The World According to Keitho

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Archive for the ‘jazz’ Category

Busy weekend

Posted by keithosaunders on November 12, 2017

This was one of those impossible weekends where I found myself with seven gigs on my calendar:  Two on Friday, a triple-header on Saturday, and two more on Sunday.  With six of the seven out of the way I can see the finish line ahead, but will still will have to power through a three hour solo piano gig in San Francisco.  (the fewer musicians around me, the harder I have to work)

Saturday morning’s gig – a one hour lecture/demonstration for toddlers and grade school kids proved to the hardest and most frustrating gig.  We were teaching kids about the fundamentals of music and jazz improvisation.  The leader was a trumpet player who gives me lots of work, but who happens to be an extremely unpleasant individual.  He’s one of those people who lectures you didactically nonstop (the lecture/dem gig was right in his wheelhouse) and enjoys arguing.  Everything goes one way, however — outward bound.  I’m pretty sure he’s on the spectrum somewhere.

He was particularity unpleasant during the rehearsal, stopping me every few seconds over minutia until it was all I could do not to pack up my keyboard and leave.  I toughed it out, however, and finished the gig without incident.

The thing is, you can’t blame people for being themselves.  This trumpet player can’t help being an asshole.  He was born this way.  He’s a miserable individual and its unfair and unrealistic to expect him to act out of his comfort zone.  No, I blame myself.  I’m the one who accepted the gig knowing full well what I was getting into.  If I accept future gigs with him I should expect more of the same.  Hopefully, in the words of Nancy Reagan, I’ll just say no.

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The dating blues

Posted by keithosaunders on October 31, 2017

I began to gig in jazz clubs in my late teens back when I lived in Los Angeles.  I had decided to eschew college in pursuit of a career as a jazz musician – a decision that has netted me upwards of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.  I was having a great time practicing 5-6 hours during the day and gigging at night.

One unfortunate byproduct of this situation was that I was invariably the youngest person in the club by over ten years.  Not being in the cocoon of college made it difficult to find a girl close to my age to date.  Where was Tinder when I needed it?!

Fast forward 40 years and all of the practice paid off.  I’m gigging most nights, and I play at an extremely high level.  However I’m now often the oldest person in the club by over 15 years.  Somewhere up in heaven Rod Serling is having a good laugh.

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We get requests

Posted by keithosaunders on October 17, 2017

Part of the craft being a solo pianist at a restaurant is taking and fielding requests.  I take a certain amount of pride in knowing a lot of tunes – hundreds, if not over a thousand – and as long as I know the song reasonably well I will play it, regardless of how corny it is or how much I don’t like it.  I’m grateful for requests; one of the hardest parts of doing a three hour solo gig is thinking of songs to play.  When I don’t know a song I’m always a little embarrassed, even though I realize that it’s impossible to know every song ever written.

A few weeks ago, however, I received a request that was as original as it was inane.  Someone asked me to play video game music.  I must have looked puzzled because the person quickly added, “You know, like Super Mario Brothers.”

This time, instead of stammering out an apology, I decided to try a new approach. I reached into my backpack, pulled out my new Smith & Wesson M & P9 Shield, fired a few rounds into the kitchen (taking care to avoid hitting the chef) and calmly set the gun down on the piano.

“Now,” I replied, “what was it you wanted to hear, some Bud Powell?  That’s what I thought you said.”

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Scrapple From the Apple

Posted by keithosaunders on August 30, 2017

Last night I played a gig at a bar in the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco called Club Deluxe.  The band, which plays at Deluxe every Tuesday,  is led by a great saxophonist named Smith Dobson and includes Eric Markowitz on bass and Jimmy Gallagher on drums.  These are some of my favorite musicians.

Last night we paid tribute to Charlie Parker on the 97th anniversary of his birth.  I went live on Periscope for one song – Scrapple From the Apple.  Unfortunately there was no ideal placement for the phone so the only band member you’ll see will be me.  But you can hear everyone and I feel it’s a great representation of what we do.

Click through for some nice licks.

https://www.pscp.tv/w/bHW-fDFlVmpZZG9xTU13S0x8MWRSSlpubm1WelFKQhPbfhROCU-Ev8Rg2eXOHrLkvC6q3-OwlN31nAAQdrNK

 

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Happy Bird’s Birthday!

Posted by keithosaunders on August 29, 2017

Today should be a holiday.  It is the birthday of one of the most important musicians of all time — Charlie Parker.  He was born on this date in 1920 which means had he lived, he would have been 97.  As it was he died at the tragically young age of 34.

He left us, however, with an ample discography, as well as this snippet of video footage of him playing live with Dizzy Gillespie.  They perform Tadd Dameron’s Hot House.

I would strongly recommend to anyone who has not heard of Charlie Parker, to Youtube him.  Your mind will be blown.

The New York radio station WKCR, as they do every year, is broadcasting a marathon Bird broadcast until tonight at midnight.  I highly recommend this.

https://www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/wkcr/#

In this dismal age of dangerous politicians and natural disasters why not take a few minutes to explore the beauty that exists in this world.  Happy Charlie Parker day.

 

 

 

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Keystone Korner

Posted by keithosaunders on July 10, 2017

This past weekend I took part in a 45th anniversary of the great, long-gone San Francisco jazz club called Keystone Korner.  The North Beach club was in existence from 1972 until 1985 – not terribly long by jazz club standards – but long enough to make an indelible imprint on the Bay Area jazz scene.  During its time it played host to the greatest names in jazz – from McCoy Tyner to Stan Getz, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, and Horace Silver.

This weekend’s celebration featured such luminaries as Azar Lawrence, Gary Bartz, and Charles MacPherson, all of whom still sound great.  I played in the host band, led by tenor saxophonist, Mel Martin.

It was a bittersweet weekend.  I realized that the era of local jazz clubs hosting top touring musicians for six night stints (at affordable prices) is long gone. Sure, New York still has the Village Vanguard, but you would have to practically float a loan to attend it more than once a month.

Furthermore, the Vanguard is very much the exception.  Many cities, San Francisco being one of them, no longer have clubs devoted exclusively to jazz.  Corporate arts centers such as SF Jazz and Lincoln Center help, but do little to foster the sense of a local jazz community.   Not only that, they will rarely host an act for more than a couple of nights.

We have to enjoy our few remaining jazz clubs while we have them.  One day we’ll only have youtube and our memories.

Image result for keystone korner

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My jazz camp adventures

Posted by keithosaunders on July 3, 2017

I have just returned from a week long stint spent as a teacher and performer at a jazz camp in La Honda, California.  La Honda is located deep in the Santa Cruz mountains –  a beautifully  scenic place.  I had a great time teaching, playing, and connecting with old and new friends.

The last day, however, my friend, Michelle, and I had a little disagreement. Nothing that serious, but, well, let me just tell you about it…

We were eating breakfast when I casually mentioned how much I hate scat singing and that no one should be allowed to do it.  Michelle responded, “I don’t give a fuck what you think.” As I was preparing my carefully worded response, Michelle removed some nun chucks from her backpack (that she happens to carry) and cracked me across the knee caps. As I was doubled over on the ground in the fetal position, crying like a little girl, I could hear the sound of a switch blade opening and before I had time to apologize, or beg for mercy, Michelle had slashed open my nose – just like Roman Polanski did to Jack Nicholson in Chinatown!

She stuck me in a wheel barrow and wheeled me to the camp nurse, who told me that she had never seen someone so severely injured at jazz camp. The silver lining is that now my photo hangs on the wall of fame at the jazz camp infirmary.

jazz camp woods

 

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The mind of a musician

Posted by keithosaunders on June 17, 2017

Have you ever wondered how the jazz musician’s creative process works?  The other night I played Freddie Hubbard’s Little Sunflower at a jam session.  Here then is play by play on what went through my head as I played this piece.

D minor
good groove
not as bad as I thought
D minor
2nd 8
liking it
bridge
groovin’
d minor
hey watch that voicing
d minor
groove
d minor
pretty chick in the front
d minor
why are they in the bridge?
ok back on
groove
d minor
wonder how the mets are doing
groove
d minor
d minor
d minor
thank god there are no words to this
d minor
g sus b9 over D
groove
d minor
do I have to do laundry
d minor
will this solo ever end
d minor
this couldn’t be more monotonous
d minor
d minor
except if the rhythm section went into double time samba
d minor
d minor
twice as long d minor
Ok here it comes..
I’m ready
bridge bridge bridge bridge bridge
GOD DAMMIT THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE BRIDGE
d minor
d minor
I’m in hell
d minor
shoot me…

 

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The decline of western civilization. Part 36: The talk show

Posted by keithosaunders on May 12, 2017

How low have we suck as a society?  There was once a time – in my lifetime, in fact – when you could turn on your television, tune to ABC, and see a top jazz pianist demonstrating the difference between the styles of Nat King Cole and Erroll Garner.

Dick Cavett was urbane to a level which bordered on pretentiousness, but he was able to stay out of the way of his guests, allowing them to shine.  Johnny Carson was a master at this too. Carson loved jazz and had musicians as guests, but you wouldn’t have seen such depth to the interview.  It would be miles above today’s standards, however.  By the way, I had no idea Oscar Peterson was so glib.  He’s the greatest jazz musician guest of all time!

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Music has gotten too loud

Posted by keithosaunders on March 18, 2017

Music is too loud these days.  I played an early gig at a bar in the Haight and after we were off there was a band with a singer, sax, trumpet, hammond organ, bass, and drums.  They were pretty obnoxious overall, but even worse they were loud as hell.  Even the horns were miked.  It was god awful.  It’s acoustic music.  There’s no need to pummel the patrons over the head.

Just a terrible job out of them.

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