Saturday, October 01, 2011

Change of Season Means Amazing Music - Autumn '11 Greatness

We're officially in October and autumn is my favorite season. I mean, I love spring and the lush joy of spring doesn't last that long. Autumn, however, goes for weeks. From the crisp chill to the change of leaves to the apple picking to the ways the sunset looks different to the amazing concerts that happen once we're in a new school year.

And I saw two such spectacular shows within the last week and a half. If you aren't familiar with these artists, please become familiar.

Van Hunt. José James. Remember these names.

Van Hunt
Van Hunt, The Studio at Webster Hall, 09/19/11
(photograph by Kate Harvie)
Growing up in Cleveland, there were two memorable things about Dayton, Ohio: horses were bred there and apparently Rob and Chad Lowe are natives. More important than both of these is that Van Hunt was born and raised in southern Ohio.

A master of R&B, soul, electronica, stagecraft, and lyricism, Van Hunt self promotes like no agent could. In his many albums (LPs and EPs from 2004, available on iTunes and on his stellar website), you accompany him gladly and intensely on a journey of passion, grit, joy, anger, realization, and truth.

And a talent like his must not go unrecognized.

The new album, What Were You Hoping For?, dropped on 09/27 and is him at his most complex and questioning. Tracks like "Eyes Like Pearls" and "A Time Machine Is My New Girlfriend" are sung and played in voices heavy and intense. Yet they are rooted in the emotional searches for things we can't provide ourselves. To paraphrase Mr. Hunt (and my favorite track on the album), "It's A Mysterious Hustle." And one we can manage for ourselves. 

His tour continues today through 10/04 in Austin, Dallas, and Little Rock. If you're in these cities, go to his show.

José James

José James, included here with permission from the artist from his website
There is something remarkable about the mesh of jazz, soul, beatbox, and hip hop. José James blends all those in a series of songs that tell stories, prompt responses, and while he conjures memories of and respect for Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, he is his own musician.

At his shows at Jazz Standard (full disclosure: I attended on 09/29 and 09/30) which run through 10/02, Mr. James not only did us the honor of performing his first completely composed piece before it's released, "Trouble," he introduced us to and celebrated his accompanying exceptional artists: Chris Smith (bass on 09/29), Ben Williams (bass on 09/30), Kris Bowers (piano and keyboard), Francisco Mela (drums), Takuya Kuroda (brass), and Taylor McFerrin (beatbox and vocals on 09/30). 

This kind of partnership and leadership are rarely seen in vocalists. Mr. James managed the stage with panache and power, and you could hear every musician contributing yet not competing. When he performed "Equinox" which John Coltrane (who would have turned 85 on 09/23, of which Mr. James reminded us) there were tears streaming down my face both nights. This song was a new side of Trane and while honoring him, Mr. James brings it to life in a way that identifies José James as an artist who is redefining vocals and spoken word.

Like Mr. Hunt's, the albums released by Mr. James are a spectrum of so much. They're on iTunes and Amazon.

Mr. James is appearing next in NYC at Le Poisson Rouge on 10/18 alongside Taylor McFerrin, and Robert Glasper Experiment. Join me there. I already have my ticket.

Welcome to October. Enjoy the shift to cooler temperatures and more rugged apparel. Discover artists and composers who remind you that well delivered reverb carries the music's messages.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Search for - and Find - Musical Greatness with THESE 3 Tenors

Everyone who knows me appreciates that live music is one of my favorite ways to spend time.

The Broadway and Off-Broadway stages were for some time the locations for the musical theatre wonk in me. And of late, other than "Memphis," these hallowed locations have not been providing what I seek.

What I seek is the tough to find trifecta of exceptional voices, cleverly written lyrics, interesting and beautiful notes.

Blissfully, this trifecta - enhanced by sock you in the gut humor - exists in "3 TENORS...IN SEARCH OF ACT 2," with two upcoming performances on June 21 and 24 (details below this post) at Don't Tell Mama.

"3 TENORS...IN SEARCH OF ACT 2" stars Steven Tharp, Edd Clark, and Bill Brooks

"3 TENORS...IN SEARCH OF ACT 2" brings together joy, laughter, and superior musicianship. While the idea of three tenors began in the 90s and was some of opera's finest singing together, this show is for everyone, not just those who love Puccini, Verdi, and the like.

Exceptionally and enthusiastically reviewed, the show began in 2004 as a heretofore un-combined mingling of opera, pop, operetta, and musical theatre sung by three tenors with different styles and voices. Edd Clark and Paul Stephan wanted to gently and effectively spoof "The Three Tenors." The tenors and music director/arranger Paul wove humor, harmony, and intelligence into the show's premiere run. The show sold out several of its March performances earlier this year. This is my kind way of telling you to arrange your tickets now. [smile]

Seeking and combining the talent and experience of three tenors (Bill Brooks, Edd Clark, and Steven Tharp), with varying experience and expertise, the show launched successfully and later this month, the three tenors are returning to the stage. The merging of opera, Broadway, and cabaret come together in ways that are fun and truly experiential. The show's debut won a Bistro Award in 2005. For those of us unfamiliar with theatrical prizes other than the Tonys, the Bistro Awards recognize some of theatre's and music's signature talents, including this year's honorees Michael Feinstein, Dionne Warwick, and Carol Channing among others.

Sometimes hearing a song that is meaningful and messaged (this is a word that I will find a way into the English language) sparks feelings and emotion. The tenors' performance of "Circle of Friends" did that for me. Dare I say it will do the same for you. If you're feeling the need for humor, no one sings and plays "Just Couldn't Stand it No More" like these gents and Paul.

Secure your tickets now for one or both of the only two performances this month.
9:15pm on Tuesday, June 21 and Friday, June 24
Don't Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues
$15 cover ($10 for MAC and members of Cabaret Hotline)
Two drink minimum, cash only
Make reservations on 212/757-0788 or Don't Tell Mama's website.

It's officially Spring (though it feels like Summer) and there's no better way to celebrate the much needed change of season than by supporting talent, hearing terrific music, and laughing until your belly hurts far from the mass market scene.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Being Normal Matters Far Less Than Being Courageous

Those of us tapped by the entrepreneurial spirit have a series of challenges facing us. Not the least of these is how to finance the dream project, the company, the idea. Kickstarter does everyone a service providing not only initial investment opportunities (thanks to the contributions of people around the world) as well as access to a series of entrepreneurs' creativity and invention.

Ben Bisbee is such an innovator.

His book, The Underground Flower, is smartly written by Ben and beautifully illustrated by artist Carolyn Hayes. And while it appears to be a book for children, and is titled that way, this book is brought to life by the reader, regardless of age whether read aloud or visually.

The Underground Flower tells the story of a little girl who planted a flower that, let's just say, wouldn't win any horticultural prizes. It's shaped differently. Its roots grow above soil. And underground, a gopher, a worm, an ant, and a centipede behave as gossipy, nosy creatures. They attempt to justify the flower's existence and rationalize it. Because this is their domain.

In the grasses above, things are no better for this unique flower, as the colorful blooms are afraid and suspicious of and confused by it. The flower is not welcomed into either of these earthen communities.

Planted by a wise child (the flower's only friend and supporter), there is no love shown by this young gardener's mother. A protective parent, to be sure, the mother wants to weed the flower and clear space in the yard. The flower is different and looks nothing like the plants known to brighten a room and be worthy of bridal bouquets. The little girl knows that even though this flower looks different, it is worthy of her care and attention.

Ben's inspiration for this important story of community, acceptance, love, and the damage of exclusion stems from his own life. Growing up with the challenges of a young person, and those were bolstered by hyperactivity, poverty, and being gay, Ben never felt accepted or embraced by people surrounding him. We can all empathize with that.

The real challenge emerges when how we express ourselves - for whatever reason - doesn't communicate who we are and what we are. We are all flowers. Regardless of texture, leaf shape, color, scent and height, we may have different depictions. And we are flowers. Full stop.

No one wants to be average or labeled as anything other than who he/she is. "Normal" is nothing bad, to be sure. And the little girl who planted the underground flower showed courage, which is so much more important.

Should you believe in what Ben's book is providing - underscored by humor, quirk, and sweetness - contribute to his Kickstarter project.

With Memorial Day happening soon, this beautiful week is chance to be inspired by people who showed courage and people who are doing that today. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Selling my Soul Will be Exciting and Productive

Thursday, May 12 will be a life-changing day for me.

I'm attending Selling Your Soul, hosted and led by the incomparable Danielle LaPorte and Marie Forleo.

And these brilliant gals have posed the following questions. My answers are here. Make fun if you like. Just know that the answers are genuine.

1) Say your "official" job title out loud. Three times. Deep Breath. How does it make you feel? 
"Founder" is my ideal job title and it makes me feel accomplished and like my best self.

2) How much money would you like to make, annually? 
It matters not to me specifically and the lower six figures would enable me to do the things of which I dream.

3) What's on your "stop-doing" list? 
Sell products in which I don't believe.

4) What do people thank you for, consistently?
Being supportive, describing them and what they do to others, writing things.

5) So...for real, now. What would you like to do with your life and career? {Money is no object. Dream.}
Promote undiscovered talents, retailers, artists, and creators. 
Be a backup singer. And write lyrics for a few songs.
Do voice over work.
Write something that will change other people's lives.

That's what's on my mind this week. I'm in Boston for a few days soon and I expect to find someone and something else that's manufacturing drama effectively and beautifully.

Make this week about discovering your dreams and taking a coupla steps to bring those to life.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"MOCK Your World" Rocks the World

Full disclosure: my brother and I grew up surrounded by music. Mahalia Jackson, Beethoven, Peter Paul & Mary, the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Mozart, Gilbert & Sullivan, Crystal Gayle, Rogers & Hammerstein, Bob Dylan, Bach, and more.

While we eventually found our own favorite artists - The Game, Melody Gardot, Rusted Root, Teddy Pendergrass, Victor Wooten, Guns 'N' Roses, Robin Thicke, and so many more - there's something about musical theatre that always makes me feel rooted in history and sublimely entertained.

Andrew Byrne's "MOCK Your World" combines like no other stagecraft the magic of musical theatre, the passion for lyrics being as strong as belief in the notes being sung, and laugh your ass off humor. Each time I've seen "MOCK Your World" I wish that Comedy Central would create a spot for a show that I would produce entitled "TOYN" aka "The Ones You Need," starring a variety of people (the cast changes every quarter) including Rachel Maddow, Cory Booker, Louis C.K., Quincy Jones, and the only person who would appear in every episode is Andrew Byrne. This program would follow "The Daily Show"  and "The Colbert Report."

Full disclosure, Part II: Andrew Byrne is my voice teacher and coach. And it takes a real talent to help me go from operatic singing to the soulful twang of R&B. Andrew's skills go well beyond the studio as he is an accomplished composer, a strong pianist, a truly skilled vocalist, and one of Backstage Magazine's Favorite Vocal Coaches in New York City. You can learn more about what he does and how he works at his website.

Now to "MOCK Your World," which is in production this spring beginning on 16 May through the 21st (full details are below this post). "MOCK Your World" Spring 2011 Performances  Andrew has composed several songs and lyricized some classics - when you think of The Pirates of Penzance's classic "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General," you'll never hear it the same way (or with such a smile) once you've experienced one of the songs where Lisa Rothauser is the lead vocalist. 

Among the other extremely talented actor-singers are Marya Grandy, Bart Shatto, and Robby Sharpe, and this trio brings to life the sometimes unpleasant experience on public transit (specifically the L train). Their timing, facial expressions, and gestures are evidence of people who know what they're doing and can do it in unexpected ways.

So many things are addressed - and satirized - onstage at "MOCK Your World:" comedy, politics, summer stock theatre, auditions, relationships, family. And Andrew and the crew bring to life key elements of movies such as "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Brokeback Mountain with joy, panache, and clever comedy that's just enough wink wink, nudge nudge.

Whatever you're looking forward to over the next couple of weeks, be sure to set aside time and get tickets for "MOCK Your World."

"MOCK Your World" - May 16 (7pm), May 19 (7pm), May 21 (6pm)
Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street, between Houston and Stanton
Starring Andrew Byrne, Lisa Rothauser, Marya Grandy, Bart Shatto, and Robby Sharpe
Complimentary admission, two drink minimum
Doors open half hour before curtain
Make reservations via

Discover theatre and music done brilliantly and unexpectedly. Recognize and support the great people appearing at venues other than the Broadway stages.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Faith & Fortune

Update, 1/2/16 - while Jason and Jim dissolved Faith & Fortune a few years ago, what they did is next level for fashion and retail. They stand with Blake Mycoskie (TOMS), Tom Hardy, Sarah Edwards, and Sally Edwards (BLAG) as founders with purpose and style who made impact.
This just in: Faith & Fortune will be at the exceptional Governors Ball Music Festival on June 18. Besides Girl Talk, Big Boi, Passion Pit, and a series of other artists, Jim and Jason (with the help of some other people, including me) will be there selling the t-shirts and game changing attire.

Last spring, on a beautiful weekend in May, I was in Boston and its surrounding areas, to attend my brother's graduation from Babson. His MBA and time with his wife and our families were the reasons to celebrate.

And Faith & Fortune is the other reason.

My friends and loved ones know that I love me some community markets, flea markets, and all undiscovered local businesses. SoWA is a terrific combination of all those and on my search for (no surprise here) artisanal stationery, sandalwood incense, and wearable art, I encountered the founders of Faith & Fortune, Jim Grumbine and Jason Revilla. And I bought some tees. Again, no surprise. The tees and hoodies were and are a unique, beautiful, tactile combination of the ideas I live by and have tattooed on my left arm - pleasure and purpose.

Each quarter, F&F works with artists and philanthropies to bring to life on fabric the artist's work while benefiting a charity. Each quarter's collection is limited edition so when you see it, you buy it, and it captures a moment in time. It's a terrific and stylish way to wear the idea that when you get good, you can do good.

Every shirt and jacket I've purchased has become a favorite and this one I wore so much, I ordered another one. It's available for a little while longer so buy it while you're able. Men's Crest. Stunning. Speak well of Faith & Fortune (and me) when people compliment you on it. [smile]

Men's Crest $27

What Jim and Jason have done here - and you should note that these gents are PR directors and personal trainers so they have a lot of skills to leverage - is make it possible for everyone to be part of a community while celebrating artists and supporting causes that need us.

Spring is here, finally, and F&F's latest collection is available now. I've already ordered a series of tees and a hoodie. And as a thank you for following this blog and reading what's written, when you order items from Faith & Fortune, you'll get 10% off when you enter "kate10" at checkout. Here's a taste of what's on offer this season, with a percentage of sales benefiting Rock for Justice. Go here for items for men and here for the gals.
Artists should know that F&F recognizes a lot of talent by working with a series of creators. These include Deno Angelopolous, Liz Dube, Grant Hanna, and others. Who's to say that you won't be the next creative design provider whose work is brought to life?
Have a beautiful week. Support undiscovered talent and causes by looking terrific.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Where would I be without music?

I started singing for real when I was eight. Someone has the digital evidence of my first lead performance where I must have forgotten that there was an audience as I constantly (there is no tactful or nice version of this) picked a wedgie. No idea if I sang well. My classmates Elizabeth Lacey and Cindy Langmack were off the chain that day.

Since then, I've sung a great deal and music is in every way part of my various celebrations and coping mechanism. And the last couple of years have connected me to a series of musicians who have become critical to my appreciation, admiration, and love of music.

To wit, and I encourage you to listen to and see these whenever possible, here are some bands and albums that you must experience:

Ben Folds / Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue
When excellent lyricists partner with stellar instrumentalists and vocalists, magic happens. From Fever Pitch through About A Boy, Nick Hornby has a way with the written word that is clever, arch, and emotional. Ben Folds is a composer and vocalist who is ideal to bring to life Hornby's reality, sadness, honesty, and hope. "A Working Day" is a song that I tap into any day when, as you'd expect, I work.

Adele - 21
I pre-ordered "21," Adele's second amazing album, four months before it was released. Before I heard the entire album - which is genuine, moving, warm, sultry, and ass-kicking - I began working on "Rolling in the Deep" for my demo reel. I never thought I could empathize with what she sings and earlier this year, I had no story to be told and I finally saw someone crystal clear (lyrics altered from Adele Adkins's and Paul Epworth's original). I can no longer hear or sing the song without getting tears in my eyes. And the truth of this song keeps me focused on my belief that love is possible always, regardless of the challenges in life's journey.

The Bloodsugars - I Can't Go On, I'll Go On
The women responsible for one of the best stores in the five boroughs - Tiburon in Red Hook and Greenpoint - are to be commended for introducing me to The Bloodsugars when I was in their store before an excellent cooking program with A Razor, A Shiny Knife buying a present for my nephew. I asked them if they sold any CDs by local bands and Amy showed me this album. And the four guys who make up this exceptional band vocalize and play instruments. "Form/Function" and "Light At The End Of The Tunnel" could be theme songs for different times in my life and I must see this crew live.

Over The Rhine - The Long Surrender
I will always be grateful to Andy Kohler, guitarist and vocalist of Vox Voronet, for reminding me about Over The Rhine. While described as Alt-Country, Linford Detweiler, Karin Bergquist, and the exceptional musicians who join them onstage and in studio are so much more. They are truth and anger and love and observation and lust and fun and history. Having seen them in two cities and three different venues reinforces my notion that we can make anywhere our home so long as we create community and surround ourselves with great people. OTR does this consistently and Joe Henry's production of their latest album is evidence of his talent and strength.

My friends know how much I love going to shows and within the last year or so I've been blessed to see Jamie Lidell (twice), Mayer Hawthorne and the County (twice), Over the Rhine (three times and believe me, I considered writing "thrice"), The ones I'm looking forward to seeing this year (more to come, I'm sure) are Teddy Thompson, Martin Sexton, A Perfect Circle, and Bebel Gilberto. And if I can possibly find tickets to Adele and Bruno Mars/Janelle Monae, my cheeks will hurt because I'll be smiling so much.

Have a beautiful weekend. Support local and undiscovered musicians.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

It's Happening - beauty & art in clothing & jewelry

The entrepreneurial spirit is something to admire and support. When you witness it in others, it is an opportunity to learn and to retail therapize (not a word and if Webster's is any indication it will become one).

The Italian Collection is indeed one of these. Myriam Altieri and Douglas Haslinger have put together a remarkable clothing and accessories collection. Speaking for and representing Italian artisans, TIC has the exclusive on some of the finest pieces I've ever seen. This is luxury and fashion, writ large.

Pieces are exquisitely designed, constructed by hand, and made of the finest possible materials. Investment gear, if you will, and the kind of dresses, hats, bags, and coats that will ensure someone's personal style while being timeless.

The Ornella gold cuff bracelet is a wearable, classic piece that's completely on trend.

Currently, Milan is where every single piece is created. And you don't need to watch "The Rachel Zoe Project" to know that Milan is the hub of fashion. Every piece is guaranteed (who made it, where it was made, what materials were used).

Think of The Italian Collection as the slow food movement of fashion.

Everyone who knows me knows that I respond intensely to handmade jewelry. LIH Designs is a favorite creator and provider of such pieces. Leslie Halloran finds beads from around the world, designs and construct necklaces, earrings, and bracelets that speak to geography, tradition, art, and unexpected beauty.

Necklaces are available in eight collections and the look and feel of each stone, bead, and gem will take you somewhere unexpected. We're talking about green garnets, lapis lazulis, vintage moonglow lucites, African vulcanites, and a range of other elements.

This new necklace is in every way a new season with its colors, shape, and texture. These Bohemian wedding beads are molded glass. Made in the Czech Republic, these were constructed in the 1950s and are exported from Africa.

Leslie has included descriptions and explanations of some of the stones and gems she uses. Terrific to know that there is so much more available than emeralds, rubies, and diamonds.

Keeping with my commitment today to small businesses providing the best in style, one of my favorite stores in the boroughs is Life:Curated. Ryan, Sarah, and the team blog like no other retailers with personality, humor, and honesty.

Have a beautiful day. Support local and small businesses.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Really Back to It

La Plaza Cultural (photograph by Kate Harvie)
La Plaza Cultural (photograph by Kate Harvie)
So it's been some time since I wrote here and I'm celebrating today's completion of a journal (more than two years worth of musings), introduction by two friends of excellent things (details below here), and the commitment to my mantra, Pleasure and Purpose.

I can't and won't guarantee that I'll write every day and what I will write will be everything and anything meaningful, entertaining, and informative.

You can decide which is which to you and, as always, I encourage you to share any feedback here.

One of the amazing things about living in New York City is the undiscovered local gems that we encounter on our own and through the observation and great taste of others.

A friend did me a solid earlier today by introducing me to The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory with a line out the door and the purveyor of the most amazing ice cream I've tasted since gelato at some trattoria way back when. We ordered shakes and he had his favorite (Red Bean) and I got one that was peanut butter and sesame. Remarkable taste and texture, and sitting in the park while we sipped and talked helped to make today beautiful and fun. Thanks, JMM.

Ryan Martin is an exceptional writer and his blog is an introduction to intimate and exceptional ways to look at life. Whatever frustrations I have, whatever disappointments (and we all have several of each from time to time), what Ryan's doing is so much more than promoting the notion that good things come to those who wait. He's making clear that while we're bringing our dreams to reality, there are many great things we can appreciate and adore. Have at it, Ryan. You're a badass.

Lastly, my two favorite parks on the seven mile island are Tudor City Park and La Plaza. I discovered La Plaza a few years ago and have had the blessing of being there when the sun is shining and at night. I was there yesterday and that's where I snapped these pictures. They speak for themselves and the corner of 9th Street and Avenue C must be experienced to be believed. A community garden, a place of peace, the location of (to my knowledge) the only willow trees in NYC, and a mellow and beautiful area. Get there. As we're in the dawn of spring, as the leaves return to the trees and beautiful flowers are planted, there is no better place to sit, to sip, and to watch.

Fashion is affected by celebrities, design muses, the economy, and a range of other things. Fashables is a web series that has smart, genuine people, who are healthy and not celebs or models, weighing in on and photographing themselves wearing the latest trends. Always with respect, passion, and honesty, Fashables is one to watch and read.

Have a beautiful day. Support local businesses.