Sunday, May 29, 2016

We're here to bring beauty to the world

Charlie Haden once famously said, "We're here to bring beauty to the world and make a difference in this planet. That's what art forms are about."

This Tuesday, May 31st will be my 20th birthday. As a milestone in my life, and as I move on from my teenage years, I wanted to reach away from talking about jazz, to talking about world issues that we can help through jazz.



Every child wants to change the world. We all start out with big dreams: to be an astronaut, to be president, to fight for world peace. Yet, somehow in the middle of growing up we are tricked into thinking we are not able to create change. We are taught that one person cannot make a difference, so why try? We go through the motions in order to be liked or to fit in, imitating the same apathy that we know cannot solve the problems we want to solve. We mimic advertisements and fall into consumerism. Somehow we believe that normalcy is more important than what's right. That it is more important to be popular than to stand up for something against the grain. And all along we feel stuck and unknowing of how we can do anything.

Yet, what I want to share is that we all can make a difference by standing up for what we believe in through our everyday lives. Throughout history jazz musicians have held a light to important social issues including segregation, political corruption, illnesses, war, inequality, violence. Musicians such as Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Charles Mingus, Charlie Haden challenged the status quo to bring up important social causes even if they invited criticisms.

John Coltrane

In this way, for my 20th birthday I wanted to share issues that I care about along with some jazz songs that have been used to challenge political and social systems.

We're here to bring beauty to the world 

1. Animal rights

Veganism is a stance that animals are not here on this planet for humans to exploit for food, clothing, testing, entertainment or any other purpose. People become vegan for numerous reasons, including animal rights, environmentalism and health.

Watch the Best Speech Ever by Gary Yourofsky to learn more about this stance of nonviolence.


Listen to "Strange Fruit" sung by Billie Holiday. "Stange Fruit" was written by Abel Meeropol as a poem to protest American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.  In 1978, Holiday's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

2. Environmentalism

Climate change, deforestation, fossil fuels, waste products are destroying the environment while species are rapidly becoming extinct. In fact, if we keep on over-fishing at the same rate, there may be fish-less oceans by 2048.

Visit the Cowspiracy webpage and Greenpeace for more facts about the environment.


Listen to "Alabama" by John Coltrane. Coltrane wrote this song as a response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four girls in 1963.

3. World hunger

Millions of humans suffer from undernourishment: 1/7th of the world suffers from hunger. Poverty is a major cause of hunger in addition to animal agriculture: The world produces enough food for 10 billion people, yet feeds billions of animals for livestock every year.

Read this article to learn about the link between veganism, world hunger, worker's rights. Also watch 101 Reasons to Go Vegan and visit the World Hunger website.


Listen to "Mississippi Goddam" by Nina Simone. The song captures Simone's response to the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi; and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. "Mississippi Goddam" became a civil rights anthem, and Simone performed the song in front of 10,000 people at the end of the Selma to Montgomery marches.

4. Human rights

Racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, agism, ableism, classism, and religious intolerance are some of the issues separating the world.

Visit the United Nations website to learn more about human rights.


Listen to "Haitian Fight Song" by Charles Mingus. Mingus said he wrote this song while thinking about the injustices in the world, and because of the success of the Haitian Revolution in ending slavery and French colonialism. Haiti was used as a symbol of resistance to injustice.

5. World peace

We all share the ideal wish for world peace: A world without intolerance, violence, war, terrorism, bigotry, hostility.

Visit the United Nations website to learn more about international peace.


Listen to "Ballad of the Fallen" by Charlie Haden & Carla Bley and the Liberation Music Orchestra. Haden wrote this song to comment on the Spanish Civil War and the U.S.'s involvement within Latin American countries. Haden started the Liberation Music Orchestra during the height of the Vietnam War.

Final Thoughts: 
With our unique talents and insights, we all have so much to offer to solve a host of problems throughout the world. Our quest for kindness, equality, peace and justice starts within and will be echoed not through prayer, but through deliberate action across each of our lives. 

As I enter my 20s I feel invigorated to bring positive change and beauty to the world through my love of jazz and advocacy. 

Nina Simone

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Egos and music

This week I wanted to share a video of saxophonist Gary Bartz discussing the ego in music.

Gary Bartz

Gary Bartz is a trailblazing alto saxophonist that has played with Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus among others in addition to leading his own groups. To learn more about Gary Bartz, click here.

Egos and music

In the following video, Gary Bartz discusses the importance of getting your ego out of the music:
I think the most important thing for you to remember in a group, whether you're the leader or whether you're not the leader, is you have to be unselfish. You cannot be selfish and create any art to it's height.

Bartz goes on to speak about how one should play what's best for the music.
Whatever you need to do to make that music the best it can be is what you need to do. And if it means you not playing up to your standards, what you think you could do...Really commit to doing whatever it is that makes that piece of music better - then you're really contributing.
This comments speaks about the honest and communal nature of jazz. Instead of focusing of proving yourself or pushing a personal agenda, Bartz suggests to listen to what you can contribute for everyone.


Listen to "Ballad for Aisha":

I connect with these words because I believe that the best jazz musicians have this aspect of humility, graciousness, and unselfishness. When I read about and listen to people like John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Eric Dolphy, I realize that they put all of themselves into the development of their craft, including developing a compassionate personality. 

Watch Gary Bartz with Keith Jarrett:

Final Thoughts: 
In some ways the ego defines how we perceive ourselves, but we must all strive to develop compassion. Whether in music or day to day happenings, "You cannot be selfish and create any art to it's height."

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Getting better

The summer is an amazing time to improve ourselves, while also taking a much needed rest from schoolwork. In this light, I wanted to share some ideas from Sonny Rollins that shed light on the ever-evolving nature of getting better and improving ourselves.

Sonny Rollins

Getting better

Sonny Rollins is a tenor saxophonist whose career has spanned over 60 years. Rollins is said to be one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. His unique sound, immense discography and original compositions have led him to receive numerous honors such as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Kennedy Center Honors.

To learn more about Sonny Rollins, visit his website and NPR's resources.

Listen to "Oleo":

Rollins has a very unique outlook on playing, as well as life in general. In the following video he talks about how to get better. What is impressive is his large focus on patience - and it is important to realize that such an influential figure built himself on this kind of patient, slow, thoughtful work.

Watch Sonny Rollins' suggestions for getting better:

Rollins describes the importance of practicing rudiments such as long notes: 
You gotta do some things. You have to do some things. Playing long notes will help you to do a lot of other ideas, it will help you to get to a lot of your other ideas. So play the long note and you know when you play a long note, there's so much that you can put in there. It's slow...but everything is slow, you have to bring everything down to its basics. One note, just play one note and thinking about it, hearing it, hearing it up and down around, everything about the note, listen to it, feeling it.  
In this way, it is productive to put your focus and care into one note because without a basic foundation there's no feasible place to go musically. Yet, this applies to so many pursuits outside of music - no matter what you are passionate in, it is important to gain a solid background of fundamentals.

Listen to "Falling In Love With Love":

He goes on to assert that playing long notes can help you connect with your instrument in numerous ways:
Just think that you have an instrument that can only play one note - then what are you gonna do? So that's your instrument. Play that one note like that's the only note on your instrument. If you look at it that way, because in essence that's true. And if you do that then it's one way that you're going to improve yourself in a technical way and also in a musical, spiritual way because every note that you play has a great meaning. And this is the way you have to look at music, everything, and in life, everything has a meaning.
This concept sheds light on the idea that improving yourself technically improves yourself spiritually, and vice versa. In fact, this idea of zen, and doing one thing at a time, benefits us in any daily pursuit from schoolwork, to sports, to interacting with others.

Listen to "St. Thomas":

Final thoughts: 
It is amazingly simple to play one note, yet even with simplicity comes the complexity of mastery. I hope this summer we can all take a step back and work with this same focus, intensity, and urgency Sonny Rollins mentions in his speech.

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Lessons from this semester

With an amazing semester of school behind me, I wanted to share lessons I have taken away from this semester, as well as the music that has impacted me.

Donald Byrd

Lessons from this semester

1. Make your health a priority

This semester I made a complete change in my lifestyle. This semester I became vegan and started exercising consistently and  doing daily meditations. This lifestyle change has not only helped my health and wellness, but also my mental state. I feel happier, more energetic, more compassionate, which has in turn helped everything I do. From taking care of myself I have felt my self esteem go up, and I am able to put more passion into what I love to do - writing, composing, and playing music.

Listen to "All The Things You Are" with Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley:

2. Win the day

This semester I attended a masterclass where bassist Victor Wooten described the idea of "winning the day." He talked about how if you want to succeed in life, then you need to succeed at everything, no matter how small. For example, when you wake up, make your bed. Before you go to bed, clean up your room a bit. I have been incorporating these small, basic acts into my day, and I feel that winning the day not only helps me feel more confident, but it sets me up for the care and attention I need to put into everything else I do.

Listen to Charle Parker's "Donna Lee":

3. Focus on the foundation

This semester I learned how important it is to approach your studies with a magnifying glass for attention to detail. For example, I have been working on improving my rhythm by using a metronome for daily exercises. However, my saxophone teacher recommended that I should take a scale and play it slowly with a metronome - and record it. By going slowly and recording myself, I figured out the nuances in my playing, and was able to pinpoint for myself what I needed to work on.

Listen to "Transit" by Darcy James Argue:

4. We possess inner strength

As I previously mentioned, this semester I started doing guided meditations everyday. One meditation I particularly love has a mantra that says, "The fire within me burns through all blocks and fears." This simple mantra has helped me a lot with reducing anxiety because it is repeating this idea that my passion and determination can conquer any barrier. I also love "Living with Ease" that repeats, "Let me by at ease with myself just as I am." When I start to think in terms of inner strength, I start to realize that I have a proactive control over the feelings that bring depression, anxiety, and apathy into my life.

Listen to "Sweet Georgia Brown" with Count Basie:

5. Live your ideal life now

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I've learned is that you can live your ideal life now. This means that you can visualize who you want to be ideally and act on it. In this way, you start to feel what it would be like to be this ideal self - and when you do, you start to walk differently, breath differently, interact differently. For example, my ideal self is confident, kind, gracious, humble, calm, assertive. I noticed that when I decided to start practicing my ideal self in my day to day life, positive opportunities started coming my way. The takeaway is that when you start being kind to yourself and others, kindness comes back to you.

Listen to "Youthful Bliss" with Jazz at Lincoln Center and Christian McBride:

Final Thoughts: 
This semester was a real turning point in my life, with many changes in my day to day life. I am excited to see what will come my way next!

For anyone reading this that is going through a hard time: Know that you have control over who you are at your core, and no one can take that away from you. Do what's right even if it is difficult or unpopular. Think in terms of unconditional kindness: "Kindness starts from within and radiates outward until it includes everything and everyone."


Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Jazz Quotes 6

This week I wanted to go back to my series of inspirational jazz quotes.

Pianist-bandleader Earl Hines

Jazz Quotes 6 

1. Erroll Garner 
I get ideas from everything. A big color, the sound of water and wind, or a flash of something cool. Playing is like life. Either you feel it or you don’t.
Listen to "Misty":

2. Marian McPartland
As long as I can still be on my own and do my own thing and be working full time, it's great.
Listen to "Skylark":

3. Benny Goodman
One way or the other, if you want to find reasons why you shouldn't keep on, you'll find them. The obstacles are all there; there are a million of them.
Listen to "Sing, Sing, Sing": 

4. Earl Hines
You may have holes in your shoes, but don't let people out front know it. Shine the tops.
Listen to "Memories of You": 

5. Lee Morgan
There are no natural barriers. It's all music. It's either hip or it ain't.
Listen to "Theme for Stacy": 

Final Thoughts: 
I hope these quotes help inspire us going forward this year. Although short, these quotes carry a wealth of information. 

Please subscribe to Kind of Pink and Purple by email (top right of the page) and follow on other social media: TwitterTumblrInstagramGoogle PlusPinterest. Also, please visit my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem and my musician website.

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.