Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton: The Dynamic Philadelphia Songstress Duo
MED: Outside of the great local players I work with, most of the people I'd pick have passed away- Ben Webster, Ray Brown, Nelson Riddle. But Elvis Costello and Kenny Barron are still here!
MC: The list is too long. There are so many great musicians in this area and elsewhere. I'd like to sing backup for Prince, though!
AAJ: In your daily lives other than music, what are some of the things you are into?
MED: I like to sew. I started out in textiles at Philadelphia College of Art. I went from visual art to music. Sewing includes making drapes and re-upholstering furniture. I like doing things around the house. Painting, renovations. My husband, Michael, is a carpenter. A comfortable home is very important to me.
MC: I like to garden. I like plants. Whatever will fit in the tiny back yard outside of my apartment.
AAJ: One question that I always ask: Do you have a spiritual life or practice? I see jazz as expressing that dimension. Is there a faith or a way of thinking about life that is of special importance to you?
MED: I have a faith and consider myself a spiritual person. I was raised Roman Catholic, but in my late teens I moved away from the Church. After Michael and I married, we became Episcopalians. I prefer smaller, more intimate types of religious services. My faith gives me a structure and a focus, and a positive outlook which prevents me from becoming too discouraged. Recently, I read about animal totems, particularly frogs. They are so fragile in their natural state in comparison to the adversities they face in order to survive. So now I keep a small ceramic frog on my piano. It reminds me to keep re-inventing and re-examining myself. To shed layers and keep moving forward in my life.
AAJ: We'll look forward to your singing "Ribbit!" (laughter).
MED: Ha ha I should do that song!!! I should do that song, "It's Not Easy Being Green!"
AAJ: Meg, what's your take on spirituality?
MC: Right now, I don't have any particular religious faith. I believe in people, and that we try to do good things and be kind to each other. I believe in the human race and hope that we all are kind and support one another. I think about faith often. There are bits and pieces of many religions that are wonderful and beautiful. But I can't really label myself one or the other. Christian. Buddhist. I do think of myself as spiritual, but mostly in terms of people.
AAJ: As a Christian minister said, "Be like God become a Human Being."
MED: I can really appreciate Buddhism. And that's another reason for going to Japan.
AAJ: OK. We could go on indefinitely, but let's stop for now. Thanks so much to both of you for doing the interview.
MC: Thank you, too.
MED: I have to say this was one of the most relaxing interviews I've done you made it so easy.
AAJ: I thought it was the other way around the feeling's mutual!
Wine, Women, and Song