One of the big secrets that a lot of people never quiteÂ get is that the greater the work of art, the greater the humility of the artist.Â
This is the simplest form I can think of to describe it:Â When creating, you have to give yourself over to the moment.Â In order to give yourself over to the moment you have to lose the ego.Â Once the ego’s gone,Â what’s left isÂ humility.Â
Once a jazz musician gives themselves over entirely to the music (loses the ego) than he or she will be coming from what Far Side creator Gary Larson called an “intensely personal, and therefore original perspective.”
And this is the only way real art is created.Â Sometimes we look at our heros, or hear musicians talking “so and so has a huge ego” – no they don’t -Â not if they’re playing the real shit.Â Its always exactly the opposite.Â This has nothing to do with the rest of their life, however.Â Artists often tend to be self-indulgent, narcissistic as people in general, but once the horn comes out, you can hear when someone has moved out of their own way.
I realize its been a while since I’ve updated this blog – I’ve been busy doing stuff to be written about later – I’ll start updating again soon.
I was going to write about some of the younger players I like, but then erased what I wrote because I didn’t feel comfortable singling people out – because that means I would have to leave off others, and I don’t want to make those kinds of assertions about players currently out there trying to do good. The only thing I will say about the younger players is that I like everyone who’s sincere in what they’re doing.
These are some of my personal favorites/influences among the piano legends (in no particular order):
Willie the Lion Smith
Nat King Cole
James P. Johnson
Of course, there’s lots of others I think are amazing, but I tried to keep the list narrowed down to players who particularly resonate with me.
One musician I would like to pay my highest respects to is Don Shirley – a true living legend. For those not familiar with him (which unfortunately will be most people due to his lack of promotion in the media), he has managed to combine classical, jazz and gospel into his own unique style that plays naturally, without a hint of pretention. But its not just his harmonic and pianistic technique that is impressive, or the seamless union between jazz and classical he’s created (and in my opinion he is the only person who has managed to do this successfully). It’s the sheer beauty of what he’s trying to say through his piano.
Anyway, his most recent album “Home with Donald Shirley” released in 2001 is highly recommended – as well as everything else he’s ever recorded.
We’re going into the studio this coming Monday to record material for Veronica Nunn’s upcoming album, Standard Delivery. It should turn out nice, I think. We just finished setting up the tunelist, and we’re going into the arrangement phase.
I’m fairly relaxed about it, but there’s always an intensity surrounding this stuff. My biggest concern is that I won’t be able to be honest (I’m not worried about the rest of the band, they’ll be great, and of course Veronica is always brilliant). That’s part of the process that I go through every time I prepare mentally – I have to go through a soul-searching phase before I can let it go and enjoy the experience. I’m avoiding getting to work by writing this blog. Time to go.
James Hurt seems to have disappeared. Heâ€™s my favorite of the young jazz pianists right now (my new definition of young is anyone under 40 – it used to be 30, but that was ten years ago when I was young and didnâ€™t know any better). Blue Note really did him a disservice, but Iâ€™m not really surprised, since they had no idea what they had on their label.
Michael Franks asked me to play piano on one of his tunes for his upcoming release (Rendezvous in Rio). Itâ€™s going to be an acoustic version of his hit “Antonioâ€™s Song,” for the Japanese release only. I was on AllMusic.com the other day and I was a little dismayed to see the reviews given to his albums over the years. They donâ€™t understand him at all. He has the highest respect of essentially the entire community of jazz musicians (keep in mind, jazz musicians are the most picky, snobby group of all), yet the critics seem to somehow think heâ€™s another Yanni or something like that. Heâ€™s not: heâ€™s the ultimate peace/love greenpeace hipster who actually lives the part, not just acts it. He also sounds like no one else – this fact alone makes him aÂ valuable voice in the world of modern music.Â
“As for essayists and critics, they are like cuckolded husbands: always the last to find out….” â€“ Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic
This is my new blog. Got my fingers crossedâ€¦