This album is my song and my story. I know -- there are 10 songs, but these songs chronicle my life to date, and I have only one of those. I was born in Brooklyn some 40 odd years ago, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt, suicidal, with pneumonia. I didn't like my family and I didn't want to be here. Life was so very, very painful. Despite occasional eruptions of outrageous behavior, I was shy, withdrawn and angry as a child and young adult.
From my earliest memories music has been my fundamental life language. My cradle language was the jazz and, later, hip-hop one heard everywhere, at home, in the streets, on the radio in my Brooklyn neighborhood of those years. In the streets around my home the horns were incredible. A riff from a hidden saxophone would ring out. From down the block or around the corner, another unseen horn belted out a response. I was immersed in music; it became my umbilical cord to life.
My latent desire to live found expression in lyrics and melodies composed in my head and sung to myself as I found my way through high school and put myself through college. Some of those lyrics became lifelines: "Dying ain't a reason, cause living is a reason to live" is not the way I would express myself today, but those words kept me going through some very rough patches in my late teens and early twenties. That line became the chorus in the Don't Sing The Blues. Keep it Right is the title and the theme of another sustaining lyric from my early twenties. The melody of Waiting So Long evolved from a chord my brother played around with on the piano into my drum beat for want of love in my twenties. I Don't Mind was inspired by the complexities of a thirties affair with a man from Norway.
After the second of my parents died in 1991 I escaped Brooklyn for the blue skies and tolerant sunshine of Taos, New Mexico. In December of that year, my wonderful daughter Yaneis was born and my life changed. It changed again in 1996 when Yaneis and I were passengers in a car involved in a head-on collision south of Taos where NM 68 winds along beside the Rio Grande. Yaneis survived with a punctured lung and I with two badly broken legs and assorted lesser injuries. Sadly, our Italian friend, Daniela De boni, who was driving us home from Santa Fe, did not survive. After a month in the hospital, Yaneis returned home and over several years slowly regained full health. My own recovery involved legs full of pins and metal bracing, numerous surgeries over multiple years, and learning to walk all over again.
As tragedies often do, my injuries produced two salutary life-affirming effects. The recovery process dissolved my suicidal tendencies, completely. One night, after listen-ing to the phenomenal jazz vocalist Richard Allen, who had checked himself out of Holy Cross Hospital for the evening to make this gig, perform at the Adobe Bar in the Taos Inn, I was overtaken by an intense desire to go and talk to the man. Still painfully shy (I never initiate conversation with strangers) and on crutches, I hobbled my way through a standing-room-only crowd to Richard's table and much to my surprise, heard myself say "I want to sing. Will you help me?" "Sure," he answered, "and don't ever let them fuck with your voice." In that moment, I found my voice. Richard died before we could work together, but those few words and the passion with which he spoke them, inspired the confidence which led, eventually, to this recording. I dedicate this album to Richard's memory in gratitude.
I began singing professionally shortly after Richard's death, performing a repertoire of traditional jazz vocals for several years with local accompanists in numerous venues around Taos. David Stewart, proprietor of Family Mediation Service and Wired Café, kept me gainfully employed and gave me my first regular gig over the summer of 2004. The superb bass player, Larry Audette, has accompanied me almost from my first performance. A recognized and highly respected musi-cian in the Taos music scene, Larry's steadfast willingness to play with me early on encouraged both fans and other fine musicians to take a chance and join in the fun. In the face of all the cruelty and self-dealing we see and hear about daily, Dave and Larry are type-section examples of the genuine everyday kindness still afoot in the world.
A year or so ago, it occurred to me that with Yaneis' immanent graduation from Taos High and her subsequent departure for college, my life was changing again. With diminished motherly responsibilities, it was time to breathe some life into the music I had been carrying around inside me for so many years.
Startup was challenging. I don't read or write music, and I hadn't played piano for years. I bought a new keyboard with a bequest from an old friend. Becky Reardon, bless her heart, sold me a Roland workstation at an affordable price and taught me both how to use it and how to troubleshoot problems. After she taught me how to transfer files to and from the computer, I had enough equipment and know-how to begin.
The Human Race was the first song that emerged. The music was the easy part, and joyful. The workstation, the computer, communications between them, and manipulating files on the computer were serious roadblocks for this right-brained technology-challenged person. Enter John Lay, whose com-puter skills, patience and willingness to teach enabled me to become conversant with the process and functional enough to continue composing and recording songs. Thank you John!!
Each of the first eight songs on this recording was inspired by a segment of my past. The ninth song, Ancient Mother, is from the present day and celebrates my everyday relation-ship with the feminine/mother aspect of the god force. The final song, Mama Water Us, was also the last song written and points to the future. Etheric, with different timing and more space between the musical elements, Mama Water Us is quite different from the preceding nine songs. Images of water flowing and white and brown birds ascending, wings audibly flapping, filled these expanded spaces as I worked on the melody. Very trippy for me, but also very exciting; the music emerged from depths not previously accessible. An unexplored direction beckons. Ending once again is beginning.
Songs featured on this album
Love's Got Me
Don't Sing The Blues
I've Been Thinkin'
The Human Race
I Don't Mind
Keep It Right
Do You Believe
Waiting So Long
Mama Water Us
Mark Eagleheart ~ By My Own Light
Burton Jespersen ~ Any Road
Christine Autumn ~ Black Matter
Red Leaf Takoja ~ A Living Hoop
Red Leaf Takoja ~ Live at Fort Duchesne
Red Leaf Takoja ~ Live at Blue Lake Powwow
Red Leaf Takoja ~ Echoes of the Universe
Red Leaf Singers ~ Songs of the Warrior
Sacred Songs of Native American Healing:
Sung as in Ceremony
Sacred Songs of Native American Healing:
Songs To Learn By