weekend inspiration: city of light, city of darkness by sara serpa

This music video for Sara Serpa‘s City of Light, City of Darkness is so beautiful and striking I had to share it with you. I love seeing film, dance, and music collide. Here are some details about the video:

From Sara Serpa’s new album , MOBILE.
Music by: Sara Serpa (w/ Kris Davis, Ben Street and Ted Poor)
Directed by: Tiago Mata Angelino
Choreography by: Carolina Fonseca
Dancers: Carolina Fonseca, Sara Serpa

in my headphones: nancy king live at jazz standard with fred hersch // 05


A few years ago I discovered Nancy King. I don’t remember exactly how it happened but I think someone mentioned her in passing to me. When I finally started listening to her it was a turning point for me in my own performance. Up until that point I had been trying to learn about vocal improvising with moderate success. I was blowing solos at my performances but I was stuck in a conservative rut. I had a lot of trouble taking chances. Then I heard Nancy King Live at Jazz Standard with Fred Hersch.

Both Nancy King and Fred Hersch have an amazing way of building and growing a standard into something unique and new. Together they take so many incredible chances but they always find each other in the end.

When I’m performing I sometimes like to play the game called “If I were               what choices would I make?” I pretend to be another singer and the things that come out of my mouth always surprise me. When I started pretending to be Nancy King I finally started to understand exactly how much breathing room I had in a solo. I learned how to take a leap of faith and trust my ears to guide me back home.

Click the play button to hear Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Fred Hersch & Nancy King.

nancy king live at the jazz standard with fred hersch

This has been in my headphones // 05, a blog feature about albums that have influenced me or are currently influencing me. You can also check out the last post in this series, in my headphones: the miseducation of lauryn hill // 04.

videos from live jazz monday // the end of live jazz monday is coming, nov 4

Thanks to our resident videographer, Austin Cooke, I have two more Live Jazz Monday videos to share with you. Thanks, Austin!

I also want to remind my Ottawa readers that our four-year residency at Mercury Lounge is coming to an end on November 4th and François Gravel and I would really love to have you there to say goodbye and celebrate the end of an era.

The event will take place on Monday, November 4th. There will be delicious treats, surprise guests, and of course – beautiful music. Entrance is free and the party will begin around 8:30pm with the performance starting at 9pm. See you there! Click here for more details and click here to RSVP on facebook.


mixtape: dreamy autumn… // 20

mixtape: dreamy autumn...

When the leaves start to change and the days become sleepy and grey, I always find myself feeling contemplative and a little sad. This mix contains dreamy songs about memories and change and features Stacey Kent, Theo Bleckmann, and Diana Krall.

1. Star Dust / Memories of You – Betty Carter
2. I Remember You – Theo Bleckmann
3. Vibrate – The Manhattan Transfer
4. Autumn In New York – Fred Hersch & Nancy King
5. Dreamsville – Stacey Kent
6. ‘Tis Autumn – Nnenna Freelon
7. I’m All For You – Joe Lovano
8. A Case Of You – Diana Krall
9. For All We Know – Brad Mehldau


in my headphones: the audience with betty carter // 03

in my headphones: the audience with betty carter // 03

The Audience With Betty Carter sat on my hard drive for an embarrassingly long time before I got into it. I acquired around the age of 16 after I read about how ground breaking and influential of a singer Betty Carter was. The album opens with a fast, dense, largely improvised, 25 minute piece called Sounds (Movin’ On) which you can listen to part of below. For the longest time I was so intimidated by this track that I never got past the first few minutes. The truth is I’m still intimidated by this track and had it not been for a bizarre twist of fate I never would have listened to the rest of the album.

I like to burn CDs for my (very old) car and when I finally decided to buckle down and dive into this album it was too big to fit on one CD since it’s a two disc set. I decided to burn only the second disc and try digging into that. This is probably sacrilege but I stand by my choices.

The Audience With Betty Carter is now one of my desert island albums. I love her unusual arrangements on I Could Write A Book and Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most (which is four times as slow as it is usually played), I love her unconventionally song writing style on Deep Night, Fake, and Tight (which is the swingin’est thing ever), I love love love the preamble and the lyrics to So…, and I love how burning fast My Favourite Things is.

It’s a really unparalleled work and I’m so happy I finally got into it, even if it did take me eight years!

This has been in my headphones // 03, a blog feature where I talk about albums that have influenced me or are currently influencing me. You can also check out the last post in this series, in my headphones: patty waters – you thrill me // 02.

mixtape: la langue française // 19


In honour of my recent move to Montreal, I’ve compiled a playlist of some of my favourite french jazz songs. Enjoy!

1. La Chanson d’Hélène – Youn Sun Nah
2. Quand je march – Amy Cervini
3. Le Front Caché Sur Tes Genoux – Cécile McLorin Salvant
4. Plus Je T’embrasse – Diana Panton
5. Boum – Ilana Waldston
6. Par Ce Beau Jour Du Printemps – Renée Yoxon & René Gely
7. La maison sous les arbres – Nicole Ratté
8. La tribu des rêveuse – Sonia Johnson
9. Ne Me Quitte Pas – Kellylee Evans
10. ils ne sontaient pas là – Megan Jerome


mixtape: a flower is a lovesome thing // 18


Every since I posted the lyrics to Billy Strayhorn’s A Flower is a Lovesome Thing last week I haven’t been able to get it out of my brain. Then, while driving somewhere, Nancy King’s Perennial came on shuffle. These songs got me thinking about how ubiquitous flowers are. They are there when are married, when we die, when we are sick, at graduation, or for no reason at all. They can say “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, or “I was thinking about you today.” This collection of songs reflects upon all the ways flowers are with us in our lives.

1. Perennial – Nancy King with Steve Christofferson
2. A Flower is a Lovesome Thing – Norma Winstone
3. Blue Gardenia – Dinah Washington
4. Tulip of Turnip – Carmen McRae
5. Honeysuckle Rose – Jane Monheit
6. The Days Of Wine And Roses – Daniela Schächter
7. Apple Blossom – Esperanza Spalding
8. Lollipops And Roses – Natalie Cole
9. Lilac Wine – Nina Simone
10. A Blossom Fell – Diana Krall


in my headphones: norma winstone – well kept secret // 01

in my headphones: well kept secret - norma winstone // 01

When it comes to Norma Winstone, I’m pretty late to the party. She has been active since the seventies and has made many significant contributions to vocal jazz, specifically to the canon of jazz standards. Up until now, however, I don’t think I have been mature enough (as a singer) to appreciate her subtle approach to interpretation. Earlier this year I devoured her 1998 album, Manhattan In The Rain, but lately I can’t stop listening to Well Kept Secret, released just a year earlier.

There are so many things that stand out on Well Kept Secret I don’t know where to start. First, I’m in love with Norma Winstone’s mournful, light, effortless voice. She so delicately navigates the repertoire that it’s easy to forget how difficult the passages are. Notably difficult tunes include A Timeless Place, Prelude To A Kiss, and Joy Spring. Second, she has a knack for choosing standards that are a little off the beaten path. Her tunes are refreshing and unusually poignant. More than once during my first listen I had to start a song over again because the opening lyric was too perfectly beautiful (I’m looking at you “Remind me not to find you so attractive…”). Third, the arranging is simple, effective, and understated.

On top of all of the above, I love that Norma Winstone isn’t afraid to open with a ballad, end with a ballad, and have tons of ballads in between. And learning about a new crop of standards I was previously unfamiliar with makes me feel like an archeologist, unearthing something precious and beautiful.

norma winstone - well kept secret

This has been in my headphones // 01 where I talk about albums that have influenced me or are currently influencing me. This is a new blog feature so let me know what you think in the comments below.