connect!

notes so high.



So something really cool has been happening these past few weeks. I've been waiting to collect more information as it seems to be coming in by the week before I shared it with you.

As I have mentioned in passing in previous posts, my late grandmother Stella Levitt (my dad's mom who remarried) was a jazz singer here in Paris for several decades. I didn't know her growing up because she was here living with her second husband Al Levitt the jazz drummer. Apparently she was present for my birth, and as my mom recounts, her and my dad picked her up at the Air France terminal at JFK where she was carrying only two baskets brimming with her belongings, a cigarette, and sporting a floppy hat and platforms. So Jane Birkin. The next time I saw her (if you can count the presence of my birth an actual meeting) was when she returned to the States in 2004 to take care of my sick father who passed away in 2005.

I say in jest that I came to Paris to find the perfect French man because dating in New York was a nightmare, and while I'm sure there's partial truth to that (that and I wanted to start eating bread again), a part of me came here to learn about that side of my family - starting with my grandmother.

When I first arrived in 2009, I was comforted by the fact that I had found her record in several small record stores in town, and that if I ever felt alone, I could always go to the record store and visit my grandmother. Her music has served as a private portal into a life I know so little about, yet that encompasses so much of who I am. After all, I am an expatriate like them.

Lately though, the interest in her has grown beyond my personal connection to it when jazz label Heavenly Sweetness included her track 'Notes So High' on the Parisian Jazz Compilation Freedom Jazz France.

With this mini buzz, as the received messages regarding my grandmother have quadrupled after the release of the album, I had drafted an e-mail requesting to have her music played on the Parisian jazz station TSF Jazz. I thought it would be a perfect home for her music and to pay homage to her contribution to the Parisian underground jazz scene. That's when my expectations exceeded themselves. Without any of my handiwork as the e-mail had gone unsent, I heard her on another station I absolutely adore here, Nova Radio

Hearing my grandmother on the cooler-than-cool Nova Radio will really be one of the highlights of the year (and it's only March!) My quest to find out more information on my grandmother, my jazz guitarist uncle Sean who had a small following in Spain, and my two flamenco dancing aunts has just begun. Let's see what I can dig up. In the meantime, I'll enjoy this little resurgence that my grandmother mostly definitely deserves. She certainly paid her City of Light dues.

A big thank you goes out to Gwannel Sandiego and her master Google-searching skills for helping me get some information. Je t'adore!

27 comments:

  1. My pleasure doll, only wish I'd found more. I just listened to her track, jazz is not usually my thing, but I liked it! And what a lovely voice. Good luck x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Gwan, and again for taking the time to help me. I'm glad you liked the track. It's one of my favorites! It always surprises me when I hear that people don't like jazz. Is it because it's "all over the place" or can be kind of loud? I'm curious...

      Delete
  2. This song's beautiful, Ella! I listen to TSF Jazz at home all day long, I love it. I hope to hear your G'ma, will let you know if I get the chance! Thanks for sharing this amazing story about your family. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lauren! Thank you! My grandma is actually on Nova, not TSF. I wanted it to be played on TSF but Nova got to it first and since it's the same company, I don't think they'll play the same song on both of their stations. Nova isn't too shabby though. Tres bobo!

      Thanks again for your comment! : )

      Delete
  3. No fair, you get a family of billionaires and jazz singers, I get the psychopaths and strip club owners!!!
    Hope you get the royalties!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Billionaires and psychopaths are not mutually exclusive, Sylvia;)

      Delete
    2. Billionaires! LOL! Wouldn't that be nice? Jazz singers and foodies? That we have. But what comes with that is also heavy drinking, so nothing is 100%, is it?

      Strip club owners?!?! There's a story there! Please share the next time I see you. : )

      Delete
  4. Just listened to Note So High -- stunning! I love your Gma's voice. I am so glad her music is being played today! I can't imagine what that must feel like. You are full of surprises, L! This is so fantastic!

    2 Flamenco dancing aunts as well! Woohoo! What exciting lineage you've got - no wonder you are so creative and stylish!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dana! I really love this song. I have another version of it that I bought on iTunes that's a little rougher and more jazzy, I love them both.
      It's weird to hear a deceased family member singing on the radio. Now I know what Frances Bean and Sean Lennon deal with almost every day, on a much smaller scale of course.

      My dad's side is crazy. There are tons of stories. I can't wait to uncover some of them. Thanks again for your sweet comment! : )

      Delete
  5. i LOVE this song!! what a great story Ella (as if you needed another one). She is so wonderful. I'm so happy you've been able to "reconnect" through her music. I understand how important it is to feel closer to someone in ways like this! She would be happy I'm sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I love how I'm saying thank you as if I'm the one signing!

      Yes, my grandmother would be thrilled to know that she is being honored in a small way on French radio. She loved this place...now I know where I get it from. : )

      Delete
  6. Indeed, you come from a very interesting family:) I wish I could say the same:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone's family and everyone is interesting. I firmly believe that.

      Delete
  7. Oh, and your grandmother's voice is amazing. Both pure and sensual.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Duchesse. This has been such an amazing discovery. The look on my face when I randomly heard her music on the radio...I froze. It was surreal.

      Delete
  8. I just love that you have a jazz singing granny, jazz guitarist uncle and flamenco dancing aunts :oD My family is sooo boring

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The story on my dad's side is pretty wild. It starts at Woodstock (of course it does.) They were truly an expat family. It's no wonder I ended up in Paris. I guess I'm just as much my dad's side of the family as I am my mom's crazy Italian side. That's a relief!

      And hey, every family is interesting and unique!

      Delete
  9. Wouah... Deftly understand why you are over the moon :)) xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I really am! : ) She so deserves this. I wish my dad was alive to hear this awesome news. He would have been so proud.

      Delete
  10. Holy cow! This song is amazing! What a fabulous, unique voice she had and the musicians are amazing too...wow. I love this story, wish you well in your quest and methinks that there might be a book in there as well...?

    I have FIP or TSF on most days so will keep an ear out for her. Send the email!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Heather!!! The musicians really are fantastic. The drummer was her husband Al who worked with Chet Baker, Chick Corea and Stan Getz. Chick is actually on the original version of this song.

      I would send the email but it's already being played on Nova and they're owned by the same company as TSF, so I imagine they wouldn't play her on both stations.

      Thank you again and I'm so pleased that you (and everyone here) are enjoying the track. It means so much.

      Delete
    2. I loved your story so much I talked about it on my blog and included the song! :) It is just so beautiful. Haunting and yet completely grounded. I love jazz deeply (I sang before I acted) and it is such a treat to find such a wonderful voice, so unknown to me. And that she is your Grandmother just adds so much more. :)

      I still say send the email, it can't hurt. And could you write a short piece for the NY Times about this? You won't get paid diddly but this seems right up their alley...I am completely serious.

      Bisous,
      H

      Delete
  11. Absolutely amazing!!! as you know I love jazz and how incredible to be able to hear and connect to you grandmother in this way.

    Beautiful.

    Love Denise

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Denise. I love jazz too...isn't it just perfect for everything? Cooking, writing, reading, eating, drinking...the list goes on. : )

      Thank you for your comment. : )

      Delete
  12. I seriously think this could be the coolest thing I have ever read! No wonder you are so fantastically fabulous, it's in your genes!!! x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Sara! It's definitely one of the crazier things that have happened this year (and I thought Fashion Week was a trip!)

      Fantastically fabulous...Aw man, I'm not kidding when I say I'm really blushing. Thank you. :*)

      Delete
  13. How awesome!!! I'd def say your love for France was in your blood from the very beginning:)

    ReplyDelete