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Notes from the world of latin jazz & Brazilian singer-songwriter Alexa Weber Morales



Updated: 2010-04-28T10:39:17.809-07:00

 



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2010-04-28T10:39:18.054-07:00


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An Interview with Rio Jazz Singer Carol Saboya

2010-04-06T11:00:35.655-07:00

Jazz and samba have shared a rich interactive history for the last half-century. In Rio de Janeiro, musicians took note of Chet Baker, Bill Evans, and composers like Cole Porter while jazz musicians in Los Angeles and New York absorbed the music of Black Orpheus and bossa nova innovators Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto.Pianist/composer Antonio Adolfo was one of those young Rio players in the 1960s who found himself captivated by these new sounds, both at home and abroad. On his new CD Lá e Cá (Here and There), Adolfo juxtaposes his own compositions and three of Jobim's with jazz and American Songbook classics to create a gorgeous showcase for this alluring musical synthesis and for Adolfo's self-described obsession with Brazilian phrasing. His vocalist daughter Carol Saboya is featured on five tracks -- one in Portuguese (Sabiá) and the others in English (All the Things You Are, A Night in Tunisia, Time After Time, So in Love).Lá e Cá picks up where father and daughter left off with their critically acclaimed 2007 CD, Antonio Adolfo and Carol Saboya Ao Vivo/Live. "I love performing with Carol," says Adolfo. "She's very jazz-oriented, the type of singer musicians like to play with."In addition to his prolific work as a pianist, composer, and arranger, Adolfo, 63, continues to be a leader in music education. The Centro Musical Antonio Adolfo in Rio and a new experimental Brazilian music school in Hollywood, Florida, where he resides, are a big part of his current professional life.Saboya, 35, also teaches at the Centro, in Rio, and maintains her own recording career, which began with an appearance on Sergio Mendes's Grammy-winning Brasileiro (1992). Carol's CDs include the Sharp Prêmio award-winning Dança da Voz; and Janelas Abertas, a session with guitarist Nelson Faria, as well as Sessão Passatempo, Presente, and the recent Chão Aberto, all released in Brazil. Her Bossa Nova and Nova Bossa were made for JVC Japan.I interviewed Carol recently for a forthcoming article on MSN.com on women at the forefront of indie Brazilian music. As a jazz singer myself, I was eager to showcase someone like Carol, whose clear, supple soprano (aptly described as "elfin" in the liner notes) enchanted me on my review copy of Lá e Cá. Though only a snippet of the interview made it into the article, I wanted to share our full conversation here:Can you describe your father’s concept of Brazilian phrasing?He can explain it better, but what he means is that the way we talk, the way we walk has so much to do with the way we do music. It has to do with being Carioca, being Brazilian. We have this relaxing way of talking, and this is in the music of Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Edu Lobo.This album is not a bossa nova way of playing. There are many rhythms mixed in. For example, have you heard of toada? Toada is a rhythm that’s close to a baião. We do things that people may not know of.What do you mean when you say it’s not a bossa nova way of playing?Bossa nova has a Brazilian pop sound of the 50s and 60s. In that era Brazilians found a way to play Brazilian styles such as samba with "sophisticated" harmony, a simplified beat and a soft sound, very much influenced by American artists such as Chet Baker and a few others.This new release has also some influence from that moment, but with a much more hot jazz influence, showing how songs from the American songbook can sound Brazilian, even carrying that more intense jazz taste. The musicians play in a much more free interpretation way, what gives me inspiration to go deeper into that atmosphere as well.But around the world, bossa nova is still in demand. Has that influenced your choices?I have two albums in Japan that are totally bossa nova. They just sort of happened in my career. There was a Japanese producer who wanted a singer with a "smooth voice." They are very typical arrangements. We divided it into two albums, the first called Bossa Nova and the second called Nova Bossa [laughs]. But that made me a career in Japan -- people know me there.I think [...]



The Oakland Marathon and Running Festival

2010-04-05T16:55:39.335-07:00

Sometimes you need a change of perspective. That's what vacation travel is for, or moving, or remodeling. When you can't afford any of those things, there's running.It was 7:30 am and a thousand runners jostled nervously in downtown Oakland, filling Broadway for a block or two. I looked for familiar faces from my training group but saw no one, so instead I sidled toward the pace group -- 4 hours and 10 minutes goal finish time -- I had decided to run with. An air horn blasted, confetti rained down on us, we all clicked our watches and we pressed forward, slowly jogging through the inflatable orange starting arch. As I often do at the beginning of a race, I felt a surge of emotion and the pressure of tears behind my eyes. It's exciting, being in this pack of weekend warriors and semipro athletes, owning the streets as we take on some distance challenge. This time, nothing less than 26.2 miles -- which required a massive loop around my city.As you run down the middle of the boulevard, trying to avoid the excessive camber of the road (a fruitless exercise, as it turned out for me), you see everything through new eyes. Storefronts. Quirky houses. Architecture. People. Especially people.The running festival brought out the best in Oakland. Police officers smiled benevolently and cheered us on. People in bathrobes waved from front porches or presented us with bowls of orange slices, strawberries or muffins."Oakland is proud. Oakland loves you," said a tall, dark man from a lonely corner in industrial West Oakland. The diversity was spectacular, not surprisingly. There were the urban alternative artist types from The Crucible, there were the Black Hole Raiders Fans in full face makeup and monster garb, there were A's fans, Hell's Angels astride Harley Davidsons, musicians ranging from smooth R&B to heavy metal, bemused Mexicans ("Echanos un grito pues!" I yelled as we ran past some paisanos at Foothill near High Street -- they obliged with a howl), millionaire Montclairians with lavish food spreads, community-oriented Fruitvale families, oblivious flea-marketers, Jack London Square hipsters, Mandela Parkway baptists, Lake Merritt joggers. I missed them, but there were even Raiderettes at the finish line.With so much to look at, the distance was not that daunting. My problem, however, was my right iliotibial band, a ligament that runs from hip to ankle on the outside of the leg. Never an issue during the 19 weeks of training, not even a twinge in the Kaiser half-marathon in February. Six years after my first marathon, however, my IT band decided to show me, again, its displeasure. Back in April 2004 I ran the hilly, windy Big Sur marathon, and at mile 17 was stricken with horrible IT band pain. This time, the pain came much earlier. By mile 11 I had gone from wondering what kind of personal record I was going to set to wondering how the hell I was going to finish.I think the cambered road and the pounding I took racing down Lincoln's steep hill (against the advice of the pacers, who I heard telling me to slow down as I left them behind) were the main culprits. Perhaps stretching wasn't good, once the pain had begun (I have since read that you shouldn't stretch during the acute phase because it only increases irritation). I tried to change my pace, lean on my left leg more, pick up my feet, run faster, chat with other runners and ask them what to do about it ("I had a problem all last year with my IT band," said one pacer), and finally pop 600 mg of ibuprofen at an aid station. It all worked, more or less, and I finished in 4:21, only about 6 minutes off my goal of 4:15 -- but 28 minutes faster than my first marathon! I felt good, other than my leg.The post-race activities were marvelous. I waited in line and got a wonderful free massage. The booths and live music in the beautiful park in front of City Hall were well organized. Oh, and my race shirt and medal -- fabulous too. It's been great reading articles in the Tribune about the socioeconomic benefits of the race, and[...]



Upcoming Gigs and Other News

2010-03-26T14:34:31.038-07:00

Dear Readers ~ I have been so busy writing, dancing and running that I have neglected my gig calendar. The first three months of 2010 have been full of gigs (mainly with other bands), the San Francisco Salsa Rueda Festival, a half marathon and freelance writing assignments (I write about music, technology and medicine, in English and Spanish). It's been nice working with other bands, too, as I get to do what I love -- make music on stage -- but without the financial risk that comes with being a bandleader. Last week I was honored to play Yoshi's Oakland for Tito Gonzalez's CD release. And before you wonder why I didn't give you a heads-up, first, I apologize, and second, feel free to follow me on Twitter, or friend or fan me on Facebook -- I'm generally pretty active there and it's easier for this one-woman team to announce things that way. I recently wrote a piece for MSN.com (not published yet) about women of Brazilian song, in which I interviewed Claudia Villela, Carol Saboya and Bebel Gilberto. That should be published in the next few weeks, but I'll also run longer excerpts from the interviews on my blog after the piece goes live. Thank you as always for your support, suggestions, ideas and love! Un abrazo, Alexa GIGS GIGS GIGS GIGS GIGS GIGS Friday, March 26th, 2010Andy y Su Orquesta Callao - 8:00pmMontero's 1106 Solano AvenueAlbany, CA 94706510-524-1270Pura salsa pa goZar!Sunday, March 28th, 2010Salsa al Aire Libre! - 4:00pmEl Rio3158 Mission St (@ Cesar Chavez)San Francisco, CA 94110(415) 282-3325Con Andy y Su Orquesta Callao! Outdoor barbecue!Thursday, May 6th, 2010Alexa Weber Morales Band - 9:30pmCigar Bar850 Montgomery StreetSan Francisco, CA 94133415-398-0850With Evelio Roque, Omar Ledezma, Christian Tumalan and Sam Bevan! Cigar Bar & Grill is on Jackson Square at the corner of Montgomery and Pacific.The Cigar Bar & Grill offers an atmosphere low on pretension and high on relaxation. We offer an excellent selection of cigars, wines and spirits. Inside, relax in our rustic environment, featuring welcoming leather couches, low lighting and wooden tables & chairs. There are indoor and outdoor pool tables. And enjoy an array of art from local talents such as Anastasia Schipani and Mike Wolf.Sunday, May 23rd, 2010A Bailar Con Los Boleros! - 1:00pmRiver Rock Casino3250 Highway 128 EastGeyserville, CA 95441(707) 857-2777Alexa will be performing with Los Boleros. 21 and older only.FROM SAN FRANCISCO AND OAKLAND:Take Highway 101 north to Geyserville.Take the exit toward CA-128 AND/GEYSERVILLE.Turn right in CA-128/GEYSERVILLE AVE.Turn right in CA-128Look for Dry Creek Rancheria signs to River Rock CasinoSunday, May 30th, 2010Apostamos Con Los Boleros! - 9:00pmRiver Rock Casino3250 Highway 128 EastGeyserville, CA 95441(707) 857-2777Alexa will be performing with Los Boleros. 21 and older only.FROM SAN FRANCISCO AND OAKLAND:Take Highway 101 north to Geyserville.Take the exit toward CA-128 AND/GEYSERVILLE.Turn right in CA-128/GEYSERVILLE AVE.Turn right in CA-128Look for Dry Creek Rancheria signs to River Rock CasinoWednesday, June 9th, 2010Latin for Lunch! - 12:00pmOakland City Center12th and Broadway (center stage in front of Jamba Juice)Oakland, CA 94607Salsa, samba, funk and originals with the Alexa Weber Morales Band!Saturday, June 12th, 2010Latin Jazz in Tiburon! - 8:00pmServino Ristorante9 Main StTiburon, CA 94920With Alexa Weber Morales quartet.Sunday, July 11th, 2010Summer Camp July 11-18 - 8:00pmOakland Feather River Camp5469 Oakland Camp RoadQuincy, CA 95971510-336-2267Alexa will be teaching Garage Band week. Voice, performance, percussion and repertoire.Monday, August 9th, 2010Summer Camp Dance August 9-15 - 8:00pmOakland Feather River Camp5469 Oakland Camp RoadQuincy, CA 95971510-336-2267Alexa will be teaching latin dance (samba, salsa aerobics, beginning rueda)![...]



The Lady Bits of the Long-Distance Runner

2010-03-26T14:17:41.143-07:00

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It was mile 16 of a 20-mile preview run of the upcoming Oakland Marathon. We grabbed pretzels and refilled water in front of the Oakland Marriott at Broadway and 10th, the last water stop before we headed around Lake Merritt for the final four miles.

My friend and I prepared to cross Broadway. As we waited for the light, two business men with New York accents noticed the small crowd of athletes and asked us how far we were running.

“Twenty miles! It’s a prep for the Oakland marathon in three weeks!” we chirped.

“Twenty miles, that’s incredible!” said one of the men. “How long is the marathon?”

“Twenty-six-point-two,” I said.

“Wow. How -- how does that compare -- how long is the New York Marathon?”

“All marathons are 26.2 miles. That’s what a marathon is,” I said, perhaps smugly.

The man seemed flirtatious. And persistent: “Doesn’t it hurt your body? Are your knees holding up?”

“They’re doing OK,” I said. “Well, hers are, mine not so much,” said my friend.

“But doesn’t it make your uterus drop?”

“Uh, what?”

“Doesn’t it make your uterus drop? Someone was telling me running marathons made her uterus drop.”

While I was searching for a comeback and wondering when the light would change, my friend, mother of a grown child, joked, “I’m not planning to use mine.”

“Why aren’t you planning to use it?”

Time to jaywalk, ticket-happy Oakland police or no.

“Ah … you two are on a business trip, aren’t you? I can just tell,” I cracked, starting against the light. “Let’s get going,” I called to my friend.

We got across the street. “Can you believe those guys? God! Business men!”

“I’m so tired, I can’t even tell if that was offensive,” my friend said.

“Of course it was! Uterus dropping? I should have said, ‘Even worse, it really makes your scrotum sag.’” We were laughing and running.

Another group of women caught up with us at the next crosswalk and I told them about the exchange we’d just had with the business men. They all groaned. “Yeah, it makes your penis shrink!” called out one girl. The group laughed.

“Of course! From all the chafing!” I yelled. “Why don’t I ever think of these things in the moment?!”

Like: Dudes. You're in Oakland, not Las Vegas.


Image credit: Uterus Vase by The Plug & Stéphanie Rollin



Vocal Coach Decries Phenomenon of Over-singing

2010-03-26T11:24:28.514-07:00

Vocal Coach Decries Phenomenon of Over-singing, Points to Popular Talent ShowsMarch 25, 2010 (Nashville) The American music scene seems to be experiencing a phenomenon of painfully loud and meaningless over-singing which could be due in part to hit talent shows like American Idol, according to Renee Grant-Williams, one of the nation’s leading voice experts and coach to some of the music industry’s biggest stars. Grant-Williams points to this week's painful duet by two former Idol contestants as an example, "By shamelessly over-singing, Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas managed to destroy what might otherwise have been a perfectly decent song. Their performance was over-loud, over-ornamented, mutually over-competitive and ultimately banal." "The lyrics to Make a Wave written by Scott Krippayne and Jeffrey D. Peabody are very positive and send a very powerful message," says Grant Williams. "However, these two singers obscured the words so badly by over-singing, that I had to look up the lyrics to see what they were actually saying. The very essence of a song is to touch the listener by conveying a message of some kind. That's difficult to do when no one can get a grip on the melody or understand what's being said." Grant-Williams feels these non-verbal squiggles should be there for one reason only—to emphasize the powerful emotion of the song. "When a singer ornaments, it should be because, at that moment, the singer's emotions are running so high that words will not suffice; the singer is only capable of a visceral response too powerful to put into mere words," she says. Grant-Williams also says singers she encounters are increasingly belting out songs to the point where words don’t matter. “We seem to be caught up in an epidemic of loud,” says Grant-Williams. "Singing should be more subtle than just slinging a lot of voice around. If you sing with a thundering voice, you sacrifice the honesty, intimacy, and integrity of music. Yet, this style is presented to millions of TV viewers as desirable.” "You just don’t hear the level of ear-splitting over-singing in Australia and other places like you do here in America," says Grant-Williams, who recently returned from a sold-out teaching-tour of Australia. Observations she made during tours in Europe and South America confirm that this phenomenon is especially prevalent in the United States. "I’m convinced it’s due in part to the tremendous influence in the U. S. of talent shows where over-singing is rewarded.” “I still think America has the best singers on the planet,” says Grant-Williams. “They just need to bring down the volume and focus on the words and the emotions. I’m determined to do what I can to curb these phenomenon before they get out of hand.” Grant-Williams has as few simple suggestions to help singers get back to the basics of good singing: 1. A song is a one-way conversation, a singer must be very intimate with the words. 2. Singing should be like speaking with the audience, there's no need to yell. 3. Use consonants and silence to indicate the most important words of the song. 4. Use inflection sparingly as you would use spices, too much will ruin the song. Grant-Williams coaches aspiring performers as well as celebrities including Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Miley Cyrus, Faith Hill, the Dixie[...]



Inspiration from Born to Run

2010-03-25T13:16:16.367-07:00

I finished Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall in just a few sittings. I would have finished it faster if I hadn't read the first part aloud to my family, much to their annoyance.I needed the inspiration, as I'm training for the Oakland Marathon, which is this Sunday. This will be my second marathon. The first was Big Sur in 2004, a hard initial outing -- hilly, windy and winding. My iliotibial band seized up at mile 17 thanks the to cambered road (Highway 1) -- along with hundreds of others, as evidenced by the agonized stretching going on around me.Though I continued running shorter distances, I've enjoyed triathlon training the last two years and had begun thinking maybe everyone was right: triathlons were better for you than marathons. However, this training experience has been wonderful, long and slow (18 weeks!), and I have remained ache- and injury-free (fingers crossed). My knees protested the increase in distance around 13 miles, but now they seem happy. I have iced them only occasionally after runs, and haven't had to pop any pills.Born to Run makes the argument that endurance running is not only not bad for your joints, it's what humans were designed to do. It also posits that today's plethora of running injuries are due to over-engineered shoes that encourage heel-striking rather than a forefoot-centered stride. Skeptic that I am, I thought the barefoot runners were nutty, though I did buy the argument that running on grass or beach was good for the muscles in the feet. We had a barefoot guy in last year's tri team, and now I'm embarrassed about my ignorant questions (for some reason I remember wondering if it was for religious reasons).If you consider it, though, the flat-footed stride of a barefoot runner is more natural than heel-first. I also used to think our super-fast coach's (and her husband's) speedy hamster-wheel steps (similar to the POSE method) were strange. Now I find myself doing the same thing: picking up my heels, focusing on fast foot turnover, and landing flatter. My old way of running was with big, quad-crunching strides and major arm pumping. Now I keep my arms close to my torso.I don't know how my stride will evolve further, but I have gotten faster in the last seven years -- and especially the last two. So check this out: Maybe I have even more years of speed ahead of me than I thought!McDougall quotes Dennis Bramble, biology professor at the University of Utah in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains: "We monitored the results of the 2004 New York City Marathon and compared finishing times by age. What we found is that starting at age nineteen, runners get faster every year until they hit their peak at twenty-seven. After twenty-seven, they start to decline. So here's the question -- how old are you when you're back to running the same speed you did at nineteen?" The answer is not 36, or 45, or 55, but an astonishing 64 years old!"There's something really weird about us humans; we're not only really good at endurance running, we're really good at it for a remarkably long time. We're a machine built to run -- and the machine never wears out," says Bramble in the book."You don't stop running because you get old, the Dipsea Demon always said. You get old because you stop running..." writes McDougall.Further, as humans evolved, the difference between male and female diminished such that it's far less than in other primates. Human men are only 15% bigger than women, while gorillas are twice as big and chimps one-third. And women have proven, especially lately, that "caring for kids on the fly isn't that hard, as American ultrarunner Kami Semick demonstrates; she likes to run mountain trails around Bend, Oregon, with her four-year-old daughter, Baronie, riding along in a backpack." McDougall also notes that Emily Baer finished 8th overall among men and w[...]



My 9-Year-Old's Observation

2010-03-25T11:54:10.602-07:00

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Yesterday, coming home from school, my son said, "Mommy, day and night are opposites, but not just in the obvious way. If you think about it, in the day, light is everywhere and darkness has a shape, like a shadow. In the night, it's dark everywhere, but light has a shape in the dark, like headlights."

I thought that was brilliant.



If You Cross Me, Watch Out!

2010-03-25T10:13:48.558-07:00

If you cross me, watch out!

I will bitch about it to my family endlessly, perhaps for a year or more, while you get shit done. Heck I might even complain bitterly about it to strangers or important business contacts who would have given me work if I hadn't come off as vengeful and unstable.

Yeah, and I might supersize myself. Mess with me and I could put on 20 pounds just to show you who's the victim here.

Watch out, because I'll be watching you. I will cyberstalk you and catalog your every move while my own web presence attracts old flies.

Stab me in the back and I'll never heal. I'll let myself go completely -- teeth, hair, nails, you name it. I'll be Cousin It, here in my hole, watching old sitcoms, wondering what you're doing right now. I know you'll be haunted by my total deterioration.

So don't you do me wrong. I won't forget it.



The Lady Bits of the Long-Distance Runner

2010-03-08T14:42:37.427-08:00

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It was mile 16 of a 20-mile preview run of the upcoming Oakland Marathon. We grabbed pretzels and refilled water in front of the Oakland Marriott at Broadway and 10th, the last water stop before we headed around Lake Merritt for the final four miles.

My friend and I prepared to cross Broadway. As we waited for the light, two business men with New York accents noticed the small crowd of athletes and asked us how far we were running.

“Twenty miles! It’s a prep for the Oakland marathon in three weeks!” we chirped.

“Twenty miles, that’s incredible!” said one of the men. “How long is the marathon?”

“Twenty-six-point-two,” I said.

“Wow. How -- how does that compare -- how long is the New York Marathon?”

“All marathons are 26.2 miles. That’s what a marathon is,” I said, perhaps smugly.

The man seemed flirtatious. And persistent: “Doesn’t it hurt your body? Are your knees holding up?”

“They’re doing OK,” I said. “Well, hers are, mine not so much,” said my friend.

“But doesn’t it make your uterus drop?”

“Uh, what?”

“Doesn’t it make your uterus drop? Someone was telling me running marathons made her uterus drop.”

While I was searching for a comeback and wondering when the light would change, my friend, mother of a grown child, joked, “I’m not planning to use mine.”

“Why aren’t you planning to use it?”

Time to jaywalk, ticket-happy Oakland police or no.

“Ah … you two are on a business trip, aren’t you? I can just tell,” I cracked, starting against the light. “Let’s get going,” I called to my friend.

We got across the street. “Can you believe those guys? God! Business men!”

“I’m so tired, I can’t even tell if that was offensive,” my friend said.

“Of course it was! Uterus dropping? I should have said, ‘Even worse, it really makes your scrotum sag.’” We were laughing and running.

Another group of women caught up with us at the next crosswalk and I told them about the exchange we’d just had with the business men. They all groaned. “Yeah, it makes your penis shrink!” called out one girl. The group laughed.

“Of course! From all the chafing!” I yelled. “Why don’t I ever think of these things in the moment?!”

Like: Dudes. You're in Oakland, not Las Vegas.


Image credit: Uterus Vase by The Plug & Stéphanie Rollin



Alexa Weber Morales sings I Will Survive, Salsa-Style

2010-03-06T13:19:00.469-08:00

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Con Andy y Su Orquesta Callao last night @ Roccapulco in San Francisco.

Este arreglo del exito de Gloria Gaynor "I Will Survive" proviene del percusionista/productor Ivan Lino Montes. Se grabo en los 2000 temprano con su Orquesta Kache y ahora se ha vuelto a prominencia con Andy y Su Orquesta Callao.




Top 10 Tough Acts to Follow

2010-03-04T13:29:14.316-08:00

10. Strippers

9. Graffiti artists high on fumes

8. Performance artists using bodily fluids to make statements about corporatization of all life forms

7. Sing-songy poets

6. Long-winded rappers wrapped in flags from little-known countries

5. Veterinarians giving talks about estrus in breeding bitches

4. Drunken priests eulogizing the wrong person

3. DJs with advanced hearing loss

2. Fakirs

1. Soulful 19-year-old girl in a micro-mini who sings one song a cappella and nails every note, then whips out a guitar and plays a blisteringly perfect jazz solo


What was the worst act you had to follow? Do share!


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A Sauna Tale

2010-02-11T15:00:02.381-08:00

I am sitting in the sauna, eyes closed, sweat running down my body. In the dark I can make out the figure of a small, round woman basking in the heat. After a few minutes, she speaks: "The sauna is so nice, isn't it?" "Oh yes," I reply. "This is my last remaining luxury." We both get up to go out and she continues chatting with me.

"We don't belong to this gym. I snuck in here while my son plays basketball with his team. We belong to the one on the other side of town. They have a pool." She has a Phillipino accent.

"Ah, yeah, if I need to swim I go to the school near my house."

We begin talking about working out and what sports we like. I mention triathlon training. "Did you do that with Team in Training?" she asks, noticing my TNT hat.

"Yes," I say. "It's a great charity, and they also do the best job preparing you athletically."

"The charity is for what?" she asks.

"It's the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society," I reply. "Blood cancer."

"Oh, yeah, they are a good charity. It's a terrible disease. I lost my daughter to that."

"Oh my God, how sad. I'm sorry to hear that... Did the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society give you any support?"

She hesitates: "No... We didn't find out until too late. She, ah, she checked in to the hospital and died the next day."

"That's terrible," I say. A few beats of silence pass while we both dress.

"When did this happen?" I ask.

"Yesterday," she replies simply.

"Ah." More silence, and we are finished dressing. In my head I am wondering why she has made this story up for me. It's almost like a form of improv.

"Leukemia mostly gets young people, doesn't it?" the woman asks.

"Well, yes, compared to other cancers. No one knows what causes it. My grandmother died of it," I answer.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Was she young?"

"In her forties," I answer. We are walking out.

"Where are you going now?" she asks brightly, as I head for the kids' area. "I'm going to get my kids, and you?"

"Oh, I guess I'm going now." She looks like she wished she could tag along with me, but instead walks out the door into the sunshine, leaving her imaginary son behind on the basketball court.



Oakland Running Festival Coming Soon!

2010-02-02T18:03:53.359-08:00

I am so excited about Oakland's upcoming marathon -- so excited, I ran 18 miles through the streets of Oakland on Sunday! Here's an email I got today with news about the event: The big day is getting near and the excitement is mounting as we approach race day. Registrations are coming in at a furious clip, surpassing our every expectation. The community of Oakland is starting to buzz as everyone looks forward to the end of March. New sponsors have joined our quest of making the Inaugural Oakland Running Festival an event to remember: Alameda County Medical Center will provide medical support at several spots on the course as well as at the finish line. They will be supported by American Medical Response who will provide medical transport services. See Jane Run has been named the Official Women's Running Store and Greenlayer, the Official Merchandise Provider. MGD 64 will be the presenting sponsor of the Celebration Village at the finish line, GEICO will sponsor the Pace Groups and KTCU & KICU will serve as our television media partners. Further, Kaiser Permanente, with a large office in downtown Oakland, has just signed up as a supporting sponsor. Our expo is just about sold out with chiropractors, charity groups, running stores, events and much more! We are still recruiting runners so if you know of someone looking for a Spring event, let them know that Oakland is where they will want to be! This Inaugural Event will feature top-notch premium items, cool medals, great on-course support and a fun and fan friendly finish line party for everyone to enjoy. Runners can register on our website today. Those who are unable to run on race day are encouraged to sign up to volunteer, come to the finish line celebrate with the runners or cheer from their neighborhoods along the race route. Keep the Pace, Gene BrtalikRace Director WE PROMISE, THEY WON'T TACKLE YOU DURING THE RACEOakland Raiders Team Up with Running Festival The Oakland Raiders, The Team of the Decades, has teamed up with the City of Oakland for the inaugural Oakland Running Festival. The Raiders will sponsor the first mile of the 26.2 marathon course and the Raiderettes, Football's Fabulous Females, will also be in attendance to cheer on runners as they cross the finish line. As an added bonus, all runners will have the opportunity to purchase a specially priced ticket package that includes the added value of being honored on the field in a pre-game ceremony prior to a 2010 Raiders home game. [...MORE] ON COURSE NUTRITION SET FOR OAKLANDGU Energy, Powerade and Clif Bar Sign on to Support Runners The Oakland Running Festival has partnered with three great companies to provide nourishment for the runners on the course and at the finish line. As you continue your training you will want to note that the following products will be served on race day: GU Energy Gel: Simple to take, fast to digest, GU Energy Gel provides simply what you need for premium exercise fuel and none of the extras that slow you down. GU takes you where you want to go, fast. We will be offering the following flavors: Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Outrage, Strawberry Banana (no caffeine) and Jet Blackberry (double caffeine). Powerade Electrolyte System Sports Drink: When you sweat you lose key minerals- Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium- which can be crucial to your body and hydration. As you loose hydration you can lose your ability to perform. Now you can get it all back with Powerade. Fruit Punch flavor will be served on course and at the finish line. ClifBar: Whole, all-natural, organic ingredients. Good nutrition and great taste. It's [...]



33 Reasons To Feel Shitty

2010-02-02T15:28:42.866-08:00

I am feeling crappy today. I wonder why? Of course, I could slowly back away from the computer, sit down at the piano and practice or climb the roof and take the Xmas lights down or clean the dishes or read a book that I have been reading at an excruciatingly slow pace or clean my office or do work on a good-paying writing project that is at a standstill or go be a good mom or... but no, I will sit here in self-contemplative mode and think about myself and my emotions and my hair and my itchy neck and who likes me and who I like and where am I going and what have I done, etc.Here are possible reasons for the ebb of my emotional tide today, an ebb that is so awesomely all-important in the scheme of the world. Yep, I am a writer and that sentence sucked. Onward:1. Talked to my mom on Sunday. That seems to bring me down for a few days pretty reliably. (99% sure she won't read this.)2. Ran 18 miles on Sunday, then hiked 6 miles (slowly) with dog and family on Monday. Still tired. My dog can't even move now. I checked an hour ago and he's still alive though. He didn't run the 18 miles, by the way.3. I had a really good show Saturday night (actually two gigs that day) and maybe this is the low that follows the performance high?4. Don't have any gigs at all in February as of right now.5. I'm waiting to get paid by three people, so that I can make February's house payment, now due.6. Last night when I crawled into bed wearing three layers of clothes I thought, "What if this is all there is?" That's a great launching point for your mind just before it drifts into the abyss.7. I hope no bookers who might possibly book me read this. Because I am doing great sigh that took too much effort.8. I tried to sleep some more but I couldn't.9. I bought something online but it didn't work.10. I feel gross.11. Men fill me with despair. But I am raising two little men so I have to teach them to be gentlemen. Conundrum.12. Depressing lists make me more depressed.13. I know I'll snap out of it in a bit.14. I forgive too easily.15. I don't like fake people, in real life or on facebook.16. I'm not trying for sympathy or anything, I truly thought this might be an entertaining post but now I think it probably sucks.17. I don't like complainers and that includes myself.18. I hate the IRS.19. My dentist discriminated against me.20. I wish I could finish more of what I started.21. Why do mean people seek positions of power?22. What is the evolutionary purpose of a virus? Just to replicate? But then it kills its host. Are there any good viruses?23. Why do people pull at the thread of something irksome that you in a moment of trusting weakness revealed to them so that they continually bring it up in what seems to be a shared dark humor but in truth is a way for them to satisfy their morbid desire to see you fail? How can you spot these people and avoid them?24. Why does love require you to nakedly connect without knowing if your sacrifice will be acknowledged or just taken like a $4 toll and you don't even care if it's a pacer or a porsche that drives through.25. Why is your attention span so short? Can't you see how amazing it is to enjoy something fully? I don't mean forever, but I do mean for more than four minutes.26. How do you build something truly great?27. Officer, why did you give me a $100 ticket for parking with my right wheels slightly up on my sidewalk in front of my house (we do that so people won't hit the car coming around the corner)? Where did you pull that handwritten $100 figure out of, your ass?28. My head feels heavy.29. Why can't you take care of yourself? I feel bad that I can't fix everything for you.30. I don't like it when people aren't professional. T[...]



Fundraiser this Saturday for the San Jose Jazz Society

2010-01-28T13:50:23.207-08:00

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Step out in style while supporting San Jose Jazz's year round music and education programs

Hollywood Comes to Silicon Valley, a fundraiser for San Jose Jazz, is very special evening of music and Hollywood glamour featuring award winning jazz composer/arranger/saxophonist John Altman.

Saturday, January 30, 2010, at 6:30pm
San Jose Athletic Club, 196 N. 3rd St., San Jose

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The party will feature:
>>Music by noted Hollywood composer and performer John Altman, with the San Jose Jazz Orchestra
>> Fashion Show
>> Rare Live and Silent Auctions, including a poster signed by Miles Davis, a cruise aboard a Macondo sailboat, a week in Maui, and many more
>> Abundant Hors d'Oeuvres and Somptuous Desserts
>> Attire: Hollywood chic and glamour

About John Altman:
John Altman's name might not be instantly recognizable as one of the world's greatest composers, arrangers, or musicians, but his music is known to millions around the world. He is the man behind "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and an array of other well known classics. During his career, John has worked with some of the greatest names in the music industry, including Bob Marley, Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Sting, Diana Ross, Simple Minds, and Björk.

A highly acclaimed player of the saxophone, flute, and clarinet, Altman is lauded by respected critic Don Heckman in the Los Angeles Times as "one of the few film composers with authentic jazz skills." He has composed or arranged the music for numerous films (Titanic, Shall We Dance?) and television shows (Monty Python, Peak Practice) and won several awards, including an EMMY.

This very special evening of music and Hollywood glamor is the perfect opportunity to step out in style while supporting San Jose Jazz's year round music and education programs.

About San Jose Jazz:

Each year, since 1986, San Jose Jazz has made a difference in our lives by bringing jazz to Silicon Valley schools, venues, and festivals. San Jose Jazz nurtures the cultural identity of Silicon Valley. In this economy, each dollar for the arts is a considerable investment in the future of our community. We need the arts... the arts need you.

Purchase tickets and RSVP to Madelyn Crawford at 408-288-7557 ext. 2335 or email membership@sanjosejazz.org



It's a Tough Job but Somebody's Gotta Do It

2010-01-24T11:40:20.777-08:00

(image) I was forced to pose in this degrading man sandwich backstage. That was rough! Could be some kind of phobia? I may need to repeat the exposure to desensitize myself.
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That'll Leave a Mark

2010-01-24T11:23:01.034-08:00

Last night after Seaon Stylist's salsa tribute to Michael Jackson at the Cowell Theater, in which I sang backup with the band led by Rebeca Mauleon (more about that later), I headed over to Cafe Cocomo for the after party. It was packed to the gills. I had some nice dances with excellent partners, and then snuck into the green room to say hi to the band, Mazacote. One of the players said, "Hey, I remember you -- you gave me some ear plugs one time, right?" "Uh, yeah, that's true!" I replied. See how memorable I am?

This morning as I lay in bed trying unsuccessfully to sleep in I started riffing on that comment in my head. Having gigged around I've made quite an artistic impression on many bands. Here are assorted compliments:

"Hey, I remember you -- you gave me a paperclip!"

"Hey girl! You're the one who had some Advil when I needed it."

"That show we did together was great. You really have a pleasant disposition."

"You know what I like about you is you always have scotch tape in your bag."

"Oh I remember you, you really sweat a lot on stage don't you?!"

"Alexa, Alexa... let's see, when did we work together -- oh now I remember, we arm wrestled at the gig! Yeah! My arm hurt for weeks after that."

Yep. As a singer I have made an indelible mark -- with a permanent pen? -- on the music scene.

You're welcome, Bay Area.



Don't Just Peep in the Window! Tonight, Proyecto Lando @ La Pena!

2009-12-19T15:30:29.084-08:00

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Last night we were rehearsing again for tonight's gig at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. It's a show of adventurous and original proportions, mixing tunes by Peruvian percussionist/songwriter Pedro Rosales of Rompe y Raja with Afro-Cuban and even R&B elements (that's where I come in, singing Fallin' by Alicia Keys over a lilting landó lament). I also recorded my version of the tune for the new CD, available in limited quantities tonight.

As we rehearsed in a copy story on Solano Avenue in Albany, passers-by pressed their noses to the glass and tried to peer over posters taped on the closed doors. On the one hand it was lovely to know we drew attention, this cast of well over a dozen musicians rehearsing complex music with driving cajon- and cajita-based percussion.

On the other hand, a peevish voice in my head said, sure, they stop and listen now, but come time to fill a concert hall as an artist you practically have to donate a kidney to get an enthusiastic audience in the seats. Now, there are probably many factors at work here -- I'm just being honest about the feeling it brought up. I definitely don't advise browbeating people to get them to come to concerts -- though some might argue that it doesn't matter HOW you get them in the door so long as they're pleased once they get there. One reason we might have attracted so much attention last night, too, was the peep-show element: Hide something (even in plain sight), and people want to know what it is. Another might be simply the street music factor: There are lots of folks walking up and down Solano Ave, and they might have been pleasantly surprised by the sight of musicians shedding inside a copy shop. Finally, it didn't cost a thing for them to look through the window, whereas it will cost a few dollars to come see the live show tonight.

With that said, hope to see a good crowd there! Time to get ready for soundcheck!

Saturday, December 19th, 2009 8:00 PM
Pedro Rosales CD Release
La Pena Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94705
510-849-2568
Tickets: $15
http://www.lapena.org



Act now! Save Pianist Fred Harris's Home!

2009-12-08T13:12:33.064-08:00

(image) In the past 2 weeks, $9,500 has been raised by jazz lovers, musicians and good Samaritans to keep pianist Frederick Harris from losing the San Francisco home that has been in his family for 39 years, in a neighborhood that thanks to gentrification now only houses three black families. Can you kick in some cash to help Fred?

From his bio:

Frederick Harris has been an active professional musician in San Francisco for many years. He graduated with a Master's Degree from the SF Conservatory and is an unusually gifted classical pianist. He's also been music director for numerous local theatre productions and has risen to great heights in the jazz world, where his credits include Dizzy Gillespie, Regina Carter, Billy Higgins, Chico Freeman, Barbara Morrison, Kurt Elling and many others. He is on the faculty of the Stanford Jazz Workshop and is the Music Director of St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church. He teaches through Stanford and at his home studio.

Here is Fred's situation, in his own words:

"On December 11, '09, this home will be lost to foreclosure. Though I've resumed payents, Wells Fargo has returned them, and I need to raise $12,000.00 to stop the pending auction, set for 12/11. 12k is less than trifling to lose one's home by, and yet it's beyond my grasp, so I need your help. This will settle the arrears on the property, and keep me in my home, a home that's been 'in the family' virtually my entire life. Those of you who know me know that I'm not one to ask for help, generally, but an angel reminded me that there's nothing to lose in asking, nothing's gained in not (asking), and that one must try. It is in this spirit that I ask you to please securely donate whatever you can by simply clicking on the button below, or by mailing to Frederick Harris, P.O. Box 16642, S.F. CA 94116."

http://www.fhperformances.org/




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I'm Your Man -- Original Song by Alexa Weber Morales

2009-12-04T17:06:06.241-08:00

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Just wrote this one today!

I’m Your Man
By Alexa Weber Morales © 2009

I’m your man
I’ve got everything covered
I can pay my own way
I can be your casual lover

I like to step out and have a good time
I know how to drink and fight
Sometimes I go too far or meet someone or lose my car
I stay out all night

I’m your man and life has shown me
Ain’t no one else who can help me stand
I’m your man and I know what to do
I learned long ago I can’t count on you

When someone says it can’t be done
I’m your man and I say Yes it can
I’m your man and I act real strong
I can fix anything and I’m never wrong

I’m your man and you don’t have to call me
I’ll magically appear when I’m needed
I’m your man and you don’t have to worry
I know when to beat it

Other men might be afraid of me
But I’ve got no choice this is who I’ve got to be
Sometimes I remember what it was like to be a girl
She’s got no place in this heartless world

I’m your man and I look so hard
Got mouths to feed, can’t let down my guard
I’m your man, this act is getting old
Deep inside there’s a woman’s soul

Don’t want to be your mother
Don’t want to be your wife
Don’t want to be your man
I want to share this life
It’s been so long, this act is getting old
Could you ever care for a woman’s soul

I’m your man
I’m your man
I’m your man
I’m your man




Quisiera Retroceder El Tiempo -- Cancion Original por Alexa Weber Morales

2009-12-03T20:53:20.633-08:00

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Quisiera Retroceder El Tiempo

Derechos de autor (c) 2009 por Alexandra L. Weber Morales

Quisiera retroceder el tiempo
Al hermoso descubrimiento
Que eras tierno y eras un tigre
Aún el encanto nos envuelve y vive

Te digo que tu me matas
Gozando el calor de tu piel
Apretando mi cintura me contestas
Tu me matas tambien

Desaparece el mundo
Al aferrarme a tus brazos
Trazas caricias con la punta de tu nariz
Que ricura tus labios

Quisiera retroceder el tiempo
Al hermoso descubrimiento
Que eras tierno y eras un tigre
Aún el encanto nos envuelve y vive

Crees conocerme
Esta noche soy tuya
Profundamente me miras
Lentamente nos amamos

Lo nuestro sigue en sueños
Un viento de la posibilidad
Lo vivo cuando cierro mis ojos
Este recuerdo no descansa, es mi realidad

Quisiera retroceder el tiempo
Al hermoso descubrimiento
Que eras tierno y eras un tigre
Aún el encanto nos envuelve y vive




Classic Clip: Don Music Rewrites Mary Had a Little Lamb

2009-11-29T11:09:29.185-08:00

This is from the early 1970s. I love how Don Music bangs his head on the piano whenever he hits a songwriting speedbump. "Oh, I'll never get it, never, Oh!!! [BANG]!" And the interaction with a reasonable Kermit and the easily frustrated Don Music is one that I think many a composer could relate to.

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Going Postal

2009-11-29T10:52:41.958-08:00

I'm standing in line at my local post office. I know all the clerks and managers, even though I rarely come in here. A portly white guy in shorts and sandals with socks is speaking, very agitatedly, with one of the clerks. His loud voice is the only one heard in the small space.

"I am trying to find out what has happened to this package. I used to work for the post office. According to YOUR TRACKING CODE, this package NEVER LEFT THIS BUILDING. It was supposed to go to Anchorage, Alaska. But my friend in Alaska went TODAY to her post office box to retrieve this package and THIS IS THE INFORMATION SHE RECEIVED. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE HAS DONE WITH THIS PACKAGE."

The clerk responds, quietly, examining the sheet of paper the man has been waving.

"I WANT YOU TO CHECK YOUR WAREHOUSE. I WANT TO SPEAK TO YOUR MANAGER." He's nearly apoplectic.

Finally, the manager comes over. She's a woman with a mellifluous voice who always wishes customers "a blessed day." The clerk tries explaining: "She says the package did not leave but we show the package went to Alaska."

"I AM NOT A SHE. I AM A HE. I AM SO SICK OF DEALING WITH U.S. GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES WHO CANNOT EVEN SPEAK THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE."

"Sir, can you step over to this window while I go look for your package?" asks the manager. He does so and she disappears through a passageway.

He pulls out his cellphone, dials and pauses until it connects.

"Hey. Yeah, I'm here at the post office," he says, at the same volume he'd been using before. "Yeah, it's so frustrating. I can't believe how INCOMPETENT these people are. Yes, I told them I used to work for the U.S. postal service." He pauses, looks through the window, and sighs loudly. "I know, I know. All I am trying to do is figure out WHAT HAPPENED TO MY FUCKING CHEESECAKE."



The Man of the Future

2009-11-16T14:47:03.788-08:00

I pulled into the Emeryville marina at 9 AM this morning after a late night spent gigging and visiting Denny's locations. Last year I trained with an informal, free running team led by a fleet-footed woman named Claire, and I was thrilled when this year's training email came around. We're working toward the Kaiser half-marathon in February, followed by the new Oakland marathon in March! I really didn't want to miss the first group run, and it turns out my brain wouldn't let me -- I couldn't oversleep, even though I tried.I took the run at a very easy 9:30 to 10-minute-per-mile pace, and aimed for a modest five miles even though I could have done my usual overkill and gone for the max distance, which was eight. On the way out I had an enjoyable talk with a woman who was training along with Claire's husband for a marathon, doing her last 22-mile run. I had poked fun at all the water and nutrition Matt was carrying for a five-mile run before I realized that they were actually planning on running for three-plus hours.With marine air and clear skies on our left, and freeway noise on our right, we rolled along, happily chatting. Somehow the conversation turned to me sharing observations from a personality test that I recently took. "I just took a personality test too!" the woman chirped. We seemed to have a similar predilection for setting goals but then letting the path to those goals unfold intuitively. I said that works out well, if slowly, but the downside is I often get stressed out when a little more planning/discipline and less intuition could facilitate those goals.I reached my turnaround and started running with a guy I had met last year who is quite fast -- a seven-minute-miler. But he seemed happy to go my pace, and in fact said he'd suffered an injury at the amazing Angel Island 10-mile trail run in January, (which I blogged about), and that that injury had plagued him ever since. So his goal now is simply to take it easy.He began to tell me about his wife, a radiant woman who has left her previous job as a cartographer and made a new career choice to become a physical therapist, a profession I'd say is ideal for her disposition. I thought it was wonderful to hear about a successful life transition like that and he shared interesting details about her physical therapy studies, such as the fact that certain of their necessary stress tests can actually be harmful to the joints in question.I observed that she seemed well suited to be a PT. He said that motivating patients to do the painful work of restoring their bodies' mechanics, especially with diminishing healthcare dollars and a widespread pill-popping mentality, makes the PT's job harder than the drug-dispensing nurse's when dealing with, say, a hip-replacement patient. He said she was also interested in geriatric care, and we began talking about youth and age.That reminded me of a recent public TV special I saw, a talk by a gerontologist named Ken Dychtwald. In it, he told a story about meeting an older man who had just begun working with a personal trainer. The trainer urged him to talk to his inspiring client. "Why did you start training?" Dychtwald asked the man, who looked about 75. "I was getting stiff, and not feeling as energetic as I used to," the man said. They discussed his training and positive results. "When did you start working out?" Dychtwald asked. "Two years ago," the man said, "when I turned 100.""I [...]