The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

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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The jazz woo

Posted by keithosaunders on March 7, 2017

Alcoa presents: The Jazz Ethicist…with Keitho!

Dear J.E. When is the proper time to employ the jazz ‘woo?’

Curious Yellow

Dear CY,

Good question! First of all, whatever you do, do not use it on the bandstand. Horn players, when they are not soling, should effect an insouciance with head cocked at 45 degree angles, looking passively into the audience, occasionally snapping on the 2 and/or the 4.

NOW. During the break you will be talking about great musicians with your fellow band members. For example, someone one will say, “Herbie was killing it on Speak Like a Child!”

Now is your chance.

With a barely audible, yet excited 2 second falsetto, you proclaim, “Ooooh!”

Note: The W in ‘woo’ is silent – if you say ‘woo’ you’ve blown it and will be instantly ostracized from the herd.

I hope this helps.

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The art of the humblebrag

Posted by keithosaunders on February 28, 2017

Last night’s jam session was packed with people.  The establishment was going out of business and somehow this attracted jazz ghouls, suddenly smitten with nostalgia for a place that they were loathe attend during its run.  As a result the session went an hour overtime so that every last singer, sax player, and whistler could be accommodated.

When we finally finished the last “act,” a Danish accordion player who played Baby Elephant Walk in 5/4, I breathed a sigh of relief, and stood up from the piano when all of a sudden an audience member starting yelling, “LET’S HEAR ONE MORE FROM THE BAND!”  Of course the crowd cheered and hooted and the marathon night dragged on for another 15 minutes.

Now I love music as much as the next guy (probably more, since I actually play it for a living) but after having played for two hours straight I was ready for some Netflix.  Enough is enough, people.  If you really liked this club you would have patronized it during its heyday.

But let me tell you something, when a guy screams at the band to play one more song, it’s not about his love of music or his appreciation of the band.  It’s about injecting himself into the conversation.  It’s all about ego.  Look at me – I love these guys, I love music so much, I’m so hip.

The art of the humblebrag.

 

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Vestibules now!

Posted by keithosaunders on January 3, 2017

Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting and night

Folks, here is concrete photographic evidence of a clear and present danger in the Bay Area: An alarming lack of vestibules.

When people observe jazz in their overcoats they are not enjoying the music – they are counting the minutes until they can be reunited with their heater. Head colds and gig-related illnesses are predicted to spike in future years.

Stop the madness. #vestibulesnow!

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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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Just another night at the office

Posted by keithosaunders on December 7, 2016

There are so many louts at our gigs that it’s hard not to go all Stockhomy and start liking them.  When your office is a dive bar expectations had better be low or you could go crazy from frustration and aggravation.

At last night’s gig there was ultra loud couple sitting in the booth right across from the band. This guy must have been the funniest thing since Sid Caesar because every ten seconds there would be an ear-piercing cackle from his date. He had this nasal voice that could penetrate the loudest decibel, like a knife slashing through butter. We could have been Led Zeppelin and you would have heard this guy.

Needless to say they stayed the entire night. After the gig I noticed they were making out in the booth so I decided to give them a taste of their own medicine. “GET A ROOM,” I screamed. Then I approached them: “How do you like it when I intrude on your business?”

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Mansplain the vote

Posted by keithosaunders on December 1, 2016

The worst thing about Trump being president is having to endure countless thinkpieces, as well as mansplaining-lectures from dullards as to how the salt of the earth rust belters cast a protest vote against the Dem machine. Two years from now while these idiotic,racist idiots scratch their heads while standing on unemployment lines I’ll be sitting in my ivory tower laughing and pointing. I can do $50.00 gigs until I die, what do I care?
 
But don’t tell me that Trump was employing some kind of Machiavellian strategy, pulling the wool over the American people. Please. Americans are stupid and racist enough. They saw a celebrity with racist overtones and these cretins who couldn’t accept being governed by a woman voted for the blowhard.
 
And fuck Hillary too. That’s the best the Dems could come up with? She’s a modern-day Ralph Kramden, not even bothering to campaign in Wisconsin. That’s how cocky she was.
 
Hillary: I had it and I went with it. Easy come, easy go!
 
So keep on writing and explaining to me, media. I’ll read every wor….[brrrrring!]
 
Hello? Yes? Yes? How much? 50? What time does it start?!

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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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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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