A Sneak Peak of Videos and My Birthday!

Hi. I hope everyone is having a lovely start to the holiday season. Ready for a sneak peak of the videos I made for my new jazz band? I got together with Vic Wong of Panique Jazz,  Brandon Essex of No Coasters and Brian Campbell of Campbell’s Jazz Soup. Take a listen to a couple of songs that have been added to the set. We did “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and “Sweet Pea”. The band is now ready for bookings, so if you have an event you want live music for, find me.

On another note, it was my birthday today. What a great day it was! I spent the morning singing songs with my son, did a bit of work for the day, and then spent time alone sitting in the sun before it went down, writing in my journal and making a vision board. Then I ended the night with a fabulous spaghetti dinner and a bit of vegan chocolate pecan pie for dessert, all homemade by my wife. It doesn’t get much better.

That’s all folks. See you on the flip side in December!

Rachel

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In 20 Photos….Willie Nelson, a High School Reunion, and a Clean(er) Studio.

What I’ve been up to over the summer – in 20 photos.

1.Traveled up a winding road to the top of a mountain in Saratoga, California to see Willie Nelson and Kasey Musgraves at The Mountain Winery.
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2. Got to the top of the mountain and took in the view. Look at that sun!
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3. Gazed into the valley. Thought about my favorite novel, East of Eden.
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4. Checked out the amphitheater. Cool, huh?IMG_6702

5. Sat back and relaxed. Date night, beer, great music, no toddler.
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6. Watched the sunset and listened to Kasey Musgraves. Wow, she blew me away.IMG_7232

7. Watched the legend himself, Willie Nelson. More beer and “Always on My Mind”.IMG_7272

8. I flew to Florida, where I grew up. Usually the first thing I do when I’m in town is get boiled peanuts. If you are from The South, you know about boiled peanuts. Thinking about family and friends in Florida right now, as Hurricane Irma is blowing across the state as I write.IMG_6400

9. I was in town for my high school reunion. I attended The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, a visual and performing arts high school. Ya know, just like “Fame”. It has changed a lot since I was there. Now they have a sculpture garden.IMG_6500

10. There it is, my old locker. IMG_6504

11. Did I mention a lot has changed since I attended there? Now they have a full fledged jazz recording studio! I went there the first year it opened. We just had a trailer in the school parking lot for a few music classes. It was really impressive to see how the school has developed over the years and the opportunities students now have to develop their artistic talents. IMG_6523

12. They also now have a fully built out theatre. Did I mention our theatre was the un-air-conditioned gym?IMG_6525

13. Every good arts school should have student sculpture in the library. IMG_6590

14. Also, an incredibly cool wire car sculpture. I wish I knew who did these pieces, as I would give them credit here. IMG_6589

15. Oh yes, the reunion itself! You know when you go to a performing arts high school, there will be “A Chorus Line” style kick line at the party. IMG_6649

16. Finally getting around to cleaning my studio.IMG_7769

17. See, nothing on the floor.IMG_7768

18. Last, but not least, the beach. IMG_7046

19. There is always a time for the beach. We sat and watched the waves.IMG_7055

20. Now the real last, but not least. Always time for a hug.IMG_6341

A new video, my “Why” List, and a messy studio.

It’s amazing how I can’t get the song “Fly Me To The Moon” out of my head. It is such a popular song, although I didn’t really learn it until recently. I’ve added it to my set list to do … Continue reading

Maybe my work studio should become my play studio.

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I have a room in my house that functions as my music studio. My instruments are in there. My computer and recording gear is in there. My desk is in there. Everything music related is in there. But somehow, I never seem to get around to organizing it or giving it much love. It remains a bit of a mess on a regular basis. What I find instead is that I work all over other parts of the house, inside and out.

For example, my dining room table is probably my favorite place to write out music and do research. My backyard has lately been my favorite place to practice, come up with new ideas on the guitar, or write in my journal. Soon I will likely start recording vocals in my bathroom. I keep giving myself the goal of cleaning and organizing my studio but I never do it. Maybe it’s because I lived in New York City for so long in small apartments with barely enough room for a music studio that makes me want to spread out. Maybe it’s because I’m a procrastinator. Maybe I’m just a mess maker. Who knows.

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I’ve started noticing that the places I end up working in are the same places in my house where my kid is playing. Right next to his train set in the living room. Right next to his dirt garden outside where he runs his trucks around. He doesn’t play in his room either. His toys, as you can see in the pictures above, are usually spread out all over the house. Maybe this means my work feels more like play. Maybe I can’t work in a space with four walls and a desk. I wonder if I make my work area seem more like a play area if I’ll be inspired to create in it. I think it’s time to bring the outdoors and a different set up to my studio. I’m thinking plants, flowers, a dining room table, and an Adirondack chair. Maybe also a sand box? What do you think? I’d love to know.

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That’s all folks. Hope you are having a great week and enjoying your summer, wherever you may be. Before I sign off, did you know I have a new Instagram account just for RachelLeeWalsh music? Find me there at RachelLeeWalsh if you want to connect.

 

New friends. Old renditions.

I’ve been making new friends this week. Musician friends that is. I went to play with a new ensemble, went to hear a great New Orleans jazz band in Oakland, and scheduled a few upcoming meet ups to play with a couple of piano players and other bands. I took this little amp and some new songs with me to play with the new jazz ensemble.AmpChartsI’ve also been doing more research on renditions of songs I’m including in my set list. I went back to one of my all time favorite jazz standards, How High The Moon and my favorite rendition of it by Mary Ford and Les Paul. I just love Mary’s voice on this version and if you watch the video you can see Les Paul using some early multitrack recording tactics, which he pioneered. HowHighTheMoonI’ve also been listening to some older Norah Jones songs. I might have to add my own version of Come Away With Me to my set.

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That’s all folks. Have a great week. See you on the flip side.

 

 

La La Land, Mini Musical Instruments, and Judy, Judy, Judy.

The last two weeks have included doing research on arrangements of jazz standards, learning a digital music scoring program, and a trip to Los Angeles for a bit of vacation.

I have a long list of jazz standards I want to perform so I’ve been writing out the music for them. All of my years playing folk music had me writing song charts for musicians to play with me, but charts for jazz can be a bit more complex. It’s been taking me a bit longer to do them. I’ve been on a re-learning curve, brushing up on my music theory knowledge. In the past, I would have just written out my charts by hand, but I have quite a bit of songs to do so I’m learning a digital scoring program called MuseScore in order to write them faster.

In coming up with how I want to arrange the songs for performance, I’ve been doing a ton of research on how different artists have done them, both current and old renditions. For example, I’m meeting some new musicians this week to play with and have chosen “Fly Me To The Moon” as one of the songs to sing with them. It’s such a popular song that so many people have recorded so there are lots of versions to choose from. Of course Frank Sinatra made it quite popular. But given that I’m not a Frank fan (yes, I did just say that. I’ll probably never be allowed back in NYC after saying this publicly), I dug up many versions of it that I like better. Judy Judy Judy Garland did a beautiful slow version of it that brings a bit of sadness and drama to it. Anita O’Day did a version of it mixing up time signatures and where she kills it leading the band. The technical expertise she had blows my mind. Jason Mraz even did a few versions of it. One where he did a mash-up with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and another where Cobie Caillat joined him on the mash-up with her song “Lucky”. I’ve linked videos for all of these with the artists names and songs above if you want to check them out. I’ll keep you updated on how my version goes of it.

My short short trip to LA last weekend was for a bit of vacation, where I stayed in a really fun Airbnb with lots of charming vintage furniture and knick-knacks. My favorite was the collection of mini instruments like a tiny piano and a tiny accordion. Since it wasn’t my house and they weren’t my belongings, I didn’t touch them, but I couldn’t help but take pictures of them. Also, always great sunsets and street art in LA. Upon returning to the SF International Airport, there was a really cool exhibit put on my SFMoma of old vintage typewriters. I feel as if I need one, so don’t be surprised if you see one of these show up in my future posts or pix on social media. If you find yourself in that airport anytime soon, you should check it out.

Anyway, that’s all folks. Talk to you on the flip side.

Rachel

My 66 Favorite Jazz Standards

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As you know, I’m in the process of putting together a jazz ensemble. I’ve been digging around, figuring out songs to put on the set list. In the process, I’ve been re-discovering some songs I really just love. Songs like “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” by Cole Porter and “My Funny Valentine” by Rodgers and Hart. Below are my 66 of my favorites!  Why 66, you ask? Well, it’s just how many were really moving me this week. It also had such a nice “Route 66” ring to it! There are probably 1 or 2 on the list that aren’t officially jazz standards (Nina Simone), but I couldn’t resist including them. What are your favorites? Have any recommendations of songs I should add to this list and maybe add to my live set?

  1. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
  2. I Could Write a Book
  3. My Baby Just Cares for Me
  4. It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
  5. My Funny Valentine
  6. All of Me
  7. Body and Soul
  8. But Not For Me
  9. You Go To My Head
  10. Round Midnight
  11. Misty
  12. It Had To Be You
  13. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
  14. Blue Skies
  15. For Sentimental Reasons
  16. Take The A Train
  17. They Can’t Take That Away from Me
  18. Someone to Watch Over Me
  19. St. James Infirmary
  20. Our Love is Here To Stay
  21. Straighten Up and Fly Right
  22. Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?
  23. Ain’t Misbehavin’
  24. Stompin’ at the Savoy
  25. Satin Doll
  26. Blue Gardenia
  27. Autumn Leaves
  28. Lullaby of Birdland
  29. High How the Moon
  30. Black Coffee
  31. Night in Tunisia
  32. I Wan’t a Little Sugar in My Bowl
  33. Summertime
  34. Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?
  35. I’ve Got a Crush On You
  36. Black Coffee
  37. Come Rain or Come Shine
  38. My Baby Just Cares For Me
  39. Feelin Good
  40. A Tisket a Tasket
  41. Just One of Those Things
  42. Stella by Starlight
  43. Witchcraft
  44. Skylark
  45. Girl from Ipanema
  46. Nice Work if You Can Get It
  47. Stormy Weather
  48. Tea for Two
  49. Cheek to Cheek
  50. (I’ve got you) Under my Skin
  51. Honeysuckle Rose
  52. Fly Me to the Moon
  53. Stompin at the Savoy
  54. PaperMoon
  55. When I fall in Love
  56. Someone to Watch
  57. The Nearness of You
  58. Old Devil Moon
  59. Autumn in New York
  60. Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?
  61. Embraceable
  62. La Vie En Rose
  63. Lush Life
  64. At Last
  65. Birdland
  66. La Mer

Picking jazz band songs and my long-lost vintage shoes.

Remember how I said I was starting a vintage jazz ensemble and I’d be available soon to play weddings, cocktail receptions, and corporate events? Well, it’s starting to come together. I’ve developed a set list, started working with a new guitarist, started a new Instagram business account, and have been going through my closets to find my fun vintage shoes and dresses.

The Set List 

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I grew up listening to so many kinds of music, jazz being just one of them. In college, I had two types of music programs available to me. One was classical and one was jazz. It was never really a question to me that what I would study was jazz. It offered me the ability to improvise, the space to write my own music, and the challenge to expand my music theory knowledge. For this new group, I’m starting with songs from the 20’s – 50’s such as “Misty”, “Round Midnight”, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “You Go To My Head”, but also planning to do modern songs, just done in a jazz format.

The Outfits 

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What do I love as much as the music itself? The Outfits. I’ve been digging through my closet to find all of the vintage dresses and accessories I have, particularly the shoes. Oh, how I missed you dear shoes. I promise not to leave you alon for so long next time.

My Studio

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Launching a new project has made me get my studio in better working order. I had to give it some love, particularly my writing area. I put the song charts I’m actively working on out on the stand and put up knick-knacks of what inspires me. Pictures of my family, vintage postcards with images of cities and architecture, Harvey Milk stamps, the 642 Things to Draw and Write About books, and a picture of the incredibly well designed placemat at one of my favorite places to eat in NYC – Russ & Daughters.

Instagram

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I’ve started a new Instagram account specifically for my business as a musician.  On it, you will be able to contact me directly for bookings as well as keep up with what I’m doing on a daily basis. Find me there @RachelLeeWalsh.

That’s all folks. See you next week.

The Mockingbird Song & My Little Slice of Heaven

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Well hello again!

This week, there have been some beautiful days here in the Bay Area. It’s generally a beautiful place to live with really nice weather, but the last few days have been particularly nice. I was sick the last few days so being able to get out and sit in the sun in my back yard felt pretty amazing. I even grabbed my guitar and sang a lullaby. I did “The Mockingbird Song”, using the words in the Carol Thompson version of the children’s book. I followed the words almost exactly with an additional twist at the end to make it a Mommy and Mama song, since my son has two mommies. Check out the video I recorded here on my RLW YouTube page. I love the backyard in my rental house and have  found a new spot in it to sit, relax, and play guitar. It’s now My Little Slice of Heaven. It’s the perfect reading and recording video nook. For fun, I included some pics below of how I set the camera up to record video and how I taped up the lyric sheet in front of me to keep it from blowing away. This is what ladders are for, isn’t it? Also a pic of the book, should you want to get it for your own child. Great words in it. Less buying of animals and diamond rings and more loving of nature and tickling of babies toes.  That’s all folks. See you next week. Here’s to good weather, good music, pretty flowers, and singing songs to our children.

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What am I doing, you ask?

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It has been a while since I’ve written a post here on FiftyTwoinFiftyTwo. I’ve heard some of you say things like “What happened?” or “We miss hearing your songs and seeing your posts!”, and “What are you doing now?. Actually,  I have been doing a lot. I just haven’t been posting or talking about it all that much in a public format. Mostly, because I’ve been allowing myself time to figure out what I’m inspired to do these days, finding different muses, so to speak. For example, I’ve started putting together a new vintage jazz ensemble for events. I’ve been researching old jazz songs and writing charts for the set list. I started playing with a new guitarist. I’ve been researching new gear to get for my studio. I’ve been playing songs to my family in my back yard here in California where it’s amazingly warm most of the year. I’ve been getting monster trucks added to my guitar by my son (see picture above). I’ve been learning new cover songs. I’ve been attending local songwriter circles and meeting new writers to work with. I’ve been participating in songwriting competitions. All good stuff that’s been allowing me to find passion again in my work.

Also, I’ve been letting myself say “I don’t have time” to send updates. That, I’m working on not doing anymore. I started listening to a new podcast called “Don’t Keep Your Day Job” by the songwriter Cathy Heller. If you are a musician or creative person of any kind, you should check out her podcast. She’s really enthusiastic and genuine in her delivery and has some great interviews with creative people and pointers on profiting from your work. One thing I was reminded of after hearing one of the episodes is that I can’t blame not creating work on not having enough time or money. Every time I say I don’t have enough resources like time or money to create or promote my music, the bigger reality is that I’m not being resourceful. Yes, I have a small child. Yes, I have another job besides being a musician. Yes, I have a spouse. Yes, I have housework. All of which I love (well, I don’t love the housework) and am grateful that they “consume” my time. I’m not always left with a ton of space in my day to write or perform or post about it. The reality though is that there is time, even if it’s just a small amount and a small amount can add up to a large amount in no time at all.

So, here’s my update and promise to you. I’m letting some new muses guide me and seeing where it takes me. I’ll get back to keeping you updated every week. It may not be a video. It may not be a new song. It may just be pictures like the one above of me playing guitar in my back yard with my kid. Either way, I’ll keep you updated. Thanks for the reminder to stay connected. I’ve missed you too.

Rachel