Winter in Austria

The Road Comes To An End

Two days left. Two shows - and then the "Christmas In July" Tour 2011 is over.
The world has moved on while I am suspended in tour bubble land. Catastrophes have happened, world leaders have died. Who knows what the future - or even tomorrow - brings. I do not have power over the big things, at least not in an imminent way.

All I can do is take note of the world, be compassionate and involved (mentally, spiritually, possibly monetarily - budget allowing), take a breath and prepare for my next gig. It's what I do.

So tonight we'll play a place called "Herzblut" in Bocholt. The name translates to "blood of the heart", and apparently the owner has already bought 50 santa hats to enhance the audience's Christmas cheer. Yodwy! Maybe I'll put one on as well, if the fancy strikes me.

And tomorrow - ah, tomorrow! We'll end the tour in Berlin at B-Flat, after a long drive through the forecast rain (thankfully - it could have been snow!!!). I'm looking forward to seeing friends I don't get to hang with nearly often enough, to playing this fun fun program one more time with this really excellent band, and to a glass of prosecco with my friend and vocalist colleague Alexa Rodrian.

A shout-out to the touring band is in order here:
A (slightly pre-mature) thank-you to Axel Fischbacher and Walter Fischbacher, my two partners in this particularly devious recording/touring scheme.
To Nico Brandenburg on bass, and to Ulf Stricker on drums!
Let's make the last two shows as fun and musically fulfilling as the 10 that went before.

Happy holidays! Peace, love and good fortune in the upcoming year!

The Tour Bubble

It's a strange mental state, being on tour. Although social media are everywhere these days, and you can pretty much find a cafe in any town that has the coveted free wifi, my mind can't take in what happens outside the daily touring routine. I'm not sure if other musicians feel the same way, but for me, every minute of every day rotates around the current and next gig. Scheduling prep time, gargling, steaming, when to drink my last coffee, driving, setting up, warming up, make-up. When to eat - a difficult decision for a vocalist. As a band leader I also need to make sure that my band members are fed, have a place to sleep and are generally taken care of.

This tour is somewhat different, as I am not the sole leader of the band. There's actually three of us, and luckily we complement each other quite nicely. This takes quite a lot of weight off my shoulders. Still - there's really no room in my head for socializing. I can only imagine what the outside perception of a person would be who is trying to have a conversation with me during this time. Can't be fulfilling. I'm generally sporting a vague smile, while mentally and physically either recovering from the last or prepping for the upcoming show.

So please forgive me if I'm not my usual, fluffy self, when I'm on the road. I'm really not present. I'm in the tour bubble. Until the last gig is done and I finally get my well deserved drink. You can talk to me then, and I swear, I'll actually listen.

Hotel Stadtpark

It's cold and damp outside. We arrived in Duesseldorf at 6am to a city that, to all intents and purposes, was still asleep. Except for all the pesky early birds flapping around at the airport. How do they manage to look THAT crisp and chirpy at THAT hour? No surliness, no moodiness, no whaddayawant attitude. Just polite questions at the coffee stand as to my early needs, civilized transactions, fast, good natured nattering in German.

Then the cold wind at the train station. Now that reminds me of an early morning at the Munich Bahnhof. Yes, it's cold here. And yes, I am a wuss. Walter and I are staying at the Hotel Stadtpark which we reached at 9am after a brisk S-Bahn ride. We immediately got our room - no hanging around in the lounge until 3pm (that other hotel in Prague). And we went swimming and sauna-ing in the hotel pool and spa. Man, that felt nice!

Today was rehearsal and press conference day. Both went well, I think. Met the bass player, Nico Brandenburg, another tall, very nice German. I will look like a shrunken version of myself on stage next to these teutons, but heck. At least they can shlep the heavy equipment! Tomorrow we will make the long trek to Vienna, Austria, where the tour will officially start at the Tunnel (show is on Thursday at 9pm).

I did want to upload some rehearsal pics, but the vodafone usb internet thingy is somewhat capricious and might rob me of my connection. There will be more news, and hopefully more pics, down the road.

Until then, much love in all directions!

Christmas In July Tour

The preparations are in full swing. I've been shedding the repertoire like a mother!@#%$% but can't remember the Swedish lyrics to save my life. As usual, I am looking forward to the tour and am, at the same time, completely and utterly mortified - you know, a vocalist.

On Friday we'll have our CD release bash at Lofish Studios. Ulf Stricker, the drummer, has hopped across the ocean to play the show, Johannes Weidenmueller will join us on bass. And then it's packing, tying up loose ends (making sure the studio is in good hands, everybody gets paid, the New School students get closure from the trauma of their last Ear Training class - kudos for fabulous compositions by the way!!!, giving my private students something to practice for the next month etc...).

Then on to the tour. 12 shows for 12 songs, or maybe 13, since I have now written a Christmas song that might make its way into the set. Christmas in Austria with the family for the first time in - I don't care to remember.

And in January, first thing: The New Year's Jazz Voice Workshop in Hilden, Germany!
Ah - yes. Must prepare for that as well...

Tour Itinerary:
12/8/11: Tunnel, Vienna/A
12/9/11: Beim Beppi, Marchegg/A
12/10/11: Musikschule St. Georgen i. A./A
12/11/11: Musikschule Pregarten/A
12/12/11: ORG der Schulschwestern, Vöcklabruck/A
12/13/11: Baumann Glas, Baumgartenberg/A
12/15/11: Jazzkeller Krefeld/D
12/16/11: Capjojazz Hilden/D
12/17/11: Destille Düsseldorf/D
12/20/11: Wiedthalgymnasium, Neustadt bei Wied/D
12/21/11: Herzblut Bocholt/D
12/22/11: B-Flat Berlin/D

A Transatlantic Radio Interview

Technology - the enabler of communication across oceans, has made it possible for myself and Walter Fischbacher to do a radio interview with Volkmar Theil for Freies Radio Salzkammergut in Austria - via skype. The interview, interwoven with music from our respective bodies of work, will air on December 8th, the start of our "Christmas In July" tour, at 9pm. If you would like to tune in (and are in the Salzkammergut region of Upper Austria at that time), the hour-long show will air at 9pm. You can also listen to it streaming on the radio station's website at once it is posted there.

In this interview you will get answers to burning questions such as what possessed us to make a Christmas album, why I made an album with the title "Songs Of Love And Destruction" and - gasp - what meaning does the Christmas holiday really have for myself and Walter. And of course the ultimate question: Will we stay in New York like FOREVER or are we planning on moving back to the old country anytime soon? (Ask me again after the next election...)
Visit for our tour itinerary.

Christmas In July Out Today!

Isn't it a fun co-incidence that I have a duo show with Walter Fischbacher on the day our collaborative effort of a Christmas CD is released to the world? Although our duo show tonight has absolutely nothing to do with the repertoire on "Christmas In July", it's thrilling that we're giving it a sweet, intimate, energetic send-off. (In case you want to know: Tonight at 7pm at Somethin Jazz)

The bigger send-off will happen on December 2nd at Lofish Studios, with a live show at 8:30pm and a party surrounding the CD launch.

"Christmas In July" is available at,,, and
Pick up a dozen to stuff some stockings!
Here's a link to our first review:

My Studio On Tin Pan Alley

I think I've mentioned this before but - you know - I own a recording studio. On 28th Street. In New York City. 28th and Broadway, for the uninitiated, is Tin Pan Alley "the name given to the collection of New York City music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century." according to wikipedia. The name originally referred to a specific place: West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, and a plaque on the sidewalk on 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth commemorates it. Although I think, lately that plaque has been covered up by a garbage can.

The building that houses my - ok - OUR studio (I own it with my partner in life, crime and other endeavors, Walter Fischbacher) is one of the last ones standing from a by-gone era of grime, dirt and lead paint. Many a client has felt the chill of the rumored ghosts that haunt this building, and there have been two ghost sightings to my knowledge. So the place is perfect to get the creative juices flowing, and we haven't had rats in the building in years.

Gentrification is gnawing away at the edges of our block, and already the building at the corner is being gutted and re-imagined as a swanky hotel, and the developers are huffing and puffing their way towards buying out everything in sight, but so far our place holds. For how long - we don't know.

But for now we work hard at expanding our wall of fame with CDs by artists who have recorded, mixed or mastered here. Maybe, if we're really, really lucky, we'll cover the entire green room this way.

The Silent Suffering Of A Tourbus

Somebody had drilled a hole in the tank and siphoned the gas out of it overnight. Walter found himself underneath the van, gluing the hole shut with epoxy in the hope that it would hold for the rest of the tour. That was last night.

Before that our car had been broken into on numerous occasions, with glass panes shattered, all locks except for one ruined by amateurs and a bloody attempt at getting the radio out of its slot without the front panel attached. If the thief had only thought to look under the seat for a tool case, we would have been spared all the blood on the seats from the cuts on his hands.

We've had to drive from Teplice to Cologne (a ten hour drive) in torrential rains with only a piece of cardboard to cover the shattered pane, and during our last tour in the spring our bus got towed - luckily at the end of the tour, but still - in a country whose language I don't speak and whose customs as far as the towing of vehicles are concerned I am not familiar with. And it was Sunday. The bus got scratched in the process, but we got it back without too much fuss thanks to the club owner's help.

We depend on that car to get us from A to B to Z with all our equipment, without a fuss and, most importantly, on time. When you're messing with our bus you're messing with our tour schedule. So - you know - stop messing with our bus, people! Go break into some muscle car or something. You might find more stuff to filch from there than from the always cleared out inside of a jazz musician's touring vehicle.

Look To This Day

This is taped to the wall above my desk. It is an ancient poem by Indian poet Kalidasa. May it inspire you, help you through your moments of darkness and allow you to appreciate the gifts of today.

Look to this day
for it is life
the very life of life.

In its brief course lie all
the realities and truths of existence
the joy of growth
the splendor of action
the glory of power.

For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived
makes every yesterday a memory
of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day....

Pumpkin Chunkin

Well - who knew!
As the ignorant foreigner that I am what I envisioned when my friend told me we were going to a Pumpkin Chunkin thing in upstate New York was somehow a contest with people actually and physically - as in with their bare hands - hurling pumpkins across a field. And the winner would get -oh, I don't know, the biggest pumpkin of the lot and the highly coveted Pumpkin Chunker of the Year Award.

Instead I was confronted with this huge contraption that flew the American flag and, incongruously, a pirate flag at the end of its long tube. It's called an air cannon. Ah, yes, of course. And, weirdly, when the pumpkin was hurled into the air at a speed that made it almost invisible to the naked eye, I cheered at the sheer force of that cannon, and at the ridiculousness of it all, with the glee of a child watching fireworks.
Pumpkin Chunkin Air Cannons

The Independent Artist - Part 2

One-hundred-and-twenty-one mailers. Each one of them containing a copy of my latest baby - "Christmas In July". Sent out to press people all over the country. Hand-stuffed by yours truly, with a press release wrapped around them and extra postage stickered on the envelope, because quoted me the wrong fee.

In a couple of weeks I'll start in on the radio promotion - another three-hundred envelopes to stuff - hoping that my promo copies won't outsell me on amazon and ebay this time around (the cover boasts the "promotional copy - not for sale" warning. so watch out, people who illegally sell promo copies online for 99 cents: it's really bad karma to do that!).

And then - off to the strange bubble that is touring. In the winter. In Austria and Germany. Oh the snow, the autobahn, the Verlängerter (espresso with milk), the shows and the audiences. Looking forward. It´s going to be a good one :)

"Christmas In July"

My new CD "Christmas In July" - THE CHRISTMAS ALBUM is mastered. The graphics are done, and promotional copies are being manufactured in a mystical land called New Jersey, as I write this. The drop date has been set - somewhat randomly I admit, at November 15th, at which date, if the stars disperse their beneficial light in just the right angle, the real thing will have been printed up and shipped to me from my label in Germany. (oh, that rhymes!!!)

And thus the promotion cycle begins. My bank account yawns blearily at me, as I try to extract another nickel from its dark recesses, and the evil credit card man is waiting around the corner with his long sharp knife, ready to extract tribute for the debt I might have to incur in order to give this little baby a chance in the harsh, big world out there. But wait - check incoming! Phew! So I whisper my incantation to the credit card man, and he dissolves into a poisonous puddle of quicksilver, while my bank account sighs a short lived sigh of relief and burps a small, green, bubble.

Yes, I am now on the dark side of the moon, having just wandered through the creative process of making an album. This phase is a whole lot less fun but, as stated above, necessary. And while I hunker down here in the dark and wait for the light of creativity to shine its rainbow colors on my sun-starved skin yet again, a part of my brain is already plotting and scheming as to what I might do next. And the part of my mind that is responsible for perseverance keeps chanting "abundance abundance abundance" into my inner ear - which is, admittedly, somewhat annoying but probably unavoidable.

The moon will keep turning and soon, so soon, I will yet again burst into the light on the other side. But in the meantime I shall promote "Christmas In July" and allow whatever crazy, lurking ideas to gestate in the dark, so that they may burst forth, when their time comes.

The Independent Artist

When I was little, maybe about 6 years old, I had this dream of becoming a vocalist. In fact, I can't remember not wanting to be a vocalist. The jazz bit was a later development. But I digress...
So. I was 6 years old and had these grand ideas of having a label (well, maybe awareness of labels came a few years later), making albums, touring, performing on TV, having a manager. You know, fairy tale land of a 6-year-old.

Flash forward to the latter half of 2011.
Reality check:
I make albums.
I go on tour.
I have performed on TV. And live radio.

I produce/fund said albums.
I book most of my gigs myself.
I am my own graphic designer. Too bad I can't take my own photos...
I fund/enable my own promotion.
I'm also - to some extent - my own mixing engineer.
Heck - I even own a bloody recording studio.
And I teach.
And write.
And practice.
You know. Musician things...

So, I guess, all that's missing, really, is my own venue (lord help me!).

But I am not alone in this. Here's a shout-out to all my singer/musician/writer friends, who stand with me, in the trenches, every day. This is what we chose to do. It's so much harder than I ever thought, especially as a 6-year-old. And yes, it's true. Nobody is holding a gun to my head, forcing me to struggle on. But every time I am ready to just lay down, give up and let the powers that be roll over me I think about what I would rather do. The answer to that question so far has always been - nothing. I sing. I write. I tour. I create. It's who I am. It's who we are. I am honored to continue putting one foot in front of the other with my fellow artists. To add my color to the weave of this life, come rain or shine, warts and all.

Road Warrior Part 2

My first bike was purple. I had it for all but three weeks, before it got "picked up" right outside the New School, where I was studying at the time.

Bike number two was black. This one I had for a bit longer, until one rainy afternoon, when I decided to leave it chained to the lamppost outside my apartment overnight, so as not to carry all the dirt into the kitchen.

Bike number three was a glorious and in hindsight, stupendously silly, bright, attention-hogging sky blue. This one got stolen twice. Sort of. The first time I left it chained to an iron-wrought fence in Chelsea on a Sunday afternoon. Two hours later I came back to find it devoid of its wheels. Poor baby had to be re-wheeled, re-tubed and re-tired. I think I had it for roughly another year after that. Happy times. Until it got whisked away from right under my nose. I had it chained to a handle mounted on the wall outside my recording studio. On the third floor. Some nifty bugger actually went through the trouble of removing the handle in order to take my beautiful ray-of-sunshine bike.

I went off colors after that and opted for a sturdy black beast, hybrid with bits of shiny lettering that I proceeded to cover with duct tape. I still have this one. It has served me well for ten years, but I will very soon donate it to the streets of New York City, once it's clear that my brandnew, beautiful bike, is here to stay. I have secured the quick-release back wheel with a hose clamp and acquired a roll of hockey tape to camouflage the bike's shininess, squirreling away any treacherous stickers that would advertise it to the highly organized crime ring of NYC bike thieves as a "steal".

It rides smoothly, the gear shifts actually work, and the tires are only a sexy inch and a half wide. On to the avoidance of knee-deep potholes, unexpected cab doors and oblivious pedestrians. On to the next ten years of riding my bike in New York City.

Writing is a fickle thing

I have yet to write about 9/11. Or maybe I don't. Fact of the matter is, that, as it's 10th anniversary rolls around, my creative juices have been absolutely, completely mumm on the subject. I remember friends, who poured their pain and heartache into devastating pieces of music and poetry, who wrote eloquently, succinctly and with great humanity about what that day meant to them. But I simply had nothing to say. I was voiceless. Still am, in fact.

Then again, it took me twenty years to write about my father's death and thirty to put my mother's heartbreak into words, and even then the lyrics came out in Spanish. Go figure. So, I guess, I am a bit of a slow cooker, when it comes to soul wrenching trauma. I'm OK with that. Can't change it anyway. Maybe, eventually, I will write about that day ten years ago. Maybe by 2030 I will be ready.

In the meantime life happens, love waxes and wanes, ideas float around, just outside the realm of the concrete, waiting to be acknowledged and realized. So yeah, I'm pretty busy, plus I've got about, oh, twenty more years, before my song/poem/story/one-act play about 9/11 decides to pour itself onto a piece of paper. Or maybe this will indeed be one of those life experiences that I will never write about at all. And if that is the case, then so be it.

Electricity To Burn?

I was drenched in sweat, laboring away at the Eliptical at my gym last night, while at the same time, via the local news, bearing witness to the awful flooding in the TriState area, courtesy of x amount of inches of rain brought on by Irene. Main streets and side streets equally inundated with water that had nowhere to go, and power turned off as a consequence. Or, elsewhere, in parts of Long Island, simply no power, period.

After my hour of cardio on an electricity-powered machine - one of about, oh, twenty - I descended into the locker room, where I was jumped by a wall of noise caused by two flatscreen TVs blaring at full volume and second rate hiphop, pumped through the gym-wide sound system. And then the sheer wastefulness of this - apparently completely normal - way of doing things without regard for the consequences hit me. I know, I know. Small peanuts. A couple of TVs and a sound system - so what? But do they really have to be on AT THE SAME TIME? SET TO DIFFERENT CHANNELS? And I know that my wimpy efforts at conserving energy in Manhattan will very likely not help anybody in New Jersey get their power back. But it shaves a sliver off of my guilt at living in such overflowing abundance, when, just across the river, whole towns are left in the dark for yet anther night.

Can't talk, am busy obsessing about my Beethoven wrath wrinkle

Age-defying creams, make-up, injections, chemical peels, laser treatments infra-red light exposure and on and on and on...
What is so terrible about looking one's age? Why the obsession with "defying" the aging process? I've got news for you: you can't.
But we get so inundated - or more bombarded with messages to the contrary (Buy this, use that, inject that) that we are wholly and thoroughly distracted from the things that give meaning to our lives. Maybe I'm just speaking for myself here. But I for one feel that I simply don't have the time or head space to dedicate myself to a sisyphusian uphill-battle that would only pull me away from the more important, urgent, business of creating. There. I now have created a blog obsessing about the very thing I pledged not to obsess about. I am stopping now. Nuf said.

The Christmas CD is in the CAN!

Me and my new best friend: the Gefell M 990 mic.

Yes, it's done. At least the recording part. Now comes the usual, mixing, mastering, what should we call this thing, and whose CD is it anyway? Oh, and let's not forget the COVER! Moody dark ECM landscape? Me in a risque outfit with a santa hat? A frog wearing a santa hat in an alien landscape, with three spaceships in the background and stonehenge to the left, with a speech bubble saying, "Kiss me, I'm Santa"?
Ah, the possibilities are endless.

Be sure to check back for the end result. Maybe we'll just call it "The Green Album".

Into the Studio!!!

The German contingent has arrived from Duesseldorf, and several smaller and one extended rehearsal later we find ourselves on the eve of recording our very first Christmas album. 9 languages, three arrangers, 12 tunes - it's thrilling to go into the studio with these guys tomorrow. The fabulous Johannes Weidenmueller will join us for the recording date.
It is going to kick butt! It is going to be epic! And it's all going down at Lofish!!

Elisabeth Lohninger, voice
Walter Fischbacher, piano
Axel Fischbacher, guitar (not related, btw)
Johannes Weidenmueller, bass
Ulf Stricker, drums

Breathe Promise, Breathe Hope

I found a rock, and I sat on it, its ridged surface without comfort, without a handhold. The ocean's foamy edge gushed over the rocky lip, a definitive demarcation line:
this far, and no further.
One breath.
In - out.
And another.
And another after that.

Like a rung on a ladder, each breath held the promise of an end.
An end to the pain.
To the roiling turmoil so vividly acted out by the surrounding scenery.
Each promise kindled the fledgling seed of hope, delivering a fresh supply of air to a spark threatened by the all-consuming darkness.
Hope was not lost that day. The spark flickered alive once more, to carry me through the night, so that I would witness, again, the miraculous break of dawn.

Singing and Language

Ah - the cursed twang! It goes against everything I have grown up with, as far as the dulcet sounds of my native Austrian tongue go. The German dialect I grew up speaking is shaped in round, dark vowels, interspersed with half swallowed consonants that get dragged even further down my gullet by a low, low tongue. As far as singing German opera goes, the language is stupendously suitable. However, don't ever try to sing anything but that! Unless, of course, you are willing to sprint so far outside of your comfort zone that every vowel and consonant feels as unfamiliar to you as the third star to the left on the belt of Orion, and you have to start from scratch, reassembling the shards of old habits into something bendy and malleable.

Now - American English, with all it's chewing gum cowboy inflections and, topographically not quite as far outside of New York, Long Island "twang", has a definite advantage, when it comes to stepping outside the somber, dramatic opera of Central Europe. Of course there are vocal technique issues with American English speakers. They are just a different set from mine. But the linguistic divide that comes into play when working on vocal technique that allows you to be a versatile, modern vocalist, is, at least, notable.

With my own students, I find it interesting that, in essence, every single Japanese singer I've worked with, shares some of the same issues (that blasted "ue" sound that doesn't want to open up), as does ever French and, yes, American one. Of course each student has his or her own set of obstacles to deal with, but some generalizations definitely do apply.

And thus, my friends, I shall continue to hoist the dorsal part of my tongue up and stubbornly continue in my quest for the elusive twang. In the end, no matter what our mother tongue may be, our goal as vocalists is the right distribution of effort, so that we can get out of our way and start expressing what's already there.

A Day At The Beach

Brighton Beach ain't the Carribean, but it's close enough. At least for this New Yorker stranded in the Northern Hemisphere and too far away from the turquoise waters of Isla Mujeres.
There was a leathery specter on the patch of blanket a few staked claims over, who was way beyond skin cancer concerns. The police rifled through the lay-abouts and plucked the recreational pot users from the masses but ignored the surreptitiously stored open containers and the paper bag-less bottles of cold Corona.
Sunburns blossomed with abandon, cooled by the occasional dip in the murky waters of the Atlantic. The orange life guard liberally perused his whistle but refrained from cutting through the waves with the help of his dorky and equally orange float.
Fun was had.
Pizza was eaten.
The beach promised, beckoned and delivered.
And the Q train, predictably, was full enough for me to enjoy my ride standing up all the way to Union Square.

Christmas in June

For the last few days I've been sitting in my cave, sorting through and transcribing Christmas songs. And it is WEIRD! At a time when the sun is working hard to bring the pavement to a boil, electricity bills shoot to a place where the sky's the limit and beaches beckon with a promise of unrelenting r&r, I am holed up with my trusty youtube listening to "Jingle Bells" in Japanese. And some tune in Danish. And Swedish. In the end this vastly disparate collection of tunes will hopefully gel into some sort of "Gesamtkunstwerk" that we'll unleash on unsuspecting audiences come Christmas. But for now I am resisting the pull of "Petit Papa Noel" and "Vom Himmel hoch ihr Englein kommt". Such is the nature of the business though. You want to tour with a Christmas project containing songs from all over the world on the topic? Put your nose to the grindstone, wade through the molasses of gooey fare and find the nugget that will, 6 months from now, express a precious aspect of a holiday that, at this very moment, you really couldn't care less about.

The Ghost of a Driver

What goes through the mind of a guy who drives 90 miles an hour on the highway in the wrong direction? "Why is everybody insane?!?"
The guy in question slammed his pedal to the metal in a sports car on the road to Prague. When the police finally caught up with him, he had managed to cause seven accidents, miraculously none of them with severe casualties. Apparently he was completely high on something or other.
I was not there to witness this. My husband was. Him and his bus load of musicians happened to have just pulled back into the right lane, when the maniac sped past them.
My husband was on the wheel.
There is absolutely nothing funny about this, but Walter managed to find the upside to the situation in his second e-mail after the fact. He claims that, statistically, he is exceedingly unlikely to encounter a ghost driver for the next twenty years.
Phew, I feel loads better now.

Kitano - the aftermath!!!

Photo: Sabine Heubusch
(Bruce Barth, EL, Evan Gregor, Joel Frahm, Jordan Perlson)

I had decided to cab it to the gig. BAD BAD choice. It was Wednesday early evening at 7:15pm. Fifth Avenue...forgetaboutit. So I legged it to Kitano, which was, admittedly, not horrifyingly far, but still, I was wearing heels and dragging my suitcase with all my sound equipment, because, quite frankly, I have gotten VERY VERY picky about my sound lately and tend to lug around supplemental equipment all over town. Got a nice, punchy and very small Mackie monitor, some reverb and a wee compressor, all of which I use as needed.
In the end, just as my pinkie toes were already threatening to secede from my feet, I finally huffed into the elevator that carried my sweaty self up to the Jazz lounge. And everybody was already there! And I mean EVERYBODY! The audience, the band...mymymy.
So I set up my signal chain (rush rush because it was getting late), tooted into the mic to make sure it was working, and decided that I was ready. After kissing half the audience and commiserating with fellow allergy sufferer Joel Frahm about the amount of medication we each had already taken that day, we dove into the gig. Naturally, there were some sound issues. But after that minor detail was remedied (note to self: make sure you are loud enough, WHILE the drums are playing! Rookie mistake, honestly, EL!), we sang, played, emoted and channeled for each other and the people in the room. I sang a song I had written for my mom, during which I almost lost my cool, because it is in fact an incredibly sad song, albeit in Spanish and thus at least once removed; and we had the usual hick-ups and triumphs associated with the territory of live performance, that I will not elaborate on here.
I will however say that one of the highlights of the night for me as a performer was my duet with Bruce Barth on the marvelous Cy Coleman tune "With Every Breath I Take". I think we both lost ourselves in that song, broke each other's hearts and gave in to absolute, searing devastation - but, you know, in a good way.
I am still smiling thinking about that gig. Truly, I am incredibly privileged to work with fellow musicians who are totally down with raising each other's game. And when that happens, when we elevate each other, the magic flows, and the world is whole for a few, fleeting moments.


Yesterday we had the long planned rehearsal for my show at Kitano here in New York this Wednesday. The pianist was running late due to the very scary word "Flood" in his text informing me of his tardiness. The drummer rode his bicycle from Bed Sty to midtown Manhattan and arrived drenched - as if he had just witnessed said flood. Hmmm...But he had a bag of dried apricots in tow, so the world was a beautiful place again. I ended up playing piano and singing at the beginning of the rehearsal - oh well...but eventually everybody was present and working intensely for 2.5 hours to make it through as much music.
I am very very much looking forward to this show, it will be incredibly fun and musically exciting, can't wait.
Come out and see us!

Joel Frahm, saxophone
Bruce Barth, piano
Evan Gregor, bass
Jordan Perlson, drums

Wednesday, May 11th, sets at 8pm and 10pm
Hotel Kitano
New York City
For reservations: 212-885-7119

Touring 3 - the dreaded COLD

Ah yes - there it was. The last two shows of my tour could not go by without me catching the dreaded and wretched cold that hangs like a specter over me every time I'm on the road. Especially on that last show my sinuses were so clogged and my post-nasal drip in such full swing that I almost turned away from the monitor after singing the first few notes of the show with a resounding "urghh!" The horror! The sonic ugliness being hurled back at me by my monitor speaker! Maybe if I drowned it out with a very large amount of very long reverb???

The good news is that I have assembled a pretty respectable assortment of tools over the years to deal with this kind of thing, one of the most useful ones being the lengthy but very effective "Anti-edema" exercise, given to me by the marvelous Estill voice teacher Robert Sussuma. This was not the first time I came to rely on such a set of exercises to thin out my vocal folds in order to not break anything upon hitting my high notes, and it sure won't be the last. But having a constantly expanding tool box handy takes some of the pressure off, even though it doesn't make the actual gig all that much easier. Interestingly enough, I learn a ton of things about singing in these situations, because you simply cannot be imprecise in your technique then. Your voice will give you the finger and stretch out its tongue, if you don't. So yeah, even more learned, more clarified, more overcome.

In the end, the audience actually loved the show, the house was packed, I ended the tour with a dramatically belted high note during the encore ("Georgia On My Mind"), got four (!!!!) bouquets of flowers that night and sold all my CDs. So I guess it can't have been that bad. And lucky for me the coughing didn't start until the next day :)

Touring 2

It's 11pm, I'm in my hotel room, tired after show number 7. The band is downstairs at the bar, drinking and smoking, and tomorrow they will tell me the stories of their hang on the bus. So far, the tour has been going quite well, shows for the most part well attended, people pleased with what they heard, equipment - again for the most part - holding up.
We were lucky today. There was a sound man, whose name I still don't know and also could not ask, since the sound man doesn't speak anything other than Czech and probably Russian, both languages I have not even begun to wrap my mind around. I can politely say "prosim" and "Djekuje", and I can hawk my CDs in a weird but mostly funny mix of English and a select few Czech words, like the price for the CDs. It's my attempt at humor mixed with local flavor, and, again, for the most part, it works. The sound man had his PA already set up when we rolled in, and we didn't have to empty out the bus completely, because they have a gated and guarded parking space!

Two more shows. It is amazing, how quickly this tour has been passing by. It rushes right through me like a high speed train and leaves me completely exhausted but also happy. I'm not saying that this is the happiest I have ever been, that touring is the greatest gift to musicians. At least for vocalists, it ain't. Can't party, can't drink, must go to bed, take care of my voice, blablabla. But I gotta tell you, I have some moments during the day, before the show and during the show, when I am so happy that I could burst. And that's really all I need. Those moments, they make it all worthwhile (plus running water in the hotel rooms, towels and soap :)). Because I get to do this. I get to drive through a foreign country with a group of exceedingly nice guys, and bring my music to total strangers. Ain't that something...

On Tour

Ah the blogging! Difficult while travelling. So I will make this brief, since my internet access is limited. I am in the beautiful town of Trebic right now, we played a great show to a fab audience in a pretty large hall. Nice dinner was had afterwards, and I even got flowers!
We are three shows in, recording the gigs and listening back on the bus, handing out penalties for clams and shoulder pats for winners. The gas station food has not improved since my last tour, and neither has my sensitivity to smoke, which, occasionally, can pose a problem in the Czech Republic.
Tomorrow we will be in Lazne Belorad and Saturday at Jazz Dock in Prague, one of my most favoritest cities in ze woooold.
Will post again on the weekend, when there is more time and uninterrupted sleep to be had.

A little poem about touring

Getting ready to go on the road in Europe again, I'm posting a little poem on the subject matter. :)

it’s an oddity
a bus full of guys
and me
on the way to a wee
little village in
guided by the voice
of prissy ms. Gps
we follow the trail
of white stripes going west
seeking this mystical place called
and hoping people will show up
so it won’t be just the guys and me
on the road through germany

Happiness First!

Radical? - possibly. Impossible? I don't think so.
Consciously committing to happiness before and above all has been an interesting experiment for me. Let's call this unconditional happiness. This is not the "I will be happy when..." version of happiness. OR the "If only...then..." kind.
This is the kind that I commit to, right now, without a back-door, without rules or reasons. It is also the kind that comes with letting go of judgments in even the smallest circumstances, the tiniest encounters. Just accept whatever comes as it is, with no "story" attached, no proof that this is either really "good" or really "bad" for me.
It is the kind where I have a constant barometer built into my psyche that points to where I am at any given moment in the possibility department. Do I feel that things are possible, and my life therefore limitless, or has the needle dipped below the red line and my mind screams "Just give up already and start whining!"? In which case I immediately start thanking the subway, indoor plumbing, Skype and my cat.
It's an interesting experiment. And - well, actually fun! And for some strange reason I feel quite happy about it. :)

Heidi's Jazz Club

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited to perform at Heidi's Jazz Club in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Just stepping off that plane in Orlando, feeling the warmth on my skin, made me feel lighter and brighter. My compact rental car turned out to be RED (my favorite color), and I had such a good time driving automatic (I come from the stick shift tradition) and cruising along the highway it made me want to go out and buy a car!
The sun, the beach, and - well, the SHADE! Since I am essentially translucent at the moment, I cannot really hang out in the sun without burning to a crisp within minutes, but boy, did I like the shade.
Heidi, the one whose name the jazz club bears, turned out to be a lovely, strong willed Austrian lady who has been running her business down in Cocoa Beach for 25 years. Her joint is a very classy spot with great Austrian cuisine, a grand piano, good sound and a very lovely and helpful staff. So, if you're ever down in Cocoa Beach, stop by Heidi's. It's definitely worth it!
Heidi's Jazz Club


I am sad and heart broken about recent events in Japan. As usual when such huge events happen, I feel helpless. There's precious little I can do to actually help, except check in with my Japanese friends, watch the news and donate to the Red Cross. So I'm keeping this one short today and am just posting a couple of links here.
1) Donat to the red cross here
2) Get Japanese news translated into English Here.

My prayers go out to the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami last week, and I keep my fingers and toes crossed that a melt-down in the power plants can be avoided.

View from the Stair Master

My gym - I never thought I would have a gym - is located across the street from where I work. I am proud of the fact that it took me fourteen years to actually join one. But now that I am a member MY gym has become part of my life style. Sometimes the onslaught of unwanted information via flat screen TVs (sound ON thank you) AND music blaring from the speakers is a teensy bit much. But now that I have finally made it to the last row of the cardio floor and discovered the hidden Stair Masters that look a bit forlorn and unloved, tucked away in the furthest corner, I can preside over the flock of screens and not be bothered. At 11pm things actually calm down considerably, the models have usually already gone home, the heavy lifters deserted their 75 lb dumbbells and it's just a handful of late workers who have finally FINALLY untangled themselves from their office chairs and are ready to get down, get sweaty and get it over with. Just like me.

A New Era for Reading

Today marked the second time in my life that I came to sit next to a person reading the same book as me on the subway. The last time was over a decade ago, when I was reading Tony Morrison's "Paradise", a weighty tome of a book, especially in hard cover. The lady next to me held an identical copy in her hand. We smiled at each other and read on.

Times have changed since then. As I found my seat on the crowded 6 (which is definitely my least favorite line apart from the G which is only running in Brooklyn and hence does not really concern me), I pulled out my kindle, booted it and started to read, not before checking out the guy sitting to my right cradling his very own gadget - the sexy iPad, deadly enemy to kindles and nooks all over the world. Nowadays I have to squint to see what the other person is reading, since the title is only displayed in a tiny line on top of the "page". Can't tell by the book cover anymore. And squint I did - and noticed with shocked pleasure that in peaceable silence on the noisy train iPad and kindle displayed the same book. The iPadist, however, never noticed. I guess he doesn't squint.

Bass traps for my spaceship

A guy from Maryland made fifteen - read my lips - FIFTEEN custom build bass traps for our studio. He decided that he wanted to shepherd his babies to safety himself and was going to drive up from Maryland with his truck, practically hand delivering the boxy things. But it has been an active winter, and twice his efforts were thwarted. Twice we had marked the studio as "booked for the bass trap guy", alas, to no avail. But in the end, he did show up, and he even installed the first one. Made little plaques with the studio logo on them and placed one on each of his bass traps. He had even made a song during the process of making them that he sent to Walter. Cute song, too. So now the control room in Studio A looks like a spaceship, and when you're in there you just have to take off into the stratosphere and beyond, buffeted by a clean, slap-delay-free sound.

New York State Of Mind

When I came to New York in 1994, I felt a little lost in this large place, coming from a tiny village in the hills of Austria. From the get-go, the Empire State Building was a beacon for me, an anchor. Living in a loft on the Lower East Side with anywhere from 3 to 7 roommates at any given time (no walls, just curtains - very authentic LES living for the time), life could get a bit crowded, I could get a bit overwhelmed, I might drown a little bit in sensual overload. But the Empire State Building was always there, like a light tower in the vast sea of humanity, guiding me home.
Today I have a recording studio practically in the shadows of the building. I get to see it every day, in all its moods and colors, cloudy, stormy, or radiant. Always there. And I look up from the struggles of my day, and can't help but grin a little.

50 proof prune

Once a year, if the prune harvest was good enough, my grandfather would set up our perfectly legal, farm-size, distillery, where he would distill the legally allowed amount of prune schnapps per inhabitant. I think that also took into account the children, because for some reason we always ended up with a whole lotta clear, strong liquor.
In earlier years, the distillery would take over the laundry room for 2 days, and only later would it be moved into the by then vacated horse barn. I should mention here that it was perfectly customary to peruse the schnapps as an antidepressant that had a calming effect on distraught children. Whenever one of us was distressed, crying and at the end of his or her wits, my mother would sit us down on the kitchen table, pour a shot glass full of the 50proof prune, have us drink it and say, "OK, let's hear it." And for some bizarre reason this actually helped. Maybe it was just the much craved and rare attention we would get, the being seen and taken care of (albeit with strong alcohol in combination with said attention), but I do remember these moments rather fondly.

When my dad was alive, he would hang out by the kitchen window and drink the occasional shot of home-distilled with the tourists staying in our village, and just chat and have a good time. And when I was visiting home several years back, my mom (who has MS), my sister-in-law (who was very pregnant at the time) and myself (who was very rusty in all things pertaining to farm life) had a shot of the stuff, after successfully liberating a calf from it's mother cow's belly.

Nowadays I tend to get a bottle of it from my brother, who still sets up the distillery once a year, bring it back to New York and treasure it like the special, nostalgic and irreplaceable thing it is.

A very long day at the "office"

6am: alarm goes off, after a restless and very short night
6:30am: i leave my house and step out into pre-dawn New York, to walk over to port authority
6:45am: i ask the info clerk at Port Authority where the bus to La Guardia stops. She points me in the wrong direction
6:50am: Coffee and a cookie, stepping to the wrong curb waiting for my bus, asking another person there who tells me this is the right spot
7:05am: asking another person about the bus stop because of unexplained feeling of unease, find out that the bus leaves on the other side of the building, on 42nd street.
7:06am: running towards the bus which is scheduled to leave at 7:10am, sloshing coffee all over myself and dropping my precious cookie
7:10am: i catch the bus!!!
8am: arrival at la guardia, smooth and easy check-in
8:15am: more coffee, meeting up with the rest of the rumbatap crew. the sun is up by now
9:30am: take-off towards chicago o'hare
11:30am: chicago o'hare, transfer to moline, part of quad cities
1pm: arrival at moline, il, picked up by supernice Lance and driven across the mississippi into iowa and davenport, where the theater lies
1:30pm: meeting up with max, chikako, james and paul, who have already been through an intense week of 3 shows a day and are in the middle of figuring out the light issues in the theater
2pm: lunch of tasty and necessary sandwiches, coffee
2:30: rehearsal of brandnew band tune, while max is doing more lighting stuff in the main theater
3pm: prolonged sound-check due to some technical issues
5pm: tech/light rehearsal, where I get my major brain farts over with
6:45pm: protein bar and nuts (can't do the pasta before the show, people!!!)
7:30pm: Rumbatap show starts - we're psyched
10pm: Rumbatap show ends to a standing ovation and an encore!!!
10:10pm: pasta!!!
11pm: checking in at the "Austrian/Alpine"-themed hotel, which, quite honestly, would be the perfect backdrop of a horror movie, complete with dark wood paneling, portraits of obscure royalty on the wall and a huge wooden chandelier in the entrance hall.
11:30pm: time for a post-show beer at the local bar, with lively political discussions with Lance and a general rehashing of the show
2am: bed! dead to the world for about 4 hours, then only intermittent sleep
10am: getting ready for the trip back to NYC
so long, Quad Cities, it was a fun trip!!!
Photo by James L. Shipp

The Concert That Almost Wasn't

An eighteen-wheeler almost foiled our best laid plans for a fun, special show at the Zinc Bar. Fellow vocalist and friend Beat Kaestli and I had planned, booked and rehearsed for a double feature show and were ready to go on. The sound had been checked, the new piano admired (nice one, Zinc people!!!) and the camera set up for some footage to be used later for the all-important youtube clip. But Fred Kennedy, the drummer, and Matt Wigton, the bass player, had not yet surfaced from their drive into the city from Queens. Stuck on the Queensboro Bridge, was the last verdict I had heard. Friends and music lovers had taken their seats, drinks had been served, and I was contemplating breaking my rule and having a drink BEFORE the show, and still - no bass and drums. Eventually we decided to start as a trio, with just the pianist, Walter Fischbacher. Beat, in a last ditch effort, called the guys one more time, and finally, finally, they were just outside, parking. They did their sound check in ultra light speed, and, with only a 15 minute delay, we went on.
Fun was had, music was made and all ended well. And I had a lovely drink AFTER the show, as usual.
Photo by CO Moed

The Zither Expose

When I was a kid, I always wanted to learn to play piano. So, naturally, I was doomed to play the Zither, a traditional Austrian folk music instrument that is best known from the wavering music theme so essential to setting the spooky mood in the sewage system under Vienna in the Orson Welles movie "The Third Man". This piece of music is about the coolest ever written for the Zither (in my humble opinion), and, actually, quite difficult. Needless to say, I never mastered it. Because, you see: having to play Zither can only be described with one word: TORTURE. You have to press on a fret board with the fingers of your left hand and pluck the string you're pressing on with the thumb of your right hand, while plucking a bass string and at least three harmony strings with the remaining fingers of your right hand. The strings are mostly metal and therefore not conducive to tender baby-skin stubs such as mine, the sound is quaky and tinny, and you have to practice way more than my 10-year-old self could ever manage in order to build up your calluses. My primary school teacher and mentor at the time gave me way too much credit for my efforts by stamping me "Iron Liz with leather fingers". As far a cry from the truth, if there ever was one! In fact, I tried to get by on as little effort as possible (just touching the strings sent jolts of agony and angst down my spine) and winged it for as long as I could. Until finally one day I went off to boarding school where I lied my way into getting piano lessons at last. I have not looked back.
Check out a video of "The Third Man - Harry Lime Theme" played by Anton Karas

Respectfully opinionated

Over the weekend, as the tragedy in Tucson, Arizona unfolded and comments from politicians, spokespeople and your next door neighbor started pouring in, a huge collective magnifying glass was pulled out by some to look at the rhetoric that has been used on political platforms throughout the country. I will refrain from naming any well-trodden examples here, as I'm sure you all read about them and commented on them in your various blogs and social networks. I watched comments pouring in on the Facebook news feed, with heated verbal sparring going on, and, on some occasions, massive venting of the less than respectful variety. I do understand the need for immediate expression. But I also believe strongly in the power of words and thoughts, in the weight a word carries and in the wounds it can inflict. I have put my foot in my mouth plenty of times and am still working on getting better at being respectfully opinionated. The oft-quoted "vitriol" that political exchange is often soaked in these days permeates not only political stages but also our everyday lives. How we treat each other reflects on how we behave as a nation. I cannot directly change the level of discourse on national political level. What I personally can do is add a pinch of mindfulness to my own behavior as a human being. I can only, as always, start with myself. Or, to say it with Ghandi: "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

Ringtones NOW AVAILABLE!!!

I'm proud to announce that some of my music is now available in ringtone format. Go ahead and visit my website to check them out or click on the widget below! More music is to come, most likely more of Walter Fischbacher's stuff in addition to mine, so keep checking back, as I make the tracks available. Hope you enjoy!!!
PS: Just to avoid confusion: Lofish Music is the label both Walter Fischbacher and I own to exclusively release all our music on.