What Do You Desire?

This video, a must watch by Alan Watts, is thought-provoking and inspirational.  And I send it to all the artists, writers, musicians and creative people. To all my family and friends.  To the people who feel trapped in life and incomplete.  To the dreamers and the doers.  To those who want to and are ready to live their un-lived life.  To those who have no clue and just follow that path they feel they need to follow.

Reach for that goal that will alter your destiny.  Ignore the pounding in your heart that tells you to turn back.


Pain in the…

…Shoulder!  Geez, I use my right arm for everything!!!  Well, last week the shoulder area was bothering me so I lightened up my workout, but still kept at it thinking lighter weights were still a “rest”…sort of.  Then by Saturday after I vacuumed (why do I feel the need to clean sometimes), it hurt even more; a throbbing pain all night.  Some were worried: go to the doctor – could be a tear – you may not be able to workout for weeks.  WHAT? Hell no!

Ok, so I eat pretty strict Paleo to avoid inflammation (I know it’s not arthritis or my bones) and I try not lift more weights than I’m supposed to…like I said I try.  My head tells me I just pulled something or it’s stress in my neck and shoulders.  Nothing that rest and a deep tissue massage won’t cure, right?  I am trying rest for a week or 2, whatever it takes.  No doctor yet.  I don’t do doctors well besides the $40 co-pay will turn into an enormous medical bill I’m sure.

I guess what has put me in a bad mood about all this is, first of all, I cannot work out like I usually do.  Cardio?! YUCK!  Everyone knows I do very little cardio…but I am doing it just to do “something” and not use my arms.  On leg days, well there is more I can do, but I am used to doing dead lifts and weighted squats and lunges and now it’s just using body weight, which isn’t bad, but now I have to do 250 squats compared to 4×15 weighted squats!  Pain in the ass…I mean shoulder.

And not just that, it is amazing what I use my right arm for like vacuuming, mopping, washing dishes, laundry, drying my hair, walking the dogs…it’s almost impossible not to use it just getting ready for work in the morning.  The worst part, however, is not being able to paint.  I attempted to gesso (prime) a canvas and get ready to paint my next big painting and it killed my shoulder.  I tried with the left arm to no avail.  Frustration.  This is screwing up my new schedule of fitting in time to paint.

I will try again today to paint and go easy on the workout.  I have to.  I have goals I need to meet and a lousy shoulder problem cannot stop me!

New Artwork!

Blessed are the weird people, poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters and troubadours

for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.

~Jacob Nordby

Well, I finally finished a painting and what an awesome feeling it is!  There is still a couple other unfinished paintings I just had to put aside and not worry about finishing right now.  Maybe I have lost interest in them.  I am now committed to concentrating on painting or drawing what I feel at the time…thinking now about what to do next…I have a few ideas in mind.  Stay tuned…

A few people were sent progression photos of this painting and I thought I would include them for you to see the development of my painting.  Of course all artists proceed differently, but it will give you an idea of my thought process.

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 I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.

~Andrew Wyeth

I’ve been focusing on the positive in my life; trying to keep to what is real to me.  So I’ve changed the look of my blog.  I wanted to focus more on the healthy balance of life and I will start another separate blog focusing on New Orleans.  A challenge…yes it is.  I also want to focus on my Paleo lifestyle and the positive affects it has on me.  With many parts of my life falling into place, I suddenly got my inspiration to paint once again…to paint what is real to me and what feels good at the time.  I think I was feeling I had to paint what others wanted, but art is individual and subjective…maybe you will hate the painting I am working on or maybe you will love it.  I will paint or draw a subject which pulls me in.  What I realized is that it doesn’t matter what you think, but how it makes me feel and if it makes me feel whole, then I am on the right track.  It’s the same with my blog…it’s for me as much as it is for you.  I thought my blog was scattered and indecisive, which resulted in a rut, so I’ve decided to stop trying to please with my words; just put down what I feel I want to at the time.  So, it may go from a recipe to the meaning of life, but it’s as scattered as my thoughts are sometimes and that’s okay.  I want it to be quirky and meaningful at the same time, because that is me.

Physically I feel right, mentally I feel perfect.  Now it’s time to take that feeling and express it in my art and my words here.

By the way, this is a favorite song of mine and some words have a lot of meaning for me…so please take the time to find the meaning for you also.

UBUNTU ~ Matt Lemmler CD Release

” …the collective is always stronger than the individual. That’s what music is all about-many people working together,

sharing a common creative goal. It’s deep and it’s ancient.”

 Quincy Jones

Matt Lemmler

He sits at the piano composing and creating.  He’s working.  Matt Lemmler is a quiet talent; he doesn’t like to bother his neighbors with his music.  But they love it.  Who wouldn’t love to live next to the beautiful sounds of a New Orleans jazz pianist. 

Born in a family home of musicians in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, where jazz fills the streets, he was destined to be in this musical space and time.  And now he has his newest CD, UBUNTU, releasing this upcoming weekend.  It is a collection of music that follows his passion, which is evident in his explanations of his song choices for this CD…UBUNTU is a spiritual, soulful and meaningful journey.  Matt tells us Ubuntu, “was a concept first that I had come to find and try to live by, through scriptures, sermons and the truth that is inside all of us.  I read a book by Quincy Jones, my musical mentor since I was a boy, and he shared the views of Ubuntu and that he had received the info, concept and philosophy from Nelson Mandela and Reverend Tutu.  All the Ubuntu quotes, to me, basically, say the same thing: love thy neighbor and help others first, share passions and build relationships based on equality, love and peace.”

For those in New Orleans this weekend, please come out to Matt Lemmler’s New Orleans Jazz Revival Band’s CD release concert of UBUNTU on Friday August 24th at Cafe Istanbul 8pm & 10pm, 2372 St. Claude Ave. and Sunday August 26th at Snug Harbor, 626 Frenchmen 8pm & 10pm.  I will definitely be there!

Now, please join me as Matt Lemmler explains the meanings of his chosen songs for Ubuntu.  It’s like looking into the soul of this jazz musician:

Wade in the Water
A very primitive and chanting take on a classic spiritual. I was very much inspired by the music of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” in orchestrating this and the music of Charles Mingus, Ellington, but also, the history and past of New Orleans’ Congo Square and the African influences in our music and culture and special inspiration from Harold Batiste and Dr John. Makes that spiritual music dig right down deep into our bones. Makes our spirit come alive and just express ourselves the way we are. Just the way we are to praise our existence. Our maker and our bodies. Mind, body and spirit all expressing itself through music and art.
The use of the choir chanting ‘the water’ throughout brings comfort and solace to my soul. The use of the ‘animal sounds’ as a choir and as another type of chant was influenced by the Gulf Oil Spill disaster that brought my attention to all the living beings in and out of the water, everything from microscopic creatures to dolphins, sharks, whales, and humans, all part of everything that makes this garden we live and wade in. It seems to me that their voice and spirit is sometimes ignored by our greed and selfishness. We are all part of this world, even the one’s that don’t have a way to stand up and communicate. This was the first hymn arrangement performed at my Baptism celebration at Williams Trace Church and Wading in that water changed my heart and soul. It grew 1000 times larger and was strengthened by God’s Holy Spirit. So blessed to have found my way back to the Light. The water is great!! I owe one of my 1970’s fears of the water to ‘jaws’ and to my all-time favorite composer John Williams, but also to the movie magic of a live orchestra and composed by one of the world’s greatest living composers, John Williams.

Sheep May Safely Graze
~ J.S.Bach
Inspired by Bach’s passion of music, but also of having the chance to work with my dear brother in music, Kirk Whalum. I was blessed to be able to help produce and perform atTrinity Church’s Jazz Festival and Jazz Mass and also invite Kirk as a special guest artist. His loving spirit and friendship inspired both Sheep May Safely Graze, but also most of Music of Ubuntu including Be Thou Amy Vision, Movin on Up,  These hymns, spirituals and pop songs were arranged for Trinity’s Weekly jazz services, but also put into a Mass format and premiered in 2010 as a Tribute to the Music of New Orleans. It was my last performance as music director for Trinity, before I moved back to my hometown, New Orleans.

Ode to Joy
I was blessed to have been asked by my dear friend, Jennifer Davis, to orchestrate and perform this piece and others for her funeral. I had travelled and toured with Jenn and her family in the early 90’s with Phantom of the Opera and remained in touch for many years after that tour. During our evacuation from Katrina, Jenn and Paul Edwards helped my family with housing, love and fellowship for many months after Katrina’s aftermath.
Having to witness Jenn’s illness was an extremely painful and beautiful experience to go through, but afterwards, her death and her belief in God’s love, music and her love of her family inspired my heart to understand and feel God’s presence by seeing someone so filled with peace and nobility in their illness and death. Being asked to program and write the music for her funeral brought me to understand my passion of music as a blessing. It led me to create Ubuntu and follow this path towards music as a way to heal, both my soul/spirit and to allow music to heal others in need of spiritual uplifting. This passage in life and witnessing Jennifer’s strength in her Faith and in her illness, was a gift and lesson in my life journey. Her funeral was a celebration of life as her partner, Paul Edwards, expressed in his testimony of love.It was my first experience to sing and worship, while grieving a loss of a loved one, and still having my family by my side, even after divorce. God’s love is amazing to witness.

Be Thou My Vision
Originally inspired by and performed with Kirk Whalum at Trinity’s Jazz Festival. A hymn that always brings comfort to me. It’s so ancient and seems like it’s been part of our existence for many years. This track was one of the pieces that just came together in the studio on just the first take. I remember all of us going back into the control room after tracking and there we were all listening. Afterwards, there was an amazing energy of love and fellowship. It was just perfect and comforting to record, but also to say to ourselves, this came from a more powerful energy than ourselves.

Love Foundation
A beautiful piece composed by my dear friend, Michael Hurdle.  Michael asked me to arrange his piece to feature a men’s gospel quartet. Immediately after starting work on Michael’s Love Foundation, I fell in love with its message and it started to bring me comfort and understanding in salvation and it’s blessing of love. This piece along with all the hymns and spirituals on Ubuntu, brought me comfort and peace within my healing heart. To understand God’s light and love and be blessed to experience that within my passion of music was a gift.
I’ll never forget coming home one night and seeing Michael’s gift of leaving me a bible on my doorstep. His love and friendship started my journey to where I am today. I was so touched by this generosity and thoughtfulness.

Colour My World
~Originally arranged  for Offertory at Trinity Jazz Mass
This was inspired by the feeling of gratitude for God blessing men with loving women in this world, and vice versa. To finally truly understand that love that bonds men and women and becomes one. It is a beautiful way and I’m so blessed to have had these loving angels and bonds around me.
Inspired by the music of Chicago, Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock and my first jazz influence, Chuck Mangione.  These artists/bands influenced my arranging passion. I used to listen to Mangione’s music when I was a teenager and was always inspired by his orchestrations and his beautiful flugelhorn horn playing. ‘feels so good’ was a number one hit in the 70’s, and was probably the last time an instrumental/jazz/rock piece ever earned a number one slot on the pop charts. The 70’s was a great time for live horn bands, rock tinged, but heavily jazz influenced. Those were the good old days for me in hearing all these wonderful horn/jazz bands be on radio and in concert halls. Those were the days that arrangers/orchestrators still were still in strong demand.

For the Bread
Originally arranged for Communion at Trinity Jazz Mass. One of my favorite pieces on Ubuntu for its improv and dialogue between the horns and the rhythm section and its beautiful message of Gratitude. A smaller instrumentation but so full of depth and a special communion between the musicians.

Movin On Up
Another song inspired by Kirk Whalum’s visit to Houston, but also from the 70’s TV show, “The Jeffersons”,  jazz pianist Roger Kelloway’s, “All in the Family” and always the spirit of one of my musical/life heroes,  Quincy Jones.

Savior, Like a Shepherd
Originally performed with Kirk Whalum at Trinity Jazz Fest, but also dedicated to my dear friend, Randy Bigbee. Another painful and beautiful lesson was to witness Randy’s loss of his son and to experience and watching how his family’s Faith in God softened their pain/loss and how music can be a healing gift. I still feel pain when I think of this life’s tragedy, but I feel Love and blessings to have Randy as my friend and brother. Thank you, Randy, for showing me the way and also leading me to my first revival!!

Tumbalalaika/Sunrise, Sunset
While I was in the process of arranging the music for Trinity’s jazz mass/Fest, I was also making the transition to move back to New Orleans after living and working in Houston,TX for 5 years. One day, while I was composing upstairs in my studio in New Orleans, my neighbors downstairs, Ellie and Richard, were having some health issues. I remember not knowing what to say or how to make them feel better. I realized that music is what I could offer in hopes of bringing them comfort. Ellie suggested I play/ sing Tumbalalaika. I found the music and fell in love with its tone and vibe. Tumbalalaika made a great verse to Fiddler on the Roof’s, Sunrise/Sunset. It was awakening to me to offer music whenever I couldn’t help in any other way. To give my passion fully to help others and have Faith that music does heal.

The broadway musical, “Annie” was the first NYC musical I witnessed as a teenager. I remember the experience of performing trumpet with Holy Cross marching band and being invited to NYC to march in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. What an amazing experience to goto NYC for the first time, march in the parade, but also tour the city. We all went to see this musical and I remember being enchanted by the live musicians performing in that orchestra. Hearing those world-class musicians and being in NYC as a child, will always be an inspiration. Having live musicians perform with orchestras is a spiritual experience and I pray that our children get to witness these performances more than ever, as more live music is being cut due to ‘financial’ cuts. Music and the arts should always be made a priority!

Another great hymn that was performed For Trinity Church’s Jazz Mass. I was inspired by Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini and Neal Hefti’s “Odd Couple”. The 70’s was a great time to experience all these great tv shows and movies using great jazz inspired scores with outstanding arrangers and studio musicians.One of my mission statements is to keep the art of arranging for live bands alive. A tradition that seems to be a dying art in today’s world of computer and synthesized instruments, yet such a powerful art to bring horns and strings together. To combine various live instruments in order to create a specific sound. To write for specific musicians to creat a specific sound. This is one of the hopes I’d like to share with the music of Ubuntu. A collection of spiritual pieces performed and recorded in a live studio setting. No overdubs, no studio tricks. Just talented, live studio musicians creating music with original arrangements custom-made for the recording. I hope you enjoy this music and support it by having the New Orleans Jazz Revival Band come perform for you.
Matt Lemmler

Finding Inspiration in the Spirit of Another

“I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.” ~ Andrew Wyeth

Walking through the French Quarter today…taking in the beauty, history, antiques, voodoo shops and art galleries.  I was looking for my weekly inspiration and the French Quarter is spectacular for that once you walk away from the crowds and focus on the creative energy, which is all around you.

Kalle Siekkinen

I had thought about blogging about other local artists I love and today I discovered a new artist, Kalle Siekkinen, and his mentor William Hemmerling, who passed away 3 years ago.  Mr. Hemmerling had a kind soul, a true artist by nature.  I had seen him a few times at Jazz Fest and really enjoyed talking to him about his work.  He painted folk art; the kind of folk art that grips you, gives the viewer meaning.  You see, Bill Hemmerling did not start his art career until he was 60 years old and had no formal training, other than working for Sears creating interior displays.  Even without a formal art background, his mind saw intensly beautiful people and situations that is obviously expressed in his art.

On the day Bill Hemmerling died,  Kalle Siekkinen found himself as the artist…as almost a reincarnation of his dear friend Bill as he passed.  Once again, Kalle had no formal training. He learned from Bill; watched him paint and listened to his life stories.  That is how his love for art grew and since then he has created a beautiful and meaningful collection of art.  To look at his artwork is like Bill Hemmerling is part of his paint brush.  He is carrying on the soulful creativity.  Kalle says it best on his website, “I like to think that when I paint now, that Bill and I connect.  At least on some level.  Many times I can feel his presence while painting and often times I light a candle and welcome him onto my own canvas.

So if you are strolling through the French Quarter, stop by the gallery to view the artwork of Kalle Siekkinen and his mentor William Hemmerling at the Hemmerling Gallery of Southern Art at 733 Royal Street.

Oh and by the way I also received my creative inspiration from the both of them and their story today.  I am off to work on my painting…

I Don’t Have Time Again!!!

To me, my art is not a hobby, but a way of my life.

Or I wish it was a way of my life.  Good intentions.  I always have full intentions every night of finding time to paint, but I can rarely find time to dedicate to my art.  Why is that?  Is it really time or some kind of fear?  I’ve been working on one painting (albeit a large one) for quite a long time now and I have so many ideas of what piece to start next.  When I cannot find the time for my art, it has sometimes lead to tears; feelings of being overwhelmed.

I find I lead a very busy life.  I don’t even understand how people with children even manage to have time for other activities they love to do!  With travel time, work takes about 12 hours of my day and more when I am on-call and that’s average for people these days.  My fitness routine, which is not an option to give up takes up 1-2 hours 5 days a week, then there is cooking, taking care of my dogs and cats, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, getting in sufficient sleep…blah, blah, blah…we all have this routine.  I would also believe that most of us have a strong desire to do something they really love to do nightly or at least a few nights a week and only a handful of us actually get that time.  Do you really wish you had more time for your “hobby”, whether it’s artwork, writing, wood working, crafts, reading, gardening, cycling, hiking, sports?

These things we love to do are a large part of complete happiness, so I think it should be a priority, at least for me it is.  Am I willing to sacrifice something else going on in my life to accomplish this goal?  Are you?

Writing this, I have no solution right now, however I hope that you will leave a comment and tell me and everyone else how you make time to do the activity you love and make it a way of your life or what you may be willing to give up to reach this goal.  Or tell me if you are having the same problem.  Help me out!!

I would hope when I do get routine art time, I will have a blog post with ideas for everyone.

Now I am off to complete my nightly routine and maybe have time…well, maybe not tonight…maybe tomorrow?

Walking with the Dead

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I needed some inspiration today, so after a thunderstorm I decided to go for a walk through Lafayette Cemetery #1.  Strange thing to do you say?  Well around here it’s a tourist attraction…well, daily tours are held at most of our cemeteries.  Due to the location of New Orleans, mostly below sea level and built on a swamp, the cemeteries are built above ground and without a doubt historic, beautiful and haunting.  This particular one was once a plantation and designated as a burial ground in 1833.  This is also the place you seen in quite a few movies. You can get there by car or the St. Charles Streetcar stopping at Washington Avenue and Prytania.  The neighborhood is the Garden District with some of the most magnificent homes ever; houses so big you can’t fit them in the viewfinder of your camera!  The cemetery is also located across from Commander’s Palace, one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans.

After the storm the air was sultry, almost hard to breathe it in, but armed with my iPhone camera I headed to the Garden District to the cemetery to walk among the dead.  Besides being a free thing to do in New Orleans (unless you choose a guided tour), it gives you a feeling of relaxation, I think, simply due to how quiet it is.  And it is one of the places I draw inspiration for my artwork.  It is a visual wonder with the textures, colors, depth and feelings it creates.  I weaved in and out taking about 50 or more photos, finding one tomb more eye-catching than the other.  Some are elaborate, some sad and uncared for, falling apart with a doom such as the families that occupied them.  Memories of war and yellow fever are amongst many of the tombs; some noted as babies a few days old or almost an entire family dying close to the same time.  It brings to mind that death is a deep loss that affects everyone now and the beginning of time.  But, thankfully in this city, with sadness brings a second line, a celebration…just to remind you that everything is good in our hearts and our world.

Ok, I’m off to drink my Kombucha and start painting.