Learning tunes in prison was a strange, even bizarre process. We jazz lovers were really hungry for new music and the radio was our only access to it. Every week we were given only one-half hour to listen to jazz on the radio. So we developed a process to collectively learn new tunes.
Whenever we heard something unfamiliar that we liked, each of us — often up to 20 of us — learned as much of the tune as possible. The next day we would meet in the yard with a guitarist and painstakingly attempt to put the fragments of melody, chords, and lyrics together. Sometimes it took several months to re-create a single tune.
In 1986, after 40 years of drug addiction, I finally got into a program of drug and alcohol recovery, which led me to the "day job" I love program planning, development, training, and creating a successful health education lecture series I call: The Art And Practice Of Living Well. This work is as important to me as music. The lecture series has been a positive influence on hundreds of people. For me that work is all about joy and appreciation of our individual gifts.
My first CD was a long time coming. I had the privilege to make that recording with a remarkable ensemble of New York and Bay Area musicians. The second CD came relatively quickly, a year later, recorded with a richly diverse group of New York musicians, including guitarist and violinist. Life has been good to me! We think these records are pretty special. The songs are some of the most beautiful I have ever known. Most of them have haunted me since I first heard them many years ago. I am so pleased to be able to share my rendition of these wonderful tunes with you. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I do singing them.