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Laila Biali


What Jazz and Cooking Have in Common

Posted: 07/05/2013 5:05 pm

Good cooking is not merely the preparation of food for sustenance, but the creation of an experience for the senses -- our eyes, our noses, and our taste buds. Chefs combine colours, textures, aromas, flavors and shapes in an effort to stimulate and titillate the palettes of their patrons. So it is with Jazz.

The word "cooking" made its way into the Jazz lexicon a few decades back -- "Man, that band is really cooking!" -- and people still use the term today to refer to a group that sounds and feels really good together. When you consider what music is, it makes perfect sense. Musicians are like chefs, mixing and experimenting with different ingredients to engage and delight their listeners; and in the realm of improvised music (Jazz), there are usually as many chefs as there are musicians playing, which can make the task of creating something special together wondrous or awful. For this reason, casting is key.

I have been quite fortunate to rub elbows with a number of remarkable artists over the years. I've also witnessed that throwing a bunch of world-class musicians together does not guarantee world-class music. Artistic approach and personalities collide; the music gets stuck, the flow isn't there, and the magic can't happen. On the flip side, it can take some time to see if a group will click; but when it does, everyone in the room can feel it. This engenders trust between the players, which will in performance set the listeners at ease, making room for more adventurous and inspired musical trajectories to unfold.

When I put together the groups that are performing with me this month at SubCulture in New York City, it was a joyful and painstaking process. It took thoughtful consideration, research, and gut instinct to assemble the right combinations of players; and, with scads of superlatively talented NYC musicians to choose from, many of whom are off touring all over creation for much of the summer, landing these dream ensembles also required some time, patience and flexibility.

I first heard vocalist and loop master Theo Bleckmann on an album that my husband, Ben Wittman, was producing for the power vocal group Moss. Years later, Theo invited me to join him on a European tour with his Hello, Earth! The Music of Kate Bush project. He is our featured guest this Monday, July 8 and will no doubt elevate the music with unmatched creative instincts, vocal prowess and digital effects wizardry. Chris Tarry and Ben Wittman will round out the rhythm section on electric bass and drums.

Later shows this month will feature trumpet star Dominick Farinacci with Linda Oh on bass and Mark McLean on drums (July 15); saxophonist Joel Frahm with Chris Tordini on bass and Jordan Perlson on drums(July 22); and another brilliant saxophonist, Donny McCaslin, with Ike Sturm on bass and Jared Schonig on drums (July 29).

Each show will bring new songs, new sounds, and new adventures -- local, organic multi-course meals we're confident will set your hearts and your senses to dancing.



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  • Almond Butter On Toast And Fresh Fruit

    "I rotate four main breakfasts: What: Oatmeal with nuts/seeds and chopped fresh fruit When: Particularly good on hungry mornings What: Green smoothie When: I've had a bigger dinner and am not super hungry or if it's a hot day and I want something refreshing What: Pesto tofu and spinach scramble with sprouted whole-grain toast When: I have a little extra time and I want something savory instead of sweet What: Almond butter on sprouted whole-grain toast with fresh fruit When: I am in a big rush. Such an easy grab-and-go breakfast!" -- <em><a href="http://dawnjacksonblatner.com/" target="_blank">Dawn Jackson Blatner</a>, RD, CSSD, LDN</em>

  • Scrambled Eggs In Pita

    "One of my favorite breakfasts is two scrambled eggs in one teaspoon of olive oil. I slice a six-inch whole-wheat pita in half and stuff half the eggs in each. I top the eggs with one ounce shredded cheddar cheese and salsa. Today I added a tangerine, but I always have some type of fruit for breakfast. I want my calories to work for me, so I choose nutrient-rich foods nearly all the time. My breakfast always has one serving of each of the following: whole grains, dairy and fruit, and about 20 grams of protein to keep me full." <em>--<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/MyPlate-for-Moms-How-to-Feed-Yourself-Your-Family-Better/196841697040535" target="_blank">Elizabeth M. Ward</a>, MS, RD</em>

  • English Muffin Pizza

    "Pizza for breakfast! Split and toast a whole-grain English muffin and top each half with tomato sauce, part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan and a shake of crushed red pepper. Pop them in the oven and broil until the cheese is hot and bubbly. So easy and 100 percent delicious!" --<em><a href="http://www.joybauer.com/" target="_blank"> Joy Bauer</a>, MS, RD, CDN</em>

  • A Peanut Butter And Banana Smoothie

    "Many days I have a smoothie made with: skim milk, low-fat Greek yogurt, frozen banana, one to two tablespoons of flax meal, one to two tablespoons of peanut or almond butter and ice. Or I have a home-made whole grain waffle (I make extra over the weekend and toast in the mornings) with peanut butter and topped with fresh blueberries and a glass of skim milk." -- <em><a href="http://www.susanmitchell.org/" target="_blank">Susan Mitchell</a>, Ph.D., RD</em>

  • Scrambled Egg With Cheddar And Tomato

    "A few things I love: Whole wheat toast and a scrambled egg with cheddar and grapefruit sections, or Triscuits and a piece of cheddar cheese and grapefruit sections, or a bowl of cereal with milk. And I like to start the day with a low fat chocolate milk or a cup of OJ. For cereal, I suggest picking one with at least three to five grams of fiber per serving and no more than double that amount in sugar. Topping cereal with fresh berries and/or nuts or seeds and nonfat milk gets in lots of food groups and key nutrients to fill you up and get you going in the a.m." -- <em><a href="http://elisazied.com/" target="_blank">Elisa Zied</a>, MS, RDN, CDN</em>

  • Kefir And Strawberries

    "Here's the truth: I usually eat two breakfasts! I usually have a glass of kefir with puréed strawberries at about 7:30 or 8. Then at about 10 or 11, I'll have something more substantial, often scrambled eggs and salsa or a frittata made with leftover vegetables from the night before. The kefir alone wouldn't be enough to power me through until lunch, but I'm not hungry enough first thing to eat a bigger breakfast. The other advantage is that the kefir is light enough that I can go to the gym or do a powerwalk immediately after drinking it without feeling weighed down." -- <em><a href="http://nutritionovereasy.com/" target="_blank">Monica Reinagel, </a>MS, LDN</em>

  • Cottage Cheese With Cereal And Fruit

    "I love this because the protein in the cottage cheese and Grape Nuts keeps me full. I use: 1/2 cup Daisy Brand Low Fat Cottage Cheese 1/4 cup Grape Nuts (original) 1/4 cup fresh California strawberries" -- <em>Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, co-founder of <a href="http://www.appforhealth.com/" target="_blank">AppforHealth.com</a></em>

  • Pink Smoothie

    I have rolled oats with chia seeds and cinnamon and maple syrup during some autumn and winter cold mornings. But during warmer months, I have a protein smoothie before workouts. <em>Recipe:</em> 2 scoops whey (or other) protein powder 1 ripe banana 1 cup fresh/frozen organic blueberries, strawberries and raspberries 8 ounces unsweetened almond/coconut milk 1 tablespoon coconut butter 1 teaspoon maca powder 1 teaspoon camu camu powder 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Pinch pink Himalayan salt Blenderize and top with cacao nibs or beans, golden flax seeds and chia seeds. Serves two. -- <em><a href="http://rocnutrition.com/" target="_blank">Rochelle Sirota,</a> MS, RD, CDN</em>

  • Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal

    "I enjoy two breakfast choices: Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal: Old-fashioned oatmeal slow cooked with dried cherries. I add vanilla bean and vanilla extract. Drizzle in warm honey. Florentine Omelet: Egg whites with sauteed spinach, onion and red pepper, melted jack cheese and a slice of whole grain toast. -- <em>Angela Ginn-Meadow, RD, LDN, CDE</em>

  • Protein-Filled Pancakes

    "My favorite <a href="http://www.appforhealth.com/2012/03/protein-pancake-recipe/" target="_blank">protein pancakes</a>! <em>Recipe:</em> 1 small ripe (overripe is perfect) banana 2 eggs or 4 egg whites 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter Pinch of cinnamon, if desired Drop of vanilla or almond extract, if desired <em>Instructions:</em> 1. Mash the banana, add the egg and mix well. Stir in nut butter and any spices or extract. 2. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat and use some oil or nonstick cooking spray to ensure the pancakes don't stick. Pour a large spoonful of batter into hot pan and cook until browned on one side (three minutes or more), flip and brown the other. -- <em><a href="http://www.appforhealth.com/about-us/julie-upton/" target="_blank">Julie Upton, </a>MS, RD, CSSD</em>