So I recently just took the biggest step of my life and moved to New York City. After excelling in the local community theatre over the past several months, I knew I was ready to embark on my journey like all the great icons of music and American Theatre. These are the days I will look back to and thank myself for, when a decade down the road I sit in my dressing room surrounded by dozens of roses and heart shaped boxes of chocolate saying, “We Love You Ella”, drawn in a hot shade of lipstick. I’ll light up a cigarette in one of those long, formal cigarette holders and turn on my favorite records of classical jazz as I reflect on my journey as the one and only Ella James…
Call me unoriginal, but nothing beats the sound of some authentic big band jazz music to take a trip back in time and experience the true heart of American Theatre. The likes of Stan Keaton, specifically his album The Stage Door Swings, creates a harmonious whirlwind of progressive jazzby combining the familiar noises of classic swing musicwith the creative impulse of 1950s show tunes. Listening to this album makes me appreciate the music for the music itself,and not just the catchy energy it bestows within me. Although I am young and Keaton’s album debuted well before my days of childhood, when I listen I still feel a strong sensation of nostalgia, similar to what one would feel after smelling the soap which was once the familiar scent of washing up in Grandma’s kitchen.
I particularly liked the musical styles of Stan Keaton and his contemporaries such as Pete Rugolo and Bill Holman, because of the way they commonly emphasized progressive jazz through advanced harmonics, complex charts, and powerful soloists. Needless to say, when I came across The Stage Door Swings, I found the missing piece to my puzzle of music and American Theatre.
I find these tunes which bring back memories of old time Broadway shows from what I call “the golden days”, to be relaxing and therapeutic. I like to throw on albums like Keaton’s when I cook my favoriteItalian dishes and pour myself aglass of red white to get me “in the mood”. By this I mean the mood where Ella reaches cloud nine in an aroma of butter, oil, and garlic, while cooking up an exquisite meal which I will share with myself over the next few nights, while watching classical movies of the same genre as my musical culinary inspiration.
The process becomes such tranquility that although the sounds are more than just white noise at a picnic, the progressive clashing of the musical velocity creating the perfect sounds of swing, become the peaceful music we often let our minds wander to. While engaging in a night of cooking and classical jazz, I find myself in the most heavenly place on earth. I call it the place of Mooche Music. Remember earlier I said that others describe me as being “mooche”- laid back, passive, and relaxed. Well, mooche music is just that. It is music which is laid back and relaxed, just like Ella James in the competitive world of acting. If you’re calm and live life in an aroma of Italian cuisine and spend your nights slowly nursing a bottle of “Pinot Noir”, life has no choice but to let you be at peace with Stan Keaton, Lennie Niehaus, and all the other legends of the jazz world in the late 1950s.
Some may read this and think, “This girl is old beyond her time. What does she know about the musical styles of men who peaked decades before she came to existence?” The answer to that, my friends, is that I am the one who sits calmly waiting for my audition with my heart beating to the pace of a classic show tune, whereas you are the one sitting irritably in a state of discomfort knowing there’s a chance these directors may very well choose the new kid in town; the who has the passion to take her love of theatre to the next level in the big city.