The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Bud Powell’

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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Not here for the hookups

Posted by keithosaunders on July 31, 2017

One thing that soon becomes clear while browsing on Tinder is that many, many middle-aged women are not there for the hookups.  I have a problem with that.

It’s that I’m only on Tinder for the hookup.  I am hopeful that I will eventually meet someone, fall in love, and have a long term relationship.  But here’s the thing:  If you go on a date knowing there is zero chance of a sex, you’re removing much of the electricity that comes with that possibility.  Without sexual tension you may as well be hanging out with friends.

Plus, I don’t believe it in setting such rules and boundaries.  We’re adults, and we’ve been adults for decades.  If there is mutual attraction we can handle a spontaneous romp.  Hell, we’ve earned it!

I am hereby swiping left on anyone’s profile that states, ‘no hookups.’ (Unless they say they like Bud Powell.)

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Glass Enclosure

Posted by keithosaunders on December 17, 2016

It took me almost half a year but I finally finished it – a piano transcription of Bud Powell’s Glass Enclosure. It was such painstaking work that two to four bars would take 40 minutes at which point I’d either be out of time or exhausted. The middle section, in which many of the measures contain a different chord for every beat, was particularly thorny. I’m confident I have accurate melody and harmony, but with the lower fidelity of 50s recordings I can’t be certain of the voicings. They are very close, though, and the genius of the piece is evident.

Glass Enclosure was written in 1953 shortly after Powell had been released from Creedmore State Hospital in Queens. According to a 1996 article in Atlantic Monthly written by Francis Davis, Bud, who had an ongoing engagement at Birdland, was kept locked in his apartment during the day by his manager, who was also his legal guardian. One day producer Alfred Lion, the co-founder of Blue Note records, came to Bud’s apartment and heard him working on new material. Glass Enclosure was the most striking of the songs he heard.

After living with this piece for 6 months my level of awe for Bud Powell has increased, if this is possible. The way I see it Bud’s repertoire can be divided into four distinct categories. There are compositions such as Dance of the Infidels, Wail, and Bouncing With Bud which are brilliant, as well as accessible to mortals.

Then there are the through composed pieces that are somewhat inaccessible, such as Glass Enclosure, Sure Thing, and Un Poco Loco. There’s also Tempus Fugit, which you can blow on, but is ultimately a giant pain in the ass. The thing is, even if you learn these tunes, what are you going to do with them other than attempt to play them as much like the original as possible?

In addition there are Powell’s reworking of standards such as I Should Care, Over the Rainbow, and Polka Dots and Moonbeans. These are so personal to him he may as well have composed them.

Then there is late Bud which still contains some gems such as John’s Abbey, Time Waits and Cleopatra’s Dream.

I believe that there is a legitimate case to be made that because of his compositions and the debt that every subsequent pianist owes him, Bud may have been deeper than Bird. At the very least they’re on par.  See for yourself.

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It’s all music

Posted by keithosaunders on November 16, 2016

If you’ve never heard a live recording of bebop music when it was in its prime in the mid 40s then you’ve never really heard it.  There is an immediacy and an electricity about it that does not fully emerge in the studio recordings.  Don’t get me wrong; anything that Bird ever recorded is nothing short of outstanding, but to get the complete picture you must check him out live.

This is top of mind because as I write this I’m listening to a compilation of live radio broadcasts of Bird on a disc entitled, The Complete Live Performances.  The host of the broadcasts is the New York disc jockey,  Symphony Sid.   Sid had a hipster way of speaking (“Blow Bird, blow!“) which I’ve always gotten a kick out of.  It sounds to my ears, however, that he got under the skin of the musicians whom he revered.

On one of the tracks Sid says to Bird, “Can I get a few words about the sides you did with Machito? [In the late 40s Parker recorded The Afro Cuban Suite with Cuban percussionist, Machito]   It sounds like you’re trying to bring bop to a larger audience – make it more commercial.”   Bird responds in an affable, yet slightly condescending tone, “Well, if you say so, Sid, it’s all just music to me.”

Birds response – it’s all music – is revealing in that it implies that he was more interested in making great music than leading a bebop revolution.  The modern musicians of the 40s knew they were onto something special and that they had made breakthroughs, both harmonically and rhythmically.  We know that Bird was influenced by Lester Young and Art Tatum, but he also loved classical music and was influenced by Igor Stravinsky.  There were a myriad of influences that effected modern jazz music, among them the Cuban music that Bird had played with Machito, and later on his own Verve date.

I’ve always distrusted fellow musicians who blithely announce that they’re going to play a bebop song.  It’s a diminutive term – as if you’re choosing from categories on a menu. Sure, it is useful for describing a brief jazz epoch, but in the end, if you are going to become a jazz musician, you are going to have to grapple with the genius of Bird, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and all those that came before and after them.

It’s all music!

 

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Comes the deplorables

Posted by keithosaunders on November 9, 2016

I was wrong.  For nine months I insisted that there is no way that the American people would elect Donald Trump.  Although we have a conservative, celebrity-driven culture, I insisted, we are not reactionary enough to elect an unintelligent, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, failed realtor.

How wrong I was.  Today, along with the rest of liberal Americans, I eat crow.  I over-estimated the intelligence of the American people.

And to the blue-collar, salt of the earth, working class Americans in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin I sent out a hearty and heartfelt, fuck you.   Get the fuck out of here with your high-minded morality and your hypocritical church going ways.  Because guess what?  He’s taking you down right alongside lefty, commie, kale-loving yours truly.

The fact is that you real Americans are going to need affordable health care, roads, schools, and who knows, maybe even an abortion or two.  Good luck with all of that.  Do you really believe that a crooked billionaire real estate mogul gives even the tiniest fuck about the state of blue-collar America?  If you do I was wondering if you would invest in my next recording project:  Keitho plays the music of Bud Powell.  That record has a better chance of going platinum than blue collar workers do of finding jobs under a Trump presidency.

Listening to NPR radio last night I nearly threw up in my mouth.  The general consensus was that a populist movement propelled Trump to the Whitehouse.  I call bullshit.  It was pure, unadulterated racism.  We have seen the kind of people that a Trump rally attract.  They are scum of the earth, thuggish, racist, white trash.  You can take that kind of populism and shove it up your ass.

Eight years ago I voted and for the first time in my life was proud to be an American.  Now I am ashamed to be one.  These are dark days.

 

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Audrey

Posted by keithosaunders on October 28, 2016

Lately I’ve been fascinated with how Bud Powell deals with the 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, 11th, & 12th bar of the blues. He goes out of his way to find the major 7th. It’s almost like a giant ‘fuck you’ to the blues but it works, and some levels it’s bluesier than what we’re used to hearing. It’s a personal and striking statement.

I believe that generation – Bird, Monk, Dizzy et al – thought of those bars more as major chords (or 6th chords) than dominant 7ths. The next generation – Horace, Wynton Kelly, Mobley, D Byrd – played over dominant changes, but not the be boppers. (at least to my ears) The exception would be the slow blues, which Bird was a master at. I don’t know how much the Kansas City influence v Bud’s New York upbringing plays into that.

I recently transcribed this solo — it’s amazing as all of Bud’s solos were, but this one I found to be unusually quirky and great. After all these years of listening to him I still can’t believe how effortlessly he stays in the center of the beat even with all of that double time.

 

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I get requests

Posted by keithosaunders on October 17, 2016

I have a solo piano gig in San Francisco which I do every Wednesday and Sunday.  From time to time people will request tunes and I’ll do my best to fulfill them no matter how corny they may be.  My unofficial data tells me that Billy Joel’s, The Piano Man is the most requested song while Dave Brubeck’s Take Five is a close second.

Earlier tonight 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 around for the back of my trousers, took at out my new Glock 19, fired a few rounds into the kitchen (taking care to avoid hitting the chef) and 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.”

 

Image result for glock 19

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A weekend out of town

Posted by keithosaunders on August 16, 2016

Sometimes the most strenuous part of gigging is getting to the venue.  The playing of the gig is often times the easiest thing we do.  Of course there are tens of thousands of hours of practice that we draw on, but for the most part when good musicians play together ideas tend to flow easily.

On Saturday I played at the San Jose jazz festival with local Bay Area legend, saxophonist Noel Jewkes.  San Jose is an hour south of where I live in the East Bay (Albany, which is next to Berkeley) but with traffic it’s usually at least a 90 minute trip.  (Our gig was only slightly longer than 90 minutes!)  At the conclusion of the gig we were interviewed by some jocks from the local jazz station, KCSM, one of whom is an outstanding sax player in his own right, Patrick Wolff.

noel

 

On Sunday I drove down to San Luis Obispo to play with my former teacher, vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake, and my former band mate, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli.  I studied with Charlie when I was in high school –  from 1975-78.  Before that I had studied classical piano for 8 years.  I had become disenchanted and wanted to quit the piano when my mother heard of a teacher who specialized in jazz improvisation.  I agreed to give it a try almost instantly I was hooked.  The fact that I had a classical background, had good technique, and knew my scales was a boon to me.  It gave me a leg up on learning how to negotiate chord changes.  Charlie was a great teacher and just the right person for me at that time in my life.  He introduced me to the music of Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis among others. These are people I never would have been exposed to in my suburban California upbringing. Perhaps I would have discovered them in college or as an adult, but I just as likely could have stuck with Jethro Tull and Yes.  I dodged a bullet there.

charile

Joe

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Bud Powell’s Sure Thing

Posted by keithosaunders on June 6, 2016

Those that follow my blog know that the pianist, Bud Powell, is the jazz musician whom I feel the closest to .  I believe he has had a greater influence on jazz pianists than any other musician.  This includes Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, and Herbie Hancock, all of whom are giants in their own right.

Not only was Bud a brilliant pianist but he was also a transcendent composer.  Many of his compositions combine classical, African, and Latin American influences which are filtered through his extremely personal and infectious harmonic and melodic sensibility.  Some, such as Celia, Dance of The Infidels, and Bouncing With Bud have become jazz standards –  repertory which musicians are expected to know.  Others, such as the forward looking Un Poco Loco, Glass Enclosure, and Sure Thing are less accessible vehicles for improvising, and thus with the passage of time have been overlooked.

This year’s resolution has been to transcribe and learn some Powell’s lesser known compositions and I am proud to say that at mid year I am right on schedule.  I began with Dusk at Sandi, and last week, after about a month’s work, I finished Sure Thing.  (Next up will be Glass Enclosure)

Here is a screen shot of the first page of six:

ST

Forgive my amateurish screen shot skills.  My patience ran out so I ended up taking it from my phone.

I am now offering jazz piano lessons via Skype.  In fact, since the main focus of lessons will be on improvising, I can teach any instrument.  The lessons are affordable, and being that I will not be leaving my apartment to teach, I charge less than my usual fee.

You may contact me via email or through my website.

OK enough with the commercial, we now return you to your regular scheduled curmudgeonly blogging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hitchcock and Bebop

Posted by keithosaunders on April 5, 2016

The record, Sonny Stitt, Bud Powell, JJ Johnson was recorded in 1949 and 1950 and features some jaw droppingly brilliant playing from my idol, Bud Powell.  Check out his two-chorus gem of a solo on Bluebird starting at 6:55.  Better yet, check out his playing on the entire record. (Full disclosure, John Lewis plays on the latter tracks but their playing is so different that it’s easy to tell them apart.)

Back when I was studying with Charlie Shoemake (1975-’78) this record was always on display in his studio –  I know he transcribed several Powell and Stitt solos from it.  Funny thing, though, I never really checked out the cover until yesterday.  It’s a bizarre image that is simultaneously humorous and frightening.  I admit that bebop was a revolution but this looks more like an out an out revolt!  It’s Hitchcockian.

 

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