The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘piano’

The Tinder follies

Posted by keithosaunders on May 1, 2017

Yes, I admit it.  I’m a man in his 50s who is on Tinder. WHAT ELSE AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!   I’ve actually been on a couple of Tinder dates, and while they haven’t yet led to a relationship, they were good experiences.

I’ve noticed a similarity in many of the profiles that I view.  In regards to photos, people seem to check off certain boxes.  For instance, I am surprised at how many photos I see of women scuba diving.  Really?  Is scuba diving a thing?  I’m thinking that it must signify wealth and health.  I’m sure it’s not cheap, and you must have to be in some kind of shape to deal with it.

So you have the scuba photos, and these are almost always accompanied by photos in ski gear, as well as beach photos.  Throw in a photo with your pet, and one of you standing in front of some corporate logo at a swanky affair and you’ve got yourself a Tinder profile.

Needless to say I’m not into scuba and skiing and the photos of me sitting behind a piano do not seem to be capturing the imagination of a nation, so I gave a friend who is good with photoshop, an assignment.  Here is his first effort.  I expect that my social calendar will soon be filled to the brim.


scuba keith

Posted in life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Off to the races

Posted by keithosaunders on February 26, 2016

Every Tuesday and Thursday I teach beginning piano for three hours at after school programs at a pair of schools in Orinda. (Orinda is located in the Bay Area — it’s in Contra Costa county and is approximately 8 miles east of Oakland.)  The kids are cute and I have a good time with them.

At the Tuesday school I have to pick the individual kids up at an after school room and walk them all the way across the school to the music room.  My first student, Devon, is a kindergartner who one day challenged me to a race. I accepted figuring it would be a good workout since I had missed my morning jog.

After Devon’s lesson I went back to the after school room to retrieve my next student who happens to be his sister.  She noticed that I had raced her brother so she insisted on racing me too.  After we came back from her lesson she told the next student to race me, and on it went until now all five students insist on racing me every week.

Devon is only five or six years old and since I believe, given optimum conditions, I can take him, I go all out.  He wins anyway, but not by much.  His sister, however, is really fast and I have no chance.  She destroys me. By the time it gets to the third student, who is a little slower, I’m too tired to go full on so she beats me by an even wider margin.  With the fourth student I’ll occasionally employ Ben Hur tactics, edging her into the wall, or yelling, ‘Look over there! but she’s spry and fends off my attacks as easily as a club owner denies giving a musician a raise.

By the time it gets to the fifth and final student I’m so beaten down that I merely pretend to race while the kid tears off into the distance at top speed.  I’ll call out for effect, “HERE I COME!  I’M GAINING ON YOU, WATCH OUT,” as I limp along wondering when piano teaching became an extreme sport.



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The first and last word on jazz piano: Bud

Posted by keithosaunders on August 21, 2010

There have so many pianists that have shaped the legacy of jazz music but there is one who towers above them all. Without Bud Powell there would be no Wynton Kelley, no Horace Silver, no McCoy Tyner, and no Chick Corea. Certainly Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, and Sonny Clark would have sounded much different. Even the pianists you might think are not influenced by Bud, such as Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, owe a great deal to the master. Early Bill Evans recordings reveal a close stylistic affinity with Powell, and Jarrett has recorded many of Powell’s compositions on his trio dates- enough to let you know that he has more than a passing fancy.

The first Bud record that I owned was s Verve “twofer” called The Genius of Bud Powell, which comprised his trio and solo work from 1949-1951. I was just fifteen, new to jazz, but from the opening off-to-the-races intro of Tempus Fugit, Bud had won yet another disciple.

It would be impossible for me to overstate his importance to jazz pianists. The connection I felt to him was instantaneous and thrilling. These sessions, recorded in such a brief span of time, are the lexicon from which future pianists would study.

His technique is prodigious, but not as frightening and daunting as that of Art Tatum. He’s just mortal enough to allow you to have a smidgen of belief that it is attainable.

The technique, however, is the tip of the iceberg. Check out his clarity of ideas. He rarely repeats himself, even on the extended choruses of All Gods Children Got Rhythm, Tea For Two, and Parisian Thoroughfare. His attack is hard, yet he never forces the beat. He is secure in the center of the beat, rarely clams a note, and is so confident in the up tempo numbers that they hardly sound fast at all – just musical. His ideas, in fact, are so well-formed that he becomes a be-bop impressionist – painting in colors we could not dream of.

These sides, and I’ve heard them hundreds of times, never get old to me. I am as dumbfounded listening to them today as I wax 35 years ago. His ballad playing is like no other pianist I’ve ever heard. Phrases come in clusters, seemingly unrelated to the beat, but that is only an illusion; his time is never less than perfect. He appears to have found a way to use the maximum amount of pedal without ever slurring notes. He is romantic but never scmaltzy.

His personality looms over everything. From the startling originals, Hallucinations and The Fruit, to the clever re-working of the standards Tea For Two and Cherokee, he is in command and the music has such forward momentum that you almost get the feeling that his sidemen – Max Roach and Ray Brown – giants in their own rite, are merely along for the ride. This is bourne out on his solo sides of 1951, in which the tunes are so alluring, and his time so strong that on first listen one can be forgiven for not noticing the absence of a rhythm section!

Bud, you left us far too soon, but thank you for all that you have given us. We can never repay you, and we will never forget you.

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Play me, I’m Yours

Posted by keithosaunders on July 2, 2010

A few weeks ago Bkivey asked me what I think of the art installation which has brought 60 pianos to public spaces in New York City.   The pianos, painted in bold colors, are surprisingly inviting — they practically scream out, “PLAY ME!”   

The timing of Bkivey’s request involved a two-part coincidence.  I had arrived home from a gig with a bass player friend of mine, Bim Strasberg, who had just been telling me of the art exhibit.  THis was the first I’d heard of it.  Bim had mixed feelings.  He liked the idea of the pianos being there but wasn’t thrilled with the idea of people walking by and banging on it. 

Part two of the coincidence took place a few hours later in the evening when I was taking my dog for her late-night walk.  Our route takes us by Gantry Park, which is a waterfront park on the Queens side of the East River overlooking the east side of Manhattan.  As we were walking by the park I noticed one of the pianos in the plaza.

It was an old Spinet, barely in tune with a thin tone.  It was missing a hammer on the D an octave above middle C.  You can imagine what the outside elements , especially being next to a body of water, does to a piano.  It had a plastic tarp to protect it from the elements but the tarp had been thrown, or blown onto the ground. 

This was right up my alley!  Nobody can play an out of tune, rickety old piano like me.  You have to be able to deal with these warhorses if you are going to be a jazz pianist in New York.  I have just described the condition of 70% of the pianos in jazz clubs.

And wouldn’t you know it but  I couldn’t resist sitting down and playing a few tunes.  How often was I going to be able to play music with the Manhattan skyline as my backdrop?  It was a warm, balmy night and even though it was already one in the morning there were still a few people out and about.  One couple was dancing and another sat a few feet behind me making out. 

 Before I knew it a half hour had passed and I decided to stop.  I sat down a few feet from the piano and watched as others passed by and took her for a spin.  In the day time the Gantry Park piano is hardly ever vacant.  People are drawn to it like investment bankers to a Yankee game.  There is something cathartic about the instrument being available for all, to play or to listen to.  Sure it receives its fair share of abuse, but that cacophony of the pounding blends in just fine with the urban landscape.  It’s OK….in moderation.

Posted in music, New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Hank Jones on practicing

Posted by keithosaunders on June 2, 2010

I just heard a replay of a great interview of Hank Jones done by Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.  The interview was done in 2005 when Hank was 87 years old.  He sounded sharp as a tack and if you didn’t know his age you might think he was in his 40s or younger.

Towards the end of the interview Terry asked Hank if he still practiced and he assured her that he did.  “I don’t see how anybody could do without practicing.”  She asked him what he practiced and he said that he ran scales and worked on material, both new and old.  He said “I try to be conversant with the piano.  You have to be on good speaking terms with the piano or the piano will rebuff you.”   

What a beautiful quote.  It’s no wonder he was the most elegant of pianists.  Even if I had never heard him play I would have realized that this was someone to be reckoned with.

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What’s in a photo?

Posted by keithosaunders on March 3, 2010

This photo was taken at last Sunday’s gig.  I’m posting it because it is one of the all time great photos of me.  Somehow my pattern baldness has been neutralized.  This is not due to any photo shopping chicanery, but perhaps owing to favorable lighting and/or certain rules of quantum mechanics of which I am unfamiliar.

    Note the furrowed brow, denoting intense concentration, the over-sized cranium enabling subject to retain chords to upwards of hundreds of standards while withstanding the ennui and occasional taunts from hostile audiences.   The use of a goblet shaped container to hold currency seems to be code for some kind of barter system.  Tunes for cash?  There is a photo perched atop the keyboard.  Could this be a kind of figurehead?  An unseen, yet controlling presence exerting an iron will upon a servile minion? 

Let’s examine some clues available to us from the photo.  There’s a tip jar, followed by the last three letters of the keyboard, [..and] and a glass of scotch.  Let’s see, bucks and scotch…bucks and scotch… I GOT IT!  We drink to forget the ineptitude of the Milwaukee Bucks!

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Compromising Position

Posted by keithosaunders on February 28, 2010

This week I’ve been playing the after hours gig at Dizzy’s with the Richie Vitale Quintet.  The gig consists of one set beginning at midnight during the week, and 1AM on the weekends. (last night we didn’t begin until 1:45)  What a pleasure it is to play five nights in a row.  You can spend the first night getting used to the sound of the room and not feel that you have to play everything you know in 60 minutes.  

Since  the headline act is the Christian McBride big band the piano is pushed all the way to the left edge of the stage,  As a result the bench is closer to the keyboard than prefer. I feel like one of those Florida seniors driving his Cadillac with the seat pushed all the way up to the dashboard.  It’s actually somewhat nerve-wracking since the chair is so close to the lip of the stage.  If I were one of those pianist who bounced around I would be in grave danger of taking a tumble.  Can you picture the opening of the new, modern Wide World of Sports?  Instead of the skier careening down the mountain you would see me in slow motion falling head-over-chair off the stage.

I prefer to sit back from the piano so that my forward momentum carries me towards the instrument — this setup has me in the Bill Evans position.  There’s nothing I can do about it so I’m making the best of it.  At one point I decided to go with the flow and I moved even closer to the piano — so much that my upper body was over the piano lid almost into the strings.  I was up in that piano’s kitchen, practically having sex with it.  I know this because as I was playing I could hear embarrassed laughter coming from the audience.  I didn’t care — I was in the moment, humping that Steinway 8 to the bar.

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