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A Jazz Singer-Songwriter Pays tribute to Bob Dylan  


"Songwriter Bob Dylan wins the Nobel prize for Literature"

The thing is that Dylan's powerful determination to find "new ways to tell the old stories" began long before we ever heard of him. First he worked inside the tradition then he began to find his own voice inside of the tradition, then stretch and bend and push on the walls until he had created the kind of freedom that all songwriters who followed were able to work with! 

 In that sense our  Mister Zimmerman is the best template for any artist seeking to find their own voice.     First we imitate, then, if we are serious about finding our own voice we experiment and try and find a way to make the traditions our own.  Then if we truly seek personal expression we dig in to find the way to communicate our most authentic selves through the music.  Thats the gig of being an artist. It doesn't come easy. It doesn't come fast.  Have a read of his masterful autobiography "Chronicles Vol 1" for the whole story. 

I remember sitting down with Bob Dylan's "Greatest Hits" LP when I was just a kid and studying what it was that made him the voice of a generation of counter culture grownups. I hated the scratchy voice that I would later come to dig, (have you heard Dylan's recent recordings of standards? They are a revelation!), but understood that somewhere in his beatnik ramblings there was a kind of patchwork map that was helping lead a generation to their own sense of self hood. 

And as a budding songwriter I remember trying to find a way into Dylan's complex songwriting which explored older forms of folk and blues and a kind of rule breaking literary poetry of the street. It made me want to find a new way of expressing myself through Jazz and Blues using the traditions to communicate my contemporary experience (hence "New York Stories" etc) 

 What is it that makes a young artist determined to find one's own voice to add to the culture?
We may never know but Dylan's Nobel Prize for Literature answers the questions once and for all whether what we do it simply entertainment.

City Of A Million Stories 

New York is famously described as a city with a million stories.    

Of course, like so many folks, the books I'd read about New York, ( El Doctorow's Ragtime, Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's and Patti Smith's Just Kids for example), had created a literary map New York in my imagination. When I was living and working in NYC I used that map had me exploring the cobblestone alley's, down into the subways and out onto the grand avenues as I wrote the material that would become "New York Stories". The influence of literature  is obvious with each song acting like a chapter like a book of interweaving short stories designed to take the listener on a romantic journey describing a love story amongst the swirl of life in Manhattan. 

A literary approach comes very naturally to me as a songwriter given that I was raised in a house filled with books and music in Toronto's Annex which, much like the West Village, was an area of town filled with  Professors, Activists, Artists and Independent thinkers such as our mom author Lilly Barnes, who raised us in three story victorian home filled floor to ceiling with books.  So, as I was discovering the music of Billie Holiday, Tom Waits, Laura Nyro and Tony Bennett  I was absorbing the short stories of Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro and a literary tradition that asks the author to describe an entire universe in only a few pages. Perfect for a budding songwriter looking to create a new musical universe of his own!    

Of course the two romances at the heart of "New York Stories" are very real, both the romance of the lovers and the romance with New York City itself. New York becomes a character in of itself, a bustling metropolis so crowded that one never feels lonely or alone, but welcomed by the city to re create one's own story at every corner of the city of a million st 

Two collections of short stories set in NYC that I can heartily recommend are "Wonderful Town", a collection of New Yorker stories edited by David Remnick and the  Every Man Pocket Classics "New York Stories" both of which I discovered after the release of the disc but happily reread from time to time..