, oh no! I am actually talking about a behavior that you be in compliance with what is expected in the twenty-first century. Sounds too vague?
In one example: I have already cancelled (yes, that´s right c-a-n-c-e-l-l-e-d) a gig because during rehearsals it became clear that the musician I was working with was tremendously patronizing, which is always something unpleasant to handle and far worse if you are the boss. Got the picture? Anyway, let us drop this part and jump straight to strictly music related matters.
The right musicians to work with are the ones, who are not only interested in the gig (and we all are, nothing wrong about that), but also in taking part of the project in a deeper way, buying the idea and improving it. Musicians that are able to respect my vision, and yet leave their own signature” are the right ones for me.
And talking about talented musicians who have a signature, I would like to end with a special note to my dear friend V. and say that the sensitive souls are the ones who suffer most, but they also bear the power of turning pain into beauty. I am sure you are going to find a way to turn those rainy days into bright, starry nights.