Expecting To Fly 10 / by Lorraine García-Nakata

Lorraine "Looking Up, Not Down"

Writing about creative work links to what happens in a person's day. Since my last post, inspiring things have occurred such as my recent presentation of terrific singer Nicolas Bearde, acquisition of a special guitar helping me to raise the bar on my technical playing, and arrival of 72" width cotton/archival paper allowing my wings to spread more as I draw. Since my last post, we have also become aware of troubling events. By now we are very familiar with the name Trayvon Martin, a very young American Black male shot to death. Within the context of a country long since in conflict with its own reflection in the national mirror, it's even more disturbing and discouraging. For many, Trayvon's death hovers in our thoughts because it's not a new occurrence and we know it can easily happen to any of us, our children, family, and friends. Over the decades I've wondered how long it will take for our country to develop beyond its puberty stage (i.e. common identity conflicts: "I wish I were someone else, I hate my hair, I don't like my body, my family is weird") and finally accept what this country has always been, culturally diverse. Cultures are assets not a "condition" to correct.

Since issues of American identity are complex, long standing, and pervasive, the idea of "answers" or responses is daunting. Even to approach the subject, there are stages to be met and faced as individuals and as a group, in this case as a whole country. Recovering alcoholics know, there has to be a shift forcing an individual to "admit" there's a problem, own it, then commit to stages toward a healthier existence that are lifelong and an ongoing daily navigation. Racism/sexism is an orientation we've all been exposed to, like airborne infections. As children, we did not choose to be exposed, but we all were in one form or another. "Treatment" can only begin with acceptance that an "illness" exists and that none of us is outside the circle of exposure. As a country we're still having difficulty admitting a problem exists. So, given all this, it's no wonder the brain can seize up as it considers what actions, big or small, to take that can have any meaningful affect.

What seems to be true throughout history is how powerful creative/artistic work can be in helping to realign away from fear and loathing, toward more positive aspects of our human capacity. Because creative artists respond from more than the brain center, artistic work can break the spell of "looking down," instead experiencing creative work can lift our line of sight and our spirit. I imagine it as an "alignment" that's regularly required in order to feel and see more clearly. "Joy brings miracles," a line in my recent song More Than One Way To Get Home, makes this point. Here's the link in case you want to revisit it with these thoughts in mind: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWQuvSgGjsU

So, as I write about Nicolas Bearde, my guitar, or my drawing, you are also aware of what's been hovering in my mind and heart. As you know by now, for me, life and art are not separate functions.

Nicolas Bearde, Singer/Songwriter
About Nicolas Bearde, I very recently had the pleasure of presenting presenting him. He's a vocalist and songwriter I've admired for sometime. A founding and current member of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra vocal ensemble, Nicolas Bearde is recognized internationally as an adept and fearless improviser. I enjoy the fearless aspect of his singing. A jazz recording artist, Nicolas combines jazz, pop, rhythm and blues. A primary member of the McFerrin acapella group, he has also created a notable solo career. Much can be said about him, but what is evident when he sings is that he is doing exactly what he loves and there's such power in it.

Concert Introduction, Lorraine
During his warm up and sound check, Nic asked, "Do you think I'll need a mic?" I'd been upstairs during his vocal check but could hear him well and said, "Hey, your voice fills the room just fine. Don't think you'll need a mic at all." How fortunate Nic is to have a voice that carries like it does. Even with William Beatty's electric piano going and the full sound of Aaron Germain's acoustic bass, his baritone voice still takes center position in more ways than just volume. He's been singing a long time and has a relationship with his voice that he can count on. As we watched and listened to him during his performance, he seemed to do so from a place informed by many experiences, life experiences. That came through and sailed in our direction riding on notes, phrasing, expression that snagged us and triggered connection to our own individual histories. I also love it when other established and seasoned musicians choose to be present and whose attention is held by a performance. At one point well known bass player Jim Kerwin leaned over to me and shared, "He's really a stand up guy and quite the musician." I couldn't have agreed more.

Nicolas Bearde, Lorraine, Aaron Germain, William Beatty
Musicians as Nicolas Bearde also surround themselves with equally impressive colleagues. William Beatty, on keys made that clear. For five years, William honed his skill as a member of a group led by Jules Broussard and also toured throughout the U.S and Europe with band Indigo Swing. He met Nicolas Bearde when working a popular San Francisco night spot. Also a composer, his work is captured in a CD entitled, Songs of Unconditional Love. Since the early 60's I've embraced the concept of unconditional love.

First Set: William Beatty, Aaron Germain, Nicolas Bearde
Bass player Aaron Germain, a Massachusetts native, cut his teeth playing jazz, blues, funk, reggae, Senegalese mbalax then entered the world of Afro-Cuban, Brazilian forro, and other Latin music forms. He'd performed with artists as Yusef Lateef, Stanley Jordon, Andy Narell, John Handy, Mary Wilson, Melba Moore and others. In bass player style, he released music drawing from his broad musical palette, pulling you into a vibration he articulated with such effortless mastery. Days after the concert, Aaron mailed me his CD entitled, Before You Go. I haven't told him yet, but I listened to it as I began cooking the day it arrived. When I cook, it's quiet and I can concentrate. I expected to just hear a few cuts, but with it's opening, he had my attention. What I heard, cut after beguiling cut, was complex, sophisticated, dynamic, nuanced, purposeful, and masterful down-the-center jazz. I was very impressed. We'll probably have a conversation soon about having him back to play some of this work. This is one aspect of presenting I enjoy. Great musicians bring great musicians that open up additional possibilities.
Intermission is always a pleasure. Guests enjoy the figure food, each other, and have a chance to connect with musicians performing and those in attendance. Here are some photos I took to share.

Fun and diverse group in conversation
Love that at each performance there are at least one third in attendance who are new to my concert series and others that have returned because they enjoy the genre of music occurring that night. Nicolas Bearde drew an eclectic group of young adults, seasoned jazz supporters, and those interested in the funk end of the musical spectrum.

Ani and Cynthia
Here, Cynthia Bates and Ani Boursalian shoot a smile during intermission. Even though Cynthia is a San Francisco resident, we met in Arizona while there working on a cultural project. Glad that we remain in touch. This is Ani and Cynthia's first time to this concert series. Looks like they'll be back.
All the rooms are full and buzzing with conversation during intermission. Concerts have allowed me to introduce musicians to folks that haven't heard them, fans to support them, friends to see each other, and for people attending to meet each other for the first time. Love that combination and the entire dynamic of a concert evening. People keep coming back and new folks make a point to be there, so it seems the whole package works. I never tire of all the smiling going on.

Noam and Nicolas

Photo on left: Jim Kerwin, master bass player in attendance, chats with William Beatty during intermission. They look relaxed and enjoying the moment.

Dinorah, Nancy, Emilio
Also a really nice surprise to see long term friends and colleagues Dinorah Salazar and Nancy Obregon. Here they meet and connect with equally interesting cultural worker, Emilio Banuelos, founder of Black Boots Ink an international online photography site. He and his wife Elena arrived early to help me set up and welcome people at the door.

After a leisurely intermission, the lights flick on and off noting that it's time for the second set to begin. As everyone files toward the downstairs door, Nic and the band begin working their instruments in preparation. The entire set is generous on many levels. I find that musicians connect with the audience in this venue and give so much of themselves in terms of set length and their performance. Those present know it and feel a close connection because the musicians are right in front of them and it's more personal than they'd normally experience. Also a vocal educator, Nic finds moments in the set to encourage audience vocal support of a song or two. People love an excuse to sing and this warmed up crowd was no exception.

Nicolas begins 2nd set/Aaron Germain in rear/photo: Lorraine García-Nakata
Here is a link to a very informal video I shot of a song I very much enjoy hearing Nicolas sing entitled, Wild Is The Wind. Even though it's a rough hand held video capture, it gives you an idea of the warm full quality of his voice and how it fills the room without a mic. Aaron Germain's bass solo was an added plus. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-UmxGprKRA

During intermission, Nicolas and I spoke. He mentioned that he'd be interested in conducting a vocal workshop if I was up to hosting it. I've taken his vocal workshops before and they are so inspiring and terrific in terms of vocal technique. Several others overheard and so we moved forward on this endeavor. It's scheduled for Saturday, April 21st, from noon to 4:00 p.m. If you are interested in having more information on this workshop, shoot me an email note and include your email address so that I can send the invite. I'd been in conversation with several musicians about beginning a workshop series, so it appears that the Nicolas Bearde vocal workshop is my inaugural 2012 Master Artist Series. Love the way things unfold when it's time.

It can be tempting to consider presenting this series in a larger venue for many reasons, but what I've found over the years is that this small venue model works on many levels. I've presented in big professional venues and know how to get it done, but I also know the overhead and logistics required to make it successful. For me, this smaller venue keeps it pleasurable, makes room for quicker decision as to which musicians to present, and affords a unique experience for those attending that prefer hearing terrific groups in an intimate setting. For now, I'll stick to what works. It seems to reconcile with guests and performers because musicians are introduced and supported, guests experience wonderful talent, and all present find a few hours to pause all the worries, stress, and pressures.

I hope it wasn't too much beginning this post with what has hovered heavy in my mind. It's hard to scribe things about my creative work and activity without also sharing some elements of what drives the work. It also has much to do with why I've always enjoyed presenting other talented artists. At these intimate concerts, people of various ages, genders, persuasions, and cultures come together to simply enjoy the moments. It seems a simple thing, but in the scheme of all that goofy stuff going on out in the public arena, it's something I enjoy and it makes sense. It's a small act I believe helps shift the axis toward a healthier human condition––a creative attitude alignment and spirit lift. We need lots of them.

Today, I started drawing a piece as a gift to my son, Kanichi, who turns twenty-one this week. So, I'm up on a ladder, pushing that charcoal and pastel around on a large sheet of 100% cotton rag archival paper. I'm also enjoying playing my recently acquired Martin OM guitar. I can share more about that later. There's so much to do when moving between music, writing, and drawing, but I'm the happiest I've been for a very long while.

I'll leave you with that for now. My best to you,


Thank you Emilio and Elena Banuelos for your help on the concert!!!

blog: lorrainegarcianakata.blogspot.com
web site: http://lorrainegn.com/

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