New album: Portrait Landscape

New album entitled Portrait Landscape, performed by my group, the Genius Loci Ensemble.

The question that propels me forward is this: what to sing? I did learn hundreds of love songs as a straight ahead jazz singer when I was a kid but even then I preferred inventing music with four tracks of vocals that started in my own automatic writing or beatnik run-on poems, mimicking perhaps the ancient poetic traditions of my Javanese ancestors.

What I love to do now is to compose new methods of extracting stories, energy and melody. I invent different rules for creation and build structures for creative expression. For example, for this album, we are using ancestral astrology on the one hand (portrait), or capturing the spirit of place on the other (landscape). The cinematic, lyrical results could be subtitled: music for visual artists.

In my study of the wild and captivating vocal tradition of pansori from Korea I also considered stories we don’t tend to tell in jazz songs, intricate layers of intergenerational family relationships and the shifting moods within them. Over many years I diligently produced a poetic portrait on the birthdays of my close family members. These poems are the starting points here on several tracks including Nineteen from my youngest son’s nineteenth birthday and Seventeen from the eldest’s seventeenth. The angst of those ages is expressed along with my own helplessness as their mother in the face of it all. Older now, and also accomplished and profilic in freestyle poetry themselves, they have contributed their own songs on the tracks Story of Namsan and Disease. Inventing songs with the rhythm section of Reg and Michel is something they began doing since early childhood so we continue the family tradition.

So here are the vignettes, stories from magical places in South Korea, or a beach in Guadeloupe, or a pristine mountain lake in Quebec, the wild energy of children intertwined with the lives of their parents in these places, of mothering and being a child or a grandchild shunned. It’s a kaleidoscope of imagery and melody, with sparse rhythm and guitar morphed and transformed, with all the drama of an ancestral story, and with jazz and improvisation, instant composing, at its core.