Rochelle House / Blog


I spent the day at the Art and Social Change Symposium at Seattle Center. Those are two of my favorite things to think about. I really enjoyed the session that the Seattle Office of Civil Rights put on. I would like to see someone from that office sit on the Seattle Music Commission. I think that would make a huge difference. The Symposium is a cool hang, Come down and join the fun tomorrow if you can.

Tonight Carrie Wicks had a beautiful cd release concert at The Royal Room. If anybody has a couple of good speakers that they could donate to hang in the bar, do it. It is tragic how loud the bar patrons get, even when the singer is singing beautifully and the bass player is a God. A nice loud speaker in the bar would be an excellent remedy. I am full of remedies tonight.

Mycityofmusic 10-09-12

Mycityofmusic 10-09-12 A great bass player Marcus Miller was at the Triple Door last night and D’Vonne Lewis, Evan Flory-Barnes and Galen Green were in the Musicquarium Lounge just upstairs. My companion and I got lost on our way to the club, even though I have been there a million times, and I have a very good sense of direction. I can feel the north pole. I can feel the pacific ocean. I can feel Los Angeles...except sometimes... in some locations... it slips away from me. I have blamed it on the fairies, but it might be something else. There is a section in Seattle where this happens to me. Anyway, as luck would have it, once we found our way to the Triple Door there was a perfect parking spot just a block away. Approaching the door I could hear the band. I was surprised to hear a saxophone? I forgot that Galen was a sax-player. Didn’t he play a different instrument the last time I saw him...in Fremont with Dawn Clement... playing his own compositions?

There is something about the Feng Shui of the Musicquarium entrance that creates a sense of excitement when you walk in; maybe it’s the fish tank or the maybe the stairs. I dont know. The folks who book the Musicquarium have good taste in music, they hire some of the best local musicians of many different genres. I have been told by many sources that they pay their musicians less than they did years ago and that the acoustics are very difficult on “stage,” but the vibe is good and the audience is nicely diverse. Often there are people from other countries relaxing, having drinks and Benaroyal Hall is across the street so some folks drift over after their shows. And the lounge sits just below street level, with a long window facing Union, making it fun to watch the legs of pedestrians walking by. Once we were settled at our table, I excused myself and went to see if I could sneak a peek at Marcus Millers band down in the main room. I found an open door, and like a spy, I stepped into one of the little sound-proofed over-look rooms, to check it out. I could see the band playing but could not hear them. It took me a minute to realize that there was a knob on the wall that adjusted my volume from the stage below. I turned it up and listened. Marcus’s band is good. No charts. Which means something to me because I am wanting to become chartless on stage. Still they seemed like they weren’t that comfortable without charts themselves. I think that lots of bands start their tours in Seattle. It may seem to them like a safe place to solidify your performance before you hit the more important cities. But I dont mind that. The music was still good. I only listened for a minute before I became afraid I would get caught and scolded.

Marcus Miller I Love. I once heard him say, when asked which had been his hardest gig ever, that playing with Nina Simone was, because he had to play so few notes. During rehearsals he thought it was not a good gig, he almost bailed. But then they went on stage and he saw the people in the audience weeping for the depth and potency of the music. He realized how playing fast, and lots of notes is not the only way. I love musicians who can totally burn on their instruments and also bring it down to a deep and attentive whole note.

My City of Music

My City of Music- 8-9-2012 My teacher Jay Clayton told me a dozen or so years ago, “Rochelle believe me, I know it is hard for a mother of young children to get out at night to hear music, but in order to get your musical career started you need to hang out. You should try to be out at least once or twice a week.” So...although I am not by nature a night owl I followed her advice, and have enjoyed getting to know a wonderful group of music makers. I love these people who make music here is Seattle, as well as those whom I have come to know from other parts of the world.

Too often though I have found when I go to hear a group of musical genii that I am one of but a handful of audience members. Seattle’s motto was changed a few years ago from “The Emerald City” to “The City of Music.” I love that. This city is full of music for sure. Still, even though we live in ‘the city of music’ there is a huge gap between what the musicians offer to the people of this city and what this city of people offers to its musicians.

So one of my passions in this passionate life of mine is opening the flood gates of affluence to the men and women who devote their lives to making music. I dont know how to do it yet. But I do have an idea or 2...million.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Opening speech at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Opening speech at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival Humanity and the Importance of Jazz "God has brought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create - and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations. Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music. Modern Jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument. It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of "racial identity" as a problem for a multi-racial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls. Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down. And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these."

Lyrics for- "Come on boy put your shoes on" from WATER

Come on boy put your shoes on

4 counts each chord Am /Dm Do you want to walk to the market my son? Get a pack of cigarettes and have some fun. You know I haven’t seen you all week long. You are getting so big, Yes, and so strong.

Come on boy put your shoes on.

Woman, would I let harm come to our son We are just to the market and then we are done. They have no grudge to bare me. I am friends with everyone.

Come on boy put your shoes on

There is something going on up ahead. We will step in here and let the trouble pass. Do not be afraid, scoot in close to your dad. Don’t be afraid scoot in close to your dad.

--Drum solo -- 
Oh they got us. You know, you need a haircut, Lying here beside me, all shot up. And your shirt it was dirty. I didn’t even notice. But now its so bloody no one will notice. No one willl notice, No one will notice No one will notice. Angel

I write songs. I sing songs too.

Recently, I was given permission to compose songs rather than write a paper at the end of a master’s degree program. I was happy for the opportunity. I thought it would be faster and easier than writing a long paper. My academic papers were never long enough or scholarly enough to please my professors and I was longing to write songs again. I like to get to the essence of things, and in my experience, essence fits more comfortably into the form of a song than it fits into a twenty- to forty-page paper. I sat down with the piano. When I write a song, it is a beautiful and sometimes painful experience. Usually I’ll sit at my piano, play a chord, and then it gets going. I love to watch it happen. I am a vessel. I am not sure who flows the music through this vessel, whether it is God or my unconscious, or whether these things are anything other than life talking. As a vessel, I am not absent from the process. I am there. I am the vessel. I have the responsibility to decide what is cool. I design the shape and the sound. I focus on what it is that I am trying to communicate and then the flow begins and I document it. I get excited when the lines are clever or well rhymed but I don’t feel like I deserve the credit for it. It feels more like good luck when things work out nicely. The lyrics don’t always make sense to me when I write them. Like when you wake from a dream and you know that the images are messages, but you can’t figure out what the message is. Sometimes it takes time for the story to become clear. The same with lyrics. Since my songs are not like anyone else’s, I struggle with myself about whether I have gone too far with this line or that statement. My singing style is not as melodic as some folks would like. Fortunately my voice sounds nice. My weird lyrics can sometimes just slip by on the spoon full of honey. But as I sat to capture the essence of my education and then infuse it into a few simple songs, I didn't expect it to be so time-consuming and heart-wrenching. The more time I spent at the piano, the less complicated the songs became. And the more simple the songs got, the less I trusted their value. Like, forty pages might be more valuable than forty measures.

In the end, I wrote three songs.

Synthesis: Application, The Table, Paradoxes

Lyrics for "where is my glove?"

Where Is My Glove?

From the day I met you I’ve been changed. I dont eat, or drink or sleep the same. Although I do not need for you to stay I would prefer that you dont go away.

Dont go away. Stand here for just a moment. I have something to say But I just cant recall what it was.

Where is my glove? I had it here. I need it. What was it that you said? Please forgive me for acting this way.

But... Honestly, you must feel the heavens rush right down here to meet us.

Who are you to me? Who am I to you? Something seems to be completed.

No... Go away. Here is my glove. I’m leaving. I have nothing to say but I’m happy to see you again.

may 2010

Good Morning, World (You are the world)

It is another beautiful day in Seattle. The forest is more colorful under a gray sky. Our weather changes dramatically from hour to hour. When I had little babies, I would carry every type of clothing for them.

When the sun shines through the cracks between the clouds, I keep thinking I can hang my laundry in the garden to dry. It ends up going through many rinses this way.

These Days, I am preparing for my Art of Jazz concert at the Seattle Art Museum.

The Art of Jazz happens every month on the second Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 and it is free, curated by Earshot Jazz.

To celebrate the release of my debut recording Dreams of Love, I performed for the Art of Jazz in [what year?], when the downtown Seattle Art Museum was being re-created and everything had been temporarily moved to the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park.

For that show, the acoustics were good, the band played beautifully, and the audience received us warmly, even Dee Dee Rainbow was there.

May 13, 2010, is an extra-special night to have a gig at the Seattle Art Museum because it is the first night of the Kurt exhibit. It isn’t the opening night, but it is the first night the show is up. From what I understand, the art in this exhibit is a celebration of the effect that Kurt Cobain has had on several visual artists.

In honor of this special moment, I decided to learn a couple of his songs and see how we could incorporate them into our performance.

As I spend time thinking about Kurt Cobain, I have come to realize that my music has been influenced by him already.

When I came to Seattle in 1988 from Los Angeles, I came like a runaway with two little girls in my little Honda station wagon. After life in L,A., Seattle with her grunge scene was a nice place to rest. My kids could wear long johns under their California short pants and we were cool. One day while visiting my sister Christina, she suggested I put on headphones and listen to her roommate’s Nirvana recordings.

I was into Jazz, I always had been, but I wasn’t a “Jazz Snob” (why people announce proudly that they are jazz snobs I will never understand). I was into the authentic, artistic, and soulful expression of the human heart. Still there was so much screaming. Then I heard Neil Young saying something about Kurt’s poetry so I began to look to the lyrics and the passion.

Between 1988 and 2000 I spent my time raising babies. But I had a guitar and my father had taught me several chords. So I sat in the garden or on the living room floor, and wrote music during nap times. Kurt’s songs being simple, and yet still valid, influenced my compositions.

At the turn of the century, I returned to Jazz Music. I have been studying Jazz ever since. Still, I have a hard time understanding what is Jazz and what isn’t? This concert is going to be an Edge of Jazz experiment.

I am very fortunate to have an unusual jazz band playing with me for this concert.

Geoff Harper—who is well known for his Jazz bass playing, as well as for his musical flexibility and dangerous sense of humor

Andy Coe—a great Jazz/etc. guitarist who plays with the very popular and extremely rocking band McTuff. Rock on.

Thione Diop—the Senegalese hand drummer extraordinaire, whom I have known for many years and admired for his artistry and kindness

Teo Shantz—on drums. Teo is a young man who has spent much of his life traveling the world playing and learning the music of Brazil, Trinidad, and Cuba, etc.

If you can come out, I hope you will. It would be great to see you and the world of you at SAM on Thursday at 5:30 to celebrate the influence of Kurt Cobain on our collective consciousness.

Peace, Rochelle