The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘solo piano’

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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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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Who put these #%& snakes in the #%$ piano?

Posted by keithosaunders on March 6, 2016

Folks it’s the end of the weekend and I’m all Trumped out so I’m giving that topic a rest for the time being.

As a freelance musician my office changes from night to night.  More importantly my work station, that is to say my piano, also changes.  Every once in a while I get a beautiful instrument; for instance, a seven foot Steinway with great action and a beautiful tone.  This makes my job so much easier — it’s like driving a Lexus versus a Yugo.  (Full disclosure, I’ve never driven either)

Most of the time I’m stuck with a dog, or at best a dowager. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  A lousy piano takes preference over me having to schlep my keyboard, even though my keyboard remains in tune in perpetuity. At this point my back’s comfort takes preference over my ear’s.

I pride myself as being the kind of pianist who can make any instrument, no matter how bad, sound good.  I almost never complain about the piano because what’s the point?  If I don’t like it I should shut up and bring my keyboard.


There are times when I’m playing a solo, the music is groovin,’ I’m working through dense lines, building up energy – I’m in a good mood, almost a state of euphoria – when BAM I hit a high G that sounds like a cat in heat.

It’s like I’m the lead in a movie starring opposite Marilyn Monroe when all of a sudden her character gets killed off and replaced with another love-interest…played by Irene Ryan, the actress who played Granny in the Beverly Hillbillys.



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Your obligatory Super Bowl post

Posted by keithosaunders on February 6, 2016

I feel guilty about my lack of enthusiasm over Sunday’s big game but for whatever reason I just can’t seem to get excited over it.  Part of the reason is that I have an early starting solo piano gig that’s going to interfere with me seeing the fourth quarter.  Fortunately I have a good line of sight from the piano to the TV but I’m a little farther away than I’d like to be which will make identifying the holding calls tough.

The game is being played in Santa Clara which is 40 miles south of where I live. This is where the 49ers moved two season ago — a corporate designer stadium monstrosity. From all counts Levi’s Stadium has a nightmare parking situation which can take hours to enter and exit.   Route 101 is a tough artery to deal with in the best of circumstances but one can only imagine how much worse it will be tomorrow.  Throw in the post 9/11 security and you couldn’t pay me enough to attend this game.  I’ve heard that there are people who flew in from out of town that aren’t able to go to the game but are going to local Santa Clara bars so that they can be close to the action.  I pity these dullards.  Stay at home and watch from your couch, for crying out loud.  Santa Clara has no ambiance!

All of the Super Bowl festivities, whatever they are, have taken place in San Francisco which has made it tough for the working stiff musician to get into town for his gigs. (I live across the bay in a town just north of Berkeley called Albany)  Tonight I’m gigging in North Beach which is a part of San Francisco that is only a 20 minute walk from the a Bart station.  Tomorrow, however, I’m working in a part of San Francisco not serviced by Bart so I’ll have to drive.  I’m hoping that everyone will already be ensconced at the TV of their choice by the time I have to leave.

And there you have it:  My Super Bowl post.  My prediction:  Carolina 28 Denver 7.

Posted in football, San Francisco, Super Bowl, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Going to the dogs

Posted by keithosaunders on December 10, 2015

I have a steady solo piano gig every Wednesday night at a restaurant/bar in San Francisco.  I eat on my break which normally comes around 8:30.  There’s a Burger King right at the exit of my BART stop and sometimes I’ll buy a hamburger there to hold me over until dinner.  (Yes I realize fast food is bad but a small hamburger once a month or so won’t kill me.)

Yesterday was one of those burger-craving days so I stopped in at BK.  This woman was in front of me in line at Burger King with two Basset hounds. I smiled and said, “Oh what good dogs,” to which she replied, “DON’T GET TOO CLOSE! YOU’RE MAKING THEM ANXIOUS. STAY BACK.”

The dogs shifted slightly but they didn’t appear to be that anxious — they just wanted to sniff me.  I tried letting the lady know that I liked dogs and was comfortable around them.  The more I talked the more agitated she got. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  THEY’RE GETTING NERVOUS.  WHY CAN’T YOU STAY BACK.  DO YOU HATE DOGS?  GET BACK!”

At this point the dogs actually were becoming a little agitated, more because of their master than anything else.  I decided to avoid a potential Cujo incident and I left.  My arteries thanked me but I was hungry for another two hours.

[shakes fist] Frisco!

Posted in life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Another night at the office

Posted by keithosaunders on August 18, 2015

My office last night.

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I’m a jazz pianist but that doesn’t mean I only play jazz gigs.  The name of the game is survival; loosely translated this means I’m a gun for hire.  Last night I was hired to play background solo piano at a garage that repaired, restored, and sold classic cars. I was surrounded by Ferraris, Porches, and Alfa Romeos, among others.  There was an interesting mix of people there consisting of mechanics, people who raced cars, and people who bought cars.

I noticed the car people had a certain look.  Most were tanned and rustic looking but in a well kept sort of way.  A lot of them, for some reason, wore Hawaiian shirts with khaki pants. One of them brought their young-teen son who resembled a live-action Richie Rich.

Usually on a dinner break the band will eat together and hilarity ensures. In this case, since I was alone, they placed me at one of the tables. So here I am, a jazz pianist sitting at a table with people who race cars and people who can afford to buy Maseratis and Lamborghinis. Awwwwwkward!

I had a strategy, however: I willed myself to become invisible.  Simple.  You can’t talk to who you can’t see.  But wouldn’t you know it the strategy failed and  the person sitting directly to my right struck up a conversation. It was kind of stilted, but not the worst. I was actually nervous for him.  What could a one-percenter possibly have in common with a guy who’s idea of living large is buying Bounty paper towels instead of the Safeway brand? (they really are good paper towels)

But converse we did.  The beginning of the conversation was like trying to start a 30 year old Volvo in February in Green Bay. After a minute or so, however, things loosed up.  He was comparing how exact a car’s details have to be in order to take first place at an auto show to how good a musician has to be to break through to the upper echelon.  Not bad, actually – I can’t disagree. The funniest thing is that through this brief conversation we were able to determine we had a mutual acquaintance.  He lives in Minnesota while I’m in the Bay Area.  Go figure!

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The loneliest gig

Posted by keithosaunders on August 7, 2015

keitho noir

Solo piano is a lonely man’s gig.  It requires three times the effort of playing with a group since you have to not only play the tune, but act as your own rhythm section. Throw in the fact that you are essentially background music and nobody is listening to you and you’ve got a potentially gruelling evening.

I’ve been thinking about solo piano lately since I began doing a Wednesday and Sunday night gig at a restaurant/lounge in San Francisco.  It’s the first time in quite a while that I’ve had a solo gig, and I have to say, despite what was written in the previous paragraph, or maybe even because of it, I’m enjoying the experience.  I mean you can look at it from another angle.  It’s a chance to work on repertoire, chops, and concentration.  Plus you’re your own boss, calling the musical shots from start to finish.

Way back when I still lived in Los Angeles (some 35 years ago) I had a solo gig at a trendy restaurant in Pacific Palisades called Les Anges.  This was a marathon five hour gig which paid a whopping $60.00, although it was 1982 bucks so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.  Still…five hours!

As I said, this was a trendy restaurant and being as it was in Los Angeles I got a chance to see a lot of famous people come through.  I saw Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Gene Wilder, and Gilda Radner all come in together.  Steve Martin came through one night and was admiring the art on the walls when the owner approached him. “I Loved ‘Two Brains’!” Martin turned to him and said, “Thanks but the movie I have out now is called “The Normal Guy.”  [awkward silence ensued]

Bea Arthur came in one night and got loaded.  On the way out she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Play Lady is a Tramp!”  I did as I was told and she proceeded to belt it out Broadway style.  Her husband, embarrassed that she was making a scene in this staid French restaurant tried to get her to leave and she yelled at him, “SHUT UP HONEY, I’LL FUCK YA LATER!”  And then there’s Maude…

One night Miles Davis and Cicely Tyson came to Les Anges. That was a thrill for me.  I played a lot of Miles songs and on the way out, from across the room, he gave me a subtle nod of assent.  At least that’s the way I chose to interpret it.  Who knows, maybe he was responding to Cicely asking him if he agreed that the Three Stooges were funnier than Laurel & Hardy. The answer died with Miles.

Last night there was a table of noisy techie broncos sitting next to the piano.  One guy in particular must never have perfected the art of the inside voice and needless to say he was grating on my nerves.  I said to myself,’screw this, I’m just going to play soft and take it easy.’  Well wouldn’t you know it, the broncos actually calmed down and spoke softer.  They were only incrementally softer, but it was an improvement over their previous din.  It took me 35 years to realize that the softer I play the softer they talk.  I didn’t know whether to be happy or embarrassed.

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