The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul: Jazz

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul You Me NYCSaxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet have been playing rebellious and unapologetic Jazz for the past three decades.  Anyone familiar with this group is definitely aware of their high-flying improvisations that can launch at any given moment.  “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” is a perfect example of freeform at it’s best with each instrumental voice being defined with purpose.

For 20 of those years, piano player Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis have been a staple in the group.  Drummer Justin Faulkner has been with the band for about 10 years respectively.  I have to say that the band has reached another pinnacle tending to a collection of moods with motivating commitment.  Faulkner’s chops are crisp and smooth.  Calderazzo goes ahead and smokes the ivories and Revis’s bass line is fluent and on point.  Marsalis outdoes himself on this album, his phrasing is sharp and endless.  Each member of the quartet compliments each other the way an improv band should.

“Life Filtering from the Water Flowers” is Marsalis’ one and only composition on this album and it is of true Marsalis form.  This arrangement displays a cleverly organized instrumentation with very moving and contained sax riffs only Marsalis can phrase.  Calderazzo’s piano playing and Faulkner’s drumming help convey the message Marsalis is bringing across.   “Life Filtering from the Water Flowers”, compliments the album as a reflective tribute to his late mother Delores Marsalis.

“The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” is a definite must-have for all Jazz fans.  The creativity of the improvisation tangents in each song is truly an original compilation that cannot be duplicated.  This album is an enjoyable and innovative listen that features some engaging moments of Jazz Improvisation.  This album serves as a perfect example as to why the Brandfors Marsalis Quartet is held in such high regard for the past 30 years.

A Pretty Face with Nothing to Back it up is Null and Void

Purposefully Pretty You Me NYC“A pretty face with nothing to back it up is null and void”, according to PurposefullyPretty Inc. a nonprofit organization seeking to reach, teach and inspire young women to identify and pursue their purpose in life. Their goal is to teach them about beauty and the importance of having a purpose, by helping them become the inspirational and determined individuals they are destined to be.

Like any other teenager, many deal with insecurities and obstacles in their life.  PurposefullyPretty founder, Diamond Craig and the PP team are women who have struggled with some to many of the same issues that young women face today.  It is their desire to mentor, guide and inspire them to reach their personal and professional goals as well as overcome the various struggles that confront them.

Purposefully Pretty You Me NYC

PurposefullyPretty implements its mission through mentorships, community service, empowerment events, and the #IAmPurposefullyPretty workshop series. Through this workshop series, the PurposefullyPretty team travels to schools, libraries and other organizations that cater to young women; providing all the tools that they need to become the next generation of leaders and dedicated women.  This workshop series gears itself towards young women between the ages of 11-18; to help them achieve their confidence and character necessary to pursue their goals and to acquire the tools needed.  Therefore, by the end of the series, they have a better understanding of what their purpose is.

Conclusion

Some of the workshops apart from this series include ‘Identifying My Purpose’, ‘Radical Self Love’ ‘Social Media’, ‘Conflict Resolution’ and a host of others.  They can also join the PurposefullyPretty organization, by becoming a registered member.  Members benefit by establishing relationships and networking with all of its members.  Purposefully Pretty has such great opportunities from prom makeover contest to summer leadership programs.  They also collaborate with other organizations to focus on what young women are interested in!

Shit, if You Can Make it Here, You Can Make it Anywhere!

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. People have always used this as a coping mechanism when the city overwhelms you. But what about the people who have been here their whole lives? What are our mechanisms? The ones that survived what people couldn’t do for six months. What are our words of encouragement to keep going? 

New York is advertised as the fun, loud, entertaining city that never sleeps, filled with assholes too caught up in the hustle and bustle to say hello. When that’s not taking place, it becomes an episode of “Law and Order.” But when you take away all of that bullshit, what’s left to entertain you? If those things didn’t exist, would you guys continue to come here? Would you continue to see this as a stepping stone if it didn’t come with those things? When people come here they think we’re just used to it. People have been known to enjoy cold weather, but no one likes being cold. No one gets used to the wear and tear this city can have on your physical and mental well-being. 

Conclusion

What helps is the perspective of this place. The city is so unique people forget it’s a whole state. It’s not even the capital but it plays such a major part on how New York is viewed as a whole. It’s easy to get caught up and one of the ways to get out is to take in some nature. Trees literally help you breathe. If I were surrounded by skyscrapers and trains and “New York” life all day long, I’d have a panic attack all to myself…: which has literally happened to me. Being native to this surrounding, I’ve learned to drown out certain things and internalize others. It’s one of those things I’m still working on myself. Just don’t forget to breathe. Shit… this society; in this day and age, if you choose to keep going in this life, choose to wake up this morning without complaints. You already made it! You already won. For my native New Yorkers, just keep doing what we do best, keep moving and grooving!  

The Suitcase of Opportunity

I’ve lived in Brooklyn for almost four years now and I still hear the story. “The Suitcase of Opportunity.” The way the story goes apparently is that a group of Hasidic Jewish men drive around different neighborhoods with a suitcase full of money and when presented is too much to turn down. A tool of bribery to get people to move out of the neighborhood and corner the market. I thought this was just a running joke until I heard of more than one person speak of the infamous suitcase.

As much as everyone says they love this place, what would you do if the suitcase appeared at your front door? How would you react? With this place ever changing, do you see a future for your homeland or the beginning of the end? This isn’t just to make my natives think but also the people who travel and bust their ass literally to live and be here. Do you see the longevity in a place you fought so hard to be in? A place that played a part in making you who you are today-good or bad?

The Suitcase of Opportunities You Me NYC

I can’t point the finger at all the people. It plays a major role but the main cast is the realty companies that set the trend to begin with. They seem to forget that these are people’s homes, to build and protect their families, not a fashion statement. The only real up and coming trends are the children that come out of these neighborhoods. 

Realtors are the Christopher Columbus of gentrification. They come to an area that was already established. Stick their sign down and rename it some bullshit they think sounds cool and modern. To diminish the identity that laid the foundation, for the apartment buildings and fancy supermarkets that destroyed so many homes to build. 

So I ask you again, where do you stand? 

Transplant Nation

There really aren’t many of us left and that sounded super weird in my head and even more weird to admit on paper but its true. More times than not, I bet you are the only New Yorker in your group of friends or even at work.  You ever go somewhere with them and they try to tell you the best way to get somewhere when they weren’t here for tokens or 9/11? 

 It’s almost like starting High School and hoping you see a familiar face somewhere in the crowd. Forced and/or bought out of their homes to make room for people who are too scared to live in it themselves. “It’s not the best neighborhood but the rent is cheap and they just built a hotel, which means it will be really nice in 5 years! Haha, I definitely won’t be there by then.” Literally a real conversation!

Being ditched by your first yellow cab, eating dirty water dogs(hot dogs) and of course running for the train only to be in the lonely car with the homeless guy who carries his original fragrance. If they survive more than a year of that, people consider themselves Native. That’s the average day for a  New Yorker and that’s only the morning time. I need your public school to have a number in it. Did you take the regents? Ever go to school during a snowstorm? Can you double parallel park anything? Even then, you’re not valid. 

A big part of New York isn’t just about great shopping, pizza, skyscrapers and the sight-seeing. It’s about the people, which makes New York New York. It’s damn near a novelty and a raw form of respect that comes with it. We’re exposed to a lot so we’re open but could sniff bullshit before it hits our nostrils. I’ve heard a lot of transplants admit they couldn’t grow up here or even raise their kids here, a lot of our parents did both. Now a lot of people are either being pushed out or just tired and leave.

Conclusion

This is not to talk complete shit about transplants. I have many friends from the transplant community. You get to experience a place you’ve been your whole life in a completely different way. Take everything in! Admit-tingly, you end up doing things you would not have done and finding little things you walked past every day. Specialty shops that make eating fun and just happen to be vegan, gluten-free and sourced locally.  I know for a lot of people that come here, it’s about conquering fears and following dreams, New York is their Wizard of Oz. I just don’t want to look up one day and not be in Kansas anymore.

Tell Me A Story Please

As a child, my fondest memories of learning came from the stories my teachers told. I loved fables the most, there was always a common sense lesson to be had. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat, listening to their stories. All these years later, I remember those stories. They stayed with me, but more importantly, the lessons stuck. To this day, I love to listen to a good story.

John Ferreira says, “storytelling is what connects us to our humanity. It is what links us to our past, and provides a glimpse into our future.”

I recently had the pleasure of attending an evening of storytelling hosted by Tracey Segarra. Tracey is a storyteller, a Speaker and a Consultant. After listening to the Moth podcast. Tracey became interested in storytelling. She entered the Moth storytelling slam in 2016 and won. She’s been telling stories ever since.Tell Me a Story Please You Me NYC
Photo: Jason Falchook

Tracey feels passionate that stories make us laugh, make us cry and move us. Tracey has brought storytelling to Long Island. Like the Bards and Grios of old, telling stories to the community in order to entertain, educate and remind us of how we are connected.

During the evening of stories, I was moved and engaged. It was a delight to unplug, sit amongst a diverse group and listen to the personal stories of others. The entire room was still, silent and enraptured by each storyteller at the mic. The audience was getting what we all crave, a high touch, intimate experience, shared amongst a group. These types of experiences are few and far between, especially as we allow technology to invade our personal space and relationships and define how we communicate with each other.

A few days later, I sat down with Tracey to understand her passion for storytelling.

How did you get introduced to storytelling?

Well, it was actually my husband, he had been listening to the Moth radio hour on NPR. He turned me on to it. The Moth has people telling true stories about their lives. Some are funny, some are tragic, but they are all compelling because they are about important moments in peoples lives. Moments that changed them somehow, and so once I started listening to it I was instantly hooked. I am a former reporter and writer. So I used to write personal essays. Plus when I was younger I was an actress. I had dreams about being an actress. So when I heard this on the radio it married two things that I love, getting up in front of people and personal stories. So I thought OMG, I have to do this and I love this!

The Moth has these story competitions called story slams in the city.
And so I went with my niece to one of them just to check it out. People put their names in a hat and they pick 10 names randomly. They have a theme, everybody tells one five minute story on that theme. I went to one just to listen. I was hooked. The next time one came up with a theme where I thought I had a story for it, I put my name in the hat, I got picked and I won that night. I was like ok, this is a message. I had no training, no nothing, I just told a story.

When they have ten people who have won story slams, they have a grand slam. In front of 500 people at the music hall in Brooklyn, the winners have to come up with a new story. You compete against nine other story slam winners. I told a story, I won that night. Now, I am like ok, ok, I am meant to do this. I can’t remember exactly how old I was at the time, 52 or 53, but I felt like I had finally found what I am meant to do with my life. This is it, this feels so right.

I am in marketing during the day. I put my marketing hat on and I thought, there is nothing like this on Long Island, why don’t I create this. That becomes my next thing. There is a huge storytelling scene in Manhattan. Any night of the week you can go to a storytelling. I knew we needed this on Long Island.

I have never heard of this.

I know its amazing how it’s such a well-kept secret, not that anyone wants to keep it a secret

I started my show out here at a small local bookstore in Rockville Centre and within a year, I outgrew the store. The store could only hold 50 people, and I outgrew the venue. I started booking bigger venues as more and more people started coming. Then Newsday did a story on me, The Long Island Business News and then the local Herald.
People then started asking me to teach storytelling. I started doing workshops and its grown from there.

Why do you think this is becoming popular, what is energizing this?

One thing, we have become a society of people constantly looking down at their phones every two seconds, however, as you saw last night when someone is telling a compelling, true story, they have your attention; and so as human beings, we crave the connections. It forms a real connection. This is not like stand up comedy, where we are like ok, make me laugh. You know this is like wow, let me in, let me feel what you are feeling. There is something very powerful in that. As society becomes more electronic and distant, we crave the connection. We are still human beings, we still need to connect with people. Storytelling fills that need.

As I was listening last night, I was thinking about how we used to pass on our history through storytelling

Exactly, that was the first thing we did to record history we told the stories to our children and told them to tell their children

And That was a community event

Right, yes, to come together as a community to hear each other stories, that’s why I love the live shows. The energy of the people in the room changes how the storyteller tells the story, we feed off each other

When you envision this, what is your vision for storytelling on Long Island

Well, I would love to book bigger venues and have more people tell stories. Two of the people in my show last night are not storytellers, they are just people with great stories and I want to magnify their voices. I worked with them on their stories to craft them into a narrative that works. They had something important to share, and it needed to be heard. I am so excited. I want to start a podcast. I am a former newspaper reporter, so I have a knack for finding good stories. I know that I will never run out of stories on Long Island. I want to start a podcast for LI stories. There are so many stories to be heard. I also want to consult with businesses on how to tell their Story. Storytelling for business especially non-profits is a power tool for messaging. Organizations realize that in order to cut through the clutter you have to have a compelling message and story. I am going to a conference in a few weeks. I will be working with people who work in communications for non-profits. I will be talking about the power of stories in business and especially with non-profits. To be successful you need a compelling story. People connect to stories and that in itself is a powerful tool.

As I think about last night, and the theme, Through the Eyes of A Child. We had these different people, from different walks of life, some diversity in the room, but the common thread was that we have all experienced a childhood, we have all experienced pain or trauma in our lives, growing pains, personal family angst, that’s what connects us. We are much more alike then we think we are, I was really fascinated by hearing the storytellers. Taking us on a journey back to their childhoods, this was my experience and this is who I am because of it. I am sharing this with you.

Exactly, there was also a vulnerability, that the storytellers showed last night which drew the audience in.

What is the impact that you want to have?

I am still trying to figure this out. I want to continue to teach storytelling and producing shows, helping others find their voices and helping them to be heard. I love finding the storytellers and helping them craft their message and having it touch people. I would love to do that for non-profit organizations

there is a quote by a poet I like, Sahib Naiah

“You can reject peoples politics, You can reject their religion but you cannot reject their stories”

That’s why I do not get political, this is about human to human connection and what we have in common, not what tears us apart. We hear enough about what tears us apart.

We have to focus on how we are connected. Every business can leverage storytelling.

There is neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zaks. He has studied the effects of storytelling on the brain. What he found is that when someone is telling a compelling true story, showing vulnerability and authenticity, keeping you on the edge of their seats, it activates a neurochemical in the brain, oxytocin. Once this chemical is released you start to feel what the storyteller is feeling and you are more apt to take the action the storyteller wants you to take, you start to develops trust. It is often called the love hormone, the trust hormone. Storytelling does that.

What impact has this had on you?

It has given me a voice, I was a drug addict and alcoholic in my youth. I am 56 now, Up to the age 25, I made a mess of my life. It took many years to repair that. For many years I was ashamed. They teach you in the program that you are not a bad person getting good, you are a sick person getting well. For a lot of years, I was ashamed and upset at what I had done. Once I got into storytelling, I was like Oh my God these are stories I can tell these. Once I had the advantage of time I can now see how these life events have shaped me today. It helped me get over the bad feelings and guilt.

Is it cathartic?

Very cathartic, also I am a performer, so when I feel that I have the audience in my hands, and I am bringing them on a journey through my life and they can relate, it is an incredible feeling. I feel that I can take them on a journey. That is a powerful experience.

Last night when you were telling your story, about summers at your grandmothers, with all of the characters, I was transported, I could see where you were, I could feel the way the air felt, I was there with you. For me it was a simple way to relax and enjoy, just listen. That in Itself was calming.

I think anytime I tell a story about something that affected me its always something that is universal. We all had fears and insecurities and issues with our mothers every one can relate to that and eventually finding a safe haven.

What I have I know, especially after attending the evening of storytelling, is that stories connect us, like a spun thread weaving between us all.

Tracey Segarra is a Storyteller, a Speaker and a Consultant. For information about Tracey’s upcoming storytelling events or seminars, go to traceysegarra.com.

Gorillaz Gone Ape In the Barclays

Closing in on the colossal stadium, in the now metropolitan, which is Fort Greene, lies the Barclay’s Center.  The Barclays Center is certainly a circus of lights, advertisement and a certain glint of “New York” spirit. Whether it is the most out of place Roc-A-Wear clothing store or extremely lit (with actual lights) subway entrance to guarantee that you’ve definitely made it to your destination the Brooklyn way. Making my way into the colosseum in the city there’s a brief halt to the glamour and glitter while being checked in through the short security section. The lobby area is nothing special, especially when comparing to the light show that’s going on outside. Once past all the meekness of entering the tunnel to get to your seat, lies vendor after vendor serving decadent meals and frosty cold beers. The homage train car near the exclusive “American Express” entryway isn’t lost on this New York however, it does serve as a cool separation for the haves and the people who are actually riding the train.

Gorillaz Gone Ape You Me NYC(Image Courtesy of New York City Theater)

The Internet was a sublime opener for those previously unaware of the group. With a cocktail mix of R&B, hip-hop, funk and electronic they served as the perfect amuse-bouche to the audience. Even though there were a number of seats still being filled in, the waiting crowd was vibing to the beats.

Anticipation wore heavy on me wondering with questions of what form the band would appear in for the show. Previously known for concealing their identity with some groovy animations or using their silhouettes, the band storms on stage with a wild energy. Their outfits matching the presence of their music, electrical and eclectic.  All except for the frontman of the band, David Albarn’s character 2-D, represents a similarly grungy, laid back, cigarette ashing on my washed out black T-Shirt vibe. The other members performing as the backup in some radical bright patterns and eye-catching colors, like the animated videos in the background showing the remaining animated members of the band.

Gorillaz Gone Ape You Me NYC(Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan)

The first song bringing the band on stage “M1 A1” screams out an ominous call for help, behind a building guitar riff which is reminiscent of early guitar hero strumming that breaks into an electrifying brit rock anthem. It was an excellent way to start and rile up the crowd after a comparatively calm band like The Internet.

Followed up by ‘Tranz’ a trancey toon with an animated video of the nonhuman portion performing, gives a feel of what some of the first songs put out by the band.  There is more of a rock influence backing the track.  ‘Last Living Souls’ was next up using a beat machine.  David Albarn introduces a tougher hip-hop beat while the song sings out questioning the humanity of people while alternating between beats and a country-like ballad.  This song shows how the band can seamlessly incorporate different genres.

The band coasts through “Rhinestone Eyes” a softer melody before getting into the far creepier “Saturn Barz” featuring Popcaan. The song is dark visually and linguistically.  Popcaan sings through some of the painful realities of his life growing up in Jamaica, to a contrastingly creepy electronic rhythm. The electronic presence of the group, likely wouldn’t have translated as well without the harmonious background cast of all black singers. There, a solo by a spectacular talent that was especially appreciated by the audience.

Other highlights of their epically extravagant set include a variety of guest stars including De La Soul, Peven Everett, Bootie Brown and a Brooklyn native Mos Def. The experience was a definite separation from a typical concert experience with well-choreographed animated videos, to bring clarity to the lyrics that are usually far more serious than their sometime’s pop-punky backtracks. Towards the end of the show, most of the sparsity in the crowd was filled with standing fans singing along. This being a more personable performance for the band, it only leaves us fans anticipating what the transformative group has ahead of them.

Crown Heights Brooklyn 25 MPH

Crown Heights has been known for a lot of controversy between certain demographics over the years and still has plenty of it.  If you’re a newbie to Brooklyn or New York City, do the research and you’ll discover how much there is.  I was walking up Brooklyn avenue towards Eastern Parkway earlier this morning and I witnessed another controversy, that affects all the  boroughs of New York City and the city itself.

The controversy I’m talking about is speeding.  Speeding is bad.  However, speeding down side streets, in residential neighborhoods, is just plain stupidity.  In our first image referenced below, we have the back of both vehicles that were involved in this traffic atrocity.  From behind it doesn’t look too bad.  What’s really ironic is that they are both the same type of car.  Both are Mercedes Benz E classes, same color and model of E class with similar years.
Crown Heights 25 MPH You Me NYC
The speed limit in New York City is 25 MPH(Miles Per Hour).  It’s 25 MPH for a reason.  Now I know we all grumble about this limit and I am one who has moaned and groaned about the fact the city is slow enough and the last thing we need is to slow it down even more.  However when you see an accident unfold and the aftermath, you kinda change your tune.

Ok, now here is the front one of the cars in the accident.  Now I am no crash expert, however, I can say that this car’s speed was definitely more than 25 MPH.  The victim on the stretcher, I say victim because he’s a pedestrian that got slammed by this vehicle.  There’s a second victim as well, the man’s young son who is not pictured.Crown Heights 25 MPH You Me NYCIf you drive in the city as much as I do or even drive in general, we all get annoyed at pedestrians.  They walk out into the middle of the street, on their cellphones, not paying attention to anything and just blindly cross the street.  This father and son did none of that.  They’re  pedestrians falling victim to the recklessness of someone else.  We as drivers have a responsibility to the pedestrian to be as cautious as possible and that didn’t happen today.

Conclusion

Now I don’t know the cause of this accident, other than the fact that I hear a horn, a loud bang and a father and son receiving the brunt of it.  All I know is I  am a witness to a controversy that affects us all.  People are always going to speed, we all know that.  However, speeding through a residential area is just ludicrous.  The next time you’re driving through a residential area and you need to make time because you are running late,  forget about it.  You’ll get there when you get there.  There is no point to save a few minutes at the cost of injuring or killing someone.

My First

This is my first “Really!!?” submission so please don’t judge me (yeah right, judge me all you want).  I’m a New Yorker all my life, “native” to some and “original” to others.  The fact that I live in the greatest city in the world has its challenges.

Challenges to me are the same as annoyances to others.  We are going to classify annoyances as challenges to be polite.  I am only going to discuss one challenge in this submission because too many challenges can be annoying, no pun intended.

Challenge:

Waiting for my luggage at JFK just pisses me off especially when it’s a small bag but not small enough so it needs to be checked.  Sitting next to annoying people on a flight pisses me off.  Now I know what you’re saying, theses challenges aggravate everyone.  This is very true, however, here comes the curveball.

Last week I’m waiting for my luggage at JFK and of course there are two tourists making their way through the crowd of people.  Two ladies excited because it’s their first time in New York City.  What I find amusing, is that they look at me as if I don’t belong here.  I look back at them and say “First time here”?  They both reply with an emphatic “yes”.  One lady asks “What about you”? “Oh, I’ve been here all my life.” I said.  I don’t know what I’m thinking and why I even asked, however, I figured I would have a little fun.

“You’re so lucky, I wish I could live here” she said.  I responded “Really, you’re standing in the middle of the airport, what are you basing it on?  Where are you from?” as I looked directly in her eyes.  “California!” was her response.  I smiled and then asked “What’s the first thing you plan on doing when you get settled”?  “Go for a run through Central Park.” was her response.

There’s the challenge.  The most exciting city in the world, with everything at your fingertips and you are going to go for a run through “Central Park”.  Really!!?  Not bad for my first one, I welcome the feedback.