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Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse

~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

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Atsuko4Jazz
Jazz Singer

Lives and works in New York/Hometown, Nagasaki.
In 2000, I came to study Jazz in New York, the home of Jazz.

Time flies and it's hard to believe I've lived in this city as long as babies grow up, but I never get tired of this music-filled city. 
I would like to express my gratitude that I have been able to live in this city because of jazz.

I hope to share with you stories about my favorite city, New York, and the wonderful New Yorkers who live here.

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Pay it forward~マグダラのマリアに導かれ南フランスへ

4.15.2023

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

Pay it forward - Mary Magdalene leads us to the South of France

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I heard a commentary on La Tour's painting of Mary Magdalene at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and I thought, "Doesn't this woman look kind of Asian?


Since then, I became interested in Mary Magdalene.

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Mary Magdalene, Latour.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Mary Magdalene was one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, who is said to have discovered the resurrection of Jesus and informed everyone about it.
She fled Jerusalem and arrived in a small boat with the Virgin Mary and others at St. Marys d'Alamère in the Camargue Marshes in southern France, where Mary Magdalene is said to have spent the rest of her life in a cave on the mountain of Saint Baume.


I had vaguely wished to visit this place someday, but this time I finally decided to plan and execute a trip to visit there together with Mont Saint-Michel, which I had wanted to do for a long time.
However, as I don't speak French, it was the biggest adventure I had taken in a long time, and I was a bit nervous.
I wondered whether I should fly Air France or not, but since I was going out of Marseille, I decided to fly British Airways via London.
I would have felt uneasy if I had spent all my time in France, so I wanted to stop at places I knew a little bit about.


There is a hotelier in Saint-Baume, where the Grotto of Mary Magdalene is located, run by the Dominican Order, and I managed to reserve a room by sending an e-mail in French using Google Translate. It seems you can take a bus from Marseille. I needed a cab from there, and I tried several times to contact a cab company I found on the Internet in that city, but they never called me back.
I gave up and asked the hotelier for the phone numbers of three cab companies.


However, since I do not speak French, the hurdle to call the taxi companies was extremely high.
I was inwardly worried, but I knew that Uber was in use in France, so I tried the app out of the blue.
To my surprise, I found that I could make a reservation for about 60 euros, even though it would take about an hour from the nearest train station, Aubagne. Oh, this is the only way! Thank you God! Thank you Uber, which I don't usually use! (I am a Lyft person in the U.S. because I also have a shared bike)


The next day I tried to buy a train ticket from Arles to a station called Aubagne via Marseille, but it turned out that for some reason the train I had checked on Google Maps the day before was not available, and as a result I would arrive late.
I hastily canceled my Uber reservation and made a reservation for the new train time.
Then, a driver by the name of David de Jesus conferred with me.
I'm going to Mary Magdalene's and Jesus is picking me up!

Free Wi-Fi is available at French train stations, so I was able to check the Uber app at the Aubagne station, and was relieved. I'm glad to hear that the car will be here soon!


Uber says that the wait time is up to 5 minutes, so it's safer for us to wait. I'm glad we were able to meet safely!


The driver is good-looking, with nice sunglasses, and, to my delight, he speaks English!
I asked him where he was from, and he replied, "That's because I am not French. I asked him where he was from, and he told me he was from Honduras in South America.
I asked him, "How did you come to be here? I asked him why he came here. He told me that he was in the Army, and after being discharged from the army, he settled in a town called Cassis, where he runs a private transportation company. Wow, that's amazing.
What language is Honduran? I asked him what language is spoken in Honduras, and he said Spanish. It is amazing to be trilingual in Spanish, French, and English!


Following the navigation system, I found myself heading deeper and deeper into the mountains, far beyond what I had imagined.
I was really going to go to a place like this, but I hadn't decided how to get there until the day before.
Worst case scenario, I was thinking of walking from a nearby town, but that's impossible, impossible, impossible! Please don't do this, everyone. Hitchhiking is not even allowed in the first place.
Jesus drove with me, saying, "I've never been here before, so I'm relying on the navigation system," and we finally arrived at my hotel, Hotelier de la Sambaume.
In the middle of nowhere.

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Huh? There was a bus stop right in front of the hotelier!

To our driver, Jesus, "Thank you, it was a pleasure talking with you the whole way!" So we said goodbye and checked in safely.
I went into my room, relieved, and was about to take a picture of the nice painting in the room, when, what? It's not there! It's not there! It's not there! My cell phone!

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Picture of my room


Yes, I think I accidentally left my phone in the car. Because I was checking my location on the app until I got in the car.
I think I left it on the seat without putting it in the back for peace of mind. My stupid, stupid, stupid!
I asked the hotelier to lend me his computer so I could contact the Uber driver, but he wouldn't let me use it.
The receptionist, who couldn't stand to see me, tried to call me on her own cell phone to my cell phone app, but there was no response. She tells me she will try later from home.
I tell her, "The driver's name was Jesus..." I tell her.


OMG, losing your phone abroad? I can't believe it! I am completely flabbergasted and panic-stricken, but I think to myself, "It's no use, I've used it for over 3 years, it's time to change it.
I tried to give up on the phone number, saying that I would get calls from people who needed it, but I was sad to lose all the photos I had taken this time....
I went to Paris, Mont St. Michel, Arles, St. Maries de la Mer....
Oh, that's right, I can't check in 24 hours before my flight even though I'm going back via London the day after tomorrow.


I prayed at the chapel in the hotelier and left the rest to the heavens.


Dinner was a shared dinner in the dining hall. I was a little late and was allowed to join one of the groups from Spain.
I didn't understand a word of Spanish or French, but they were kind enough to talk to me,
He asks me to teach him how to say hello and thank you in Japanese.


He is a man from Spain who runs an apiary, and he wants to say thank you in Japanese because he is meeting a client from Japan tomorrow.
How nice, isn't it?
Gracias forgets for a moment the panic of losing his cell phone as he says thank you.
It makes me happy to know that greetings, thank yous, and "please" are the basics of the Japanese language all over the world.
Yes, Jesus said earlier, too, that you should learn and use Merci (Thank you), Bonjour (Hello), Au revoir (Good-bye), and S'il vous Plait (Please).


Aren't these words the first words we are all taught as human beings when we are babies?
I guess the fundamentally important things we need to know as human beings are the same all over the world.


As expected of a convent-owned hotelier, it is very clean and beautiful, but the facilities are simple.
No TV, alarm, shampoo, or soap.
I was lucky that I had brought back a small soap with a nice scent of goldenseal that I had used at a hotel in Paris.
I wondered if I would be able to wake up tomorrow without an alarm. I went to bed exhausted, wondering if I would be able to wake up tomorrow without an alarm.
During the night, the heating was turned off and I woke up feeling very cold. It must be cold because of the high altitude, even though it is still March. I pulled out a blanket from the shelf to ward off the cold.


I am lucky to wake up early, as it is getting light around here.
I had checked the sunrise time the day before and was told it was 7:20 a.m., so it looks like I'll be up in time for breakfast at 8:00 a.m! Thank goodness!

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courtyard


I went down to the dining room and bumped into the apiary man from yesterday at the entrance! I was greeting him in English when a nice, fearless man appeared in front of me.
Hi, I was cleaning my car and noticed you forgot your cell phone. I called the hotelier in a hurry, but I couldn't reach you because it was already after-hours. I thought you must have been worried because you didn't have your cell phone with you, so I brought it with me.


OMG! OMG! OMG! (He looks even more handsome and cool without sunglasses.)
You brought it here first thing in the morning because you knew I would be in trouble?
To get here at 8:00 AM, I probably have to be out of his city before 7:00 AM.
So he came all the way here to deliver my cell phone to me?
How sweet of him!
I repeat OMG! Mr. Jesus delivered my cell phone to me....
Handing me the phone in a blinky-eyed, semi-panic,
Good to see you, enjoy your hike today!" He was about to walk away when he said coolly, "Oh, your contact information, your business information, and your phone number,
I asked him, "Oh, do you have your contact info, business card, or something?" I asked,
He said, "I have them in my car, wait here and I'll get them for you. I have it in my car.
He ran to get it even though it was a long distance from the parking lot, and he was so cool and kind.
I got his business card, thanked him for his business, told him I would tip him properly at Uber, and waved goodbye until I couldn't see his car anymore.


What a thing to happen. Thank you Mary Magdalene from the bottom of my heart.
Then I went to the receptionist girl who helped me yesterday, and I paused to say I hadn't heard from her, and she said that, you know, she had just delivered it to me, and she said OMG!
What time did you get here? And, what, at 8 am? Isn't that amazing? Was he Jesus after all? Yes, he was Jesus himself.


Feeling completely light-headed, I ran up to the cave of Mary Magdalene, a one-hour trek one way, as fast as a Shugenja (ascetic).

Trail Entrance


Mary Magdalene must have had a strong body to have lived in a place like this for the last 30 years of her life, about 2000 years ago.
I was in a hotel when the heating went out, and I pulled out a blanket and wrapped myself in it. How cold is it in the winter?

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stairs


And although this mountain path is now well prepared with stairs and paths to make it easier for pilgrims to climb, everyone is in serious tracking gear except for me.
I can't imagine how hard it was to climb up and down in the old days.

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cliff


We arrived at the cave church with shortness of breath.
At the entrance of the building is a Pieta. The Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene are holding Jesus who was taken down from the crucifixion.
It seems that most of the Pieta statues are of two people, Mary and Christ, but here there are three people, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Mary Magdalene.

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Jesus and Mary


This is a natural cave, so it is very quiet and serene, with the sound of dripping water echoing through the air.
Sure, it might be nice to have water, but cold is the enemy of women.
Mary Magdalene was really a strong woman.
Through this trekking experience, I feel as if she taught me that a woman must be wise, kind, and strong.

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Statue of Mary Magdalene


Dominican friars say mass here at 11:00 a.m. Since 1295, I wonder how much Mary Magdalene has been loved and cherished.
I realized that this is a miraculous place and that Mary Magdalene has been loved and cherished by many people for hundreds of years.

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Out of the cave


I have time to pick up my checked luggage, so I run back to the hotelier.
I have about an hour before the bus to my next destination, St. Maximin, so I use the Internet, and yes, I have to tip Mr. Jesus.
The maximum tip for my services this time is 49.99 euros. I didn't know there was such a limit!
I regretted that I couldn't properly pay him twice for making two round trips on such a mountain road, but there was nothing I could do now.


At that moment, the phrase "pay it forward" suddenly popped into my mind.
Yes, now is my turn to pay it forward to the next person.


I thought, "Now is the time for me to pay it forward, to return the kindness I have received, of course, but even more than that, to connect it to others.
Not only should I send a thank you email to Jesus, but I should also introduce him as a recommended driver for hoteliers. This is what I can do now.


I just contacted my hotelier girlfriend who helped me and told her that she is a reliable driver because of this one incident of mine, that I can contact her by e-mail in English, and that I think there will be others like me in the future who don't speak French and are not good on the phone, so please recommend her,
Thanks for sharing!" he replies.


Then I received a very simple e-mail from Jesus saying, "Thank you for introducing my company to me," as if he used translation software, and I was relieved to see that his English was not so good either, and that he tried his best to speak it in communicating with me.
I have a dark past in college, when my second language was French, but if I had been much, much younger, my life would have been different.


This time, my longtime dream came true, and at the same time, I realized how interesting life is through my no-good happenings.


It is important to live without causing trouble, but people live by helping each other. If I have caused trouble, I will send more than that to the next person for what they have done for me and thank them. Wouldn't it be nice if we could do that?
The world is a cycle of gratitude, and I will never forget this.
Thank you so much!

Sunset at Marseille

 

PS. If you need a car in Marseille, Cassis or other places in the South of France, please contact us! English is available.

 

Transport BCH

https://www.transportbch.com/

Please give my regards to the flabbergasted Japanese woman who left her cell phone in your car the day before the Vernal Equinox of 2024. Please tell her that I said.

ホリデイシーズン幕開けのニューヨーク

12.10.2023

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

The Holiday Season in NYC officially starts! 

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It's December already, how are you doing?

I have heard that Japan may have a mild winter this year but the temperature is going up and down these days. Please stay warm and take good care of yourself.


After Thanksgiving day, Holiday seasons kicked off in New York City.


This year's tree has arrived and is being prepared for lighting.

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It is an estimated 80-85 year old tree grown in Upstate New York.

This Christmas tree would be lit on November 29 this year.


I went to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting in my first year in New York but I waited and waited for hours in the cold weather, finally lit at around 9pm and that's it.

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I was lucky l to be invited to a party overlooking Rockefeller Center a few years ago, but the area was blocked for the lighting ceremony, so I have to be inside the building before 5:00pm and can't come in and out there freely. So it takes quite a long time to get off there after the ligtning show.

 

So I recommend staying at home and watching the Christmas Tree Lighting on TV.


Unfortunately, I was not in New York Cityon the day of the lighting this year, so I will go to see it later.


I look forward to seeing the holiday light show at Saks Fifth, the department store directly across from the tree, every year. They are collaborating with Christian Dior this year!

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It looks so pretty even without lighting! 


I went to check on them the day before Thanksgiving and, oh, lucky me, they've already started the show!
Look! Much Beautiful with the lights on!

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Many people take holidays during Thanksgiving and Christmas,  everyone is in the holiday mood for parties and they don't work very much during this period. 


The city is filled with sparkling lights and a fun atmosphere even in the chilly weather, which makes the holiday season more fun and heartwarming. 


I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season this year and the year 2024 will be filled with all kinds of fun.

Yay, Let's pre-celebrate for 2024! 

P.S.
The angel looked so happy to blow the trumpet in high spirits!

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P.S. 2

Finally I could go to see the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center tonight! So Gorgeous! 

人生の豊かさは移動距離に比例する

10.15.2023

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

The more you move,  Your life will be richer! 

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It's October and full of fall mood in New York City. But let me talk about my road trip to Texas this Summer. 

 

The state of Texas is called "One Lone Star" because of its former independence from Mexico as the Republic of Texas.

 

My First stop was Dallas, an air gateway city to the state of Texas. 

 

This brown building is the Sixth Floor Museum. 

Former President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in front of this building...

The Cattle drive sculptures in Pioneer plaza, symbolize the spirit of Texas in the American west. Cowboys used to carry wild cattles like this in the 19th Century. 

It was so hot in summer, over 40 degrees!

Guess where I was?  In the middle of the American football field at the Ford Center next to the headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys!

The Dallas Cowboys is an American football team which is the most valuable sports team in the world!  

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What a beautiful sky in Waco!which is a small town on the way from Dellas to Austin by land. 

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Austin is the capital of Texas, we can see the classic building of Texas state capitol in the distance.  

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Austin is the capitol of live music. Even though I have been in New York for many years. I was so surprised at the music scene of the 6th Street! Young people were expressing themselves, especially rock music. (But unfortunately, no pictures).

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Buc-ee's is an everyone's favorite giant gas station along the highway & service area. We can enjoy bathroom stop and buy some gift over there. Buc-ees the beaver, The Statue of the mascot of Buc-ees. 

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San Antonio was the most southern city I visited this time. It is the World Heritage Site of the Alamo.

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The River Walk is a beautiful canals around the city. We can explore by small boats called barges.

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The view from my room, night in San Antonio.

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San Antonio was named after the river St. Anthony (San Antonio), which the Spanish evangelists reached on the feast day of St. Anthony in 1961. 

My favorite of the two trips to Texas was still San Antonio. Do I  have any connection to St. Anthony?

 

Beautiful Appetizers of my last supper with our traveling companions. 

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Yes, Texas is famous for steak!  Oh, it was so delicious!  

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Texas is a gun permit state,  so I wondered what kind of place it would be and I was a bit nervous at first,

However, everyone I met in Texas was so nice, warm, and very cooperative. I was so grateful to know it!

 

Total distance I traveled

New York to Dallas by trial plane, 1,600 miles

Dallas to San Antonio by land about 300 miles

San Antonio to Austin overland about 80 miles

Austin to New York City by plane about 1800 miles

Total 3780 miles x 2 times = 7560 miles = 12166 km

I probably traveled about 12,500 kilometers including city trips.

 

Yes! I'm sure that these trips made my life enriched very much! 

Thank you very much!

PS. I was lucky to see such a beautiful sky on my way back to New York!

私の思い出のサンフランシスコ ~ ボビーマクファリンのサークルソング10周年

8.5.2023

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

~Bobby McFerrin's Circle Song 10 years Aniversary
 

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I attended Bobby Mcferrin's Circlesong School 2023 at the end of July in San Francisco. 

Nearly 200 singers from all over the world gathered there this year. 

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It was held in the Nob Hill area of San Francisco. 

I walked up three hills and down every day while looking at cable cars. 

I was so surprised at the steep hills over there.

My home town, Nagasaki is known as the hill city though. 

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It was held in a very beautiful church, Grace Cathedral.

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The Interfaith AIDS Memorial Chapel occupies the main floor lobby of the singing tower.

The altarpiece entitled "The Life of Christ", the last work of Keith Haring completed just weeks before his own death from AIDS.

I felt the spirit, Grace Cathedral opens for all people, all religion, all race and sexuality. 

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Circle singing is an improvisation in which everyone forms a circle and improvises a chorus with repeated motifs for each part. 

Mr. Bobby Mcferrin, who received the lifetime achievement award of grammy this year started this beautiful artform.  

I heard that  the Circle Song was born here! 

It is not a particularly religious thing but was born from the free improvisation of singing in this wonderful acoustic setting.

 

The instructors were Bobby McFarrin, Rhiannon, Judy Viner, Joey Blake, and Dave Warm, who have sung with Bobby for many years.

Bobby's new group here recently, Destany Wolfe, Tammi Brown and Brian Dyer. 

The Circlesong students and new leaders, Christiane Karam from Lebanon, a master of odd time, Tiago a beat boxer from Portugal, Sofia with lovery soft solo also from Portugal, Maestro Juan from Colombia, Gussy from Haiti, who teaches music to children, they supported the workshop by their own specialties.

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I was looking for some pictures of my first circlesong workshop, I realized that this was the 10th year for me! 

It used to be held at Omega Institute, a beautiful retreat facility in upstate New York but since Bobby moved into the West Coast in the covid years,  the workshop has been held in the West Coast since last year. 

 

I still remember that I didn't know what was going on and what to do at the first time. 

I heard about the Monday Night Circlesong gathering in NYC, I started joining it almost every week. 

 

When we were in covid situation, we gathered with Zoom struggling with the delay of the sound but we were happy to sing together. 

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Bobby offered the microphone to anyone who wanted to sing on the very first day. I stepped forward and grabbed the microphone without hesitation and sang a solo. Bobby joined me and we could sing together. What a amazing moment!  I guess I was able to push myself to "GO!" because of the microphone battles at the midnight jam session at SMALLS, a jazz club in New York City. No wasted experience! 

Yes, I did well, I did my best! I sincerely praised myself.

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I couldn't do anything, I was way too shy and couldn't even talk to the teachers or the people around me but I wanted to show that I was a jazz singer and could do improvisation among more than 200 singers from all over the world at the first time. 

But after my 10th year, my feelings changed. Just opening my heart with joy of singing and creating a better world by singing and spreading the joy and gratitude of singing around the world.

It seems to be difficult to do Free improvisation and we don't know what to do at first, but it's totally free and just opening our hearts and letting it go.

Of course, there are many tips to make it more beautiful musically,  so we often learn by trial and error.

I think this kind of self opening game is necessary for Japanese people.  Because we tend to look down on ourselves by worrying about what other people think or comparing ourselves to others. I have been wanting to bring this game to Japan but I couldn't for long but there were 2 girls from Japan this year, I hope they will start something in Japan! 

 

What a surprise, there was a graduation ceremony this time!

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I left San Francisco with gratitude for all the sisters who trained me so hard on Monday Night and for all supportive friends who helped me for long. 

Thank you so much! I love you all ! 

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PS. There is a famous historical hotel, Fairmont San Francisco near the Grace Cathedral.

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There is a statue of Tony Bennet, the legendary master of Jazz vocal who passed away recently. 

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He sang ”I left my heart in San Francisco'  at the venetian Room of this hotel and it became a big hit! 

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Thank you, Mr. Tony Bennett for a lifetime of great singing!

ジャパンパレード イン ニューヨーク

6.10.2023

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

Japan Parade in New York

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Well everyone, how have you been spending your June? I heard that there were heavy rains in many parts of Japan this rainy season but I hope you stay dry and safe. Please enjoy the greenery of New York's Central Park to change your mood.

 

I would like to report on the Japan Parade that took place last month in New York City.

 

The Japan Parade was held on Saturday, May 12.

The parade started from my neighborhood, upper west side, went south down Central Park West to 67th Street. 98 groups and about 2,500 people participated in the parade.

 

The event used to be held in Central Park every year as Japan Day, became Japan Day Parade last year after Covid, and it was called Japan Parade this year.

 

Last year, Because I was afraid that no one would go to see the parade, I went to see the parade as a kind of the duty of a Japanese resident in the US but I was surprised by the huge audience. I heard that there were 30,000 people later.

 

And this year, it was on the news that there were 50,000 people. Even more amazing!

 

During the summer, almost every weekend in New York City, there are all kinds of parades and street fairs that close down the streets.

I have actually been in the downtown dance parade with a hula team a few years ago and there was nothing like the feeling of parading through the streets of Manhattan with an audience cheering you on along the way!

 

This year, the Japanese American athlete Christy Yamaguchi, the 1992 Winter Olympic gold medalist in women's figure at the 1992 Winter Olympics, who was chosen as the parade's grand marshal, started at the front of the parade, and was joined by New York City Mayor Adams, Ambassador Mori, the Japanese Consul General of New York, and the NYPD! 

 

I left home a bit late so I could see from ANA's float. Fresh greens of Central Park were dazzling!

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This is COBU, a Japanese Ladies taiko drumming team led by Ms. Yako Miyamoto, who used to perform in an off-Broadway percussion show called Stomp. It's been a while but they are the best!

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Kitty is on the parade! She is very popular among girls all over the world. 

My American friend asked me why the Japanese cat with the big face was so popular. A Cat with the big face? What was he talking about??? It took me a while to realize that he was talking about Kitty, and I remember I burst out laughing! Girls love kitty-chan for no reason, right?

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By the way, I was so lucky to see a portable shrine in New York!

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I was so surprised that Omikoshi was called a “portable shrine” in English, and I wish I could call it better English! Am I the only one who thinks so?

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This is the portable shrine of Samukawa Shrine. Everyone was taking pictures with it.

I prayed, gave my appreciation and respect to the deity carried from Japan. 

 

What a surprise, Salonpas was there too! Actually, this Salonpas box on the float was spinning around!

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Japan Airlines was also participating!

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There are not only large floats sponsored by corporations, but also various groups such as Japanese language clubs in colleges and Japanese Saturday schools, and many groups like this one. Here is a large origami crane from an origami team!

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There were many dance performances such as Hanagasa Ondo and Yosakoi, as well as many groups participating in kimonos.

There were also many people doing all kinds of Japanese martial arts such as karate, sword fighting, naginata, kendo, and so on. And of course, there are some Japanese people but I was so surprised that most of them were not Japanese.

 

Japanese traditional arts and martial arts are not only looking cool and fun to do, but they always start with spirituality and manners, and require Okeiko, we call it in Japanese, special practice rather than the word, practice.

It brought tears to my eyes that there were so many non-Japanese people who were learning such an unknown world with respect.

Since I usually play jazz in the U.S., I was even more moved to see non-Japanese people who are striving to master Japanese dance and martial arts that even I do not know.

Thank you so much to those who participated in the parade and those who came to watch the parade!

Thank you so much for loving our culture!

I have always thought that we Japanese are a minority in the U.S., but it was amazing to know that so many people are interested in Japan.

One of the great moments in my life.

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P.S.  Isn't it so fun to see these costumed people in the audience?

アメリカの首都ワシントンDCへお花見にGO!

4.10.2023

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

Let's go to Washington DC, the capital of the U.S.,
for cherry blossom viewing!

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I was surprised to hear for the first time that Hanami is a cultural practice for Japanese people to pray for a good harvest and happiness in the coming year.

 

Just as I was thinking about it, I got an email for a free jazz concert in Washington, D.C. to honor musicians who have contributed to jazz as masters, called the NEA Jazz Master.

I ordered a ticket immediately because It would be a great opportunity to see the performance of big names in the Jazz scene.

I have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years, but I have never actually seen the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. So I decided to go there this year! 

 

I took the Amtrak train from New York to DC this time because I found an unbeatable ticket price of $51 for an early morning departure from New York and an evening departure from Washington, D.C. 

I was surprised at the great deal. 

 

Amtrak also has express trains called Acela, I decided to take a regional train, which takes 3.5 hours one way, in order to save money.

By the way, the fare changes depending on availability and time of day.

Interesting, isn't it? (I thought about inviting my friend later, but I was surprised to find out that the one-way fare was over $200.)

 

The hotels were so expensive because it was cherry blossom season! But the transportation fee was cheap,  so I booked a hotel close to the concert venue, and the trip was ready to go without a hitch.

However, I was so busy in March that I was so tired that I didn't want to go anywhere! I jumped on the early morning Amtrak train at 6:00 a.m. 

It had been a long time since I had traveled on Amtrak before Corona, so the seats had been upgraded to fake leather and were very comfortable. 

While I almost passed out on the way, we arrived in Washington, DC.

 

Oh, no!  It was raining! I hadn't checked the weather forecast before I left this morning and didn't bring an umbrella! 

Actually I had checked the temperature a couple of days before, but there was no sign of rain!

I decided to leave my coat because it looked much warmer than New York City because it's 3.5 hours south! 

The forecast said it would stop in the afternoon, so I decided to walk to my first destination. 

It was raining harder and harder and I was soaked to the skin when I got there.

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My first stop was the National Gallery of Art, a 15-minute walk from the Union station.

Here is the Rotunda. 

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Andrew Mellon, a banker, was so impressed by the National Gallery of Art during his stay in London as ambassador to the United Kingdom that he dreamed to establish a museum with master pieces of arts in his home country of the United States,

He was an art collector personally and finally proposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to donate his collections and provide $10 million of his own money for the construction of a museum.

In 1937, Congress approved the offer, and it was finally realized!

All of the collections were donated or purchased with funds, not spoils of war, So Amazing! 

This museum is open to everyone, admission has been free since its opening!

 

The highlight of the National Gallery of Art is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the only one in the Americas.

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Portrait of Ginevra de Bench.

I am ashamed to say that when I saw this portrait more than 15 years ago without knowing anything about it, I only had the impression of a dark girl.

I was so touched by the sadness and the very delicate aspect to the painting this time. 

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On the back of this painting, it says that beauty adorns virtue. Ms. Ginevra had a secret crush on at the time,

It was a wedding present from the Florentine ambassador, a poet already had a wife and children, whom Ms. Ginevra was secretly attracted to at the time.

Ms. Ginevra, a bright and beautiful 16 year old, had to marry a much older man, who lost his first wife. 

Da Vinci may have even depicted the platonic relationship between the two of them, oh, how sad.

 

The Washington Gallery is also famous for owning Renaissance masterpieces outside of Italy.

Mr. Andrew Mellon purchased many of the art works of Hermitage Museum from the Soviet Union.

 

The beautiful coloring of the egg-based paints called tempera paints are from the mid-15th century.

Please go to see this beauty actually!

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The Adoration of the Magi by Filippo Lippi 

In the Impressionism room, a painting by Monet, famous for his water lilies, depicting his wife, the Woman in the White Parasol, is truly wonderful and enchanting.

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I could see her beauty and how much he loved his wife, Camille.

It must have been very hard for him to lose her so early.

He composed the same scene with his daughter later but after that, Monet stopped drawing people as the subject matter.

 

The work of Mary Cassatt, an American female painter who studied Impressionism painting in France, is also wonderful.

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Children Playing on the Beach

At that time, women were not allowed to go to art school or go out alone to paint, so her subjects naturally became children and mothers.

The works are warm and tender, and are depicted from a woman's unique point of view.

The curator's thoughtfulness is also wonderful, as the works are displayed in the same room as those of Degas, with whom she had a close relationship.

 

Because I couldn't find the three Vermeer works, I asked the museum staff where I could find them, but they told me that they were currently on loan to Amsterdam. 

That's too bad! I will see you next time!

To tell the truth,  I am not a bright art person. During pandemic of covid, I attended an online tour of the National Gallery,

I learned a lot about the stories behind the paintings and the highlights from a tour guide.

 

I was lucky that my dream of visiting the National Gallery again finally came true!

I was once again overwhelmed by the energy of the masterpieces.

 

Now that the weather has finally cleared up, let's go to the Tidal Basin where the cherry blossoms are blooming!

Here they are! This is the place I saw in pictures for a long time, Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and the cherry blossoms!

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Since it was the weekend, there were so many people, taking pictures and enjoying themselves in their own way.

I felt like I was completely enjoying myself.

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More amazing thing happened on the next day. 

I decided to go to the other side of the tidal basin, where I had not visited yesterday, so I rented a shared bike on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial and rode around randomly, and got completely lost.

It was a pity that the flowers were already past their prime, but the cherry trees, cherry trees, cherry trees!

I saw Washington National Airport on the other side of the river, so I worried I would go to Verginia state.  

Finally I searched for a map and found a place where I was.

I found out that I was biking southward through a delta-like area, so I circled the delta of the Potomac River.

But still, isn't it amazing that the rows of cherry blossom trees just keep going and going for about 40 minutes on a bicycle?

I don't have any pictures! Sorry!

 

Cherry blossoms in New York City are also very nice, but this place was really wonderful, I surrender to the scale!

 

I was able to see such a wonderful cherry blossom show this year, I am sure we all will have a great year, Thank you very much!

I recommend you to go to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, U.S.A!

 

***

Extra fun of this trip

I experienced many things for the first time this time.

 

(1) First time at the Kennedy Center!

I enjoyed jazz at this comprehensive cultural facility consisting of five concert halls with a total capacity of 7,000 people.

I enjoyed the performance while imagining myself singing on stage here. (Lol)

 

Congratulations to Kenny Garrett, Regina Carter, Sue Mingus(her granddaughter) , and Louis Haynes, this year's NEA Jazz Master winners!

(2) Eat a really delicious crab cake in DC.

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This area is famous for its crab cakes, which are hardened crab meat that is baked or made into croquettes.

I googled ”the best crab cakes in DC”, and found this restaurant. 

Blue Duck tavern is a restaurant in the Park Hyatt Washington hotel. It was so tasty and I was so satisfied!

(3) My first panda experience in my life.

I woke up in the morning and decided to go see pandas at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. I had never been to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo Japan, so this was my first live panda experience!

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It was a chilly day,  Panda immediately went back indoors.

I was glad that admission was free here, too! I was surprised at the scale of the zoo on a single mountain, where you can spend a whole day.

 

(4) Cheers at the bar of a Luxury hotel!

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I went to see the Trump Hotel, a converted National Post Office, when it first opened and it was a lovely hotel.

However, since the owner was the guy, I could not say out loud that it was nice to those around me in New York, a state that supports the Democratic Party,

The hotel was changed to the Waldorf Astoria this time, so I stopped by before going back to NYC, to enjoy a glass of rosé wine called "Whispering Angel," which was so delicious! 

Great Satisfaction!

ニューヨークよりハッピーバレンタインズデイ!

2.8.2023

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

Happy Valentines Day from New York!

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How are you all? 

It was extremely cold during the Christmas season last year but so far we enjoy a mild winter this year. 

When it comes to February, Yes, Valentine's Day! 

In the U.S., it is the opposite of Japan, men send candy and flowers to women.

Here, "candy" means sweet treats including candies and chocolates, but I'm getting to find more fancy chocolates for Valentine's Day recently. 

Japanese girls without a partner in the U.S., especially in this season, know how boys feel so blue without getting any chocolates from girls in Japan. It's true! 

When I see some guys with flowers or a big stuffed animal on the subway, I always praise them in my heart. It's my favorite heartwarming moment.  

When I saw the couples so in love, I said to myself, "Yes, my turn would come soon! " 

Even if you are alone now, Don't Worry, you are sure to meet someone wonderful who is waiting for you! 

 

I started noticing some decorations for Valentine's day all around,  Let me introduce some pictures I took! 

I found this heart graffiti by chance,  It is the work of HEKTAD, a Graffiti artist from the Bronx, New York, so Cool! 

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The window display at Saks Fifth Avenue, an upscale department store, Yes, very stylish!

Americans love m&m's very much! The Love shaped clear cases are filled with red, white, and pink marble chocolates.

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CVS pharmacy sells not only candy, but also stuffed animals like this!

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Marie Belle is a famous high end chocolate shop in SOHO. So Lovely display!

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This is a public artwork that suddenly appeared in Times Square on February 1.

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 "Love's h|Edge”,  by Almost Studio, This year's winner of the Valentine Heart Design Competition sponsored by Times Square Art.

You can take pictures with this artificial arty hedge all through the month of February!

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Do you know this famous jazz song "My Funny Valentine"?

Actually, I have never wanted to sing this song but I will have a showcase near Valentine's day, so I decided to work on it.

Here is Atsuko4Jazz's translation of "My Funny Valentine"!

 

My Funny Valentine, Sweet comic Valentine

You make me smile with my heart

Your looks are laughable, un-photographable

Yet, you're my favorite work of art

 

Is your figure less than Greek?

Is your mouth, a little weak?

When you open it to speak, are you smart?

 

But don't change a hair for me,

Not if you care for me

Stay little Valentine, Stay! 

Each day is Valentine's day!

 

It looks like a terrible song at a glance but I feel the lyrics are full of so much love.

 

And here's my favorite "My Funny Valentine" . 

I chose 2 clips which were sung by so cool guys. 

The recording by Chet Baker in his younger days is very touching but sad.

Chris Botti, a popular trumpet player, invited a superstar Sting to his stage. 

Sting sang this song to his wife. This is so awesome and looks like a one scene in the movie.

I'm sure this performance would melt ladies' hearts.

Someone told me that February is a month full of love, especially this year.

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Happy Holidays!

12.15.2022

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

Happy Holidays!

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Happy Holidays, everyone!

How are you doing during the holiday season?

 

The holiday season has begun in New York City since Thanksgiving in November.

The greeting that is exchanged during this season is "Happy Holidays!

Since New York is home to the United Nations, there are people from at least 196 different countries living here.

It is normal to have different nationalities, ethnicities, religions, languages, and customs.

Because they are so different, it is normal for them to be different, and they get along well while respecting each other here in New York.

 

In December, there are many festivals such as Hanukkah for Jewish people, Kwanzaa for African American people, and Christmas for Christian people.

Therefore, the greeting exchanged at this time of year is "Happy Holidays!

This is a greeting that respects each other's religion, ethnicity, and customs, and is very cool!

 

And in December, we must not forget the anniversary of John Lennon's death, December 8.

Strawberry Fields was created by Yoko Ono and the City of New York to keep the legacy ”World Peace” of John Lennon, who was killed by a fan's bullet in front of his home, the Dakota House, in 1980, alive for future generations.

I went there for the first time on this day finally because I heard his enthusiastic fans gathered to sing and pray the entire day

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The mosaic is a place for people to reaffirm the transience and preciousness of life, to be thankful for being alive here and now, and to pray for world peace.

At the mosaic of Imagine, people are constantly taking turns to take commemorative photos.

 

As expected, today it is crowded during the day, and everyone is singing along to one Beatles song after another.

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This year in particular, the world was shocked to learn that wars do happen, and we were shocked to learn that a former prime minister was killed by a bullet in Japan, a country we had believed to be at peace.

I hope that all people on earth will regain peace of mind and be able to spend time with their loved ones.

 

In New York City, Christmas tree vendors line on the streets after Thanksgiving.

New Yorkers are still love live trees, and when you walk by them, you can smell the delicious aroma of the trees, which makes you feel relaxed and relaxed.

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At first I thought, what? Just for one winter? How pitiful! But after New Year's, the trees are properly collected and recycled. The larger trees are used as building materials, and the smaller ones are turned into chips and placed at the base of trees in the park to protect them from the cold.

Since the tree was born and raised as a Christmas tree, it should be appreciated by as many people as possible for its beauty and good smell,  protect the presents placed under it until Christmas, and after fulfilling its role, it should return to the soil or take on another form in the next location. I think this is the cycle of life, or perhaps it is a way to cherish life. I hope all of them go to good homes as soon as possible!

 

Speaking of New York City at this time of year, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a must-see.

This year, the lighting ceremony was recently held on November 30, and I went to see it as soon as I could.

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As expected, I was shocked by the huge crowd, but the closer I got, the more I could only say, "Oh, it's so beautiful! 

It is truly amazing, and I think it is the best tree in the world, even though I go every year.

Please come and see the actual tree sometime during this season.

By the way, this tree will be up until New Year's, so there is no need to panic.

Everyone here is in a holiday mood until January 1, and the next day, the world is surprisingly normal.

And the next day, the world will start moving in a surprisingly normal way.

Well, since we have been in the holiday mood since the latter half of November, it's a new year and we should get back to the normal mode! I guess that's what it feels like to be back to normal mode.

 

Finally, I would like to share with you a song, The Christmas Song ~ Chestnuts roasting on an open fire!

 

I love this song so much that I would sing it all year round if I were allowed to.

On a hot, hot day in the middle of summer, Robert was at home writing a few lines of a poem he had written about a winter scene, when Mr. Meltme appeared on the scene.

They decided to experiment to make it a little cooler, and wrote the song in about 40 minutes.

Isn't it amazing that this masterpiece was written in such a short time, and in the middle of summer!

 

The duet by Mr. Mel Torme and Ms. Judy Garland will give you a good old-fashioned American Christmas feeling!

 

And Mr. Nat King Cole sings beautifully too!

 

And as an added bonus, here is my performance taken alone when I was unable to perform with the musicians during Covid.

Please have a wonderful holiday season and a fabulous 2023!

I'm celebrating for you from New York City!

 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! 

オータム・イン・ニューヨーク

11.7.2022

DAYS / Atsuko4Jazz Column

Chasing the Muse  ~A Jazz Singer's Newsletter from New York

Autumn in New York

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Greetings, I am Atsuko, a jazz singer from New York City.

Muse is the Greek word for the goddesses of music and the arts.

I came to New York in 2000 with only a dream to study in the home of jazz.

My life in New York has been full of ups and downs, but I still feel super lucky to be able to continue to live in this city.

 

November is also my birthday month, and it is the most wonderful time of the year in New York, so I feel very happy.

This year, the leaves seem to be changing colors earlier than last year, probably because we had a period of cold weather in October when the heaters were turned on.

 

The trees in Central Park are changing colors, and when I walk around the city in the dazzling autumn light, I feel as if I am in a movie.

I feel as if I am in a movie. (It's true!)

 

I recommend "When Harry met Sally" as a movie that reminds me of autumn in New York City.

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It's a very old romantic comedy with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, and the music director is jazz singer and pianist Harry Connick, Jr.

When I was a young girl, I saw this movie and was enchanted with the idea of going to New York City! I was so moved by this movie at that time.

Incidentally, my singing teacher, Marion Cowings, taught Harry to sing like himself when he had just he moved into New York from his hometown New Orleans. He had been singing with a gravelly voice like Louis Armstrong until then.

I believe this is what led to his success as a singer and the Grammy award.

I will tell this story another time.

 

One of the jazz standards is called Autumn New York.

This song was written by Vernon Duke, he was a student of George Gershwin who established the foundation of American music by incorporating both popular jazz music and classical music.

Vernon Duke wrote this song in 1934.

It is hard to believe that this song was written 90 years ago.

This must be the energy of a song that has been called a standard and loved for many years.

 

Today, as a greeting, I would like to share with you some of the lyrics of Autumn in New York.

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Autumn in New York

 

 Autumn in New York, why does it seem so inviting

 Autumn in New York, It spells the thrill of first nighting.

 Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds and Canyons of Steel 

 They're making me feel, I'm home.

 

 It's Autumn in New York that brings a promise of new love

 Autumn in New York, Is often mingled with pain

 Dreamers with empty hands may sigh for exotic lands

 It's Autumn in New York, It's good to live it again

 

 

This is a super translation of Atsuko4Jazz's own words, so please forgive me if there are some controversies.

It is only this year, after living here for many years, that I finally felt the urge to face this song and sing it.

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If you are interested in hearing Autumn in New York, my recommendation right now is these people

Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Krall, three great divas.

Check them out if you are interested.

I actually didn't like Billie's singing much because it was too deep, but I thought this was sincerely wonderful.

Ella and Louis Armstrong are a perfect balance.

Diana Krall has a really deep and engaging voice.

It's interesting to compare the same song with each of their distinct personalities.
 

It would be great if you get in the Autumn mood in New York a bit.

Please come visit us sometime! 

Have a great November!