By Carla B.
Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez has had monumental success throughout her career, a member of the Jazz Journalists Association, Dr. Ana is also a Biologist, writer, jazz editor, independent filmmaker, music/art promoter and producer. Educated in Europe and self- taught Victorian patchwork maker, she has worked on this art since the early 90s and has presented her craft in France and Luxembourg. She is also an accomplished scientist who began training on insect-plant pathology and biological control research at the age of eighteen and has lectured and cooperated in miscellaneous capacities throughout South America, Europe, Africa, East-Europe, Japan, China and New Zealand. Ana Isabel Ordonez is also an Agronomic Engineer with Masters and Doctoral degrees in Genetics, Forestry and Animal Biology. She was awarded by the Colombian Society of Entomology with the national prize, Hernan Alcaraz-Viecco. In 2004 she published a book which enlightens integrated pest management strategies in Luxembourg. She has also published numerous articles on the value of nature.
Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez is as busy as ever bringing her fantastic, heartfelt initiatives to the forefront nationally and internationally.
Ordonez continues to pour her “heart and soul” into creating new art and sharing with the world art that should be never forgotten, hence her participation with the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial benefit.
With only weeks away from the 2012 Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Benefit, Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez stopped by for a candid interview to talk about the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Benefit, how she found herself involved with such a wonderful organization, what bringing Christopher Kennedy Lawford aboard meant to her and the similarities she shared with him.
Carla B.: Hello Dr. Ana, so happy to be able to speak with you about all the great things you are doing! As you well know, there is an exciting benefit coming up, the Dizzy Gillespie/Englewood benefit which is dedicated to Jazz Musicians in need. Can you explain why this important?
Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez: Of course, Carla. Dizzy Gillespie was a major force in the jazz world. He died in 1993. One of his wishes was to help fellow jazz musicians that were uninsured – he wanted them to be treated for free at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.
The hospital team decided they would honor Dizzy’s last wishes. Dr. Frank Forte was Dizzy’s oncologist. He and Dr. Bob Litwick created a network of physicians, who bestowed to privately treat the Jazz Foundations’ uninsured musicians for free and provide operations and diagnostic testing and treatment. The Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund was born and it’s the first fully free medical treatment partnership of musicians in America. The Dizzy Memorial is a 100% donor-supported fund. Jazz is the most important American form of art, it’s vital to help musicians in health crisis.
Carla B.: That’s wonderful! Yes, I recently sat down with Dr. Francis Forte, and he shared those tidbits as well. You all are such a Gods gift to these musicians!
I noticed you are also founder of Ruby Flower Records. What types of genres do you work with? Tell us a little bit on how that came into formation.
Dr. Ana: I and trumpeter Herb Robertson founded Ruby Flower Records in 2005. I was at a turning point in my life and wanted to burn my passion for art and jazz so we founded the recording label focusing mainly on avant-garde music. The label yearns to please connoisseurs and purist audiophiles.
Our slogan is simple: ”Creatively speaking…Where the talents blossom”… we have produced innovative music while searching for a technical excellence on the releases. The success of an Indie label is never reached nightlong. However, my force of will is strong and I’m a hard worker and I have the certitude that my passion and love for music will drive Ruby well into the future. This is the legacy I will leave behind. I’m exploring other aspects of art like poetry and theater pieces for children but the main objective of the label stills the avant-garde niche.
Carla B.: So you are definitely a music lover. Or so it appears…
Dr. Ana: Absolutely!! There is no other way to be for me. I’m too direct, sometimes sharp. As I said I’m driven by passion and willpower. When I love I do with my guts, my heart and a part of my brain. I live and breathe for Art and this music. I’m talking about Avant garde music. It’s a niche, its needs supporters. I have been blessed because I had worked with luminaries and Jazz Masters. I have learned a lot from them. My work with Maestro Cecil Taylor brought a big deal of maturity into my life and also startling revelations about myself, about what and who I am. Herb Robertson is the most inspiring trumpeter I have ever met. He’s so sensitive and complicated! His emotional radar detected fakeness and it guided me for years. This small niche is rich on history and forward tendencies. But I should say that I appreciate all kind of music. There is not bad or good music; there are sounds, spaces, phrases. Music is a universal language that carries peace and love. I happen to spend many hours listening to classic music too. Sometimes I cry…beauty makes me cry… I think it is the joy involved with beauty that moves me. How lucky I am that I can hear! Life has blessed me abundantly. Music can be complex but it’s one of the simplest things you can find and enjoy every day. I’m grateful for this, for being alive, and for having found my place in the universe. In that universe music vibrates on my heart all the time.
Carla B.: You are excellent at painting pictures. I am sitting here visualizing this very beautiful world of music that you speak of…and I can see and feel it too! I guess that makes me a music lover as well. We are definitely kindred spirits…in this sense. Tell me…what was the first concert you ever attended Jazz?
Dr. Ana: It was in 90 in Praha. It was just after the fall of the Berlin wall. Praha is a gorgeous city and there is this bridge, the Charles Bridge. Jazz musicians were there playing those wonderful standards. I was dazzled because their music was an expression of a retrieved freedom. I remember to have met this young Czech musician who showed me part of the town and his big band which played swing and bebop, I loved it! This man was so full of hope and joyful. He showed me how beautiful it was to live … following his own inspiration. After that encounter I wanted to know more about this type of music. I think nothing comes to us randomly. Some things are just meant to happen. I count my blessing every day and even if my journey has been hard and bumpy at the edges, I consider myself a blessed woman for having met that man…
When I went back from Praha I wanted to play an instrument. I was ballet dancer during my youth and played guitar but my favorite instrument was trombone so I decided to pick up the trumpet very late. I mean REALLY late. Therefore I’m a terrible trumpet player but I wanted to believe…. I took lessons with many trumpeters including my dear friend and fabulous trumpeter from Luxembourg, Ernie Hammes. We now laugh about that time. I can play “My funny Valentine” (which is a song with a lot notes!) “Summertime”, “Sonnymoon For Two” …but for sure not now…You know what they say: when you play trumpet…if you don’t play one day, you know it, if you don’t play two days , your friends know it and if you don’t play three days everybody know it. (Ana Chuckles) I have no excuses for my lack of practice well…yes may be one: I totally suck but I do believe and I’m sincere, that’s important. I thought that taking lessons with everybody would help me but trumpet is a very hard instrument and you have to begin early in life…Still it’s never late to test the joy from time to time of playing in pitch a high C.
So, yeah I think my blast with jazz started that spring day in Praha. My ultimate jubilation was seeing Dizzy playing at Banlieu Blues in Paris in 1991. It was a concert with Miryam Makeba. I remember every song they played. Those two moments marked my passion for live Jazz.
Carla B.: Wow Ana, that was really beautiful. You are probably the most open and honest person I have ever interviewed. It’s as if you are 100% okay with every aspect of you…from the fun and somewhat quirky to the genius in you. I know my readers feel this as much as I do….for that….I am very grateful and humbled to have this opportunity to sit with you.
What do you love the most about experiencing live jazz as a fan?
Dr. Ana: I think I’m more than a fan. I’m engaged to this music. It’s part of me and my life. The experience is celestial like when you lie in bed listening to the rain outside? It’s hard to put words on what I feel and how I love live jazz. The greatest pleasure in music comes when you hear it. In many live jazz concerts I found myself giggling like if I were in a bubble bath. I get butterflies in my stomach every time I listen to live jazz. I could call it love for music and for me that’s unconditional and stronger than time.
Those moments of absolute joy can’t be stolen from me because it doesn’t depend on happenings as happiness does, but is in that moment. When I listen to jazz I feel my life is worth living. Jazz goes beyond sounds; it’s also standing up for people’s rights! It’s taking away someone’s pain. When you attempt a concert you are paying respect to the music. I know I put a smile on someone’s face! I take joy in knowing there are truly honest jazz musicians out there, descent people that I have had the chance to meet. Some of those people share themselves and their love of music with the world. I know I have experienced joy listening to live jazz, a joy deeper than pleasure or happiness. I have received it as a gift that remains with me. I think people call that beatitude.
Dr. Ana: To me Dizzy had a truly Avant garde spirit, he elevated jazz to a called “elitist” music genre. It was around the 40s when Monk, Miles, Bird, Mingus and Dizzy begin to play “faster”. Bop and Bebop emerged on the musical scene and everlastingly changed the print of jazz music. This revolutionary new form fore-teller the birth of modern jazz. Bop was radical because the melody became additional; the improvisations were founded encircling harmonies and chords, the big bands where more or less left aside encouraging smaller groups. The music got more complex and may be harder to absorb. The tempos speeded up, and extended soloing became the focal point. Swing became then an old-fashion kind compared to this articulation coaxer genre. Nonetheless, inaccessibility avoids bop to attain commercial success as swing did.
Dizzy Gillespie is definitely the founding father of modern jazz and a major figure in 20th century American music. Who doesn’t know his facial expressions, sense of humor, moon cheeks and bent trumpet? Dizzy initiated an intense, high-speed revolution that becomes an enduring jazz style. Don’t forget that he also embodied Afro-Cuban music into jazz, creating again a new genre. His career was very long and sustainable. He was brilliant; an inventor, a virtuoso. Dizzy Gillespie tot up all fields of American popular art!
Carla B.: Considering you are also founder of a production company and label what is your opinion on trends in music this year, with artists like Lady Gaga that seem to have major influence?
Dr. Ana: This is a very interesting question. On these days every college student has an iPod or MP3 player as a part of their existence. Now everybody is talking about an IPhone 5 with much functionality. For me that’s almost unknown territory. Listen to the radio, there are many number of music genres and styles that many people are able to connect with. I see that popular trends in music are going towards underground/indie music, mainly rock and pop. This seems to be the leading competition for the last few years.
Jazz has become “elitist” music. I spent several years on the road with jazz musicians. I observed the audiences. I rarely saw young people on those concerts. It’s sad because this music has roots on what was the origin of rock and pop.
Indie music has gone great beyond that and has for some reason created a farcical amount of sub-genres that fall under its wispy category. With all those copious sub-genres, almost any artist can label themselves as an indie artist or band. Add to these all the social networking sites and music blogs…artists are now able to fleetly many fans. Thus, in a way, indie, as genuine as it wishes to be, is dropping in mainstream. Some popular artists among young generations are: Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Jay-Z, The Black Keys, Adele….
The lowdown, garnered from music collections and computers speaks of how pop music is edging a golden age.
Carla B.: I definitely agree with you 100% and it is really unfortunate that Jazz music is not as popular with our youth as genres such as pop and rock.
Let’s talk about the upcoming benefit, The Dizzy Gillespie Memorial taking place on October 16th at the historic Cotton Club in New York.You have a couple fabulous hosts and thanks to you..I had the privilege to interview one in particular, Christopher Kennedy Lawford. A fascinating and humble gentleman that has had his fair share of struggles with addiction. Was this a key factor for you in choosing him to host? You also mentioned before that this benefit really hits home for you. Can you share what you meant by that?
Dr. Ana: Well…this year fundraiser is very special. Since several years ago I’m following the work of Christopher Kennedy Lawford. First I was amazed for his sincerity and courage for being able to talk about the stigma of addictions, he came from a very well known family and I know by my own experiences that in certain families there are things you just don’t talk about. Then I bought his books. I cried reading it but I laughed too. He has this fabulous sense of humor mixed with a lot grace. All that reading brought me back to painful memories I have endured in the past dealing with alcoholic/drug addicts artists and with my own co-dependent demons too.
Carla B.: Yes Ma’am….that is so true. I want to thank you for being so candid. You are such a beautiful person inside and out and it reverberates when you speak. You are not just a musician and a doctor you are a spiritual healer of sorts….its your God given talent or at least one of them. Thank you so much Dr. Ana for your time — this interview… I’m sure has not just touched my heart….it has the power to touch and heal anyone with a heart of compassion. Cheers to you Ana…cheers to you!
To purchase your VIP tickets please visit http://fundraiserdizzygillespiememorialfund.info/dizzy-gillespie-fundenglewood-hospital or contact 213-290-3573 for information and ask for Carla B.
To donate to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund please visit: http://www.englewoodhospital.com/ms_dizzy_mfund.asp
Follow the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Benefit on Twitter @DizzyGillespieF