The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

Nightmare

Posted by keithosaunders on April 19, 2019

What a dream I just awoke from — one that figures to stay with me from years to come.  I’m still shaking!

I dreamed that I was on a break at a gig and I was going through the buffet line.  I hadn’t eaten all day and I was more than ready to chow down.  I loaded up my plate to the brim with potato salad, rice, beans, and the most delicious short ribs I had ever seen.  The meat was glistening like Annette Funicello’s skin in Beach Blanket Bikini.

As I was walking to my seat, disaster struck.  I tripped, sending the entire contents of my plate onto the floor.  I was practically in tears but the bass player, who had been ahead of me in the line, said, “Get some more, get some more!”

I returned to the buffet only to find the cook putting the covers on the now empty steam tables.  All I was able to glean was a half order of (bottom of the pan) crusty rice and beans.

Needless to say I awoke in mid-scream in a cold sweat.  I hope this is not an omen.

Image result for bottom of the pan rice

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The sound of exposed brick

Posted by keithosaunders on January 18, 2019

Has anyone noticed how awful music sounds in almost every restaurant and club?  Club owners and restaurateurs love their cavernous, barn-like structures with hard surface floors, exposed brick, and floor to ceiling windows.  Well let me tell you something, exposed brick may be hip and charming, but the effect it has on music is horrible beyond belief.

But forget about music, conversation sounds awful in these hell holes.  You get some liquored up tech-bros trying to one up each other with their knowledge of mixed drinks, and their clothespin-voiced girlfriends who speak in a range that would make Maynard Ferguson jealous, and you may as well be in the Super Dome on Super Bowl Sunday.

Would it kill the establishment to throw down a couple of rugs and hang some drapes?  What do they have against musicians and pukeys being able to coexist?

 

Image result for exposed brick

 

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I’ve got nothing

Posted by keithosaunders on December 29, 2018

It’s the end of the year and I’ve got nothing.  I’m running on E, emotionally, artistically, and spiritually.  We’ve got a lying sack of excrement in the White House that 40 per cent of the country approve of.  The Dems are taking control of the Congress which opens the door for impeachment, but with the feckless Republican-controlled Senate there is little or no chance of conviction.

Sports continue to be a microcosm of capitalism with the rich getting richer (Yankees/Dodgers/Warriors) and an almost cult-like subservience to time-sucking instant replay booth reviews.

As much as I practice and strive to improve it is looking like too little too late.  The time is growing short and I’ve got a lot left to accomplish, not the least of which is staying alive.  How much longer will gigs and teaching be a reliable source of income?  Was it ever?

Happy New Year.

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Sippin’ at Bell’s

Posted by keithosaunders on September 4, 2018

Here is an unconventional blues from Miles Davis called Sippin’ at Bells.  It comes from his very first session as a leader in 1947 and the band featured Charlie Parker (on tenor!) John Lewis – piano, Nelson Boyd – bass, and Max Roach on drums.

The other tracks are the original Milestones, (Miles would write a second Milestones ten years later – a modal tune based on two chords) Little Willie Leaps (based on the chords of Bronislaw Kaper’s All Gods Children Got Rhythm), and Half Nelson.  All four of the tunes on this date ended up becoming jazz standards.  Jazz musicians throughout the world know them and continue to play them.

Sippin’ at Bells, a 12 bar blues,  is notable for it’s unique, substitute chord laden progression.  Miles begins the song with an F major 7 (instead of a dominant 7) and if that is not radical enough, he immediately diverts to the key of Eb in measure two, using Fm7-Bb7.  In the fifth measure, instead of using the usual IV dominant 7, Davis employs a IV major 7, a striking diversion from the norm.

In 1949 the pianist Bud Powell would record his original, Dance of the Infidels.  Its chord progression is almost identical to that of ‘Bells,’ although its melody is completely different.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

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Happy birthday

Posted by keithosaunders on August 24, 2018

When I was young I fell in love with jazz music.  I studied, practiced, jammed, and gigged.  I was precocious and thought I was much better than I was.  Harmonically, rhythmically, and technically I was callow – less than the player I am today.  I didn’t care.  There was joy and abandon in my playing and the optimism that is the domain of the young.

When I was young I went on dates.  I had infatuations, rejections, romances, and breakups.  There were no dating aps — I  was judged on my poise and insouciance in the moment.  Sometimes I fell flat on my face and other times the stars aligned for great successes.  It didn’t matter – there was time.

When I was young if I wanted to go to a ballgame my greatest worry (living in New York) was whether or not there would be a rain out.  The cost was not prohibitive, the game, though slow, was not marred by interminable booth delays or a revolving door of relief pitchers.  I was not made to feel like a criminal upon entering the stadium.  There was joy in the experience.

So begins my 58th year.  Bring it on.

 

Image result for Keith Hernandez

Keith Hernandez – my favorite Met.

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How is this possible? Art Tatum

Posted by keithosaunders on December 15, 2017

Art Tatum was, arguably, not only the greatest jazz pianist of all time, but the greatest pianist period.  He is responsible for influencing Charlie Parker, who took a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant that Tatum was appearing at merely to be close to the man. Tatum also had a profound effect on Bud Powell, hence every single subsequent jazz pianist.

Tatum, born October 13th 1909 in Toledo, Ohio, came of age in the swing era, a good ten years before the be-bop revolution.  Though he emerged in an earlier era,  his harmonic sense – his voicings, as well as re-harmonization of songs –  is as modern, if not more so than that of anyone who proceeded him.  His technique is flawless and he sounds just as comfortable at breakneck tempos (see Liza) as he does when he plays a ballad.

There are two facets of his playing that have always astounded me.  One is his impeccable time.  No matter how complicated and ornate a run he plays he never drops a beat.  His sense of pulse is a thing of wonder.

Then there is his gift of harmony.  It’s easy to be hypnotized by his Olympian technique, but listen a little closer and you will hear intricate re-harmonizations – chords that flow into one another with deft ease, sometimes on every beat. They are beautiful to behold, but difficult for the laymen (read 99.99 % of us) to grasp, and hence nearly impossible to assimilate.

Listen to Moon Song.  At 3:11 you’ll hear Tatum launch into one of his impossible runs, his right hand a whirling dervish, while his left hand stride solidly holds down the time.  He doesn’t complete the run until 3:18 at which point the audience breaks into spontaneous laughter.  They can’t believe he has stuck the landing!

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Can I get a vestibule over here?

Posted by keithosaunders on November 20, 2017

I don’t know if I have any restaurant or bar owners follow this blog but now that the colder November weather is upon us this is as good a time as any to leave this public service announcement:

Close your fuckin’ doors, OK?  I don’t care if this is California, Hawaii, or Ethiopia, it is in the low 50s outside. It is not balmy.  It is no longer t-shirt weather. In fact, in San Francisco, where most of my gigs are, it is rarely warm enough to walk around without a jacket in the summer, let alone the cold months.

Back east they have vestibules which keep the heat contained inside of the establishment.  How ironic that one is warmer indoors in New York City winters than in those of California.

Your establishment is not cozy and what little charm you gain by having an ‘open air’ ambiance is negated by your customer’s discomfort.  Look around you, for crying out loud:  Your customers have not taken off their down jackets!  They are not happy.  Neither am I.

No Vestibule

vestibule

 

Vestibule

Image result for restaurant vestibule

 

 

 

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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 exposition

Posted by keithosaunders on November 5, 2017

The hardest part of dating as a middle aged man, and the main reason I am not enthusiastic about dating, is the amount of exposition that goes into the first date.  It’s exhausting having to recount my life’s story with all of its layers and complexities. First of all, the breakup with my ex-wife doesn’t have a good narrative.  It would be one thing if one of us cheated or embezzled – now that’s a juicy breakup.  But no, we just grew slowly apart, split up, and remained good friends.

Then there is the career.  Yes, playing piano is my job, no I do not make tons of money, yes I’m talented, (you have to say you’re talented so she doesn’t think you’re a schlub, but you run the risk of coming off as arrogant) no, it’s not glamorous, yes I sometimes play gigs I don’t want to play.  Oh, and by the way, I work nights, often 6 or 7 a week, and I always work on New Years Eve.

What a catch!

 

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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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