June 2009
For Trying

My friend Ronnie and I always joke about that expression "pull yourself up by the bootstraps." It's really annoying if you're in a funk. 


Ronnie always puts it in perspective and says, "I wish I had some boots, Jo."


Sometimes I feel like my boots are still made for walking. Some days, I'm pulling and pulling and I swear I'm hooking the straps over my ears I've stretched them out so far. And they still won't hold.


One thing I treasured from this June's visit to SQUAM ART WORKSHOPS was the plaque on the dining hall wall with all the fishing records of summers long gone. There's A.W. Kimbell with his/her 5 pound 2 ounce 20 inch bass. There's Philip E. Bourne weighing in with his 4 pound 20 inch bass. Even Marguerite Davenport caught a fish. But best of all? 1948, Thomas B. McAdams - FOR TRYING.



Now, I've never gone fishing. Yup, never caught a fish, and I don't know that I have the patience, (I suppose I could knit AND hold the rod) but I just love that little Tommy Mc A. got his name on the plaque anyway for getting out there with the rest of them and sitting on that dock, waiting and waiting for the bass that never bit.


So I'm struggling today with a song that just won't behave. All I can do is go back to basics. Try every angle, every color. Keep baiting the hook. (and mixing metaphors!)


Then I summon my girl power pals and remember I'm not alone.


Then I face the door, the wall, the page, the mandolin, the wurlitzer


They don't call it woodshedding for nothing.


At the end of the day. Maybe I can at least put my name on the wall FOR TRYING.

Dave Sanborn

I had the chance to go visit David Sanborn in the recording studio last week. He was recording a new record with Steve Gadd, Joey DeFrancesco, Gil Goldstein... among others. Phil Ramone was producing.



We listened back to "You've Changed," "Gee honey ain't I good to you," and "God Bless the Child."


This music is classic, yet still visceral, Dave's playing is bold and raw, heartbreaking and triumphant from one breath to the next. But, as with most of my musical heroes, he wasn't sure it was 'good enough.'


Dave is a perfectionist, to the point of obsession. But like so many people I admire, he takes nothing for granted, and, most of the time, thinks he really sucks. He is a master, he IS the sound of the saxophone, he IS the one that everyone imitates, and yet he still questions every note, every musical decision. Well, as far as I'm concerned, the songs I heard are DONE. they've got everything they need. You hear the pathos, the struggle, there's space, and dynamics. The musicianship is ridiculous and yet effortless.


Just another gentle reminder that we're not alone out there battling the "i suck" factor. It's just part of the creative deal. I know I've talked about it before, but it definitely bears restating.


And maybe the point is, the second you really think you are the cat's pajamas? That's when you might actually suck after all!!

One plus one equals EVERYTHING

I've been walking around the city a lot this week. Walking is always a sure fire way to stir up some new melodies, and New York is never lacking for vivid stories along the way either.


On the way home yesterday I stopped at one of my favorite all time sanctuaries in the city. Thankfully it wasn't raining. (it has rained here 18 out of the last 20 days, arggg) Today is no exception.


The Conservatory Garden is the most peaceful unspoiled spot I know. There is an expansive green entryway with full on fountain, and gorgeous trellacy walk behind it.


There is a little grown over hideaway lane with benches and cool shade.



On the left as you walk through is a perfect ever changing explosion of flowers and loveliness.




And in the center of that beauty is a little lily pad pond with a sculpture of a piper boy and a girl holding a bird bath. Often there are small marriage services going on there in the summer. Sweet families gathered in the labyrinth.



One of the things I love the most is the benches scattered throughout.


Most of them have sweet dedications attached on brass plaques. I imagine if you donate to the upkeep of the garden, (not sure what it would cost) you can be forever remembered by ponderers and those who stop to rest.


Here are my three faves:

 I'd love to know Martha and Alex's story. My husband and I have our own secret catch phrases. They always bring us back to each other, even when we're cranky or disagreeing. I imagine 'one plus one' was Alex and Martha's way to snap each other out of a fray. I think I'll add this to my arsenal.


One plus one DOES equal everything.

Lazy Sunday with luminaries!

Sheldon, Patrick, JB


We rented a car on sunday and drove up to the 'burbs' for a little summer barbecue/hang. Kind of nice to get out of the city. We never think of it ourselves unless we get a real invitation. We're home so seldom, that when we do find ourselves here, (ironic but true) we stay home, cook, knit (well, I knit) read. You ask, then why are you in New York City with the rent from hell? OK, we did go see Steve Martin two weeks ago at the Rubin Museum. And we are going to see Davy Knowles tonight. We CAN rally for the cause!


Anyway, we had a blast hanging out with Sheldon Wiener, our hosts daughter's father-in-law. He taught us a great yiddish word that encompassed that relationship, "Machotonista!! Try it, you'll love it, and it's way easier!"  He's a toy salesman, but should really be a record producer. We were cracking up over how we would have made every song that came on, BETTER!


Then, I realized halfway through my burger and corn, how many records from the eternal sountrack of my LIFE, another gentleman sitting next to me had produced:


I've known Russ Titleman for a while now, but it really hit me, when we started singing "You Send Me" in harmony, that I needed to thank him for a couple of things!!


Rickie Lee Jones's first two albums. Ummmm "Last Chance Texaco" is just one sublime creature. There is magic in every one of those takes.


Rufus and Chaka Khan "Live, Stompin' at the Savoy." Absolutely the most important record during my college years. I know you can't hear it in my voice, but I sure tried to sound like Chaka.


And that's just the beginning.


Stevie Winwood, "Higher Love" Yup. James Taylor, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Eric Clapton.

Russ Titleman, Hugh McCracken, JB


Hugh McCracken, in the middle, where do I start with HIS achievements? He's played guitar for Steely Dan, Roberta Flack, Billy Joel, James Taylor, the list is ridiculous.


So there I was in heaven. Just grateful that I keep finding myself, from time to time, in these circles of creative juju.

Perhaps the loveliest highlight of the day was running into Lisa Frank. She boldly shepherded my very first records, (Elektra, 1992 thru 94) through their peaks and valleys. We shared exhausting road trips, and triumphant in-stores, silly showcases and too many grips, grins, and keep your head ups!!


Again, every single day, I am grateful to be doing what I do. And to have worked with and know some of the most amazing people/musicians around.


Oh summer. Nice to slow down for a change.


p.s. this just in, my little plum tv appearance streetside at the american hotel in sag harbor: JB PLUMTV

sacred kindred place

 The Squam Siren built it and said, they will come. I will show them the way. Just follow the emerald path.



Drop your cares and woes. Come as you are.

There is already a rainbow.


That's what we did.



And we found the place. SQUAM ART WORKSHOPS


Treats abounded, abundant beautiful days, a gorgeous lake, dreamy things to do


more rainbows


there were angels.





more princesses

knitting by the lake,


knitting by cozy fires

It was so hard to leave.


but my heart is so full. I am so grateful for this beauty.

and this beauty

 and this one


how many days until September??