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Studio Listening on Saturday: Dorothy Ashby’s Hip Harp and In a Minor Groove

Dorothy Ashby - Article from Detroit Magazine - Nov 13, 1966 (An Insert Supplement for The Detroit Free Press) Features Article " Dorothy Ashby At the Cafe Gourmet" An in depth article on Dorothy Ashby as a jazz musician.
Dorothy Ashby – Article from Detroit Magazine – Nov 13, 1966 (An Insert Supplement for The Detroit Free Press) Features Article ” Dorothy Ashby At the Cafe Gourmet” An in depth article on Dorothy Ashby as a jazz musician. From beyondrecords.

Curt’s Jazz Cafe blog has a wonderful Unsung Women of Jazz series, and on Curt’s recommendation I checked out Dorothy Ashby, and have been listening to Hip Harp and In a Minor Groove in the studio.  Every time I listen, I catch a few bars where I’m not sure what instrument she’s playing, and then I remember it’s the harp.  Dorothy Ashby and her husband had a theatre company in Detroit, and her creativity manifested in composing, playing, and in finding ways to make the harp hip to other jazz musicians.  Frank Wess plays flute on In a Minor Groove, and I am glad to be introduced to him via Dorothy Ashby.  I could only imagine playing with his tone when I was taking flute lessons.

Rumi Sumaq: Jewelry Made of Beautiful Stones, Knots, Color, and Jazz (Esperanza Spalding is a Fan)

Coco Paniora Salinas: Rumi Sumaq
Coco Paniora Salinas: Rumi Sumaq

I was introduced to the macrame and silver jewelry of Coco Paniora Salinas doing the Chase Show in August, 2012.  He and his wife Melanie Vento have a business called Rumi Sumaq(which means “beautiful stones” in Quechua).  Coco begins with a stone or fossil or shell from his native land of Peru that inspires him and builds a piece around it.

If you grew up in North America in 1970’s, there’s a chance you associate macrame with plant holders and owls(which my sister may or may not have made in orange), and I remember wondering how knots could be transformed from something in my shoelace or at the end of a threaded needle into structures.  Coco has his own take on the classic owl with his wonderful earrings.

And to get my artistic sense tingling even more, the jazz musician Esperanza Spalding is a fan, and has worn Coco’s work in concert and featured him on her Esperanza Spalding Style Blog.  Esperanza first saw Coco’s designs at the Three Rivers Arts festival in June, where she was performing and he was exhibiting.  She was drawn to Coco’s use of stones, seeds, shells, fiber and other natural elements.

Take a jazz break and listen to Esperanza’s joyful version of What a Wonderful World:


More Orange Goodness at my Orange Tuesdays Pinterest Board.

Milestone Glass, Rochester, NY. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Going North: Of Canada Day and Rochester, NY, Jazz, Poutine and Tim Horton’s

For Canada Day, and I am reflecting on my circuitous route from Edmonton, AB to Lansdale, PA and my vacation to Rochester for the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.  2012 was the 4th year Stratoz and I have made the journey north for the festival, as we both love jazz and I particularly love going north in the summer.  We stayed with our friends who Stratoz met through his blog, and enjoyed good company and 5 nights of jazz.  The Nordic jazz venue was a favorite of ours, with Sunna Gunnlaugs trio from Iceland, and other musicians from even farther north than Rochester.

Milestone Glass, Rochester, NY. Photo by Wayne Stratz.
Milestone Glass, Rochester, NY. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

On the way to my pilgrimage to Tim Horton’s for a maple dip donut and coffee, we rediscovered Milestone Glass Creations, and got some fine sheets of glass as souvenirs of our trip.  I remember Timmy’s from my youth, the shop on Whyte Ave in Edmonton, and I still do not understand why something as delicious as  maple glazed donuts are so scarce in the US.  Rochester is far enough north that Tim Horton’s has infiltrated.

Tim Hortons Coffee and Maple Glaze, Photo by Wayne Stratz.
Tim Hortons Coffee and Maple Glaze, Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Most unexpectedly, our friend Kathryn alerted us to the Le Petit Poutine truck parked at Abilene, one of the jazz fest venues, with owners from Quebec.  I had not partaken of  poutine since the night the Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup, and all the food trucks were out for the revelers downtown.  In the interim, I became a vegetarian, but happily, Le Petit Poutine has a vegetarian version of the luscious gravy, fries and cheese curds, topped with fresh thyme.   Apparently, the name “poutine” comes from an Acadian word for “mess” and yes, it’s a big delicious mess, and being descended from Acadians, I approve.

Mmm...Le Petit Poutine, Rochester NY food truck
Mmm…Le Petit Poutine, Rochester NY food truck

The final thing to evoke Canada for me was the accent I kept hearing in lines for jazz venues, almost Canadian in inflection, with some Chicago thrown in.  I don’t know why I didn’t notice this in previous years, but apparently Rochester has its own dialect.  People were always delighted and surprised to discover we had come up from Philadelphia to the festival.A jazz bonus:  Taurey Butler trio ended the festival for us, and he was a wonderful pianist, from East Orange, NJ who discovered Oscar Peterson(Canadian), and after a degree in engineering and Japanese, eventually started playing jazz piano, and moved to Montreal, Oscar’s hometown.

Reflections on the A to Z Challenge 2012: Almost the A, B, and C of It

Artwork by Ada Z from Collagepodge.com

I often wake up to a jazz standard in my head, and today it’s Teach Me Tonight, particularly, Dinah Washington’s version, with the lyric:

Starting with the ABC of it
Right down to the XYZ of it
Help me solve the mystery of it
Go on, teach me tonight

The alphabet is a mysterious thing, with its evocation of detail, range and completion.  I loved the alphabet song on Sesame Street, and choosing words for each letter as a first grade assignment.  In college I was pleased to discover the word abecedary, which is a delicious way to describe the inscription of the entire alphabet.

I particpated in the A to Z Challenge in 2011, and met a blogger who is one my most faithful commenters, and I love her thoughtful reflections on being a playwriter, piano teacher, and creative person dealing with inner critics and taking courage, Play off the Page‘s Mary Aalgaard.  For 2012, Mary did a fabulous A to Z, where she took a picture of each letter from her surroundings to begin the post.

This year, I was yet again drawn to a writer, Beth Stilborn, who writes on writing, reading, the arts and life.  Beth kindly referred to my L is for Levels and Loving Them  post in an an article she wrote on art for the visually impaired.

For 2012, I chose a loose theme of my art, and this simple modification made the challenge, though still a challenge, much more inviting.  Going through the alphabet is like practicing scales, exploring the whole range of notes and how they connect together.  At first it seems artificial, but then you recognize those connections, those runs of notes, in the beautiful music you wish to play.

What were your favorite posts of the 2012 A to Z Challenge?

Note:  It’s “almost the A,B, and C of it” because I started with C!

Jazz bonus:

A to Z Challenge 2012: X is for Xylophone

Xylophone Sales Ad 1919
Xylophone Sales Ad 1919 via Dean Sabatino.


Jazz musicians who play the Vibraphone are rightly sensitive about their instrument being called a Xylophone, since many people have never even heard of the Vibes, and even though I do know they are different,  I didn’t realize that Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo each started on a Xylophone in the 1920’s.  The Xylophone’s shorter wooden bars made it difficult to sustain notes, and the Vibraphone solved this problem by including resonating tubes under aluminum bars, and a small electrical motor which amplified the resonance.

Check out George Hamilton Green doing Ragtime Robin on  Xylophone in the early 20th Century:


A to Z Challenge 2012: N is for Now

Now: A Mosaic Mandala by Nutmeg Designs
Now: A Mosaic Mandala by Nutmeg Designs. Created while listening to Ingrid Jensen on trumpet


I have an uneasy relationship with Now.  I am frequently absent.   But when I’m in the studio, I’m in the Now.  Stratoz created the graceful lines of this design while on a silent retreat, listening to jazz trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, then cut out the background pieces in his studio and handed them over to me.  It’s like being given a melody line and getting to improvise.  Ingrid Jensen’s music resides in the Now, and I’m glad Stratoz was listening to her while he was being silent.

Over at Stratoz:  Here and Now, of Ingrid Jensen and Nutmeg Designs

The Nutmeg Designs YouTube Channel: Mosaics and Stained Glass in Motion

In our partnership of marriage and craft, it is good that one of us has some geek talent, and that Stratoz puts it to such good use.  Over Memorial Day weekend he took on iMovie and made 4 videos about our art, and created the Nutmeg Designs YouTube Channel.  I admire Stratoz’s ability to learn by doing, to fully immerse himself in the process.  He’s already thinking in video, imagining what would be brought to life with motion, sound, and jazz.  My friend the “Grout Monster“, Joanne Leva, came over for a grout session, and here are the results of Stratoz’s handiwork(as well as Joanne’s and my hands!)

The latest Nutmeg Designs Production is a cool stop-motion-like chronicle of one of Stratoz’s mosaics. Yes, he mosaics. He is multi-talented! At first, I felt a twinge of protectiveness of my identity as the Mosaic Artist, but it’s fascinating to watch people at craft shows, as they hone in on the ones he’s made, and say that they are definitely made by someone else. His style is all his own, and I love how they incarnate his doodling designs. I do get covetous of his ease of grouting, with the sleek surfaces and larger pieces! Check out his Kurt Elling Sings Joe Jackson as a Mandala Comes into Being:

My Life as a Soda Jerk and Some Art Tile and Duke Ellington for Good Measure

Soda Fountain via airstreamlife on Flickr
Soda Fountain via airstreamlife on Flickr

A little known fact about my biography is that I was a soda jerk for the 1986/87 school year at community college, at Kostas Drugstore in Bethlehem, PA, across the street from Liberty High School.  I came across the book Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains by Anne Cooper Funderburg, which brought back memories of my tenure as preparer of sundaes, ice cream sodas, milkshakes and cherry, lemon, vanilla or chocolate cokes.

Two unique sundaes, of which I had never heard(and I’d never been to a soda fountain either) were the “CMP”(chocolate, marshmallow sauce and ground peanuts) and the “Dusty Road” which involved vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and a dusting of malted milk powder(my first one was just ice cream and malted milk, because I didn’t realize chocolate was included.  My customer was amused).  I had a long list of prep duties, including mixing fluff and simple syrup to make marshmallow sauce, chopping the peanuts in a meat grinder, refilling the syrups, cones, straws, and napkins.  The best perk was being allowed to eat as much ice cream as I wanted.


Franklin Fountain Mosaic Floor

Kostas was already archaic when I worked there, since soda fountains peaked in the 1950’s, and were done in by suburbia, but the location across from the high school insured we had a steady stream of students after school and football games descending upon the counter.  Kostas lasted 10 more years after I left to transfer to a 4-year college.  Stratoz suggested we find an authentic soda fountain for our anniversary in 2011, and a friend who knows about such things told us about the Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia.  I had a fabulous “Cherry Bombe” soda, with cherry syrup, soda water and chocolate ice cream.  I dived in before Stratoz could get a proper picture of it.

I was fascinated to discover in Sundae Best, that there was a genre of soda fountains at the turn of the 19th century which featured art tile, from companies like the Low Art Tile company.  The fountain above is at Eagle’s in Yellowstone, and has delightful “pillow tiles” with rounded corners.

front of old soda fountain

In a synchronicity of my love of soda fountains and quilts, I found a photo of the Needle Basket in Sutton, WV, which was formerly a soda fountain and is now a quilt store, and the owner keeps all sorts of notions in the old stainless steel drawers and dispensers.  And even more cool was discovering the article Confessions of a Soda Jerk which lists some famous soda jerks, including one of my favorite jazz musicians, composer and pianist, Duke Ellington.  The story goes that he wrote his first song, Soda Fountain Rag, while working as as soda jerk, at age 14 or 15.


Check out My Secret Life as a Soda Jerk on Pinterest.